Brand Slam Episode 5 – featuring Plant Works

Brand Slam 5 – Finding Your True Audience and Standing Out in a Crowded Category

On episode 5 of Brand Slam our guests are Trever Knoflikc and Anna Peirano from Plant Works. Plant Works is a plant-based protein brand making delicious protein powder with adaptogens, and BCAA’s to help you fuel your awesome.


Download now to watch this fun and informative webinar where we audit Plant Works’ brand ecosystem and identify gaps, highlight opportunities and help the team understand where to focus her marketing spend.

Brand Slam was created by Retail Voodoo to help CPG entrepreneurs in food, beverage, and wellness reduce their struggle with brand growth in the face of Covid-19. Using the auditing process models created by Retail Voodoo to develop Brand Ecosystems, (which we’ve used for some of the world’s most beloved brand and featured in the book Beloved & Dominant Brands,) we will benchmark Plant Works and provide strategies to help Anna, Trever and the rest of their team regain brand traction.

More About Plant Works: Being workout and protein fanatics, trying to maintain a better-for-you, more plant-centric diet, they made the switch from whey protein powders to plant protein powders. They soon grew tired of drinking terrible tasting shakes, made with low-quality proteins that lacked the right ratio of essential amino acids to help our bodies recover, so they decided to make their own. 18 months and many failed attempts later, they finally built a formula that met their goals. They combined a blend of high-quality plant proteins with super herbs, adaptogens, added BCAA’s and a few other natural ingredients to create a great tasting plant-based performance protein powder that helps the body recover, rebuild, and repeat.


Kat Simpson: All right, let’s do it. Well, once again, as I said, thank you so much, everyone, for being here for our fifth episode of Brand Slam. This has been so much fun. And today we are going to be working with a wonderful plant based protein brand known as Plantworks. Going to start off with a little bit of introduction.

I am Kat Simpson from the Retail Voodoo team, David Lemley also in pink from the Retail Voodoo team. And then we have Trever and Anna from the Plantworks’ team. All right. So what we’re going to do today is we’re going to give a bit of overview on Brand Slam, on Retail Voodoo, on Plantworks. And then we’re going to dive in to a slot audit of Plantworks existing, brand materials, and then conduct a competitive audit where we rank them with pluses and minuses and help them know where their growth potential is. At the end, we will have a question and answer segment. Please feel free to put any questions in as we go through the presentation and we will get to all of them at the end.

David Lemley: We have this slide basically, just in case you hap on upon this to webinar format and realize that we were kind of making it up, but we’ve made it up several hundred times. So we’re starting to feel like we are intuitive in this. Go ahead Kat. A little bit about our expertise, we play in the vertical of better for you food and beverage, health and wellness and mental and fitness. And most organizations come to us to help build a brand strategy that will become the driving force behind their business. And then we also can help them execute creative strategy all the way through the entire pyramid that we’re going to get into today.

Kat Simpson: All right, so we are ready to jump in. That’s a bit about us. Now we’re going to turn it over to Trever and Anna to talk about Plantworks.

Trever Knoflick: Okay, I guess I’ll start. I’m Trever Knoflick and the acting president, and I’ll give you a little background on, I think, me first and then we’ll get into the company. So I joined Plantworks early on this year. I’m a long time friend of one of the founders, John Peirano, and Anna is John’s daughter, who’s with us right now heading up marketing. We connected by the end of the year. He’s a marketing expert in his field previous with Muscle Milk. And he founded the company with a couple of two other individuals, again, friends, another one with Muscle Milk as well.

And between the three of them, what they were lacking was kind of a sales side of it. So they started out, they had the formula based so they could make the product with Adam or the other founders and with John, who a marketing guy which created the packaging and set up social media, put the product online. They didn’t have a sales aspect. So I started my company. I have my own consulting company I started about a year ago and meant to really help other smaller companies and to give back from my career in sales and help small companies, emerging companies tackle the sales arm, especially with the retail channel, how difficult it is working with multiple different channels and retailers. I was set up to really to help them cut through and quickly help them get to market quicker and understand what was on tail with that. So John and I formed a partnership here. He hired me on as the acting president, and I’m here to help them. We’re just getting into the retail world now and helping with that, as well as raising money. Anna, I think you can talk about the history and its founder.

Anna Peirano: I’m Anna, I work on all things marketing at Plantworks in the field, digital. And a little bit more background, Plantworks started — I don’t know if it’s 2018. However, the idea of it formed when my dad and his business partners were working at Muscle Milk and they wanted to switch to more plant centric diet, continue working out how they were working out, but avoid using whey protein for post work out, as it was in their stomach just wasn’t to grow the bodies. And so what they did was they went out and they tried a bunch of Bruce products and taste, texture, all the above.


So they got together and formulated a product that solved their needs for tough workout and after tough workout and that essentially has the same benefits as protein. So it’s formulated like 18 months. And they put it out to friends and family and everyone loved it. And so they brought it to market a couple of months after that and we’ve slowly been growing ever since.

Trever Knoflick: Let me just jump in one more thing. So when they originally started from John and his partners, Adam and Ron, Ron is a Ironman athlete. He’s done the Ironman finals in Hawaii half a dozen times or more. This was meant for really the intense athlete, the athlete that wanted to recover quickly and needed essential vitamins and to have a speedy recovery. And what they realized after launching the product on Amazon and on their own website, they realized that that wasn’t necessarily the core customer. The core customer became the person. It’s mainly female person, female that is stets athletic, that is active, but that works out, I think, maybe two to four times a week and possibly using it for meal replacement or more understanding as well.

So we’re sort of pivoting, I think, and trying to understand who our core customer is. I think, being here in this environment and having Voodoo to help us out here and tell us the true skinny, we’re open, we’re vulnerable, we want to be that way, but we’re also willing to take some of this information and challenge ourselves. And if we don’t agree with it, we’ll tell you.

