Adapting and Evolving as a Leader in the Food and Beverage Industry featuring Maisie Antoniello

“As a brand and as a business, you got to evolve with the times and really think about what you really stand for and how it manifests nowadays.” – Maisie Antoniello 

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Maisie Antoniello, the Senior Marketing Executive Jones Soda Inc., a Seattle-based premium craft soda brand. We chat about Maisie’s big shift from big CPG brands (Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, and Starbucks) to the beloved regional Jones Soda brand – and how that move changed her life. We also learn about why Jones Soda implemented one of the most cutting-edge augmented reality technologies into their packaging – and discuss some of the marketing trends her brand is leveraging. We tackle everything from innovation, supply chain, and women leadership – to interesting facts about the trends/companies in the food and beverage world. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • The history and the story of Jones Soda and what the “secret sauce” is that differentiates Jones Soda from other beverage brands 
  • How the pandemic impacted Jones Soda and the challenges and opportunities that came along with it 
  • About utilizing augmented reality in packaging and marketing, and the inspiration behind Jones Soda’s exciting project using AR 
  • How Masie leverages her big CPG experience to fuel the growth of a smaller “fighter” brand 
  • Why the shift from large to small brand is instrumental in her career growth
  • Why Maisie heavily invests in research and data as a leader
  • The advice Maisie gives to other leaders who desire to transition to smaller brands
  • Trends in the food and beverage industry 
Gooder Podcast

Adapting and Evolving as a Leader in the Food and Beverage Industry featuring Maisie Antoniello

About Maisie Antoniello: 

Maisie Antoniello is a passionate brand marketer with over 14 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. Currently, she serves as the VP of Marketing at Jones Soda, where she is helping to lead the turnaround of a 25-year-old craft soda business. Prior to Jones, Maisie had various roles at Starbucks supporting both retail and packaged goods business units. Prior to Starbucks, she worked at Frito Lay where she had roles in brand, innovation, shopper, and multicultural marketing including building Frito-Lay’s Hispanic Portfolio. 

Having had the good fortune of working on megabrands like Cheetos and Frappuccino, Maisie loves to take the “secret sauce” of brands and help them scale for growth by making them relevant to today’s consumers.  

When she’s not working on “the People’s Craft Soda”, you can often find Maisie having a craft beer with her husband or chasing around her two young boys.  

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maisiechanantoniello/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meishichan 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jonessodaco/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jonessodaco/ 

Email: mantoniello@jonessoda.com 

Website: https://www.jonessoda.com/ and https://drinklemoncocco.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Frito-Lay is an American subsidiary of PepsiCo that manufactures, markets, and sells corn chips, potato chips, and other snack foods. 

Starbucks Corporation is an American multinational chain of coffeehouses and roastery reserves headquartered in Seattle, Washington. As the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, Starbucks is seen to be the main representation of the United States’ third wave of coffee culture. 

Cheetos is a brand of cheese puff snack made by Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo. Fritos creator Charles Elmer Doolin invented Cheetos in 1948 and began national distribution in the U.S. The initial success of Cheetos was a contributing factor to the merger between The Frito Company and H.W. 

Frappuccino is a trademarked brand of the Starbucks Corporation for a line of highly-sweetened iced, blended coffee drinks. It consists of coffee or crème base, blended with ice and other various ingredients like flavored syrups, usually topped with whipped cream and or spices. 

Forbes is an American business magazine owned by Integrated Whale Media Investments and the Forbes family. Published eight times a year, it features original articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics. 

TikTok, known in China as Douyin, is a Chinese video-sharing-focused social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. The social media platform is used to make a variety of short-form videos, from genres like dance, comedy, and education, that have a duration from 15 seconds to one minute. 

A liquid ode to bad guys everywhere. Inspired by British criminals who, beginning in 1788, were transported to Australia. Pioneers in a harsh frontier colony, they proved that good things can come from a checkered past. 19 Crimes celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built. From a bad seed comes a truly great wine. 

PepsiCo, Inc. is an American-based multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation headquartered in Harrison, New York, in the hamlet of Purchase. PepsiCo’s business encompasses all aspects of the food and beverage market. It oversees the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of its products. 

Top Insights

Transcript:

Diana Fryc: Well, hello, welcome to The Gooder Podcast, I’m your host, Diana Fryc. As partner and CMO of Retail Voodoo, an award winning branding agency, I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the natural’s industry; food, beverage, wellness and fitness. As such, I decided to create The Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights and expertize and passions to help businesses all around the world become gooder. 

So today we get to meet Miss Maisie Antoniello. Did I get that last name right? 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah. 

