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The Art & Science of Killer Brand Taglines

For a food or beverage brand, a tagline has the power to capture consumers’ attention in a fractured, fast-moving world. A killer tagline is also incredibly difficult to come up with — especially if you’re trying to bolt a magic phrase onto an existing (or nonexistent) brand strategy. 

We think of a great tagline as a Haiku that captures your brand’s essence and calls deeply to your present and future fan base. 

Our latest white paper reveals our process for developing a tagline and guidance on when and how to use it across your brand’s communication platforms. 

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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Consumers Don’t Care About Your Cause. They’ll Flock to Your WHY.

A meaningful, powerful WHY is your brand’s most valuable business asset.

If you aspire to make your better-for-you food or beverage brand brand future-proof, you have to stand for something. A capital-M Mission that connects to the deepest hopes and desires of the people who love you (and the people who don’t yet know they love you) enables your brand to rise above the constant churn of the marketplace and own your category for the foreseeable future.

Our latest white paper reveals how a powerful mission not only competition-proofs your brand, it also makes you future proof. When you set a true North Star, it’ll be gravitational for the entire organization, and it’ll inform every bit of decision making. Download it now and use it in your team’s planning and strategy.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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How to Focus Your Innovation Process for Truly Breakthrough Products

Innovation is the lifeblood of any food or beverage brand. A steady stream of new products keeps the brand relevant, dynamic, and profitable.

But great ideas aren’t enough. So how can your brand team transform possibilities into breakthrough, viable products that will drive preference, create significant barriers to entry to competitors, and hockey-stick your revenue?

You need a framework to set the stage for innovation in your organization, and the right people at the right time doing the right tasks. Here’s a better, smarter way to launch breakout new products.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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Massive Innovation is Coming to Food and Beverage. Is Your Brand Ready?

2021 will launch more innovation at one time than we’ve seen in a while. Here’s how to prepare your brand for the competition.

By switching to a brand-driven innovation strategy, better-for-you brand owners are future-proofing their business and retooling for growth.

Download this white paper to learn how to:

  • Understand where you are in the Brand Life Cycle.
  • Capitalize on the innovation boom in food and beverage.
  • Prioritize consumer-facing communication to increase brand relevance for your best-performing products.
  • Identify two types of innovation and decide what makes sense for your brand.

Get this exclusive report brought to you by Retail Voodoo, the branding firm who has helped Essentia, KIND, Russell Stover, Sahale Snacks, HighKey, and Starbucks build brand-driven strategies that create meaningful, sustained growth.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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White Paper: DTC for CPG Brands

Why it’s time to use DTC to establish a first-party data strategy to increase your CPG Brands brand’s relevance.

Learn why food, beverage, and wellness brands are rethinking their DTC strategies to include consumer insights. As CPG Businesses have come to DTC marketing’s new frontier many leaders are looking to answer critical questions about their brand’s medium and long term viability. Key business areas of concern include:

  • Lost brand relevance due to marketplace disruption
  • Competitive pricing strategies vs. brand value
  • When the DTC bubble will burst in the new normal brought about by Covid-19

By switching to a brand-driven first-party data strategy, better-for-you brand owners are future-proofing their business and retooling for growth.

Download this white paper to learn how to:

  • Identify entrepreneurial cognitive bias and develop strategies to break out
  • Reduce reliance on pantry stocking and plan for two-way relationships with consumers
  • Reduce the risk of commoditization by leveraging first-party data to elevate brand purpose

Get this exclusive report brought to you by Retail Voodoo, the branding firm that has helped KIND, Essentia, LesserEvil, Wedderspoon, PCC Natural Markets, REI, and Starbucks build brand-driven strategies that create meaningful, sustained growth.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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White Paper: Navigating Brand Disruption

Covid Series: Vol 01

Why it’s time to develop a brand-driven strategy to future-proof your brand.

Learn why food, beverage, and wellness brands are rethinking their fragmented strategies that hinder their marketplace performance in the face of unexpected disruption.

Businesses who are relying on the four P’s of marketing are especially subject to disruptions in the age of Covid.

By switching to a brand-driven strategy, better-for-you brand owners are future-proofing their business and retooling for growth.