David Lemley: It’s fantastic. Yes. So this is very interesting. This slide, this happened that the idea of building something for a very narrow, targeted center of the universe person that’s an extreme athlete that is Uber fit and Uber committed to diet, nutrition and doing it into beyond the typical age of a hardcore athlete, our professional level or collegiate level athlete. We’ve seen this exact kind of setup happen with several brands where they’ve built it and the audience, it ends up being something completely different to actual power user is in your instance, it’s women and they’re all of them. For rough math, I’d say they’re largely thirty five and up. So you’re hitting moms, you’re hitting fits by moms, the ones who want to look good, who are using it for meal replacement, who are going to the gym to either maintain but not necessarily run a triathlon. And it’s pretty fascinating that that’s the data here in the situation. And I think using that data, we have some ideas about how to optimize your marketing as we move through the process here.

Kat Simpson: Nice little segway there. We are going to jump into The Audit. And take it away, David.

David Lemley: Well, The Audit comes from — I wrote a book based upon one segment of our process for brand development, and it’s the brand Eco-System and Trever, you might actually know the origin of this, which is going to be cool because you’ll be the first, which is we used Chet Holmes’ the seven musts of marketing as a skeletal framework a long time ago. And over the course of time, we evolved his seven musts of marketing into our brand ecosystem that we use to conduct these audits. So times have changed and technology has advanced quite a bit since Chet Holmes ruled the Earth in sales. But I want to pay homage to him that that’s where the idea came from. We’ve been running with it for two decades since.

I wrote a book about how to use this pyramid. So the cool thing is, it’s basically a home surgery kit for entrepreneurial brands. You can conduct this audit and ask the questions. And there’s a set of many more questions and we’re going to use today with you. But that’s where this comes from. So the idea is the foundation of your brand should be customer education and then social media should be the crowning jewel once you have everything else right. What we found over and over and over again, regardless of the size of the brand, is when it needs to evolve, they’re overemphasizing and over indexing social media and not covering off on everything else. And so it ends up creating a toppling or lopsided pyramid. What you’re seeing on the screen where it’s all lit up like this, that’s what perfection looks like, everything blue. So we’re going to walk through today and show you how Plantworks stacks up.


And there will be some good news and some insights. And you can think of the insights as good news because it helps you know where to spend money and where to stop spending money in order to make your marketing same. We’re jumping right in. Customer education, we think you actually do a really good job. What I think overall, you’ve got some really amazing things here, but it does cater a lot to somebody who’s nutritionally savvy and a science seeker. And just as you said Trever, that sort of extreme person who’s trainer based understands how nutrition and protein and everything is there. But it doesn’t speak to what I would call the protein curious, which is your fits-bow, thirty five and up core user right now where it is doing things that I think are good for her are fueling her awesome and showing the plants.

Now again, I don’t know what all of these do and I’m pretty sure your users don’t know either. So there’s an opportunity there to improve that. But using iconography and a little bit of lyrical illustration is a really nice way to bring them along. I think that the wave in the upper right hand corner of the little quadrant of your stuff that we’ve made here, the way you’re unpacking or highlighting sugar free in great taste out of a bunch of other very technical information is nice to eat. It helps put things away from what we call sort of gearhead or science based, which is great. You need the science there, but your audience wants to be attracted first and then find out that you’re really smart. And so I think that that’s the way in. I think additionally, you’ve done a really great job of explaining how this is going to make me better at what I do for whatever level I’m involved. And then it already touched on things like if you don’t go in and adapted to this or that kind of helps you feel good about yourself, I don’t know what all these herbs do. And if I’m not herbal curious that I’m not in the herbal movement, I don’t know what to do with that.  So I think there’s room to speak plainer English about it.

So if we look at — let’s go through it now, you’re going to very quickly see how the pyramid works. The first question we asked of your brand is, are you explaining your dramatic differences and similarities to other products? We think you did a really great job explaining, which I didn’t even touch on, that BCAAs and that you’re creating a complete protein analog to a whey protein. We think you did a really good job with that. So we gave you the point. So we fill in one block on your pyramid. See how this goes? Next, do you express the most compelling thing about your brand story? We did not give you the point. We don’t think that the brand story is coming through. It is very much a functional features and benefits and ingredient focused, science focused story and that sort of achieve your dreams, live your goals. Part of the story isn’t coming across in education.  The nutrition part is, our true audiences, I think there’s room to make it more compelling and give me or her permission to own it better.

So the next question we asked is, are you able to overcome price resistance because of your features and benefits? We said heck to the yeah, we think that you’re the only brand with adaptogens and BCAAs, and that if you could scream from the rooftops all day, every day, wear the t-shirt, put the flags up, that’s the thing.

Kat Simpson: Yeah, you guys provided us just an incredible competitive audit with a beautiful spreadsheet of your main competitors and what they could claim and what they could get. The golden ticket there was that you guys have both of those in your proteins. So, well done.

David Lemley: So to give compliments, that competitive audit analysis within the Brand Slam framework was the finest one we have seen and so much so that we felt it was proprietary. And so we’re not going to show it. We’re going to show you a slide that is taking bits from it, but no details. Just pictures, because we felt like you did such a great job that you could give a class on that.

But continuing on with customer education, is your brand language clear and concise? Yes, so you get the point. Is your brand’s voice represented in your customer education? I think here’s the challenge. I think the brand voice around lifestyle is not there. So we didn’t give you the point on that. But you got three out of five. So there’s room to make it easier to express the most compelling thing about your story that flags we just talked about waving them would be good.


I think the lifestyle making it more female friendly, more about busy modern life and that the nutrition part, I think would be really helpful.

