May 2009 archive

Angry Trout and Brains on Fire

Brains on Fire is an identity company that helps companies create sustainable movements by encouraging customer enthusiasm. They’re way out in front when it comes to understanding and maximizing word of mouth. At the Brains on Fire blog, they have a recurring feature called The You Don’t Need Us Awards. In other words, companies that already get how to engage their customers. Considering how most companies operate these days, that’s high praise.
I was traveling on the North shore of Lake Superior last weekend (hearty people up there – it snowed mid-May!) and encountered a company that definitely does not need help with their identity: The Angry Trout Cafe. Here’s why

  • They believe in a cause For the Angry Trout, that cause is sustainability. A lot of companies claim to be ‘green’ because that’s what people want to hear these days. This cafe’s owners are true believers that walk the walk and don’t apologize for it. It’s impossible to miss the fact that the Angry Trout believes in the sustainability ideal and practices it despite the difficulty involved and despite unpopularity with some people.
  • They are consistent From the way the food is prepared to the way the waste is handled, this place reinforces their message at every turn. Organic food is just the start. They use stoneware that lasts forever, buy all of their furniture and art locally and use small cloth napkins to save on water. They even run the entire place on 100% wind power. An they’ve been doing it all since 1987.
  • They have a manual Going beyond simply leading by example, the Angry Trout seeks to evangelize the sustainability movement. They have recorded their story in a fun, useful book called The Angry Trout Cafe Notebook. It even includes recipes to their excellent food along with practical information on their way of doing things. A store copy is available to read while you wait for your food or you can purchase your own copy and spread the word. A written history is key to creating and sustaining culture.

Whatever you believe about sustainability and a Northern Minnesota cafe’s ability to change the world, there is no denying that sincere passion is a powerful thing. The Angry Trout doesn’t need branding workshops or an identity company’s services. They get it naturally.