Diana Fryc: Excellent. Vice President of marketing at Jones Soda, a little local favorite here, a premium Kraft soda brand based out of Seattle with one of kind packaging and customer engagement. Maisie has over 14 years of experience in the food and beverage industry and has been tasked with leading the turnaround of this beloved brand. We’re going to talk a little bit about that, a little bit about her time at Frito-Lay and Starbucks and how she uses her experience from working with brands like Cheetos and Frappuccino to help brand scale for growth by making them relevant for today’s customer. We’re going to talk a little bit about the secret sauce that you mentioned in your bio. So that’ll be so fun. So welcome, Maisie; so glad to see you. 

Maisie Antoniello: Thank you so much for having me. This is a lot of fun and awesome what you’re doing. 

Diana Fryc: Oh, thank you. I love chatting with other women from the biz in the Seattle area, and you are just stone’s throw from me. You’re like north of Seattle and I’m north of Seattle technically too. But you’re on the west side. I’m on the east side. 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah. 

Diana Fryc: And then I think you know Miss Janet Lee, who I interviewed about a year ago, is that right? 

Maisie Antoniello: We do know each other. We have a couple of mutual friends and our stories and our backgrounds are super parallel. So it’s actually really great in that like given where she is and where she is kind of at this place and where I am, now it’s a different kind of relationship where, like, she hits me up like I need an agent, and I’m like I need a vendor for this. And so it’s kind of great that we’ve kind of grown up together in that way. 

Diana Fryc: Oh, that’s so fun. I love it. Miss Janet is probably more connected than I am, which I used to have a lot of pride in the fact my network. But every once in a while when I meet somebody else that is like even more of a network for me, it’s always like, oh, that’s like a pro superpower there. So that’s awesome. She and I overlap a lot. So that’s fun that we know each other through her. 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah. 

Diana Fryc: I always like to start at the very beginning of my podcast with this story about the brand, and now you’ve been there for a couple of years now. Maybe you can give us a high level of Jones Soda. Who is Jones Soda? What does it stand for? 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah, so Jones Soda Company has been around and this is our 25th year. 

Diana Fryc: Oh my goodness. 

Maisie Antoniello: And we think of ourselves as the people’s craft soda and I do this in a lot of media. So our packaging we call ourselves the people’s plus soda because everything is really kind of co-opted by consumers. The labels and the pictures are 100% consumer submitted. Open this bottle, you’d find a fortune that was consumer set. And so I am proud because we are a brand that has allowed itself to be democratized by its consumers in so many ways. And most people remember us and know us for our really bright colors and our fun filled flavors. That’s our story. 

Diana Fryc: So the last 18 months, it’s been lots of big things, really big moves for you, big events, things like pandemics. And maybe you could share a little bit about what is happening with Jones soda. Maybe you can talk about some of the challenges and things that have gone on behind the scenes, and I think you have a unique perspective of it because you come from a much larger CPG. So there’s probably a lot of big aha. Like, oh my Gosh, I didn’t even think that about something like that to manage. So why don’t you share about that a little bit? 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah, there’s so much I don’t even know where to begin but I would say, in 2020, there was a lot, we went through a bunch of leadership changes and different CEOs and such. So that’s one thing I think and kind of in parallel while that was happening. Obviously Covid hit because we are a soda company, we were hip, and we have a fountain business service business which is pretty impacted because great soda, as you know is pretty profitable. So that actually was pretty painful in the beginning of the pandemic, and some of these leadership changes, there’s just a lot in the beginning of like what’s happening? 

[00:05:00] 

And people in the very beginning and the toilet paper days weren’t buying soda, imagine that they weren’t stocking up on that. And so those early days of like April and May 2020, those were scary days, I would say. And kind of in that journey, my marketing budget got completely swept. So I remember the interim CEO at the time who’s now on our board was like, we’re going to do direct sale marketing. I’m like I don’t even know what that means at all. And so what I would say in the moment, it really sunk for lots of reasons, obviously. But what I would say is and what I often tell people now is sometimes when everything is stripped away from you, you lean into like what makes you different? What is the point of difference? And as I say, with craft soda, knowing that these labels are 100% consumer submitted and nobody in craft soda, if you go to a shelf set like nobody else has pictures like this and nobody has this kind of beautiful labels, as you were to in the beginning of your intro. 

And so that was a part of our difference, a little bit of the secret sauce. But it is something that really differentiates us in the category. And so we started that May with this campaign inactivation called Messages of Hope. And so think of it as like chocolate and hearts and windows and putting those images in bottles, and that kind of got some traction there and I think even more than like externally getting validation from consumers today, obviously. But I think it helped us feel good and helped us move forward even as the people behind the brand. Then we start talking like, okay, what are we going to do next? And it’s like, well, this election is going to be big! We have to put it simply, so what if we did a campaign called Vote and so we did a series on cream soda and it was voter themed artwork in the front and then on the back had a QR code where you could register to vote and that got a ton of traction. 