Download this white paper to learn how to:

  • Plan for distribution hiccups and eliminate lost opportunities.
  • Reduce ingredient dependence in favor of brand-driven benefits.
  • Outpace copycat competitors by delivering on brand purpose.
David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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7 Things You Should Do Now to Ensure a Successful 2020 for Your Naturals Brand

While we think we’re pretty good at identifying trends and opportunities for our food and beverage clients, we can’t foretell the future with certainty. What we can see, though, is a number of smart strategic steps marketers and leaders of mission-driven food and beverage brands can be doing now to position their businesses to thrive over the rest of this year.

We’ve identified seven strategies aligned around three key positions you can take to ensure success in 2020: stretchinvest, and pivot. You can’t expect to do the same things forever and generate the same business results; that’s doubly true now.

Understand Key Roadblocks to Success in 2020

Before we get to the seven strategies, let’s first put our fingers on the hurdles you’ll inevitably face in leading your organization now.

Fear

We’re not talking just about fear of shutdowns and other risks unique to the current pandemic — rather, cultural and personal fear that always lingers in the background. Brand leaders fear that they won’t meet expectations (of customers, stakeholders, employees) and so they don’t stretch beyond what they know. They fear not just failure, but success. Fear can trickle through an entire organization, leading to a culture of, “we don’t do it that way” or “prove the concept first, then we’ll implement it.”

Safety

Of course, the bottom line is essential; without profitability, you’re out of business. But if you’re focused on preserving market position and minimizing erosion instead of growing, you’re missing opportunity.

TMI

There are too many inputs, too many unknowns, too much conflicting guidance. It’s hard to even trust your gut. TMI makes decision making difficult: which of the conflicting scenarios or forecasts can you believe?

7 Strategies for Food & Beverage Brand Success in 2020

Looking ahead to the end of the year, what are the things you can be doing now to ensure your brand’s good health as the economy emerges from its hibernation?

1) Ask better questions

Revisit the brand’s strategic foundation. What is your brand, really? (We define brand as the promise that you keep and the ways in which you keep it.)

Define where the real boundary is, not just the safe one. You can’t stretch beyond the reality of your brand promise (for example, your vegan brand can’t suddenly start making beef chili), but you can go right up to that frontier.

Ask your team questions like these to identify how far you can move in search of opportunity:

  • What is our brand’s contribution to society? Why do we exist beyond products and profits?
  • How can our brand create value for our community/tribe of followers?
  • What does our brand have permission to do that our community cannot get from other brands?
  • How does our brand evolve from good and services mentality to a citizen brand that provides a unique contribution to society?
  • What are our brand’s core values? (e.g., community, social justice, loyalty, fun)
  • Do our core values align with what we currently contribute?
  • How is our brand willing to change behavior to better emphasize and deliver upon our values?

2) Do your research

You should have pre-existing research — usage & attitude studies, competitive audits, audience segmentation — and that information remains valid. Post-Covid, we’ll get back to that familiar territory. Once the supply chain resumes normal capacity and consumers feel comfortable getting out again, they’ll return to familiar habits. We live in a commerce-driven economy; that hasn’t changed. What we’re seeing now is a situational disruption, not a permanent national disruption.

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Who else can claim these exact values our brand represents?
  • How are they behaving, taking action, delivering on their promises?
  • What does our brand do that is different or better?
  • Who is our consumer, and what kinds of products can we innovate that will meet their needs?
  • Can we become even more relevant to the people who’ve already chosen our brand? Can we resonate more deeply in their lives?
  • In a sea of sameness, how can we be meaningfully different by tapping into their emotions, not just their functional needs?

3) Stretch thyself

For natural food and beverage brands, stretching is all about determining what’s possible and removing the roadblocks (culture, fear, etc., as discussed above). Stretching is a quest for logical opportunity.

One of the exercises we conduct in client workshops is to have the brand group write a eulogy for the brand. We preface this exercise by a lengthy session that defines the capital-B Brand (the promises you make and the ways you keep them) and then envisions the brand’s future contribution to the world.

We then ask the team to articulate what people will say about the brand when it’s gone. It’s a powerful way to create clarity around the brand’s superpower. (For example Patagonia’s superpower is environmental justice; it enlists fans in the mission.)

