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Authority Magazine: 5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand with David Lemley

David Lemley, Founder and President of Retail Voodoo

David Lemley had the chance to be interviewed by Authority Magazine on his thoughts on what food and beverage brands need to be successful today.

Authority Magazine, a Medium publication, is devoted to sharing in-depth, and interesting interviews, featuring people who are authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. They use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

They believe that good stories should feel beautiful to the mind, heart, and eyes.

Check out the entire interview on Authority Magazine’s website.

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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Identifying Your Real Audience Yields Big Dividends

You think you know who your audience (or your potential audience) is. But do you?

For our client HighKey, that was a multi-million question.

Brand leadership came to us when HighKey was a startup and early entrant into the Keto market. In six months they’d dominated the category on Amazon and aimed to explode the business in brick-and-mortar channels.

In our assessment, HighKey was a product line, not a brand. And Keto was a limiting factor, not a defining one.

Identifying an Overlooked Audience

During our 360° Brand Development engagement, the most pivotal stage was target audience identification.

HighKey’s Amazon data indicated their purchasers were hard-core gym rats who followed a Keto diet to build muscle. And maybe their girlfriends.

Our research showed a whole new type of consumer who would be likely to buy tasty low-sugar/low-carb snacks: A woman striving to maintain a healthy weight who wants treats that can make her feel good about herself. And there are millions of her out there.

We looked at who nobody was paying attention to. Keto was gaining some popularity with dieters but still dominated by extreme fitness people. Health-conscious women were seeking products like HighKey’s, but brands were ignoring them because they didn’t fit the category.

To convince a skeptical leadership team, we created a mood board that represented this consumer: A busy millennial woman, driving a minivan on her way to yet another obligation, running late; taking a corner too quickly, her purse spills onto the passenger’s seat. And a package of HighKey cookies tumbles out.

They immediately got it. And this audience insight changed everything.

“Retail Voodoo helped us align over 100 product ideas into seven categories we’re using to grow our brand. What a tremendous partner!”
– John Gibb, CEO, Summit Naturals + HighKey

Audience Drives the Bus

From there, the rest of our brand development work flowed.

Brand mission: Focused on HighKey Gal and her health aspiration, we built a new brand mission around reinventing the American diet by removing added sugar from packaged food.

Brand promise: We developed a new tagline — FOMO NOMO — that promises that she’ll never again have to miss out on her favorite snacks because they don’t fit her eating goals.

Brand voice: The brand communicates in a way that’s real and honest, and a little self-deprecatingly eye-rolling.

Design language: The new packaging system is perfectly imperfect. Typography doesn’t align; the food styling is appetizing but scattered like HighKey Gal’s life. We opted for grab-and-go packs for most products so she can stash them in her bag.

Innovation: We pared a list of 100+ potential products into seven logical but flexible categories. From a launch lineup of mini cookies, HighKey now offers crackers, cereals, baking mixes, and more. The audience profile drives their innovation strategy.

Go to market strategy: Our mantra became “get thee to Target.” It was their ideal outlet because that’s where she shops to get what she needs and also to have a little fun.

In the two years following our engagement, HighKey went from a $2 million Amazon business to a $68+ million multichannel category killer.

Magic? Nope.

We create market opportunity. Our secret weapon is finding people that nobody’s talking to and inviting net new consumers into the category. It’s not just stealing customers from brands already in the market — but collecting new people and building a community with them.

Do you know who your real audience is? It’s a multimillion-dollar question. We can help you answer it. Let’s get in touch!

Diana Fryc

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

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Focus Your Food & Beverage Innovation on Your Brand’s Promise

In a recent client meeting where we were discussing potential new product opportunities, the CFO threw out a quote from Confucius: “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

His words prompted me to think deeply about the intersection between brand strategy and innovation.

Some food and beverage brands manage to out-innovate their strategy, to launch products that deviate so far from the brand’s mission and promise that they a) don’t make any sense and b) confuse the consumer. (Think, for example, of a beloved luxury ice cream brand extending into probiotic dairy-free plant-based frozen treats. Two different rabbits.)

Others risk overlooking meaningful opportunities to develop a new product offering because it falls outside the known audience and their understood needs.

So what’s the right balance? It’s a timely question because we’ve predicted that the coming 12 months post-pandemic will be a boom time for innovation in natural food and beverage brands.

With this article and the next, we’ll try to answer the question, sharing our insights on when it’s best to chase just one rabbit and when it’s smart to pursue both.