Anna Peirano: When you talk about expressing the most compelling thing about your brand story, how would you recommend is the best way of doing that? Are there different channels you want to educate more on or is it more like the iconography is important? What are your thoughts?

David Lemley: Yeah, I think you’re going to see it unfold as we get into each of these next wrong’s, some specific ideas around it. But I think that overall, you have a product that requires a fair degree of attention for me to understand what it is and what makes it compellingly different. And it’s not that it’s plant based, it’s that it’s a way protein, complete protein analog, the only one with adaptogens and BCAAs. And that is heavy and I have to know what that means, and so I think if you can plug it into the joy of living, especially again as we’ve evaluated it, we determined that the 6.1% of dudes running triathlons don’t need to know. They don’t need to be educated. They’re going to look at your deck or your macros and go, “Got it.” But for everyone else who happens to be female in your category, who’s living a life and they’re maintaining rather than trying to climb Mount Everest is I think, again, softening up lifestyle, show them living their life, showing them not necessarily working out, but during, pre, during and after and what life looks like and how this can plug into what I think is a way to get those parts out there. You’ll see more clear thoughts as we continue.

Trever Knoflick: I would like to make a comment too. I agree with this, with our differentiators, we believe, and when we’re presenting to retail customers now are we concentrate on our differentiators, the BCAAs and the adaptogens exactly as you saw it, which is great to hear. However, we’re educating them in an environment, right? We’re not educating the end consumer that needs to pick us off the shelf. I’m hoping that we get to that. And it looks like we will at some point, help us with that story to tell to who are real core customer is.

David Lemley: Yeah, when we get to in-store, I think there’s some conversation that we’ll have there. And then the relationship between in-store, which is e-Com and on-shelf and retail and the relationship to that and how your website plays a role in that and how social media plays a role in that, it’ll all start to make sense.

Kat Simpson: All right, moving up the pyramid, we’re going to get into public relations. So we’ve got some strengths and some weaknesses or some opportunities here. We really like that you’re getting credibility from the Ironmen community. We see that one of your co-founders is mentioned in triathlete blog and magazine. And we think that’s really wonderful because that gives you some trust within that community. However, we know that that is only 6.1% of your audience that is that type of consumer.

So we think that there’s an opportunity to communicate to a much broader audience. The other 90% of your purchasers, by going into some publications that they might be reading the fitness curious or the lifestyle maintainer that is drinking protein, as you said, for meal replacements. So some suggestions might be well and good, women’s fitness, shape, if there’s some mom blogs where they talk about maintaining your busy lifestyle and keeping nutrition high during your active and busy lifestyle that would be a good kind of angle to hook them. And then Bon Appétit too, because if you’re celebrating flavor, you’re celebrating no sugar and all these nutrients, people that are reading Bon Appétit for any sort of meal replacement or protein to add to their smoothies, things like that, that would be a good place to go.

David Lemley: I just want to add to that, the Bon Appétit points at something really critical that we haven’t said yet. I think, and I said it early on, is that it’s the trifecta of complete nutrition, a digestibility, and the uniqueness of adaptogens and BCAAs. But taste was a thing. When we talked with Adam a lot prepping for this, he talked about nailing taste and that part of the whole process was how the brain was born, is because you could find products that would do this.


They might not be as good for you, but they all tasted like caca or they were chalky or powdery. And so, what we know particularly about women in this category is they won’t eat crap, they won’t eat things that don’t taste good. So they’re going to lead with flavor and everything else happens, whereas an Ironman dude is going to eat something that taste bad if he has to in order to achieve his  performance level. It’s just how we’re hardwired. So leaning more towards lifestyle placement versus athlete we believe will give you permission to tell that story.

Kat Simpson: Yeah, very great. All right, moving into the audit here, is your PR telling a compelling and differentiated story? Not at the moment. I think the suggestions that David just made about flavor and things like that is the way to go moving forward. So that’s your homework, if you will, on this one. Number two, is your PR robust and targeting the right audience? As we mentioned, it’s not targeting the right audience, is targeting just a small segment right now, which is good to gain trust. But let’s use that as a springboard into a much larger target audience here through your public relations efforts.

David Lemley: What if one thing, because we keep hammering on the 6.1%, what I want to say is it’s freaking awesome that you know who that is and that you might even have people in your organization that are in that or Halo really closely to that. What I can tell you is to play in that space really well, you need one hundred million dollar advertising budget. And since we’re not going to do that, that’s why we’re saying widen the core.

Kat Simpson: Yeah, exactly. Okay, number three, are you easily gaining earned media as a result of your PR efforts? Not that we were able to see, and I think broadening that reach will definitely help get you there. And are influencers talking about you? Yes, we are able to see a lot of your friends and family, that level of influence there that is working really, really well to spread the word about how delicious and how good for you this product is. We got a one out of four there, I think what questions do you have on where to improve here?

Trever Knoflick: I think you’re spot on. We see this as well. I think one challenge that we have is flavor. Taste is subjective. And you tell someone it tastes good, they’re not going to believe it until they actually had it. And I think what Adam was trying to get across was if we make a great tasting product, as soon as we get it in their hands, we know they’re going to come back. And that was important to us. We want to make a good product because we wanted it to last on the shelf or have our core customers coming back for it. I think we’re challenged to and how you get that across to the consumer. And maybe that’s through pictures and more lifestyle.

David Lemley: I think it is. I’m excited that you said that, because when we get into in-store, we’re going to talk directly about that particular point, because you’re not alone in that pain point and that challenge. But there is good news. And we have some inter-brands for you.

Kat Simpson: Okay, moving up the ladder to advertising.