Questions to ponder:

  • What is something our brand is not currently doing that only it can do?
  • What does our brand have access to that others don’t? (investors, distribution, ingredients, leadership)
  • What is our brand’s superpower, and how can we use that to contribute to the common good?
  • In what ways could our brand die?
  • Write the eulogy: What will our brand’s legacy be?

4) Go for impact

Aspire to citizen brandhood, not commodity brandhood. As a mission-driven brand, you are a member of the very community you create, a shepherd and a guide and a protector. That role, combined with strong product features and benefits, is unbeatable. Let Maslow’s Pyramid guide you: First meet the consumer’s functional needs, then meet their desire to belong to a community, then appeal to their sense of self, then help them achieve their higher purpose.

Armed with consumer research and your stretch potential, consider:

  • What role does the brand play in our tribe’s lives?
  • How might it be relevant to future consumers, as well?
  • Beyond features and benefits (like minty flavor of toothpaste), what does our brand help people be or achieve (i.e., a wellness-focused lifestyle built on natural products)?
  • What wrong does our brand seek to right in the world? What problem does it solve? What fight does it fight?
  • What’s possible, given our organization’s resources?

5) Craft a better story

Storytelling is the flavor of the month in marketing, and for good reason: People are hardwired for stories. Storytelling is the means of connecting the brand strategy with your target audience. You don’t have a story if your brand doesn’t have a WHY. And you don’t have a story if you don’t know who you’re telling it to.

This is an excellent time to revisit your brand’s narrative and the way you communicate it through the channels of the Brand Ecosystem.

  • How can the brand’s narrative connect our products, company goals and values, ideology, ethos, to our specific community?
  • How should the brand story (or tone of voice) shift in our current climate?
  • Are we telling stories that our fans will be compelled to share?
  • What do we want customers to walk away telling one another?
  • How does our new story relate to the brand’s history?
  • What and how do we want to tell this story?

6) Pivot

Many brands are pivoting in their communication right now, with mixed results. A couple of examples of brands that are getting messaging right in times of crisis: Tide’s
“Loads of Hope” initiative is bringing laundry services to healthcare workers and first responders. And Frito-Lay has shifted from its usual “food for fun times” messaging to run a highly regarded TV spot that talks about how they’re hiring. Brands have passed the “we’re all in this together” messaging and are now focusing on what they are doing to help.

No doubt, brands will need to remain sensitive to their audience’s needs and flexible in tactics through the end of this year. Some things to think about:

  • How are we leveraging social, digital, email, and website messaging to demonstrate empathy and mention how the brand is evolving, helping, contributing?
  • Do we need to talk from a different perspective than we would ordinarily?
  • Are there pillars of our brand platform that are not normally at the forefront but would be relevant to communicate now?
  • If we look at pivoting as on an axis (not a leap forward or sideways), how should we shift?

7) Invest

Two ways to think about investment: opportunistic and short-term; and strategic and long-term.

In the short term, investing might look like one-off activities that support the brand and your messaging strategy. Think about giving product away to people in need: food pantries, school nutrition programs, healthcare workers, social service agencies. Or donating dollars to organizations helping those reeling from the pandemic and its fallout.

On the long-term, strategic side, it’s now time to get serious about innovation. Look at all those initiatives you were thinking about doing but have set aside for a while. Determine where and how your brand has permission to stretch and create an innovation pipeline that will expand your brand’s reach and long-term relevance.

Issues to think about:

  • Is there a piece of equipment we could add to the manufacturing process to upgrade the product? (Something that might, say, take an ice cream bar from One-of-Many product to Beloved & Dominant treat.)
  • While competitors are pulling back, what will our post-Covid campaigns look like?
  • What visual or content assets can we assemble now so we’ll be ready to launch as the time comes?
  • Can we break through barriers in the organization to innovation? What about co-manufacturing? What about investing in higher quality ingredients?
  • Considering our audience, our brand foundation, and our stretch, what products do we need to develop now so they’re ready to go when things get back to normal?