Innovation Yields Opportunity

When we talk about innovation, we mean real research and development to yield new products, not just line extension with a new chocolate peanut butter flavor. True innovation requires that brand leaders are disciplined in two areas. First, they deeply understand their audience, both current and future, and how the brand meets needs that these consumers don’t yet know they have.

Second, they are committed to anchoring R&D in brand strategy, which means that they grasp what we call the “range of acceptable stretch.” (That means how far you can push your product line in a way that makes sense to your audience.)

Businesses are pressed for growth like never before. The chief growth officer (CGO) has surpassed the CMO on the corporate food chain and in this new organizational hierarchy, the CGO (not the CMO or COO) is responsible for marketing and innovation. Companies are bringing in a bunch of really smart people and task them with finding opportunities (we’re big fans of using Blue Ocean Strategy as a catalyst for new product development). If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

Sometimes they stumble on an idea that’s so outside their existing audience and promise that it would be problematic to implement under the current brand umbrella. (If this is you, stay tuned for our forthcoming article.)

Go Narrow, Go Deep, Be Relevant

Given all this activity, chances are good you’ll unearth a few ideas that do fit with your brand’s ethos and fall within that range of acceptable stretch. And those offer strong potential for ROI.

Generally, we guide our clients to focus their innovation around brand strategy and scenario planning that addresses their current and future buyers’ need states. Becoming a Beloved & Dominant Brand requires focus and an ownable point of view that resonates with critical audiences.

Throwing a bunch of quasi- (or not at all) related SKUs on the shelf dilutes the brand’s position, confuses your consumers, and opens you up the risk of losing fans, market share, and velocity. You’ll become more susceptible to competition and over-rely on your leading SKU to offset weaker products.

Instead, go narrow, go deep, and be relevant—for the win!

Being too narrow or niche-y is scary for most CMOs. Best practices tell us that broader is safer. With performance pressure from above, marketers tend to hedge their bets by offering a bunch of stuff instead of honing in on a lineup that’s strongly relevant to their audience. Call it FOMO — fear of missing opportunity: What if there’s an ingredient we didn’t think about or a technology we didn’t know about or an adjacent product we didn’t add?

Marketers assume that the goal is to be in the consumer’s consideration set; you have a 1 in 10 chance of being purchased, which is better than not being purchased at all. Even sophisticated marketers buy that theory, but we think it’s a fallacy. If you’re always the preference and never an alternative — the position of a Beloved & Dominant Brand — you’ll be purchased every time. Brands that build stark-raving fandoms do not pursue general audiences. They have earned their loyalists through the discipline of going narrow, becoming preferred, and evangelized by their tribe.

Plenty of brands do narrow and deep exceptionally well, like these:

Highkey understands the principle of solving the same problem in so many delicious ways for the same narrow group. The team came to us for help rationalizing a massive list of potential products into a logical, manageable range upon which to grow the brand. Together, we repositioned Highkey from keto dudes to on-the-go moms looking for great-tasting snacks that wouldn’t wreck their diets. It’s a focused audience, a tight use case, and yet a wide range of products.

Anser is a still-new brand of supplements and wellness products aimed at women of color, who’ve historically been overlooked by the industry. We helped them launch with an aim to make a self-care routine for multiethnic women, and now they’re line extending like crazy with a whole bunch of new products for the same focused need state.

Reser’s Fine Foods is a family-owned Pacific Northwest brand that creates prepared foods for the grocery deli case. They’re super focused on a consumer segment with a common need: people attending a potluck or barbecue who want something reliably delicious to share, and families who need something good and easy for dinner. Within that focus, they have wide latitude to innovate; their product offering ranges from salads and dips to heat-and-eat side dishes.

Given the fire hose of innovation at many companies, you’ll likely pump out lots of great options, and you may want to pursue multiple opportunities at the same time. The problem is that instead of doing one thing well and staking out mindshare with key groups of humans, you risk spreading thinly across multiple categories, solving groups of unrelated problems for different audiences.

Brand strategy is the discipline of narrowly defining who you are, what your contribution will be, and then making a series of decisions to keep your promises in a way that other brands can’t or won’t. And that strategy should underpin the choices you make about what to add to your portfolio.

In other words, chase one rabbit and you’ll catch him.

But … what if that second rabbit is simply too appealing to ignore? What if your thorough innovation process spots an opportunity — a new product aligned with an unmet need among a different audience — that has enormous bottom-line potential?