We got put in Forbes, this little craft soda business because of all that we’re doing. And then we were like, okay, well, what are we going to do next? And came up with the idea of this idea, and that was like November, December time frame. And so, as you may recall, those were really dire days for all of us. We started crafting a campaign called Unsung Heroes, and so really highlighting people that went above and beyond 2020. And there was a pretty strong intentionality of going outside of health care workers, because even though I’m so grateful, there are so many other unsung heroes out there that were doing their thing. And so we got a lot of traction there, and so kind of started realizing like this is, into each activation, it got better and stronger and tighter, more integrated, more 360, working with our sales partners, working with distributors, point of sale elements, more press, more buzz, and all that good stuff. 

I think we started getting our Mojo and momentum and all that stuff, and so I think that was a little bit there’s more to the story, but I’m sure that was a big part of it, and this number is kind of leaning into it. We decided now because it is our twenty fifth to invest in the capabilities to really lean into labels in a totally new way. And again, I think this idea of looking at what’s around you, kind of tapping into those behaviors and insights, and I know I’m speaking, preaching to the choir, when I’m talking. 

Diana Fryc: It’s okay. We have lots of different kinds of listeners on here, so no worries. 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah, we’re actually going to bring augmented reality to our label, and so we’re kind of framing it as this conversation, as the original user generated label. We’re taking you to the next level with augmented reality. We’ve got on our top five flavors and stories of 15 different consumers, and it could be like a skateboarder doing a trick. I think we’ve got a flamethrower doing flame throwing things, jewelry maker and an artist, and so it’s interesting because it’s a little bit of like going back to our roots; this consumer generated and consumer submitted story, but really modernizing because so many of those people I just talk about put their things on social media, on TikTok or whatever, and now we’re bringing that to our label. And so I’ve been really working really hard to kind of help execute against that, and we really believe that we’re onto something even as basic and as simple as that. If you had told me two years ago that QR codes would be huge, I would have been like, that’s crazy, and here we are. 

[00:10:00] 

That’s what we’re reading this summer, and we’re so, so excited, and we’ve got other great things lined up in the back half of the year that I get are also part of who we are. And so stay tuned because we got more stuff coming. 

Diana Fryc: Oh, I love it. Okay, so this I have two questions. The first one is this virtual augmented reality reminds me, like, did you any chance that you guys got your concept from that wine from Australia? 

Maisie Antoniello: Yes! 

Diana Fryc: Okay, I was going to say that conceptually similar except for real life people. 

Maisie Antoniello: 19 crimes, but it’s different. So their stuff is I’ll be like really transparent and they say their pockets are much deeper than ours. So ours is really taking consumer videos and really putting it on. But yeah, I love it. It was the same. 

Diana Fryc: Okay, that’s cool. And then you said a term that I had not heard before. You said you’re CEO, you got your budget slashed and said you were going to do- did you say zero sum marketing? 

Maisie Antoniello: Zero based marketing. 

Diana Fryc: Okay, what is that? I’ve never heard that before. So what is that? 

Maisie Antoniello: I think essentially that our CEO, he was in Iran and he was just almost like, wipe the slate clean, start with and go like, what can we do without spending any money? 

Diana Fryc: Okay, so it’s like basically means what can you; it’s a zero dollar marketing budget. 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah. 

Diana Fryc: It’s what I thought I just wanted to… 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah, which we’ve obviously moved on since that moment. But because I’m doing this I had to spend some money but yeah, that principle just kind of like, almost really like let’s reset the button and start over from scratch for sure. I think that’s what it means zero based… 

Diana Fryc: Oh that makes total sense. That is an account I’m sure like marketing people we sometimes and the brand strategy side, even though we do dip into business, we don’t get into the weeds, particularly when it comes down to like the financial and accounting components of it, and that language starts to come out, and I tilt a little bit. It’s something that I’m working on. I’m working on it, but I’m sure you can… 

So now the big shift; not only did you move from big organizations during this time and Covid, but there were I suspect is like Janet Lee, you guys had a very similar career path. She had some AHA’s like, oh, what were some of those big shifts that are those big aha moments or big oh, I had no ideas when you shifted from big CPG into smaller and whether it’s about consumers or yourself or the company or people just in general, what were the biggest surprises? 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah, I would say, I think there wasn’t any of that foundational consumer insights that I was so spoiled and used to brand strategy things and all that and kind of trying to figure out who is the consumer now. And really, is it like a demographic? Is it a psychographic? Who are we targeting? What do we really stand for? Like, none of that discipline bond really existed, and so I think in coming here, I’ve been able to help kind of get us, and helping us now be much more knowledgeable about our consumer is now and what we really stand for and what our truths are, and our right to win within craft soda. So that is something I’m super pumped about because part of it is working with our sales team and give me an awesome story about why we’re so amazing as Jones Soda, I believe we are. 