David Lemley: Yes, so this is very interesting, so in small brands, this is the first plank we would pull out of an ecosystem pyramid because advertising is expensive and challenging to make relevant when you are small brand. You’ve got digital social advertising here. So we elected two gradients. And what I think is that it kind of goes back to the customer education. I think when you’re pointing the things out at the bag on the first one, I think you’ve done a really good job of explaining the benefits here and assuming that these are targeted and that they’re showing up, because I have looked at you somewhere on the friend and family or something like that, whatever the targeting be on there. I think the way they come out starts to become friendly and interesting, I like the one piece, the third one in where the woman has the shaker and she’s putting it forward. That’s the closest thing to lifestyle that we see here. Everything else is so features and benefits focused that if I don’t know who you are, I don’t know who you are. And because of this is where we’re going to just first start touching about things here because of the way your packaging looks, which will go into in great detail.


So I don’t want to go completely off, but at this scale I cannot replant works unless my phone is right here. And I think that that’s a missed opportunity because you’re an unknown brand in a very competitive space, looking very sciency and having me squint to read the name, they’re close there, for example, I think each one of these if there was a bigger plant or somewhere in it, I would see it better. I think that we gave you bonuses for clearly explaining your benefits and bonuses for incentivizing new customers. And then everything else I’ve already kind of talked about. And then the other thing is if taste’s again, you’re going to see this theme, Trever, if taste is a thing in our trifecta, I have zero evidence other than you use the words great tasting, which to me is sort of like — somebody said to me recently, because one of our brand pillars is that we’re allegedly vaguely punk rock. But what they said to me is, “Dude, if you have to tell me that you’re punk rock, you’re probably f-ing not punk rock.” And so that was stricken from the record. But I’m just sharing with you a personal story. If you have to tell me you’re tasting, I actually doubt it more than if you said nothing.

Trever Knoflick: Right. I agree.

David Lemley: And when I say I, I’m pretending to be I’m channeling your consumer for you. Just so we’re clear on that. So let’s look at how this gets created. Is your creative a category disruptor? No. What could we do to be category disruptive, we could be a lot more about flavor, a lot more about our audience and don’t do things like everybody else, which is show my package on the track, show my package on the grass, show my package on the mountain. That’s been done. And people with a lot more money and better photography and sexier packaging are doing that. So while it’s table stakes, there’s a way for you to do something much more compelling and the clue would be in your customer education that we loved so much, you had that lyrical iconography in all of your cute little illustrations like that to me, combined with the science is unique.

Could I take your logo or package out of your ad and tell it’s you and I think not based on what I just said, so no point on that. But do you express your features and benefits? Yes. So you got the point there. And then the last one, can I tell why your brand exists beyond the benefit? No. So again, this is really important because advertising to us, even when you’re small and you’re starting to be, advertising should behave like a bat signal.

Advertising is you interrupting me to get me to think about you at all? And so it needs to be something that feels badge-able and needs to let me be a better version of myself that I want to brag about to others with or its noise. So that’s why I’m keen about advertising. How are you feeling Anna?

Anna Peirano: I think this is all great stuff. I think where we struggle most is pushing out so that people actually see it, costs a lot of money to boost it. And to your point, how can we create content ads that disrupt the category? I feel like that’s tough because it is such a crowded space. So just interesting thinking of other ways to disrupt the category, I think education probably is key. I wonder, too, like video could actually play a part in that? I don’t know. Just thinking.

David Lemley: I think your instincts are good. Video would be huge. What we know that has happened and what I’m going to call the shirt show of 2020 is video has taken over because people don’t get to see people so much. And because there’s so much content, we all want from content hungry to, oh please, don’t make me read or think again. And so video is the new normal.

Anna Peirano: Good enough.

Kat Simpson: Especially as we know, social media right now is a place that a lot of people are going to check out. And if you’re going to make them read in their checkout time, it’s not happening. So if you can capture them with something quick in the first five seconds while they’re scrolling in that sponsored AdSense, we know a lot of your ads are on Instagram or on Facebook. That is going to be a game changer.


Anna Peirano: Are there any other recommendations as to where you found success in advertising besides just digital, like I guess print?

David Lemley: Well, I think that for your brand print is tough. First off, you need a bigger budget. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of millions of dollars, but it’s significant to actually get any traction. It used to be that if I saw your ad three times, that was a thing, and then it was seven. And we thought, oh, wow, what’s wrong with the planet? Now it’s 24 times before I actually feel like I know who you are. And that’s because there’s just so much noise in traffic. So being disruptive, being something where it’s polarizing like I’m in or I’m out is good. I think that for you, digital, social and spending dollars to get advertising to drive Amazon is probably a very smart move at your scale because you can pay somebody like click IDO or Beekeeper to smash your stuff. And if you put $25 down, they can get you 50 dollars back, that sort of thing. And if you use that, which we’ll get to direct, because I don’t want to tell you what that looks like, but if you were to use your direct communication to help them spread the word, that’s going to create dividends on your advertising that many organizations who are just on the shelf can’t do.

Trever Knoflick: How about trade promo, when we start getting into retail, retailers all want it. Sometimes it works. A lot of times it doesn’t work for unknown brands.

David Lemley: Where you are, I think trade promo would be very challenging. I think actually when we get into in-store, we’re going to talk a lot about your packaging and if some of the advice that we provide were taken, trade promo would be brilliant. But right now, I’ll just say this one thing, which is that we know you require the category incur in order for me to understand even what you are in a retail setting because of everything on your package whispers at the same level of hierarchy. So I can’t tell what it is. And so because of that trade promo or doing in caps or any blocking of any sort, you’re not getting the full benefit that you would if if you’re packaging more punchier.

Trever Knoflick: Okay, and then one other question, and it’s great feedback. And I’m not sure that they’re correct terminology, but like series marketing, if we were doing some video clips, use the example of Jake from State Farm, or flow, there’s a constant series going on and whatever, whether it’s comedy or not, it just continues. Is there something like that for us to think about, maybe possibly to put in or are we just too small and doesn’t make sense?