We’ll dive into that in our next article.

In the meantime, we’re always happy to talk innovation, so give us a ring.

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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What’s in a Name? Your Brand’s Mission and Meaning

A brand name, in and of itself, is meaningless. Think of it as a vessel into which you pour meaning—your capital-B Brand: The promises you make to the world and the ways in which you keep them.

A powerful brand name carries all kinds of weight. It becomes shorthand for everything you stand for. It creates a halo over your product line, even as it expands. It’s a marker that allows people who are in the fan club to identify one another. It’s the single word jotted on a shopping list.

But names have to earn that cred over time. It’s not like Oreo instantly connoted childhood and treats and dunking in milk the moment the brand was launched in 1912. Those associations affixed to the name over many years.

Too, there may come a point in a brand’s life cycle where the name and the mission no longer synchronize. And a change may be needed.

These days, the barriers to entry in the food and beverage space are low, and brands are emerging from the depths of Amazon. If you’re launching or renaming, we’ll share some guidance.

Great (and Not So Great) Brand Names

Let’s explore some examples to demonstrate our thinking here:

What Does This Even Mean?

Some brand names truly are empty vessels: devoid of meaning until marketers—or, more accurately, consumers—give it one.

Apple
Oreo
Chobani

Name = Product Attributes

When brands launch with a singular product, they often adopt the product as the imprimatur for the larger company. (Watch out: As market opportunities arise, the product-as-brand naming convention becomes self-limiting.)

Brad’s Kale Chips
Keto Naturals
Hippeas
IQBAR

Brand as Biography

Other brands associate with a charismatic founder, whose personality represents the mission in the marketplace. These face-of-the-brand names can be successful as long as the person remains in good public standing and as long as the founder doesn’t become an obstacle to the brand’s success.

Newman’s Own
Annie’s
Bob’s Red Mill

Brand Names We Love

The strongest brand names are those that consumers can “get” in a second, yet broad enough that the company can grow logically into new categories.

One of our favorite brand names is Califia. You only need to hear the story of the mythical goddess of California and protector of the environment for whom the brand is named once—and it’s easy to extrapolate from that all of the brand’s values around wellness, quality, and sustainability. Califia started as a juice company; now it’s known as a plant-based dairy alternative company.

Likewise, the inspiration behind the name Nike—the Greek goddess of victory—perfectly encapsulates the brand’s mission to support athletes of all types in pursuit of their highest potential. That mission is laser-focused, yet roomy enough to allow for a huge assortment of products.

KINDa client of ours, is another superior brand name. The healthy snack brand advocates kindness to body and planet—and to your tastebuds. The name is a no-brainer, and it naturally attracts an audience of fans who identify with the brand’s mission.

Naming/Renaming? Do Strategy First

Notice anything about the three examples above? The brands’ names and value systems perfectly align.

Before you concoct or change a name, you’d better have your mission in place. And if you’re struggling with mission, here’s how to get started on a real, actionable mission (as opposed to a cut-copy-paste mission statement).

There are plenty of business name generators online, and those are fine for jump-starting your research and brainstorming process—but you’ll still have to do the hard work to define a meaningful moniker. If you’re launching a new brand and developing a name from scratch, think big and long-term, as if you’re carving it in stone rather than applying it to a package.

Come up with a word or phrase that’s broad enough to accommodate future stretches to your lineup, channel, or category. If you’re going for a totally made-up word, it has to “read” quickly; you don’t want to look at it a week after you launch and think, “what were we thinking?” From a business standpoint, the name must be defensible and ownable; from a linguistics standpoint, it should be satisfying to pronounce and easy to spell.

In the naturals space, where food and beverage products lean on functional nutrition and specialized, niche-y ingredients, it’s easy for leaders to think a little too “inside the ropes” when developing a name for a new brand. We look at the name Soylent as one that’s too clever for its own good: Those in the know get the reference to the dystopian novel and film, but the ick factor is too much to overcome for consumers just discovering the brand for the first time.

Fixing an unworkable name is far harder than naming a new brand. If consumers just don’t understand it, or it’s holding the business back from larger opportunity, or if there’s some kind of cultural baggage around the name, the problem will eventually show up on the bottom line—loss of traction, retailer discontinuation, increased competition. Marketers think they can spend their way out of the jam—throwing dollars at advertising or repackaging to overcome consumer misperceptions—then come to us for help.