Diana Fryc: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting and I’m glad that you said that. We’ve worked with many brands that are in that transitional stage of their life and sometimes they’re three million and sometimes they’re 150 million where they are in their journey, and it’s really surprising to me how often consumer insights are not part of the annual process. And you can get the details without having to spend loads of money. You don’t have to be a Starbucks or PepsiCo multinational and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are some basic information that you can get, and I’m not a big fan of basket data. I think basket data is not quite enough. It doesn’t give you information about it. Like that’s the nice to have sprinkles on top, in my opinion. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think consumer insights, those basic spins data that you could get for five grand, you can’t tell me that five grand or even seven to ten grand. If you’re a million dollars a year, that’s a chunk of change. But if you’re a 25 million dollar company, if you’re 50 million dollar company, that’s a chunk; 

[00:15:00] 

That you can apply to a future ROI, and I’m always surprised at how frequently those that information isn’t collected. Now, part of the time, the reason that information isn’t collected, Maisie probably will agree with this is there’s nobody internally that knows what to do with it. So why pay for something that somebody doesn’t know what to do with? So there’s a little bit of that hiring somebody externally to help you dissect that information, make sure you’ve got a target audience and etcetera, that’s important too, but all in the grand scheme of things when you’re not surprised. 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah. This may be slicing and dicing again. 

Diana Fryc: No, just do your best. 

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah that will be this magic. I would say, when I got to Jones. Everybody in the company would talk about it as this rebellious at that moment, which I think was true 25 years ago, when Wall Street was what it was, and all that kind of stuff. And here we are, and there’s a pandemic in the middle of all that. But people have just changed. And so when I think about secret sauce and Jones, what I often talk about now is like I think Jones always represented self-expression and expression in twenty five years ago, it manifested as being, again, anti-establishment. But here we are. And now it’s like no big deal, you do you on steroids, like in a way that is so different and so awesome. We are at this point in time. 

And so as a matter of fact, I was just talking to somebody about pride and how even if we did a private program before I joined the company in Canada and ended up not executing the US two years ago just because we felt like there was some risk inherently two years ago. And here we are, and it’s like now 2021, and every company is doing stuff. We’re in a very different place and time. And so I think what we learn from that research, I think, and who we stood for and what we stood for and even in this bottle, it’s about expression and creativity and that’s sort of all of us. Quite frankly, the reason I get so jazzed about it is because people are really expressing themselves, like consumers are really expressing themselves in really amazing ways now, that wasn’t true 25 years ago. Skateboarding was a thing that Jones leaned into and now it’s like so mainstream, which is a good thing. 

And so I think that journey and the secret sauce thing that I kind of talk about, it’s like okay, we have to evolve. I think as a brand and as a business, you got to evolve with the times and really think about like, what do you really stand for and how does it manifest nowadays? That’s what I think I’m excited, I’m proud, and even those early days of that label program I was talking about, the reason those did so well, and I talk about I was just had a sales meeting yesterday and I talked about us, it’s because they struck a chord, because they struck into these deeper insights like we all wanted hope and positivity in the beginning of the pandemic, we all knew the election was going to be not so tight and it was going to be crazy, and we all wanted unsung heroes because the holidays suck because we are by ourselves without our family. And so the reason the stuff we did resonated because there was kind of this deeper truth. 

The other thing I want to say, not consumer data or spin data, but I think a lot of those that first idea, the message of hope came from our candidacy sales lead. He called me one day, said, what if we did this and he talked about rainbows. I was really confused that when he kind of explained it to me, he’s like, okay, I told you the idea, like run with it. And then I like shaped it and molded and similarly I finance lead, we’d joke about accounting. He was like, “What about like all those teachers who are preparing Zoom’s and all these people,” and I was like unsung heroes, like, let’s do it. But I think the colonel in that is like, again, kind of what we’re saying, like there is like these deeper, broader insights that we were all had hit us, and that, I think is great marketing and great. I’m putting myself in the back and are going to be great execution because they were like, that’s what we tapped into. And I think there was a truth. And there is a little bit of these broader issue that we all felt kind of last year. 

Diana Fryc: Well, I’d like to give you credit for this, because in a larger companies, it doesn’t typically happen. 

[00:20:00] 

Your exposure with different or different parts of the organization is much smaller. So the fact that you are able to hear somebody in sales from Canada give you an idea and you legitimately where like you’re like, oh, you’re in sales, you didn’t go, you’re in sales, what do you know? You were like, okay, I’m just going to digest it here. And you started to socialize it with a finance person. This is, I think, a testament to the type of leadership that you’re bringing to this organization in that you’re using, that you’re kind of embracing a smaller organization and then using your brand management, organizational superpowers to kind of just create something with a team that you have rather than going, well, I’ll just call my insights team or I’ll call my creative department of 150 people to whip something, you know what I mean? 