David Lemley: That’s a great idea. In fact, we haven’t talked about this at all in all of these Brand Slam episodes yet. Yes, you should start a YouTube channel tomorrow. And if I only had $10,000 to spend on marketing, I put 9994 towards the YouTube channel and the content and then I would spend the other six dollars paying somebody like a Gary V spinoff to chop it up into content for me.

Kay Simpson: Absolutely, a great place to start.

Trever Knoflick: And you get a lot of your teaching the consumer too by doing that.

David Lemley: Yeah. So if you can teach them and bring some of that lifestyle in that sort of perfectly imperfect modern life for that 35 plus woman who’s running as fast as she can, not literally running to train, but like running because life is crazy and she’s taking care of herself and fitting it in like all of that. If you get that lifestyle as a cereal ads on You Tube and then chop them up into other bits and use those as ads, yeah, you could create a very small flow, like from progressive vibe that would be hilarious and radically different in this category.

Kay Simpson: Absolutely. All right, we’ve done plenty of foreshadowing to in-store, so let’s dive right on into it. This is going to be fun. So in-store, we’re going to have a couple different sections we’re going to talk about. We’re going to talk about packaging in a physical retail store, in an Amazon store, and then we’re going to look at a lot of competitors.


So first, we think that your packaging has a good mix of natural. You’ve got the Kraft paper in there that maybe you’re using as a little bit more earthy and then Brattain cues, as we’re calling it. So your GNC shopper there are some of those cues in there. I see you laughing and I’m glad you approve. I think it’s a good mix. However, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s lacking a bit of appetite appeal. So it feels a little bit medicinal and it feels earthy in a way that makes me feel like it’s going to taste earthy, which we don’t want. So as we mentioned, it’s looking a little more GNC. We want it to look more Whole Foods and really hitting that Whole Foods shopper. And when you’re thinking about that, maybe don’t go into Whole Foods protein aisle and see what they’re doing, go into Whole Foods snacking or go into Whole Foods frozen foods and see how delicious they make all of those products. Look and see if you can apply that in a protein because that could be really disruptive.

We like that you call out the benefits really clearly on the front of pack, how many grams of protein fiber BCAAs. That word Vanilla on the Kraft, if there’s a way to amp-up that color bit gets a little bit illegible. The chocolate contrast is doing really great, but maybe improving that vanilla. And David already touched on this, but we’re noticing that your statement of identity which is protein powder gets lost. When it’s sitting in a store or on Amazon, you’re either searching for protein powder or it’s sitting next to Vega and all these other protein powders that you know for context, but some places you could put it as an example would be right under a Plantworks. Plantworks protein powder or up on top where it says 100% plant based protein. Getting that just a little bit bigger and bolder will help consumers know outside of the setting.

And while the name of your company is Plantworks and there is a leaf in your logo, we think the design system doesn’t cues plant based as well as it could because it seems very science and laboratory derived with the gear icon and some things like that. And while it’s good to know that a lot of science went into the formula to make this the absolute best for you protein, we need it to have a little bit more emotive cues. And we know that everything in it is good for me because sometimes people aren’t non GMO is a thing for a reason. People don’t want super science formulated products being put into their body. And that’s why we’re using plants is because they’re more natural. So that’s all we’ve got on packaging.

As we mentioned already, your competitive auto was fantastic. These are the core brands that you identified as your main competitors. They’re really, really good analogs to look at, they’re doing well and they’re widely known in the protein space. And then we did a little bit more digging and we found a bunch more brands, some brands that may have started in other categories for stigmatic category and started in the adaptogens category, which is something you provide and have not moved into protein. Bullet proof started with just copying collagen and the mixtures that go into that and have now expanded. So just really looking at the whole audience here will help you understand what you need to do to stand out.

David Lemley: It’s crowded.

Kay Simpson: Yeah, very much so, because someone who is also shopping for protein powder is shopping for protein bars. We didn’t even show bars. That is a whole another can of worms we’re not opening, but just in the powder space alone, it’s crowded.

And then on Amazon, we did three simple searches. The first one being protein powder, and there’s 2,000 results there, the second one being plant based protein, and there’s over 3,000 results. And then we just searched plant works protein to see what comes up. If someone shopping specifically for your brand, and the good news there is there was only 77 results, but unfortunately the big players like Vega, Orgain and Kos, those are really dominating and they’re getting big sponsor placement at the top two, which is something that we know drives trial for someone who might be new to the category. So if you can work on getting some sort of sponsored placement, especially when you search your exact name, that would be amazing, because right now on nutrition is the one that has sponsored placement when I search your name. So if you could get that sponsor placement alone, that would do wonders. And then we’re noticing that the packaging actually fails our Amazon readability test, because even at this small scale on our huge monitors and we search it, it’s hard to read the brand name, which is the biggest thing on the pack.


And then, as we mentioned, it’s hard to tell protein powder unless you’re digging into the copy underneath. So just working on the hierarchy of your package to make sure whatever you want to communicate first, whether it’s flavor or that its plant based or that has adaptogens and BCAAs in it is the biggest thing.

David Lemley: One of the things that has happened in 2020, because so much shopping is moved to DTC and Amazon, and we have this philosophy on packaging about being simple, bold and iconic and this notion of a 30, 10 three, which is at 30 feet, you should help define the category, a 10 feet, I should be able to read your name and at three feet should be so sexy that I reach out and pick you up and let you whisper into my ear. And that’s our formula. And we still believe it because of the convergence of online shopping has advanced five years within the last nine months. We are pushing everyone to be even bolder so that it’s readable at an inch and a half in a competitive field on Amazon. We think that is critical to be successful moving forward.

