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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
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When Blue Ocean, the Joy of Food and Food Waste Collide featuring Perteet Spencer, AYO Foods

Gooder Podcast Featuring Perteet Spencer

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Perteet Spencer, the co-founder of AYO Foods. Using her spidy SPINS senses and her desire to create a brand that celebrates the ingredients, flavors, and culture of the West African diaspora, Perteet takes us on her journey of transition and joy. Along the way we learn how her Liberian upbringing and heritage inspires her new venture and how this cultural view naturally embraces a more inclusive food production system.

In this episode we learn:

  • A little background about her brand AYO Foods.
  • Why Perteet thinks North American consumers are ready for African flavors, textures, and ingredients.
  • What food trends shape AYO Foods innovation.
  • Why she thinks Chicago has become THE place to watch for food innovation.
  • How to use data as an indicator, and not simply validation, to uncover new innovation platforms and opportunities.
  • Pereet’s thoughts on how to shrink pre-production food waste through product and manufacturing innovation.
Gooder Podcast

When Blue Ocean, the Joy of Food and Food Waste Collide featuring Perteet Spencer, AYO Foods

About Pereet Spencer:

Perteet is thrilled to be able to bring all of her passions into her role as co-founder of AYO Foods. Seeking to build a more inclusive food system that reflected her experience growing up in a Liberian family, Perteet launched AYO with her husband Fred last summer with the vision of creating a platform brand that celebrated the ingredients, flavors, and culture of the West African diaspora.  

Prior launching AYO, Perteet held brand, sales, and consulting leadership roles at LEGO, General Mills, and SPINS.   

When she’s not actively working on AYO, you can usually find Perteet spending time in the kitchen with her two girls or advancing the issues of food equity through her involvement in the Food Recovery Network, a non-profit focused on eliminating food insecurity through food waste recovery.

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/perteet-spencer-18b3146/ 

Email: perteet@ayo-foods.com

Website: https://ayo-foods.com/  

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/perteets?lang=en 

Show Resources:

Moonboi Project – In Kpelle, “Moonboi” means prosperity. At AYO Foods, we believe that we have a personal responsibility to enrich the communities that inspired our products. 

General Mills, Inc. – is an American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores. It is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.

SPINS – transforms trillions of retailer data into performance solutions to accelerate growth, and deepen loyalty with shoppers.

Food Recovery Network – a nonprofit focused on eliminating food insecurity through food waste recovery.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. – is an American multinational supermarket chain headquartered in Austin, Texas, which sells products free from hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. A USDA Certified Organic grocer in the United States, the chain is popularly known for its organic selections.

Girl Power Africa – an organization that was founded a few years back, really in service of women who were victims of civil war and are trying to get back on their feet in Liberia. 

Imperfect Foods – Shop affordable groceries and exclusive items that went from unwanted to wish for. Reducing food and retail product waste, one household at a time.

PepsiCo – 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.

Betty Crocker – is a brand and fictional character used in advertising campaigns for food and recipes. The character was originally created by the Washburn-Crosby Company in 1921 following a contest in the Saturday Evening Post.

Lego – is a Danish toy production company based in Billund. It is best known for the manufacture of Lego-brand toys, consisting mostly of interlocking plastic bricks. The Lego Group has also built several amusement parks around the world, each known as Legoland, and operates numerous retail stores.

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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7 Tips to Expand Your Better-for-You Audience Without Losing Your Fans

It’s the No. 1 concern for every better-for-you company we talk to: How do we rebrand without alienating our current fans? This is an existential question — because growth always means adding new consumers to the fold, and in appealing to those new people you risk leaving your early adopters behind.

Marketers mistakenly worry that building an audience is a zero-sum game: for every new customer you lose an old one. But it’s possible to grow and retain. In a marketplace that’s moving at breakneck speed, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you know what you’re doing. If you do your job well as a marketer, you can’t possibly blow this. (Read on for strategies to manage a big brand change with your audience.)

Brand Changes that Consumers Care About

So what kinds of brand changes may be off-putting to your longtime fans? Let’s look at four big ones:

Identity — Particularly for “badge brands” whose logo has become a marker or status symbol for consumers, a change in graphic identity should be done with care. For positive examples, look no further than professional sports, where teams regularly update uniforms and tweak color palettes, and fans flock to team stores to buy the new versions.