For example, the founding team behind the clean popcorn maker Buddha Bowl tapped into their fondness for yoga when they developed the brand. While the signature buddha character on the bag resonated with Whole Foods shoppers, other retailers shied away because of an implied religious affiliation. We helped them pivot away from the name—and brought forward the parent company name, Lesser Evil. We reimagined the character on the pack and evolved the Lesser Evil brand signature. As a result, the company launched four new product lines and generated 50% topline growth in the first year.

Names keyed to the product category are also problematic, as our client Living Intentions discovered. The maker of raw, living foods rocked it in the raw food section at Whole Foods—but when the retailer decategorized raw foods and shelved products alongside conventional brands, Living Intentions’ velocity suffered. They came to us asking for a packaging upgrade; we realized that only a small segment of shoppers would understand what raw food means. We consolidated their raw and sprouted products under a new nameplate, Activated, which clarified the products’ purpose and benefits. It’s now the dominant brand of activated superfoods at Whole Foods.

If your brand is struggling to find an audience or facing stiff competition, the name may be to blame. How do you know? And what do you do about it? We can help you answer those questions.

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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The Movement of Natural’s and Better-For-You Products and Brands featuring Jessica Lyons, PCC Community Markets

Gooder Podcast featuring Jessica Lyons

“It’s important to be able to leave a footprint and get to know an impact.” – Jessica Lyons

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Jessica Lyons, the Director of Promotions and E-Commerce of PCC Community Markets. We discuss the history of PCC Community Markets – the nation’s largest community-owned food market. We also learn more about PCC’s initiatives in building relationships with potential brands and what they do to drive organic as a standard. Along the way, we get to hear the amazing story of an inquisitive and resourceful relationship builder who continuously creates a thriving community around her.

In this episode we learn: 

  • About PCC Community Market and their involvement in the monumental changes within the food industry at a national level. 
  • About the vendor partner program that Jess is managing and some common misconceptions about this program. 
  • Customers’ high demand for product’s transparency in the food and naturals industry.
  • How the vendor partner program has helped underserved and underrepresented communities in the food/naturals industry.
  • About Jessica’s emphasis on creating a community, and following passions.
  • Diana and Jessica’s personal stories about imposter syndrome and how to transform that into positive energy which creates growth and self-awareness. 
Gooder Podcast

The Movement of Natural’s and Better-For-You Products and Brands featuring Jessica Lyons, PCC Community Markets

 About Jessica Lyons: 

Jessica (Jess) Lyons has built her career following her passions. She’s been successful in a wide range of experiences throughout her nearly two-decade-long career, making her a valuable Swiss army knife in any workplace. Jess currently serves as Director of Promotions and E-Commerce for PCC Community Markets, the nation’s largest community-owned food market. In this role, she lives out her foodie fantasies with a company centered around community and scratch-made organic food with a sustainable twist. Her greatest achievements at PCC include project managing an overnight co-op-wide rebrand, overhauling the in-store sign program, and developing a strategic, revenue-generating vendor partnership program. 

Prior to PCC, Jess’s enthusiasm for running was the starting line for 15 years in the outdoor industry. She gained retail and sales expertise during her 10 years with Finish Line and Fleet Feet Sports before joining Brooks Running Company to lead the retail marketing team. Her time with Brooks Running also included sales and customer acquisition, event marketing, and community partnerships. 

A native Texan, she proudly builds upon her hands-on experiences and is a self-starter by nature. When she’s not working or running, she can be found leading community fitness, hanging out with her husband and son, or cooking up something plant-based in the kitchen.

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lyonsqueen117/?hl=en 

Email: jesslyons117@gmail.com 

Website: https://www.pccmarkets.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Brooks Sports, Inc., also known as Brooks Running, is an American sports Equipment Company that designs and markets high-performance men’s and women’s sneakers, clothing, and accessories. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Brooks’ products are available in 60 countries worldwide. 

Ventures: they’re a nonprofit group in Seattle and they work with entrepreneurs. A lot of them are low income or people of color or immigrants or women that are basically incubated to launch their products. 

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) are items used daily by average consumers that require routine replacement or replenishment, such as food, beverages, clothes, tobacco, makeup, and household products. 

UDaB‘s mission as an alternative breaks program is to create a variety of issue-based, service-learning experiences. Our programs are available to undergraduate students of all backgrounds and incomes during spring and winter breaks. 

Hint Water is an American beverage company based in San Francisco, California, as an alternative to soda and sugar beverages. It was started by former AOL employee Kara Goldin. 