I think there’s a testament there for you to be able to make something amazing out of the situation, so that’s a big deal. Well, let me tell you, there are a lot of people that we’ve seen that have come from multinationals and come in to a smaller brand and not through no fault of their own, maybe because they don’t have a self-awareness or they just don’t understand the nuance of a smaller organization, kind of almost end up being a bull in a china shop, and you have not. You’ve come in, and now I’m not saying you haven’t had your moments, because I’m sure at times there’s a transition, there’s a learning there. But you seem like you settled in and embraced it and you’re making the organization stronger, and I think that there’s a lot to be said for that. A lot of street credit, that’s pretty great. 

Maisie Antoniello: Thank you. It’s interesting; there are a lot of debates and there are things it’s interesting that we talked about this like that. We’re talking about this because one of the things we debated about was okay, Black Lives Matter and how are we going to respond? Because I have accountability for social media and there was a point in time where there were so many things happening at once. And how do we start doing all of these things and how do you come across as legitimate and authentic, not alienating, and I think you realize I think we learned last year, you can’t please everybody, but I’ve been kind of staying true, true to who you are as a brand and showing up authentically, I think is a big part of it. The other side of it, a little bit of what you were saying, it’s like that our COO, he’s been with the company 20 years and I’ve been with them two years. We debate a lie and sometimes I quote, win and he, quote, wins next week. We have a lot of conversations about it and we just try to figure it out and I think that’s a good thing and it’s good and it’s hard at the same time, and especially marketing is so nuanced and gray. So I often tell people, like, I feel like nowadays my job is really about the nuances. It is like in a really nuanced way. 

Diana Fryc: I think that’s really fun, that’s the whole reason why you came into the smaller organization, is you wanted to have a bigger impact and you’re doing it in an amazing way. I wonder, is it what you expected, like when you were walking around and you were thinking, oh, this is going to be great fun. I’m going to sit around and I’m going to be working half days because it’s a smaller company. I have no idea what people think of when they’re making a transition like this. I wonder, what were you thinking? And did anything turn out or were you apprehensive about something and did it come true? 

Maisie Antoniello: That is such a question. It wasn’t what I expected, that’s for sure. I think it’s hard because I think what was really hard, because it’s a small company, and we you talked about this a lot. There was really no data because we’re not being publicly traded. We’re an 11 million dollar business right now. And so because I grew up in these data rich environments, that was really hard for me to wrap my head around. It really was and that was, when there’s no data, then it’s just opinions.  

And that’s a hard place to be. I think it’s really hard. And then we had all these changes. I would say the other big breakthrough moment for me and we can talk about accounting all along is once like the finance people literally took me through a p&l. And in my previous life, I would say I had p&l accountability like and I would say that.  

[00:25:00] 

But like it is not like what I know now at this point, like, you think about, oh, you make it in one place and you get to ship it here and commodity pricing and class stuff. I know it so well now in a way that was not true because I didn’t have the luxury of a Fortune 500 company backing me. So I think that once I was able to wrap my head around that, then things started clicking better because then you realize, okay, if I’m making this decision, then it’s going to impact the bottom line in such a way. If I’m making this decision, this is the benefit of ratings. So I think kind of thinking through that, that was a huge breakthrough for me. So really, that’s true like business p&l acumen, I think was something I really gained.  

That was not what I expected. And I think the other thing, too, is I’m really proud of now. And I think if you’d asked me six months ago, I’d be like, ah! That I’m really proud of now is like even when I was at Starbucks, for example, there was a whole digital marketing team. And they were amazing. You probably know a lot of them actually. So they were amazing individual and human beings and brilliant in their own way. And here I am. I just told you I have one person who does a lot of our social media stuff, so learning all that and now kind of evolving now to modern day marketing. And performance marketing at the time was a new muscle I had to grow in. And I understand it’s so much better now, and so for sure it was not what I expected when your original question was, was it expected and how they evolved and all these different things. And so I think I knew I was going to have to be flexible. I knew I was going to have to change. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be. And now that I’m on this side of it, to your point that you kind of said before, like, now we’ve got all these agencies supporting us, and now I can come bring you some of the old school discipline that I’m like, here’s a brief, here’s the objective. This is what we expect to deliver. And I kind of now bringing back the old school, like it’s all full circle. Like that old school classical training. 

That’s just great leadership, I’ll be honest, it’s just great leadership and just kind of vision setting direction, accountability, all that good stuff because I lived it for so many years. It’s actually amazing stuff. And so now I’m on this side of the category, like this is my expectation and this is what I want to deliver and what is that going to look like. And so I’m on this side of it now. So it’s really interesting. It all kind of comes full circle in a way.  

Diana Fryc: Yeah, now you guys are kind of recovered from the last year, you’re employing some new things. I think everybody is going to be really excited to see what’s in the marketplace coming here in the next few months. And I wonder, what is it that you’re finding to be most useful for you in this environment that you bring with you from? I mean, you’ve already said a few things, like you’ve got briefs and you’re bringing a little bit of data and insights. But is there anything else are you finding that you’re more bringing more big picture thinking or more tactical thinking from your tool kit into this environment? Or does it depend on the day and the objective?  