Packaging — Any packaging design change other than an evolution, without any preview and explanation, make consumers wonder what else is changing (i.e., ingredients, cost, company ownership).

Formula — This is a big change, and it can be risky for brands that have anchored their positioning on a singular ingredient or flavor profile. Mission-driven brands will have an easier time altering the product itself, so long as the change upholds the larger reason for being. A compelling case study for shifting or expanding formulation is Krave Jerky, which made a logical stretch from meat-based protein snacks to include plant-based products.

Size — Even if your audience isn’t value-conscious, they’ll notice a downsize in packaging, especially if you’re the only player in your category making the change.

Avoid the arrogance of thinking, “Our consumers will figure it out; we don’t need to explain it to them.” The worst-case scenario if you pull major changes on your brand loyalists without communicating to them is that they’ll abandon you for an alternative. You may fear social media backlash, and in fact, some of your fans will call you out for changing a brand they love. That’s actually a golden opportunity, however, because you’ll hear the complaints and be able to respond and make your fans part of the solution. But without a dialog in which you acknowledge their concerns and educate them about why you’re making the change, you’ll lose them forever. The essential ingredient in any brand change is communication.

7 Considerations & Strategies for Brand Change

As you contemplate a brand change that you think may have repercussions with your loyalists, consider these points:

1) Your current consumer may not really be your real target audience. Marketing to your current consumer means you are always looking backward and inward. You probably think, mistakenly, that the customers who buy your product are just like the people leading the brand. Instead, you need research and analysis to identify future consumer needs, habits, and trends. For example, Essentia came to us with the notion that their target audience was primarily athletes and fitness buffs who needed to replenish water lost in workouts. But our research identified a whole new universe of people across all kinds of interests who wanted superior hydration to fuel their work and interests.

2) Change is easier when you’re leading. From a marketer’s perspective, the ideal opportunity to do something big is when you’ve had such consistent and tremendous success that you’re now faced with having to stay ahead. The worst time is when the brand is on life support and you know it.

3) Marketing cannot supplant change when change is necessary. You may fear you can’t do anything meaningfully different from other brands in your space, or do anything your original customers won’t like. That you have to stay in your lane and just work to out-market the competition. But you can’t out-market the competition — especially store brands — because they’re simply copying what you do at a cheaper price point and stealing your thunder.

4) It’s nearly impossible to over-communicate with your audience when you make a change. There are three platforms of the Brand Ecosystem to leverage: in-store (packaging in particular), social media, and your website.

5) Start communicating change with a bug or banner on your existing packaging. The best example of communicating change came from Chobani: They added a “new packaging coming soon” message to the inside of the lid, so it was unmissable to existing consumers.

6) Use social media to build anticipation and excitement before the change. Look at how your loyalists engage with you and tell them through that channel that change is coming. By the time it happens, no one will be surprised; in fact, if you bring them along they will embrace and advocate for the change.

7) Marketers commonly make the mistake of waiting to update the brand’s website until the change is already happening. Instead, make that your first communication platform to share the news, so that if the loyalist sees something about the change they can go to your website and understand why it’s happening.

When brand marketers and executives consider a pivot — a new mark, revised packaging, whatever it may be — they may fear a loss of share that never materializes. When fear overrides opportunity, you’ll swirl in a constant cycle of incremental tweaks instead of making great growth strides. Remember: Your original tribe will never entirely go away — as long as your brand stays true to its core values, the risk of losing your core consumer is small if they see that you’re upholding your brand promise.

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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Transitioning from Sundance to the Food and Beverage Industry featuring Emel Shaikh, Sundance Institute

Gooder Podcast Featuring Emel Shaikh

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Emel Shaikh, a PR and communications strategist with more than 10 years of experience leading publicity efforts, both in-house at the renowned Sundance Institute and as well as boutique agencies across multiple disciplines. Join us as we discuss why growing up as an immigrant and a woman of color influenced Emel’s interest in amplifying the untold stories of fellow BIPOC and other minority groups.