The November Project is a free, open-to-the-public exercise group founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2011. The name “November Project” comes from the Google Doc that the founders shared to track their progress in November 2011. While sessions occur year-round, the name stuck.  

Recovery Café Network (RCN) is comprised of Member organizations committed to serving people suffering from homelessness, addiction and other mental health challenges using the Recovery Café Model. 

Lily’s Sweets is a line of delicious chocolate bars, baking bits and baking bars that have less than 1 gram of sugar per serving.

Diana Fryc

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

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Food & Beverage Brand Leaders: It’s Not All About You

“I’m not feeling it.” “This doesn’t do it for me.” “I want to be wowed.”

Are your emotions, opinions, and whims getting in the way of advancing the brand you’ve built? If you’re like many food and beverage entrepreneurs, you might be.

Entrepreneurship is cool. You started this business because you saw a need and determined to meet it. You’ve secured placement with bigger retailers and attracted investors’ attention. The success of the company so far is proof that your hunches and insights are correct.

Yet your company may now be at an inflection point where your instincts are less relevant. It’s hard to hear and harder to fathom. But bear with me — because when you take YOU out of the organization’s decision-making equation, magic can happen.

The Brand’s Evolution Means Leadership Changes, Too

In our experience, a founder/CEO goes from huge assets to potential hurdles at a specific point in the lifecycle of a brand. As a refresher, that lifecycle looks like this:

First & Only — an innovative, world-changing newcomer powered by a passionate founder

Beloved by Default — a niche brand attracting a growing audience of fans

One of Many — a once-darling brand copied by cheaper competitors

Beloved & Dominant — a category-crushing superstar so favored by consumers that it’s competition-proof

One of Many is the point where passion-driven food and beverage brands have to mature and evolve in order to grow. That involves a hundred little decisions about channels and flavors and social media tactics — all of which add up to answer one question: What is next for the brand?

The stakes are high, because your competitors are underpricing, out-innovating, and out-communicating you. Now is the critical time to examine your foundational strategy, audience, and Brand Ecosystem. The biggest obstacle here is a lack of objectivity and insight from you and your leadership team. You think you know best because what you know has proven true so many times.

The most important insight I can share with you is this: You are not your audience.

Assuming that your customer base shares your likes, needs, and lifestyle leads to limited thinking and marketing (even subconsciously). This often results in limited growth potential and a duct-tape-and-glue approach to product development, brand architecture, and audience analysis.

Knowing When to Let the Brand Evolve

When you’re an entrepreneur, you started with a killer idea and tons of passion. You’ve built this business with your own blood, sweat, and tears — so it can be hard to separate your idea from yourself and let the brand evolve. Entrepreneurship is like parenting: At some point, the child needs to live her own life, and you hope and trust that what you’ve given and taught her will serve her well as an independent, successful, growing human being.

I’d argue that you owe it not just to the company, but to the audience you serve, to do everything you can to help it thrive. Playing small and safe kneecaps your brand’s potential. That’s not why you built this.

You may be thinking: “This brand is my passion. How can I let others criticize, evolve, or change it?” Or, “If we make it big, will everyone think I’ve sold out?”

In order to grow, you have to let go. Let go of the idea that you’re the sole arbiter of what’s best for the brand, that you need to be totally jacked about every aspect of the strategy or packaging or product offering. You absolutely have a role as the voice of wisdom for the brand. But your role needs to look different.

Adopt the platform of the servant leader. True leadership cares about everyone else first; as Simon Sinek says, “Leaders eat last.” Pursuit of your larger mission to help people, place, or planet takes precedence over your own personal objectives.

This isn’t to say you step aside; rather, you step up. Your team needs your coaching, training, mentoring — and then they need your trust that they’ll make the right decisions to evolve and grow the brand to find its true audience.

For a role model, look to Califia Farms founder Greg Steltenpohl, who passed away in March 2021. Steltenpohl built Califia as a juice company, based on his experience with the Odwalla brand — but look at all the evolutions beyond his original passion to create Juice 2.0. Califia is widely considered the brand that helped normalize plant milk as a concept for American consumers. Furthermore, Steltenpohl was a pioneer in applying environmental sustainability, employee empowerment, creative corporate culture, and community-based marketing as core drivers of business success. Under his servant leadership, the company pivoted away from making better-for-you juice products to correcting American’s poor dietary choices and making the world better. I admired him greatly.