Maisie Antoniello: I think it definitely depends on the day, depends on the objectives. I find myself kind of just depends on who I’m working with. So, yes, it’s funny you say that because you’re asking these questions, because I literally sat and we had our first sales meeting in person where people flew in, like that was yesterday, which is crazy, like is at the Marriott, at the airport, all the stuff. I stood there and I kind of went through like, here’s what we’ve done the last year. And it was like the product launches can’t bottle campaigns. And then it was like the next page was like, here’s all the infrastructure we’ve now built. And it was like, influencer digital, and I find myself your question was like, what are you doing?  

I find myself now with our sales team. It’s a lot of education and kind of going like, who is the consumer? How do we talk about this now millennial consumer who grew up with us? How do we tighten the nostalgia? Here’s what paid Social does, this is why it’s so cost-effective and why it’s so powerful, like tipping things. And so I find myself in that spaces, I think with agency partners, a little bit of like, okay, this is the brief and this is the ask and this is what we’re working with.  

[00:30:00] 

And can you help deliver that like so everybody is a little bit different with my own team. Like it’s just very much like here’s our objectives, here’s our direction and then kind of that sweet finding that balance, which I’m not always great at, of like giving in that direction, but not like prescription because I want people to own their stuff. So I think this really depends on the day and what I’m doing. You’re kind of hinting at it a little, but I find myself now, whatever, 18 months later, just kind of really have evolved as a leader and as a marketer in a way that’s really awesome, actually. I’m really proud of because it was not that easy. And I think the other thing I would say, finding the right agency partners is really, really huge, you have to find people that you trust that you click with. And our agency partners, all of them are amazing and they all really want Jones to succeed this turnaround. We reported three consecutive quarters of growth.  

Diana Fryc: Oh my gosh. That’s awesome. Home stretch in it, right? We were coming up with like we’re recording this in June for everybody. This will be going live in July. So we’re coming up on another quarter, right?  

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah. We are hustling like nobody’s business. That is for sure. And like the other thing is, when you are 20 people, you’re a 20% company. We talk about like where the munchies we use it. It’s like we punch above our weight. When you are 20 people, there is no shortage of work. And so learning to prioritize and really kind of think about how do we manage efficiently? Is really, really important and something I’m like really even working now, quite frankly, with my peers on. All that stuff. All that stuff I learned back in the day.  

Diana Fryc: Back in the day. It’s so funny when you talk about Jones Soda and we’re talking about, it’s rebellious, but we’re talking about Millennials that have grown up with it and we’re talking about the older Millennials. I’d be curious to see how sticky this rebellious, nostalgic brand is. It’s kind of like almost like a Harley Davidson play, like, Harley Davidson has been around for generations. It’s still considered a rebel brand. It attracts young and old. It’s very strategic and calculated. So I think playing that is really hard, though, because the nostalgia play sometimes turns off the younger audience and too much of a rebel because the rebel for Millennials was anti-establishment.  

We were talking about we had kind of punk rock was kind of ending at hip hop and yet alternative rock going on in the 90s when this brand came out. And now anti-establishment is all about inclusivity. It’s all about we love everybody, we love everything, like you talked to Gen Z and Gen C. I don’t know what they’re going to end up being called, but this group, the teenagers and kids that are grown up through this Covid time and they’re all about inclusivity and love and no fighting, and that’s considered anti-establishment, which kind of makes the rest of us like, look around ourselves and go, wow, we’ve got some growing up to do. Like, these younger kids are really pulling it together and showing us what’s what.  

I think it’s interesting to see how brands like yours evolve through that, because it does take an evolution to embrace the old and the new at the same time. I wonder what kind of advice, having come out of what you’re coming out through and in two years, your advice might be a little bit different. But for brands and new brand leaders who are coming in into these younger and smaller organizations, what kind of advice do you give them coming into this role? What do they possibly overlooking or what are the watch outs that you wish somebody would have said, “Hey, Maisie, these three things are the things that you’re going to need to be prepared for when you’re turning this around or coming into this new world.”  

Maisie Antoniello: I think the litmus test is like really understand like what is your central truth in what you stand for. So when I worked on Cheetos, I mean, the consumer was like kind of like this inner you, the kid and all of us is how we would talk about it. And there are these universal truths that you realize, okay, like that is a part of your DNA.  

[00:35:00] 

And realizing, too, like that, I think it would be point one is like, what is that inner truth? What do you represent? And actually it’s funny as we’re talking through it, like all these brands I’ve been on have kind of evolved. It’s kind of like this idea of like bringing out the best you. It evolved over time, but with the research and branch, you realized it was like really about bringing out your best you. And what does it mean to the consumer, which is not how a lot of people think of it, but it is for the people who love it. That’s what you stand for. Now, for Jones, it’s like about self-expression. This one, I would say, be really, really cognizant of what you stand for, two really think about, what was your thought and your observation, which I think is spot on, how does that show up that truth in this day and age because it looks different.  