In this episode we learn:

  • How the pandemic has affected PR, what brands are doing differently that they weren’t doing before and how they are planning for the change. 
  • About what it means to be an outsider, especially within PR and strategic brand communication and how that “outsider” status becomes a super power.
  • Why she’s not a fan of cancel culture and explains how she thinks it doesn’t hold people accountable for their behaviors.
  • What made Emel decide to start her own firm on her own and work with minority owned brands rather than bigger ones and the challenges that these brands are facing.
  • Which women leaders she has her eyes on that she’d like to elevate or want people to see.
Gooder Podcast

Transitioning from Sundance to the Food and Beverage Industry featuring Emel Shaikh, Sundance Institute

About Emel Shaikh:

Prior to starting her freelance journey, Emel worked in various PR roles, developing campaigns for Better-for-You food and beverage, wellness and lifestyle startups and CPG brands. The experience gave her a firsthand look into what it takes to launch and grow an innovative product and ignited a passion for mission driven brands. Emel did four years in-house, where she led the charge on publicity efforts around the annual Sundance Film Festival in Utah, built awareness of Sundance NEXT FEST, a new film and music festival in Los Angeles to reach a new demographic, and introduce tastemakers to the Sundance brand and pitched stories surrounding the institute’s year round artists support labs and programs.

Guests Social Media Links:

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

Website: http://www.sundance.org/ 

Personal website: http://littlecakeshop.tumblr.com/ 

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/emelshaikh 

Show Resources:

Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford committed to the growth of independent artists. The institute is driven by its programs that discover and support independent filmmakers, theatre artists and composers from all over the world. 

BIPAC is a bi-partisan, membership-supported, mission-driven, organization working to improve the political climate in America for the business community and help employers and employees play a more active role in public policy and the political process.

Fast-moving consumer goods, also known as consumer packaged goods, are products that are sold quickly and at a relatively low cost. 

Clubhouse is an invitation-only audio-chat social networking app launched in April 2020 by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration Co. In May 2020, it was valued at nearly $100 million. On January 21, 2021, the valuation reached $1 billion. 

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

One Stripe Chai: Hand-crafted chai that actually tastes like chai. Black tea brewed with organic spices and made with love in Portland.

Wayne Enterprises, Inc., also known as WayneCorp, is a fictional company appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with the superhero Batman. 

Amazon.com, Inc. is 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.

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Driving a Mission in Plant Based Meat Products featuring Christie Lagally, Rebellyous Foods

Gooder Podcast featuring Christie Lagally

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Christie Lagally, the founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods, a food production technology company working to make plant based meat price competitive with traditional chicken products. 

In this episode we discuss how Christie’s development of “Meatless Mondays” while working as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry at Boeing, helped her understand the barriers to plant based meat in offices and institutions. Join us as we discuss how Christie has parlayed this information into building her own company to bypass those barriers by catapulting meat alternative production toward price parity and convenience with animal-based meat.

In this episode we learn:

  • The history of Christie’s brand Rebellyous, how it was started, and reasons for its existence. 
  • How Christie is using the pricing method to make her products accessible to everyone and why that’s important.
  • How Covid impacted their company, the opportunities that came up, and how it affected their market, and how they responded. 
  • The importance of why brand owners should understand the purpose of their brand’s existence before they focus on the income. 
  • About the process of enrolling investors and partners.
  • Christie’s vision she has for Rebellyous and what people should expect in the near future.
Gooder Podcast

Driving a Mission in Plant Based Meat Products featuring Christie Lagally, Rebellyous Foods

About Christie Legally:

Christie is the founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods and a mechanical engineer who holds multiple patents in manufacturing technology. She spent much of her career in the aerospace industry working at Boeing. Previously Christie served as senior scientist for the Good Food Institute and covering the technical barriers in the development of plant-based meat and clean meat. 

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christie-lagally-875b9a4/

Email: info@rebellyous.com

Website: https://rebellyous.com/about-rebellyous-foods/christie-lagally-founder-ceo/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lagallyc?lang=en 

Blog: http://christielagally.wordpress.com/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BqLQI4MjHif/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_medium=loading 

Show Resources:

The Good Food Institute is an international 501 nonprofit that promotes plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs as well as cultivated meat.

Rebellyous Foods is a food manufacturing technology and production company defined solely to catapult meat alternative production toward price parity with animal-based meat.

Humane Society is a movement leader when it comes to farm animal advocacy in The United States.

Food Equality Initiative in Kansas City Improves health and end hunger in individuals diagnosed with food allergies and celiac disease through access, education, and advocacy.

Seattle Food Tech​​ is a food manufacturing technology and production company on a mission to “catapult meat alternative production toward price parity with animal-based meat.”

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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Brand Slam Episode 5 – featuring Plant Works

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

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.

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