I’ll share another family analogy here: Think of this kind of leadership like being married to the brand, not actually being the brand. Do you have to love your partner’s choice of clothing? Nope. Would you choose a different car to drive? Perhaps. But ultimately, you’re there to journey with the brand and supporting its wholeness, in sickness and in health.

If you’re seeking the right balance between loving the brand and letting go of decision-making, we can help. We’ve had these conversations before.

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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Integrate & Ignite’s Podcast: The Seven Marketing Must-Haves to Creating a Successful Brand Eco-System with David Lemley of Retail Voodoo

“When a brand gets clear on why they exist and what kind of contribution they want to make to society, that automatically puts them into the better-for-you space.”

David Lemley is a brand strategist with a strong history in restoring growth to declining brands, developing new brands, and accelerating growth on established brands. He is the president and head of brand strategy for Retail Voodoo, a firm that helps specialty food and beverage brands address their toughest growth challenges. David focuses on the growing Better-For-You category and has worked with big brands like Starbucks and REI and Kind Bars to name a few. He loves nothing more than to dig in deep to figure out what it takes to build a strong and lasting brand. His expertise in brand strategy, innovation, consumer markets, and consumer behavior builds brand awareness and equity.

Listen & Learn:

  • Defining what makes a Better-For-You brand.
  • His philosophy for making your competitors irrelevant through positioning.
  • The differences between making assumptions versus implementing strategies when marketing better-for-you brands.
  • The importance of figuring out your brand’s mind, body, and spirit.
  • Creating “impressive brand storytelling.”

LISTEN HERE

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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Food and Beverage Brands: Enlist Your Retail Reps as Powerful Allies

Recently, a client of ours had a category review meeting with a certain retailer to pitch a group of new products. The retail buyers picked the client’s concept apart and demanded a whole bunch of changes. Our client’s team was dejected but persistent. They set a follow-up meeting, and we helped them refine their presentations to just three slides that powerfully and simply explained the new offering and why it would rock. They walked out with a signed purchase order. No packaging or ingredient changes required.

You’ve probably been in these category reviews with your retail partners. And dreaded them.

We hear you. Many brands come to us and say that the feedback they get during category reviews with multiple retailers is overwhelming and contradictory. This retailer input may wield an outsized impact on your brand and packaging design. Your team feels like a ping pong ball getting whacked around by buyers with competing interests and conflicting directives.

Understand Your Retail Buyer’s Business

Why does this happen? To answer that question, let’s step into the retail buyer’s world.

The category manager within the retail company is under immense pressure to get her category to perform well and make as much margin through as much velocity as possible. Her job keys on finding stuff that will move quickly and drive profit. And the people she reports to—the retailer’s chain of command—are merciless and swift in making changes should she be less than successful. In other words, it’s not just your butt on the line in these review meetings; it’s hers.

And while your sales team thinks your brand is the center of the universe, it’s one of many the category manager deals with. (If you dread these review meetings, know that she has them with other brands, nearly every week.) So she’s constantly hearing similar pitches from other brands. And she has to make smart decisions about which products to carry, and where, and how. She’s not looking for another product that will cannibalize existing strong performers. It’s not like there’s an empty slot anywhere; she needs for you to bring something to the retailer that will increase sales or replace a flat/declining brand.

Category managers are busy people. Make it easy for them—period, end of story.

Make the Retail Buyer Your Friend, Not Your Nemesis

Here’s another thing to understand about these retail managers: Most of them are passionate about the category, too. They use products like yours. They want you to succeed—partly because that means they’ll succeed, but also because they’re fans of your brand and others like it.

So your sales and marketing teams’ focus should be on wooing these channel partners. Around here, we talk all the time about showing consumers the love—and yes, that is essential. You must constantly seek to widen the circle of adoring fans that your brand connects with. That’s how growth happens.

But growth can’t happen if you can’t get onto retail shelves. (Also onto Amazon results pages, but that’s a different animal.)

A few points of advice on enlisting retailers in your brand’s success:

1) Your sales team and their pitch have to be underpinned by a real brand story and mission. If there’s no there there, your products will get discontinued. Why? A powerful purpose attracts consumers like moths to the flame, which translates into velocity and margin for the retailer.

2) Bonus points if you can convince the buyer to love you just as much as your fans do. Buyers aren’t lacking data; they lack brands that they can believe in, brands that have done their homework and crafted a meaningful story about their purpose and products and how they fit with the consumer’s life.