The exceptions to that would be people who have such unique bespoke trade dress that their form and their look in their color way stand out like a Tiffany or a Coca-Cola or something like that. And in this category, nobody has that.

Kay Simpson: All right, moving into in-store, these are some shots of your product in the San Francisco sport basement store, which is great. We think your brand walking really, really well, especially these sample boxes, which is that repetition of the logo. Really huge is awesome. But once again, lacking that young factor, I need some sort of promise of what’s inside the bag, especially in a small store like this. It’s great that your shop right next to your shop, know you’re at the protein section. But I need a promise of what I’m going to get when I put that bag open, because someone who might be flying by might think, oh, this is a supplement. Oh, there’s a protein cookie in here. So give a little promise there.

And then you look very small batch when you’re seated next to the big brands and traditionally in a better free food and beverage space, that’s actually a really good thing. However, we’re learning in this Covid environment that people are getting a little bit skeptical of a small batch. People want things to be made in the safest way possible. And if it cues that it might have potentially been made in someone’s basement or garage, which yours doesn’t look that way, but some small batch can get that bad wrap, it can be a turnoff for some people. So even if you’re a small brand, making yourself look like a big brand can go a long way.

So to great in-store, first up, are you disruptive compared to category conventions? Not at the moment. I think you’ve got some stuff working really well, but amping up that flavor would do a world of good. Does your in-store presence stop traffic, is your brand and packaging disruptive on the shelf? Not yet. Does your packaging successfully communicate your product point of difference? Yes, you’re saying how many BCAAs, you’re saying that it’s plant based, you’re saying all those wonderful key differentiators. But we would recommend absolutely shouting that we have both BCAAs and adaptogens, like if your statement of identity takes up a third of the packets that says plant based protein with BCAAs and adaptogens, that would be amazing because we’re a quick shopper. That’s all they need to know.

David Lemley: Yeah, if our packaging is often first and only sales and marketing communication with a new consumer, and you have 2.8 seconds to capture their attention and you’re seated next to Vega, you need to Zach because Vega has established the category convention and has a reasonable appetite appeal and a clear statement of identity. So if you’re seated next to them and somebody is looking for something richer and deeper and their power user, they might poke around. But if not, you’re likely to get passed over because of that bold, iconic and the flavor and all the things that Kat’s talking about.

Kat Simpson: Absolutely. Okay, and then does your packaging pass the 30-10-3 rule which David just walked through perfectly, at this point it does not. So we’ve got a one out of four here, definitely some areas for improvement and some babies to throw out with the bathwater. How does this sit with you?

Trever Knoflick: So, a good question, you didn’t touch on this and I was curious. Are most of the packaging in this space has been the tubes, the cylinders, plastic cylinders, plastic, not great for the environment.


Ours is in a pouch, a little bit different. As we’re going into retail stores, we’re noticing almost everything on the shelves are the cylinders. So we differentiate that way. You guys didn’t touch on that. If we’re going to do a whole redesign, which is what I’m learning here, which is a good thing, do you suggest any feedback on whether we switch to a cylinder or do we keep the bag?

David Lemley: I’ll go first Kat, if that’s okay. So it’s interesting because pouches, unless they’re made with Neo or they have some certain things are actually worse for the environment than the tube because the tube or the cylinder is recyclable in many metro areas, not everywhere. But that’s something that, again, a lot of people don’t think of it that way. They think the pouches, it’s more contemporary. But I think that because of your promise, you might do better in a short squat tub rather than in a big giant tub or in a pouch. The pouch in this instance, I know that there was this movement inside of protein to try to be like better flavor, higher quality is in a pouch, but I see that not being as successful as a lot of the brands who headed that way, far it would be.

And I think it’s just because, again, the category convention is tub, why make me think, especially if you’re fighting through Amazon and your 3,000 of 3,000 options for me, if I’m accustomed to see it and seeing it in tubs of some sort, it just helps me. The short hand is faster, subconsciously. I think that you should still continue to have sachets, the little sticks or the little Single-Use, I think those are great, but I think that a short tub would be more powerful for this brand than the pouch. But that’s just my opinion.

Trever Knoflick: And again, let me put on my CFO hat and say, “Hey, it’s going to cost a lot more for us, not the tips into our margins and we need to be profitable as well.” So it’s something to consider, but well taken.

David Lemley: I think when you start speaking to this woman and whispering in her ear and you are lifestyle and you’re the only with adaptogens and BCAAs, you will overcome any price you post. So another way to think about that is if your package is badge-able and she wants to leave it out on the counter so her friends think she’s cool when she can have them over after quarantine, that is Instagram able and that is free advertising. And people will pay for killer packaging that they can use as a building block to prove that they are an amazing human. And we’re all hardwired that way. So I think that you could keep your margin if you’re packaging, if it changes your margin structure, you can experiment with adding it. That’s what I’m really saying.

Kay Simpson: All right, good stuff. I’m going to move right on up to website, take it away.

David Lemley: Okay, so we wanted to love your website and after a couple of weeks decided we don’t, but you have some good things going for it. We think it’s easy to shop. It’s concise. It’s actually got nerd level detail of product attribute, which is where it should be in terms of sequencing. This is where I should go to find everything I ever wanted to know about everything in your product. So if I want to know what BCAAs are and how they live and how they work and where you get them and how they’re derived, this is where it is. So you’ve got all of that. But what it doesn’t really have, even though, ironically, has a woman running up the stairs, it doesn’t have lifestyle beyond elite athlete. Again, it’s narrowly focused on the six percent. But even the look and feel of it feels, even though there’s a woman running up the stairs, it kind of has that broad dude thing going on. And I think because she is perfectly imperfect, running, busy living her life, if you can meet her there, it’s going to be a whole another conversation. So when we get to going through and building the plank and the pyramid, we think you have a complete statement of why your company and brand exists. So you got the point there.