Normal, of course, is a relative term. If you’re looking ahead to the rest of this year and beyond, we can help you find the right kind of opportunity. Let’s connect.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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Essentia Water Brand Strategy Case Study: When the Revolution is an Evolution

The natural channel of better-for-you beverage brands is exploding. But it’s important to note that being the best-selling brand at Whole Foods in this category doesn’t necessarily equate to profit and meaningful growth. So how do you increase market share and grow your brand while keeping your loyalists (both internally and externally) and invite the rest of the world to join? The short answer: brand evolution.

But if your brand enjoys enough traction to even begin asking this question, it’s likely that people inside your business are becoming more inclined to make decisions based upon collective assumptions, internal bias, and outdated information – and then call it research. This is a recipe for disaster.

To avoid this, understand that data is the baseline that will take brand strategy from subjective hope and evolve it into clarity and the confidence to move forward so that you can grow your beloved brand and keep it relevant to your loyal followers while attracting a ton of new consumers.

It’s a matter of sequencing.

Insights that will impact your brand strategy looks like bad news

In our rapidly changing world, audiences, statistics, and truths evolve more rapidly than ever. Good data provides more than answers and statistics. It also shines a light on relevant opportunities and provides insights. These insights often look and smell like bad news. But, to the open-minded brand owner, this is truly good news – in the same way that complaints from customers and employees are a gift to the leadership of your company. These insights are a clear roadmap to effecting real and positive change.

Data has a shelf life

Due to technology, the pace of modern life, and our fast-changing lifestyle, the shelf life for data is fleeting. In the case of Essentia Water, the report on bottled water was only a couple of years old but dangerously outdated. Many small to mid-sized brands may only purchase these types of syndicated consumer data reports every few years, but that habit is risky.

What became evident during category and competitive audits with Essentia was a disconnect between the data reported and what was currently happening in grocery stores around the country. A newer version of the same report revealed a hint of what we were starting to see in the physical world. Their audience was shifting from predominantly female, Caucasian, yoga enthusiasts living in Los Angeles to a Hispanic, ethnically diverse, psychographic that transcends traditional demographics such as income bracket, race, age and education. The world was changing beneath their feet.

Key insights included:

  • Men, parents, and acculturated Hispanics are core users of bottled water.
  • 50% of all bottled water users prefer premium offerings.
  • A stunning 82% of net consumers want an additional function from their water.

In the case of Essentia Water, the insight (bad news) was that they had been spending their marketing dollars talking to a small census of people who loved them but couldn’t consume any more of their product. The good news was that from the new data we could see a much broader audience-to-be who was thirsty for but unaware of Essentia.

Audience segmentation helps keep your brand loyalists in the boat

Using the insights above led us to segment Essentia’s audience in ways that would allow them to keep their original core user of health-conscious yoga enthusiasts within a tribe of believers.

Use audience segmentation to force meaningful difference between your brand and its competitive set. This hard work will help you and the rest of your company get past comments, like, “C’mon, water is water.”

Further research into Essentia’s audience uncovered some commonalities in how this audience-to-be views the world and their role within it:

  • They focus on results and strive to be the best at anything they do.
  • They work hard and squeeze as much into their lives as possible.
  • And then they are grateful, viewing life as an opportunity to do more with their time, for others, and for themselves.
  • We called them, “The Overachievers.”

Trend analysis will help make sense of research and data

Research and data analysis needs to go way beyond purchasing, or searching for a free report. It needs to include scenario planning (the discipline of using data, market intelligence, and anthropology to answer the question of not “if” the future is going to be different but “in what ways” will it be different). In order to make a viable future for your brand to live in, we separate these scenarios into three areas;

  1. Things we cannot predict or control
  2. Things we can predict and control
  3. Things we can influence but not control

Now that we have some possible futures, we can establish brand positioning hypotheses using three critical components:

  • Reliable consumer and market research
  • The brand’s purpose beyond making and selling product
  • The business goals of the leadership team

Viewing the trends in category context keeps them generic. Filtering the trends through your brand positioning, makes them unique. Add to this the research that illuminates the most likely shifts in societal norms, your brand’s reputation, and its opportunity in a carefully crafted set of likely futures and “ta-da” you have unique and ownable brand.