3) Without a mission, you open the door to nitpicking. If you don’t have a brand position, all they have to push back on is your packaging or logo or flavor profile. That’s when you get all the conflicting feedback that makes you nuts.

4) Retail buyers can be key collaborators in your brand strategy process. And when you turn their input into products, they’ll be the first to place an order. Don’t just go in and say, here’s our thing, what do you think? Make a short, succinct case for the brand’s impact and the product’s likelihood of success. If they believe that you have something to offer that will displace something else and boost their section, then they’ll want to like you more.

5) Finally, strong retail relationships can boost your business in other ways. Managers are category experts: They see sales figures, they know what’s moving, they have access to their company’s deep consumer insights. And they’re meeting with other brands, so they know what your competitors have in the pipeline. If you want to get inside the ropes and lean on that knowledge, you to have a relationship with them. It’s not in a retail manager’s best interest to share what’s going on in your category or adjacent ones, so you have to have a great connection in order to tap into that insight.

Relationships with these retail managers are essential, and nurturing them requires that your reps are regularly meeting with them in person. Use your brand positioning and supporting data to help them see the opportunity for them. Buyers want to know that it will be “easy” to increase sales and keep their superiors happy. Your job is to help them.

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 Food and Beverage Brands Can Better Serve Consumers Nutrition Needs featuring Paula Reichel, Healthier America

Gooder Podcast featuring Paula Reichel

“When you eat the foods that are good for your health, it’s also good for the planet.” – Paula Reichel

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Paula Reichel, the Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives & Senior Advisor at Partnership for a Healthier America. We discuss the importance of improving food equity, cultural relevancy, and cultural competency in our society. We also learn about the positive impacts and changes the food industry has had on the average American diet, especially through the pandemic. Along the way, we hear the story of an innovative leader who helps set the flame on entrepreneurism in the food space.

In this episode we learn:

– A little background about Partnership for a Healthier America.
– How the CPG or consumer packaged goods relationships fit into the conversation in Partnership for a Healthier America.
– About health washing, what it is, and its implications on the food that people are eating and the food that people are also producing.
– How the lack of diet and cultural representation in the manufactured goods exacerbate the health divide.
– Opportunities in the naturals food industry that investors need to know about.

Gooder Podcast

How Food and Beverage Brands Can Better Serve Consumers Nutrition Needs featuring Paula Reichel, Healthier America

About Paula Reichel:

Paula Reichel serves as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Senior Advisor to the CEO at Partnership for a Healthier America. Partnership for a Healthier America is a national nonprofit founded alongside Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative to transform the food landscape in pursuit of health equity so that all children grow up healthy and free from obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

Paula grew up in the Midwest and experienced the effects of the toxic food environment on her, her family, and her community’s health and quality of life. Her passion propelled her to identify new ways to create access to good, nutritious food for economically disadvantaged communities through innovative programs, partnerships, and entrepreneurial ventures and systems, policy, and practice change. She has deep experience working with the private sector, the charitable food sector, and public schools and consults on organizational strategy and business development. Paula is a frequent guest lecturer and holds a Master’s degree from Cornell University where she studied education and inequality and a Bachelor’s degree in marketing from Butler University.

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paula-reichel/
Email: preichel@ahealthieramerica.org 
Website: https://www.ahealthieramerica.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/paulaereichel?lang=en
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/preichel/?hl=en

Show Mentioned:

Let’s Move Initiative – was a public health campaign in the United States, led by then-First Lady, Michelle Obama. The campaign aimed to reduce childhood obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle in children.

Through Veggies Early & Often, PHA is convening leaders in the industry, health professionals, and early childhood education to consolidate evidence and outline an action agenda with the goal to raise a generation of veggie lovers.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. – is an American multi-brand restaurant operator headquartered in Orlando.

Mars, Incorporated – is an American multinational manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products and a provider of animal care services, with US$33 billion in annual sales in 2015. It was ranked as the 6th largest privately held company in the United States by Forbes.

PepsiCo, Inc. – is an American multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation headquartered in Harrison, New York, in the hamlet of Purchase. PepsiCo has interests in the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of grain-based snack foods, beverages, and other products.

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

Mondelez International, Inc. – often stylized as Mondelez, is an American multinational confectionery, food, holding and beverage and snack food company based in Chicago, Illinois. Mondelez has annual revenue of about $26 billion and operates in approximately 160 countries.