But it’s really a brochure, it’s not a conversation, and so that would be the key thing of when I think about a website, a really amazing website is the center of the universe. And it’s a conversation that I want to go participate in to the point that it should actually be some sort of hub where I can actually get to your social media, all of it, if maybe I’m an Instagram user. But I see what you’re doing in other channels because I would go to your website like it should be where I go to commune with the brand and on different levels. Quick, when I’m in the store looking at my phone, when I’m on my laptop, hanging out, researching what I want to do next. All of that needs to be there.

And again, so many consumer brands, especially smaller ones, in the startup level, or in this sort of scrappy entrepreneur level, they create really, really nice brochures. And then the problem is the brochure starts to age the second you make it. And so it’s not taking advantage of how dynamic that digital interface is and should be. That’s all I have to say about that. So do you have an integrated content strategy that is doing what I just said? No, that’s a missed opportunity. Again, if you’re a YouTube channel where y you go record at 15, 12 minute videos and you chop them up on a nine hundred bits and you get to all of them on your site, that be amazing. And if you hired influencers to write about it or maybe your stars and your videos are influencers that are talking about it, to understand this, that tension between crazy busy, 35 and up lifestyle and the fitness goals or the fitness maintenance goals or whatever they are to be able to play with that would be really powerful.

And then I said, no here, and the reason is because I don’t feel like you have a tone in voice yet frankly. I think that if I were to only be able to remember one thing today, I would work on tone and voice, speaking to our power user, not our core buyer, not our initial intended audience. And if I had two things to do, I would work on the look and feel. So here’s how it all stacks up again at the beginning, we said Anna, there’s some insight here, right? Can look like bad news, but the good news is if you were to tweak this, you know exactly what to do.

Anna Peirano: This is awesome, we’re in the works of revamping our site, swapping to Shopify right now, the platform is Squarespace, so this is super helpful to think about as we add lifestyle imagery and new messaging. So thank you.

David Lemley: Great.

Kay Simpson: All right, we’re running a little low on time, so I’m going to move right into our direct marketing piece. We’re moving right up the ladder. We love your direct marketing. We absolutely love it. We think this box is amazing. It behaves like a smile box. When it shows up on your doorstep or it shows up in your mail room of your building, it builds brand from the first touch point. And it also, this box actually does a good job of evangelizing if it lives, say, in a mail room or on your front porch and someone’s running by and they see that, “Oh, I’ve never seen that logo before. I wonder what my neighbor got.” It helps people know about your brand without having to open the box, which is great. You have stickers in there, you have coasters in there, which is a really good tool that someone can get as a gift with purchase that helps evangelize the brand and stick it on the water bottle. They go to Soul Cycle one day when that’s back up again and people see it and they’re like, “Oh, I want to get protein after this.” And they see that and they will look it up.

And you’ve got that amazing little postcard in there that helps people understand what’s in it. It’s a great customer education tool to make them feel comfortable with everything they’re about to eat and get excited about everything that’s in it. And you’re looking to feel that you’ve got right now is consistent on every single touch point that’s in here. It’s a really, really well done kit. So are you delivering your identity or product story through each direct marketing touch point? Absolutely. Everything has the exact same look and feel, and I know all Plantworks.

Are you helping your audience instead of simply selling to them? Yes, you’re telling them what’s in it, you’re helping them become better human beings by knowing that all these adaptogens and BCAAs you’re going to either cover their mood and everything beyond. Do you provide tools to evangelize? Yes, your stickers, your coaster, all those things that they don’t want to put on their bottle, they can give it to a friend or someone else and just spread the word.


And is your communication delivered with your Brand’s voice? Unfortunately, this is the one where you lost your direct. As David said, this would be a wonderful place to start, is amping up an own-able uniquely to Plantworks brand voice.

David Lemley: So I have a couple of thoughts there Kat that as we’re looking at the creating, just that knowing that you’re redoing your website right now and you’re moving to Shopify. If I could remember three things today, I would pay SEO to live in out of it, because your strength currently is one to one direct in this pyramid. You clearly know how to do that. If you can get more people to buy directly from you where you control the delivery mechanism, you are going to build brand faster because you cannot necessarily put those evangelical tools in an Amazon box if you’re selling through that channel, unless you’re controlling that store. But if they’re buying directly from your site, you can give them more because you’ll get ROI or attention from each piece in that kit.

Kat Simpson: Yeah, absolutely, I think that’s a great place to start. Anna, Trever and Plantworks team, feeling good about your direct?

Anna Peirano: Feeling great, thank you.

Kay Simpson: Of course. All right. Finally, we’ve got social media.

David Lemley: Okay, there’s some good here and then some opportunity here. This is actually the place where you cue active lifestyle better than any other place in the whole ecosystem. At the beginning, Trever, when I was talking about, well, how come there’s no, like, picnics? How come I’m not just hanging out? How come there’s no post yoga? And here it is. I think these use cases are done really well. I think that, as I have alluded to this busy, crazy life that’s going on around her, I think that’s an opportunity that you could leverage here. And I think this, again, is another place where because it’s small, because it’s fun, focused, the identity is not delivering for you here, that it’s not bold enough and iconic enough except for the one shot of the DTC kit in the hand, everything else, I feel like I have to squint to find out what’s going on.

Now I’m at your channel. So that’s its own thing. But I think you’ve also done a really good job. This is the first time where I’ve seen Appetite Promise, both in the green drink and in the a side bowl or yogurt that is on there. I think that is nice. Nice mixture of things there. The last thing here is all of those groovy little lyrical illustrations that were at the beginning of customer education would really lighten this up. If you built a set of them to live on Instagram would be very helpful. And then also to be able to break down your customer education into sound bites, knock-able sound bites. Like what’s the BCAAs? Why should I care? Why do you mix that with adaptogens? What does that do for my body? With little icons would be very powerful. And then the last thing here that we saw was you’re sponsoring hood to coast. But I can’t find it anywhere. So there’s the opportunity to talk more about that sort of thing.