For Frappuccino, I would say when I got to Starbucks, I led the global brand charging on Frappuccino and everybody kept talking about it as fun and flirty and whimsical. And when, in fact the research like actually was that people really believed it brought their best selves and that, like, is a really different mindset. It’s a very different benefit. And so that notion of, I’m echoing one of my former CMO, is like magnet versus mirror idea. But I think that is about authenticity. So I guess point two is then how does it show up? And don’t be afraid to push back when people are not passing that litmus test. So when I got to Jones in the beginning, people going, it’s rebellious and whatever and I kept saying even then, even though I didn’t have the research, I go, “Kids these days, they’re all into diversity. They’re like you doing you and Ellen Page, becoming Ellen Page is like, no big deal now.” It’s just not. So that mindset is what we have to tap into because I live it and breathe it every day, like how I talked about it evolve. I would say, like, know the truth, know what you stand for, don’t be afraid to stick to your guns. And then I would say, spend the money to figure out because it really helps.  

Diana Fryc: Invest in research, invest in data, is that what you’re saying?  

Maisie Antoniello: Invest. I think that is a part of it, because it is so subjective and it is so nuanced. I do think that there’s a part of that, like you really do need to invest in that.  

Diana Fryc: Yeah. You can’t fly blind.  

Maisie Antoniello: No, because there’s too much. You talked about ROI on the back end, but I also think the flip side of the ROI piece is the risk to not show up, authentically is the opposite of the ROI. There is negative capital in that. So I would say that those are probably my three truths like I think and kind of thinking about it. And I’m going to throw in the fourth, and I would say the one thing I learned and I think it’s has come true in the store as we’ve been talking over the past hour, I think what I didn’t know then, what I know now, even in the past 18 months, because as you might imagine, I’m a very type A intense kind of person. And where I grew is, I am like the type of person who really likes everything buttoned up. In that journey, I just pop through was a journey and it is not like systemic or as logical or as timely is what you think of, like how it was when I grew up at a Fortune 500, like, people spent hundreds of thousands of dollars doing things like that. 

 It just isn’t that luxury, and so you have to be okay with taking steps, kind of going on the journey, feeling like you can make some mistakes and hopefully when you interview for a job like I did, you feel like you have your leaders have your back in that situation and kind of stumbling through it together, I would say. And I think I learned I’m such a person who loves to prep and likes to be type A and have my whole life planned out and obviously Covid for all of us threw that out of the water, but I think be okay with being on the journey and kind of going, if I learn a little bit more every day and make a little bit of progress, that’s okay. So I think that’s another part of it. So I mean, that’s kind of like my fourth piece. 

Diana Fryc: I think that’s great. I think again, there’s so many folks like yourselves and we work with many, many brands like that where people come from a multinational or a much larger organization and want to have an impact or sometimes have a; 

[00:40:00]  

I don’t want this to come across in a negative way, but like a superhero complex, like I’m going to come in and I’m going to fix everything because I’ve worked at PepsiCo for the last 30 years. And I think that sometimes when we’re working with folks in your role, sometimes we end up being a confidante or we end up coaching them. This is something you might not know about how a small or smaller organization is going to be able to digest this information. And we suggest presenting it this way. Or how about if we do it this way or how about you let us present it so we can be the bad guys and you could be — and I think that you providing those insights to people in their language, I think is really great because it’s just going to continue to happen. Why wouldn’t we want to give folks a little bit of a leg up when they’re coming in, right?  

Maisie Antoniello: Totally.  

Diana Fryc: Well, what is it that you want to be at the end of the day, what is it that you want to be known for when you leave Jones Soda, whether it’s two years from now or 15 years from now, like, what do you want to have been your impact?  

Maisie Antoniello: So when I leave Jones Soda, I definitely feel like I’m just a stronger business leader holistically as one. That would say when I leave, I already know it that way. Like now that I’m like leaning much smarter, stronger, confident and all that stuff. So that’s kind of the first point. I would say long term, what I’m really enamored with and we’ll see how I do is the idea of profit and purpose together. And I think that’s a lot of like being at Starbucks and there was pockets of that in PepsiCo and Starbucks with Howard Schultz. I would love to kind of bring that discipline to another company that’s maybe a little bigger than Jones, not as big as the Starbucks somewhere in the middle, and really kind of help shape it. And I love that idea of the two because my values are really important to me. Yeah, true, they are diversity and all that stuff is Gen Z values, but they happen to be Maisie values too. I think I have profit and purpose like I think is what I’m enamored with now. And I don’t know how that will show up exactly. But that’s what’s on my radar next.  

