What started as a harmless Instagram post of Michael Zee and Mark van Beek's breakfast one summer morning back in 2013 has become a celebrated brand with over 600 beautifully symmetrical posts with nearly 300,000 followers salivating over them, plus big interest from global brands, and even an invitation from top fan and Instagram co-founder, Mike Krieger, to have breakfast with him and his wife in San Francisco. So how did they do it and how can you emulate their success?
“Have something worth saying and make it look good”
People like the order of the images but the photography doesn’t always have to be perfect and, after over 600 near-perfect images posted, there is value, personality and authenticity in the imperfections. FYI: Every breakfast they post, they eat – it isn’t food for styling, it’s food with style.
How do you get inspired?
Michael’s job at the V&A allows him to explore the history of objects, ways of eating and what was eaten in past times, this coupled with the internet and old cookbooks, breathes life and context into each plate. Open your eyes and let inspiration come to you, everyone will be different.
Working with brands
Birdseye and Nestle were the first brands to approach Michael, both proposals were turned down as there was no connection or reason to work with them. Fortnum & Mason, however, were really passionate, loved what he was doing and saw the potential to work together which resulted in a phenomenal learning experience, grabbing bits and pieces from the shop and assembling them in a back room for a whole day. Work with the brands you like, and look for the potential in collaborating but keep your integrity in mind and watch for your followings reactions to see what they like and respond well to – and what they don’t.
Just Instagram? Or Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Periscope, Pinterest…
If you’re good at one thing, don’t feel you have to be on everything. Michael sometimes uses Twitter to extend the conversation and give more context, but didn’t get on well with other channels such as Periscope and Snapchat. Certain concepts and ideas will lend themselves to certain social networks, don’t try to do too much for no reason and instead focus that energy on what matters to your brand the most.
Perfect your concept and let it lead you
Michael approached Guardian Soulmates to create breakfast speed-dating, the London event was a huge success and is now being scheduled for other cities in the UK. If Symmetry Breakfast was just a food project, then this idea may have never come up, but the concept of what it is sparked that idea and it’s this concept and passion behind the images that will breed many more ideas.
Stay in control
From the brands you work with and the channels you use, to how often and what you post. Symmetry Breakfast has stayed quite niche, one post a day: Breakfast. No other products other than food, plates, tables (and maybe a prop). Michael has a fixed format, changing the content everyday. “Treat your feed like a news room – broadcasting at the same time everyday, reliable and familiar whilst being surprising and different.”
Never underestimate the power of social media and the internet. One post or mention by a big media outlet, old school or new age, can see huge growth in your following. Be prepared for it!
Talk to others in your field, share tips and ask questions. Whatever you do, you (probably) won’t be alone. Use the communities and networks of people, make friends, find mentors, inspire and be inspired.
It’s key to remember the reason why it started and why it continues. For Michael, it was because of Mark.
“Not because of sponsors, freebies* etc – which are all lovely and nice of course – but if they all stopped coming in the post tomorrow then I’d still make breakfast for Mark!”
It’s easy to forget or lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Keep your motivations in mind whenever you’ve got to make decisions regarding the progression of your idea.
*Conversation with Sage
Michael - “Can I have a coffee machine?”
Sage - “Sure! Need any other appliances?”
Michael - “Can I have all of them?”
Sage - “Sure!”