Kay Simpson: Like using influencers of people who are running hood to coast, get them to post about you too, and spread through their channels. And it might not be Instagram, it might be for that channel, might be something like Strong bow or some other channel that they’re really, really kind of socially famous on.

David Lemley: So another interesting thought on that, that, again, I’m pulling data from a different client that has made me go aha in recent weeks is that women 35 and above our freak show is addicted to Facebook, not Instagram. They use Instagram but they are plugged in to the other network and younger audiences are more Instagram focused. So, again, you don’t want to throw Instagram out, but I think that your content that you talked about, Trever, the video and YouTube channels, all of that is just like made for a Facebook thing. And you could actually connect the shopping right to it. And I know you can do that on Instagram as well, but I encourage you to explore that. So walking through, putting the plane together.


Do you have a consistently recognizable design vocabulary? Not yet, unless there’s packaging in it. So we consider work on that. Are your lifestyle versus product right now, you’re put on socially, you’re we’re giving you the credit for the lifestyle because it feels like it’s more holistic than it is in other channels. No tone and voice, so again, like when we work on tone and voice and have a unique tone and voice, you get another piece in several of these planks. And then we gave you the point, because influencers are talking about you. So that’s where we’re at. So it’s a little top heavy, but I’m encouraged by how much strength you have in customer education already. Kat, you want to talk through this?

Kat Simpson: Yeah. So as we mentioned, what’s working in customer education, you’re doing a good job. You’re making it concise and stackable. It’s robust. We love your direct mail. I think that is something to keep doing. And the social media is your roadmap for how to keep doing lifestyle really well. And then after you grow for auditing that public relations bridge, especially to your actual purchaser of that big audience, will be really helpful, getting some sort of hook and advertising, whether that’s YouTube or other video content that’s super own-able and like you mentioned, is kind of a series that people want to follow along is a great place to go. Getting some own-ability and in-store presence and packaging, making sure you know that hierarchy shouting your key point of difference is going to be really, really critical to stand out in this very crowded category. And then bringing more of that lifestyle that you really nailed on social media into your website with this opportunity, you have a redesign. That’s what we’ve got. What questions do you guys have at the end of it all?

Trever Knoflick: Yeah, this has been very informative and I think it’s exactly what we were expecting. So we wanted to come in here, be vulnerable and see what an outsider with an expert can give us feedback. And then it’s up to us that we don’t have a unlimited budget. So we’ll have to pick and choose and put a timeline together, but there’ll be some absolute actionable items from this. We can’t thank you enough. Do you guys have a list of resources? I know I’ve seen another episode. Is there a list of resources as we get down this road to access, help, do you guys post anything anywhere, and you can go back and listen. And there’s a lot of names that you put out there. Maybe there are other consultants as well. But for us and for any other company too looking to improve, do you guys have anything at all?

David Lemley: We don’t have a posted list of resources, but what I will do is we can email you who we know at the organizations we mention, if you’re interested in talking to them about what they do or if you want to talk to one of our other clients who uses them, that might be a great way to go about it. But again, we have a constellation of experts we bring to an engagement because none of our engagements start out and say, “We’re going to do these seven things.” And we’ll be done. We say we’re going to do these four and then the next 20 are depending upon what strategy unveils. And so we use a Hollywood model. And so we have all of those people, but we don’t know who is going to be on each film set, as it were.

Kat Simpson: Yeah, and I know that we talked about moving to Shopify. We have some partners that we know clients have worked with for Shopify and SEO as it relates to Shopify sites. And so that’s something we can send you as well that could be helpful in this new journey you’re making.

Trever Knoflick: That sounds perfect. We appreciate that. Are we able to reach you with any questions we have for you?

Kat Simpson: Yeah, absolutely. So you have our emails. We’d love to keep the conversation going. We actually have one question before we wrap here from the parties, and this would be helpful as well. So thinking about cranking appetite, appeal and taste the way that we’ve been talking about so much today, they’re wondering what a good example would be, especially in the protein space of who’s doing it, since it’s really hard to look at a powder and know that it tastes good.

David Lemley: Yeah, I think in the category based on the competitive side, I think VEG does a really good job. Evolve, does a really good job, Ali, who already gets credit for being culturally relevant, they use the same kind of flavor cues as the other two and then that is it.


They do a really good job that I think is the most female focused here, because what we know is that appetite appeal clank up to 400 is very important. They’ve got dancing, celebratory birthday cake and donuts and that sort of thing, not unlike one bar. Is that what we talked about, Kat?

Kat Simpson: Yeah, one bar is insane, that I want the donut more than I want the bar, but I’m going to eat the bar because it’s better for me than a donut that it’s teaching me that it tastes like a donut.So rock on.

David Lemley: So I think the opportunity is to look at those brands that are bringing that functionality and also that permissible indulgence. That’s what’s missing in this space. And the ones who’ve got it, the few I mentioned, I think when they end up on an Amazon page, are way more interesting to people who eat with their eyes. All right.

Kat Simpson: Well, that’s what we have. Thank you so much for being here. And you ask phenomenal questions? We are so excited to see where you take this brand. And we are here to be an ally for you as you move forward. So we’re here to stay in touch.

Trever Knoflick: All right. Well, thank you guys, too. We really appreciate this. And we’ll go back and review this again and we’ll get some actionable items here.

David Lemley: All right. Good to meet you, Trever. Take care.


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Chief Sales & Marketing Officer
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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