In the case of Essentia, we found that nobody believed anything bottled water brands were saying about themselves because the market was flooded (pun intended) with unbelievable claims that none of these brands could prove. Including Essentia.

And this mistrust wasn’t limited to water, food & beverage. It seemed that the biggest trend we had uncovered is that companies and brands regularly misstate the truth and claim innocence (because everyone is doing it) and call it marketing. No wonder marketers get such a bad rap. As result, consumers automatically mistrust your claims unless your brand can prove them quickly and transparently.

A few years back Essentia participated in a clinical study that proved their water is twice as effective at hydration than the leading brands of bottled water. Essentia had never published the study because their legal team discouraged it and there was a general belief that loyalists would be put off by the study. My team saw the study as a silver bullet.

Armed with this information, our audience segmentation and current relevant data, we worked with Essentia to get the study published and accredited to the third party. So now we had proof. Cold, hard proof. It was time to pick a fight.

Pick a fight with the biggest, strongest enemy your brand can find

To most traditional marketers, this may sound like engaging in competitive warfare via the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place and promotion). That’s a wrong impression of this particular strategy. Instead we are talking about creating a movement that people can get behind. It goes beyond your product offering and the reason a brand engages in change: the need for differentiation.

For example:

  • Nike doesn’t compete with Adidas, Mizuno, and Reebok – instead Nike tackles racism, poverty and social justice.
  • Lululemon isn’t competing with Zella, Oiselle, and Prana. Instead Lululemon fights the stress of modern life on behalf of time-starved women everywhere.

This makes brand evolution into a brand revolution. The heart of differentiation is belief, credibility, and authenticity. Since reality exists in language, we work on changing the words that will come out of the mouths of the company, their leadership, sales teams, managers, and frontline employees. It all starts and ends with brand positioning and brand language.

In the case of Essentia, they took on youth empowerment and the future of water:

  • Essentia’s tagline: Overachieving H2O
  • Essentia’s brand positioning: The future of water
  • Essentia’s manifesto: We are here to put a flag in the ground and tell you that a better you starts with a better water.
  • Essentia’s call to arms: Join the #essentianation

All of this invites discovery, sharing, and inclusion in an optimistic life that transcends the marketing hype of other, well-funded, long-standing industry players.

How do I know? Essentia is posting jaw-dropping growth for its second straight year using this playbook.

According to Karyn Abrahamson, VP Marketing, Essentia Water, “Our team couldn’t be more positive or excited about the new strategy, packaging, and integrated marketing system. We are exceeding monthly numbers far beyond what we could even imagine.”

And it’s given shape to their causes and give back program, establishing The Essentia Foundation: Believe (to empower underprivileged youth). Their brand positioning along with the marketplace acceptance has given them a platform in a global conversation to feature their proprietary process (for creating the best water from any source) as the future of water. All illustrating that ultimately, your beloved brand and can be precious to a lot more people if you use data, discipline, clear communication, and gut instinct to invite other people to join your movement.

We helped Essentia Water disrupt the bottled water category. What’s your brand’s toughest growth challenge?

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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How to Translate Brand Strategy Outcomes Into Shelf Science

In today’s busy world with packed schedules and cluttered retail environments, it is rare that a consumer will stop to pick up a product by a brand they’ve never heard of before or one that’s not already on their grocery list. But how can your brand’s presence on shelf change that?

Given that shopping is a necessity, consumers are always making split second decisions when it comes to food and beverage product decisions. For this reason, your package design is your lead sales person. Packages are working hard in the field every single day to make your brand well-known and profitable. Use this powerful opportunity to both shout on shelf and tell your story in a more conversational tone.

At Retail Voodoo we are always asking ourselves, “Does this package design concept adhere to the 30-10-3 rule?” These are the three stages we define as singular moments a package has to engage a consumer:

  • At 30 feet you need to define the category.
  • At 10 feet you need to make your brand name and story known.
  • At 3 feet you have the opportunity to whisper in the consumer’s ear.

This white paper demonstrates how engaging with consumers on each of these levels is key to establishing their trial purchase.