Diana Fryc: I love it. Well our time is almost up. I think we probably could chat for another hour or so. 

Maisie Antoniello: 100%, I’m loving it.  

Diana Fryc: Oh good. I’m glad that you’re comfortable. I have a few questions that I like to ask absolutely everybody that are just kind of on the funny side. So the first one is maybe you can tell us a little bit of a happy hour tidbit about whether it be Frappuccino’s or Cheetos or craft soda that you can share something like that with us. I call it a happy hour fact.  

Maisie Antoniello: You know how everybody hates Cheetos because it makes your fingers really sticky and gross. The dust is on the end. There actually was a concept back in the day and they actually had kind of they called the clean paws where they wouldn’t leave dust on you. And what we came to the conclusion was, even though it tests, it’s one of the things scores, great addresses, a big barrier quote. But like really I think that kind of that’s at the end where you lick your fingers at the end is part of the sensor basically has never even though it’s a declared barrier, my data is like 15 years old now. I don’t think they’ll ever abandon it but yeah.  

Diana Fryc: No, that makes total sense. We talk about how in food and beverage brands when you are able to create a — oh I can’t think of the word. But like whenever you do something related to drinking or eating, like that just solidifies the brand. So like Corona and a lime like those are so embedded that everybody drinks it that way. I mean, most everybody drinks it that way. So that’s very interesting because I had never even considered that. But the licking the fingers after you eat your Cheetos is definitely a thing that’s part of the eating the Cheetos process. I love it. So what other women leaders or rising stars are out there that you would like to elevate and they can be in the food and beverage industry or they could be in any industry at all.  

Maisie Antoniello: So one person that like through the pandemic really started following, this is going to be very revealing about me, was Katie Couric and I started listening to even before because I feel that she was always kind of like this at home, like girl next door person on today and obviously she is at a legit journalist.  

[00:45:00] 

But during the pandemic, I would start following her on Instagram because, like, she would do like these daily updates on Covid that were super relevant, super to the point super precise. Then I signed up for her email newsletters and I get like a rundown of the day because I don’t have a ton of time, literally ten of the top headlines. And what I realized in reading her newsletter is like she is kind of her own media mogul in her own way, like how she markets and she’s got this partnership with sleek numbers and all these other things. And I just thought it was really interesting. In a way it’s not different and she obviously has podcast, celebrity friends and all that good stuff. Like, it’s not too different from even like the skim, like probably targeting someone like me, like an older demo in a way. And so I just really admire her because she’s been retired or she kind of stepped out of — it was a long time ago. But she’s still doing her thing. And I think it’s super admirable.  

Diana Fryc: Yeah. She has an authenticity about her, doesn’t she?  

Maisie Antoniello: And she has that often that authenticity. Yet she’s kind of a hard hitting journalist at the same time when the time comes.  

Diana Fryc: Yeah. Okay, well what brands or trends in the food and biz category do you have your eye on and why?  

Maisie Antoniello: So this is not going to be a surprise. But the idea of nostalgia and comfort and how long that lasts is something I’m totally keeping my eye on. And like, what will it evolve to? Like nostalgia with a twist to modernize, because that, like, has true impact on my business. So I think it’s a tailwind that we benefited from for sure. But I want to understand where it evolves for sure.  

Diana Fryc: Awesome. Okay, how are you keeping yourself sane today or these days?  

Maisie Antoniello: I don’t think I do the best job to be honest, but I would say, I’m a big believer in therapy for sure, so that I still do like talk to my therapist once a month. Lots of walks now that it’s like Sunny in Seattle. Try to walk with the dog for at least 15 minutes, get some fresh air. That’s kind of it. That’s how I role. It’s pretty busy otherwise.  

Diana Fryc: Yeah. Oh I know. Well, if people want to talk with you or connect with you, what’s the best way? Are you big LinkedIn user?  

Maisie Antoniello: I do use LinkedIn. Yeah. That’s probably the best way to get a hold of me nowadays. Yeah.  

Diana Fryc: Oh my goodness. Maisie, I have just so enjoyed this time together and I want to just thank you for making yourself available and sharing your journey. And I’m really excited to see what this next several months at Jones Soda is going to look like and we’ll be rooting for you and maybe we’ll have to get a legit drink since we’re so close by. 

Maisie Antoniello: We’re so close and things are opening up. So, yeah, I would, 100% sign up for that.  

Diana Fryc: All right.  

Maisie Antoniello: Yeah. I will take you up on that offer. Maybe we could get Jenn to come out with us too.  

Diana Fryc: Yes. All right. Well thank you so much. And everybody else, have a great rest of your day. Thanks for listening.  

This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a creative marketing firm specializing in growing, fixing and reinventing brands in the food, beverage, wellness and fitness industries. If your natural’s brand is in need of positioning, package design or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at retail-voodoo.com. And so there you go. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this channel and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do gooder.  

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Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

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