Diana Fryc

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

Connect with Diana
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When Comfort and Innovation Collide featuring Tanu Grewal, ALEN Group

Gooder Podcast featuring Tanu Grewal

“You have to be so progressive to be able to go against the norm.” – Tanu Grewal

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Tanu Grewal, the Vice President of Marketing, Innovation, and E-commerce for AIEn, USA. We discuss how and why a company that has traditionally targeted a conventional consumer decided to tackle green cleaning by developing the new Art of Green brand. We also learn how the brand’s innovation and marketing will target some trial and conversion issues of many of the most hesitant conventional consumers. Along the way, we learn the story of a feisty and inquisitive leader who brings a contrarian view of leadership, innovation, and life to every opportunity and conversation.

In this episode we learn:

– A little background about the newest green cleaning brand called Art of Green.
– About assumptions and missed opportunities that the green cleaning industry
should be tapping into related to consumer adoption.
– How the years of working in a parallel industry allows her to approach the
category and production innovation in a new way.
– Why aroma is a big driver of category success.
– How to extend the life of your job title beyond the magic 18-month timeframe.

Gooder Podcast

When Comfort and Innovation Collide featuring Tanu Grewal, ALEN Group

About Tanu Grewal:

Tanu is a global brand builder and strategic marketer with over 15 years of experience working in mature and emerging markets like US, EMEA, and India with companies in the CPG, durables, luxury, and hospitality industries. She is passionate about using brand purpose to help drive innovation and marketing that creates real value and emotional engagement with consumers.

Reporting to the CEO, Tanu is currently the Vice President of Marketing & Innovation at AlEn USA, a growth stage division of the global ALEN Group. One of her top achievements in this role has been the launch of a natural, green cleaning brand called ‘Art of Green’ that just won the prestigious Product of the Year award. Prior to this, Tanu has worked on iconic brands like Kohler, Maytag, and Whirlpool where she elevated commodity categories to lifestyle brands through a combination of award-winning
product design, disruptive innovation, and experiential marketing.

Starting her career with Whirlpool North America, Tanu held a variety of marketing and product development positions over 8 years including an ex-pat stint in Italy. Tanu holds an MBA degree from Rice University in Houston.

Outside of work, Tanu is passionate about creating communities that enable people to thrive. Currently, she serves on the International Student Advisory Board at Rice University and as a board member for the South Asian Women’s Professional Network.

As a public speaker, Tanu’s topics include launching and scaling a challenger brand and standing out in a crowded market through creative marketing. As an Indian woman, living in the US and working for a Mexican company (AlEn), she also speaks on navigating multicultural work and market landscapes. Tanu has been interviewed by Forbes and delivered the keynote address for Coke FEMSA’s Annual D&I conference in
Mexico City, Women’s Masters Network’s Annual Meetup 2020 and the Houston AMA’s Quarterly Luncheon.

An avid traveler and consummate foodie, Tanu lives in Houston with her husband and son.

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tanugrewal/
Website: http://www.alenusa.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tanu_Grewal
Personal Website: http://tanugrewal.com/

Books Mentioned:

Unfinished: A Memoir by Priyanka Chopra – From her dual-continent twenty-year-long career as an actor and producer to her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, from losing her beloved father to cancer to marrying Nick Jonas, Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s story will inspire a generation around the world to gather their courage, embrace their ambition, and commit to the hard work of following their dreams.

Show Resources:

The Art of Green –  product line offers consumers an affordable and high-performing natural cleaning alternative that is priced for everyday use.

Kohler Co. – founded in 1873 by John Michael Kohler, is an American manufacturing company based in Kohler, Wisconsin. Kohler is best known for its plumbing products, but the company also manufactures furniture, cabinetry, tile, engines, and generators.

The Maytag Corporation –  is an American home and commercial appliance brand owned by Whirlpool Corporation after the April 2006 acquisition of Maytag.

The Whirlpool Corporation–  is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of home appliances, headquartered in Benton Charter Township, Michigan, United States.

South Asian Women’s Professional Network (SAWPN) – SAWPN was created to bring together and engage women across various industries, nationally. Our goal is to build a strong networking base to support, mentor, and celebrate successful, strong, and vibrant women across the country and within our communities.

HINT – an American beverage company based in San Francisco, California, as an alternative to soda and sugar beverages. It was started by former AOL employee Kara Goldin.

Amazon.com, Inc. – an American multinational technology company based in Seattle, Washington, which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence.

Diana Fryc

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

Connect with Diana