Once consumers have the chance to actually try the product, all of these pieces should come together for them and ignite the consumer’s individual desire to share your product and brand with other people in their circle. Learning how to achieve engagement and what is important for your package to achieve at each stage will help your package fly off the shelves or into digital carts time and time again.

What Your Packaging Should do at 30 Feet

This is the initial opportunity for your package to attract attention and stop consumers in their tracks. This is a critical stage because here your package has the shortest amount of time to make the most impact.

There are four ways to successfully halt traffic at 30 feet:

Logo or Wordmark

Whether you have a brand mark that everyone knows implicitly (i.e., Nike swoosh or the Apple logo) or you are wanting to make your brand more well-known in the category, using the brand’s logo as the attention-capturing element is always a great choice. This allows your package to define itself as a leader in your category at an instinctual level. A simple, clean logo that is staged properly checks the trustworthiness box for most consumers. When shopping, people will think, “That brand looks confident in who they are and expects people to remember their name.”

Photography

Oftentimes, powerful and eye-catching photography is a great way to stand out in a shelf of many colors and lots of typography. If it makes sense for your product, queuing appetite appeal can be very successful when shoppers have a split second to make a food choice (especially for center aisle purchases like snacks).

In the case of Sahale Snack’s packaging, we created a gorgeous cluster of nuts and fruit that is mouth watering – and visible across the store. When shopping, a consumer will think, “That product must taste absolutely amazing.”

Distinctive Product or Flavor

Another effective way to use your brand to define a retail category is to make the name of the product or unique flavor be the loudest element on pack. This is especially true if you are the first to market on an innovative product or flavor in your category. Take the opportunity to make that known.

Wedderspoon is an example of a brand whose innovative product needed to be displayed. They want to bring Manuka Honey to the masses. So when creating concepts for their new label design, we knew that it would be important to let the words “Manuka Honey” sing louder than their brand name.

An example of a success story in the flavor department would be Dry Soda Company. One of the main factors that set this brand apart from the rest of the crowd in the quickly expanding  sparkling beverage refrigerator are their foodie flavors. By having stylized illustrations of those ingredients be one of the most visible elements on the bottles, consumers can instantly see from afar that their flavors are more than just the typical lemon lime. When shopping, a consumer will think, “That is a product or flavor I have never seen before, and I am intrigued enough to try it.”

Product Benefit

If your product provides a critical benefit to your target audience that can set you apart from your competitors, shout it from the rooftop! A perfect example of a brand successfully doing this is Halo Top ice cream. Hale Top has won lots of new and repeat fans by displaying the low-calorie count large and in charge on their pints. This works because they targeted a consumer who wants to eat an entire pint without ruining their diet. At Retail Voodoo, we call this managing indulgence. When shopping, a consumer will think, “That product delivers on a functional benefit I am incorporating in my diet or lifestyle and is worth my money.”

How to Position Your Product at 10 Feet

Now that the consumer has spotted your package from across the aisle because you helped them navigate the category at 30 feet, you need to keep their attention or risk losing them to your shiny shelf neighbor.

Shout Your Clear Points of Difference

At 10 feet you have a high-level opportunity to talk to your consumer about who you are and why they should believe in your offering. This second level of messaging at 10 feet is where your package has a bit more time to speak, but don’t get crazy and try to say everything about your brand and product on the front of pack. An example of an ideal amount of content on the front of pack would be Loma Linda. To contrast that, brands like Dr. Bronner’s, while utilitarian in their approach, make the consumer read way too much to reach the information they need. When shopping, a consumer will think, “This brand looks different and may be a better choice than my current brand.”

Emphasize Readability

At Retail Voodoo we frequently say that your logo and product name need to be completely legible by middle-aged eyes and quickly understood by a fifth grader. This is where you use size, scale, and depth of field to create a logical reading hierarchy for your consumer. You will want to educate them on the other items that were not your 30-foot hero item. For example, if your logo was achieving shelf shout at 30 feet, at 10 feet you will want to talk about product, flavor, taste, and benefit. When shopping, a consumer will think, “This brand feels transparent and trustworthy because they are communicating clearly.”

Your Final Chance to Spur Purchase: Packaging at 3 Feet

The consumer is holding your package in their hand and hopefully is moments away from putting it in their cart. How do you entice them to purchase? Understanding that a consumer has a set of unspoken communication needs from your brand is the first step.

Invite Them Into Your World

By picking up your package, they have given you have permission to connect with them on a deeper level. Sometimes this leads to making them laugh through clever illustrations or copywriting, or it could lead to helping them understand the science behind your product. This should be an educational moment woven with your brand’s tone and voice. Yakima Chief Hops for example utilized their back of pack to tell a deeper brand story and allow consumers into their hop fields through storytelling. The consumer will think, “This brand really understands my life and values.”

Get Them to Flip It

Unless the consumer is already a power user of your offering, they will read the back of pack before purchase. Ultimately, this is where your brand’s message and voice can truly come to life by living harmoniously with whatever promises your ingredients are making about your product. At this stage the consumer will look at the nutrition facts panel and ingredient deck. The consumer will think, “Not only does this product map to the types of foods I am looking to consume, but their ethos are in line with mine as well.”

Leverage Communication Hierarchy

Anything that exists at the 3-foot rule should be subordinate to the items that drive the 30- foot and 10-foot rules. But this doesn’t mean that all elements are  equal. Your brand’s tone and voice, product offering, and consumer need state will inform decision-making. Knowing what your consumer is most interested in and designing a purposeful user journey that grabs their attention is as important at 3 feet as it would be at 30 feet. Take the back-of-pack design for Living Intentions as an example. We leveraged both copy and an infographic to help the consumer feel comfortable with what the claim “Activated” meant. Making sure that the front-of-pack claims were explained with clarity took precedence over emotional storytelling. The consumer will think, “I now fully trust this brand to deliver on their promises.”

Now that you understand the importance and purpose of all three stages, know that what you choose to do here visually all depends on what your brand feels is most important for the consumer in driving purchase intent. In determining what your brand’s 30-, 10-, and 3-feet elements should be, we find it helpful to make a hierarchical list of what you need consumers to know in order from most to least important before you ever start designing. This provides an easy way to map back to intentions when you take pen to paper to design the pack.

Each brand has its own strategy and unique selling proposition, but it is how and in what order you portray those on pack that can help great products reach multiple digit growth in sales.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Founder Fears Associated with Private Equity and Acquisitions

Better-for-you food and beverage has become the investment world’s industry darling. And with good reason. All but the most resistant non-believer understands that what we eat and drink and do to stay active have a direct impact on our health.

Combine this with the pace of change that technology affords entrepreneurial business, combined with the appetite for change of the typical technology-minded investor and it is just too fast for most incumbent brands. That’s why the longstanding practice of big companies buying startups to help them stay relevant is in high gear. And there’s no reason your company can’t be one their acquisitions and tomorrow’s breakout brand.

This white paper discusses a set of often unspoken expectations that minority investors, would-be acquirers and founder-owners need one another to understand in order to help you avoid getting swallowed up by anxiety.

The white-hot world of better-for-you food and beverage has more players from the equity world looking to get in before “old guard food brands” can discover the next rising star. A lot of these new players are holding companies and tech investors looking for a way to transition from Silicon Valley thinking to something more holistic.

This better-for-you flurry has got a strong head of steam. According to foodbusinessnews.net, the number of food investors has doubled in the last 5 years. Food has so much interest that its seems as though food & beverage investments now outnumber technology investments.

But this capital-infused high comes with its own challenges.

Food & Beverage Brands’ Key Investment Players

The tech investors tend to make their money by pushing people and systems to the edge. They are not accustomed to being in the people business and, sometimes, can have the attitude of disposable people and disposable relationships. Tech investors love ABC’s Shark Tank and sometimes fancy themselves as the sharks (and that is okay as long as the brand’s founder is aware).

Founders create a gem of a brand with their own tears, blood, and sweat. They live and breathe their company culture (even if it’s bad). So, while they are looking for capital to grow their organization, they are often reluctant to bring in partners who have a track record of being heavy-handed in operations, equipment, HR, and, well anything other than sales, marketing, and funding. This isn’t because the founders don’t understand these key areas as being critical to building meaningful, operationally significant brand systems. It’s more primal that that. Many founders, when faced with the specter of an investor putting multi-expert-hands in their proverbial pie, simply recoil. It makes many of founder-owners feel that potential equity partner or investor is only about growth at all costs — and when they don’t talk openly, the relationship is bound for the therapist’s couch (at best).

To work through this, the founder needs to ask questions of the core acquisition team and talk to other brands in their past and current portfolio. This is the only way to discover if the investor’s normal mode of growing an acquisition fits well with the culture of the current brand.

What Investors Need To Understand About Founders

Food and beverage brand creators are running on emotion and will likely question their gut instinct in the face of investor bravado.

Once contractually together, investors will often push for changes that the founder owner hadn’t anticipated. This can be resolved during the due diligence phase if the founder owner can look at and ask the following important (and often undervalued) question. Will my new partners possess and behave with the same moral compass that we used to build this business?

Food & beverage founders face a common set of fears when seeking investors.

  1. Founders fear that the industry may perceive them as a sell-out, especially if the acquiring entity and/or investor do not allow the brand to continue with the moral compass they created.
  2. Founders are weary that the earn-out portion of the deal may remain unattainable if the acquiring company’s pro forma is merely lip service in an attempt to calm the their nerves. The founder is concerned that the EBIDTA demands of the acquiring entity will put pressure in places inside the organization that will change the company’s stance on ingredients, sustainability, and hard-earned business relationships. So, in a worst case scenario, the founder could be labeled a sell out, not get paid, and be seen in the industry as having been bamboozled by people with deep pockets and a shallow conscience.
  3. They are not gonna “get” me, and I will be stuck reporting to a room of accountants and analysts who don’t believe in the brand beyond the balance sheet.

Investor Types: Which Is Best For Founder-Owners?

As a founder owner of a food & beverage brand, you will sleep better if you know and understand your would-be acquirer’s investment strategy. Are they looking for quick flips? Will they invest strategically in building the company out the way you envision or will they default to a specific point of view once the deal is inked?

Here is a simplified view of common equity partner philosophies.

  1. Moonshot investors think like Google and Apple. These investors buy a bunch of thought-leading brands and let them fight it out in the court of public opinion, believing that, eventually, one of them will be amazing and a must-have for everyone. The other brands are left to languish, fight for resources and ultimately go away. After all, there can only be one Siri.
  2. Spendthrift investors search for brands in distress so that they can acquire them at a bargain. Hostess and Necco Wafers and are great examples that happen to share the same acquiring investor. Roundhill Investments has made a name for itself by acquiring and growing nostalgic brands that have fallen out of fashion with consumers. Hostess is well on its way, It will be fun to see what they can do with the beloved Necco brand.
  3. Aggregator investors are looking for ways to make their marquee brand better. This is great if you have an ingredient-focused brand, or have  product that is more than the sum total of its ingredients. But it gets risky if you think you have a consumer-facing brand but are making most of your revenue in bulk or private label.
  4. Shepherd investors look for brands they can guide to greatness. As conventional food companies see more consumers choosing innovative natural, organic, and better-for-you products over legacy brands, they are seeking ways to meet that demand from acquisition to early-stage investments, and they have demonstrated a willingness to pay high multiples. These conventional food organizations are best suited to make acquisitions like Hormel (acquiring Applegate) and WhiteWave foods (acquiring Vega).

Obviously the best kind of equity partner for a founder-owner who wants to stay involved is the shepherd investor. But how does a founder-owner determine precisely what kind of investor they are talking to?

We recommend having a list of prepared questions about their business practices and their past wins and losses (as well as references from both). Here is starter question to ask a potential investor:

In the last three years, what has changed the most in our industry?

They should be able to speak candidly about the changing nature of consumers, the evolution of their preferences and behaviors, and connect these insights to your brand.

Many other situationally appropriate questions can be formed through a meaningful SWOT analysis prior to getting into due-diligence conversations.

For both parties it comes down to fierce, upfront dialogue. Be true to yourself and your vision from the very beginning. Listen, ask hard questions, answer boldly and with vulnerability, and whatever you do, don’t tell them what you think they want to hear.

Looking for a branding partner that has helped investors navigate founder brands – you found us. Drop us a note and let’s talk.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David