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The Evolvement of Supplements Industry featuring April Siler, 8Greens

Gooder Podcast featuring April Siler

“The pandemic was everybody’s chief digital officer accelerant.”– April Siler 

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with April Siler, the CEO at 8Greens. We discuss the history of 8Greens and how their product first entered into consumer’s visibility. We also learn about the trends that have come up in the supplements industry, accelerated due to the pandemic. Along the way, we learn the story of an experienced brand builder who incorporates the lessons that she learned as a professional athlete into the corporate world and running a business. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • The legacy of 8Greens and the taste innovation of their first product. 
  • How the supplements industry has shifted and been impacted by the pandemic. 
  • How, as a supplement brand, 8Greens leveraged an alt-channel strategy on the front end of the beauty supplement trend to become a dominant player in this growing consumer category. 
  • About April’s emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and the importance of creating a collaborative culture.
  • How marketing and creative experience in a CEO role produces a different organizational growth mindset than that of a traditional MBA approach.
  • The advice she finds herself consistently giving Gen Z mentees.
Gooder Podcast

The Evolvement of Supplements Industry featuring April Siler, 8Greens

About April Siler: 

April Siler, the CEO of 8Greens, is a globally experienced brand builder specializing in driving health and wellness innovation. 8Greens, a digitally native brand, is experiencing triple digit growth by delivering exactly what consumers are seeking in this moment, an easy and convenient way to build immunity and boost overall health. 

Prior to joining 8Greens April was the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Global Development for Califia Farms. During Califia’s most intensive 3-year growth period April spearheaded all USA marketing in addition to executing all operational aspects of the brand’s internationalization. April previously led marketing and sales at The Chia Co. From the brand’s creative inception through to development of a world first innovation – Chia Pod, where April partnered with world champion surfer Kelly Slater for brand communications. 

April also led marketing initiatives for Australia’s largest food and beverage packaging manufacturer, Visy, a $6.7bn privately held company. At Visy, she developed packaging innovation for the top ten accounts — including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Fosters, Diageo — and developed the company’s consumer insights platform. 

April has a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Marketing and Economics, from Monash University in Melbourne. April played professional basketball in Australia and Europe, rowed for Melbourne University Boat Club and has a passion for nutritious foods. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/april-siler-b8790711/ 

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

Website: https://8greens.com/ ; https://thechiaco.com/au/ 

Show Resources: 

At Califia Farms, we’re all about creating delicious, plant-powered foods with natural ingredients. Because we believe the world needs a healthier food system. 

8Greens is an effervescent dietary supplement tablet, packed with enough superfoods to give your healthy diet a green boost. 

The Chia Co  are the largest producers of Chia seed in the world. Founder and CEO John Foss, discovered the benefits of Chia while researching natural solutions to modern diet related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. 

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. 

A dot-com company, or simply a dot-com, is a company that does most of its business on the Internet, usually through a website on the World Wide Web that uses the popular top-level domain “.com”.  

Nordstrom, Inc. is an American luxury department store chain. Founded in 1901 by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin, it originated as a shoe store and evolved into a full-line retailer with departments for clothing, footwear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, cosmetics, and fragrances.  

Bluemercury.com is a leading luxury beauty retailer offering the best cosmetics, skincare, makeup, perfume, hair, and bath and body.  

Goop is a wellness and lifestyle brand and company founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Launched in September 2008, Goop started out as a weekly e-mail newsletter providing new-age advice, such as “police your thoughts” and “eliminate white foods”, and the slogan “Nourish the Inner Aspect.”  

Target Corporation is an American retail corporation. The eighth-largest retailer in the United States, it is a component of the S&P 500 Index. Its largest competitors, Walmart and Amazon.com, are the first and second-largest retailers, respectively.  

Slack is a proprietary business communication platform developed by American software company Slack Technologies. Slack offers many IRC-style features, including persistent chat rooms organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging 

Bluestone Lane is an Australian cafe lifestyle in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Toronto. 

Rosé Water is a refreshing combination of pure, sparkling water blended with dry rosé wine, produced in the heart of Bordeaux, France. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina. Produced by Boutique Beverage Company, LLC. 

SodaStream International Ltd. is an Israel-based manufacturing company best known as the maker of the consumer home carbonation product of the same name. The soda machine, like a soda syphon, carbonates water by adding carbon dioxide from a pressurized cylinder to create soda water to drink.

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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For Wellness & Better-for-you Brands, Gen X Spends the Most

Generation X: What a boring title for a group that ushered in the use of cell phones, home video games, microwaves, and cable TV. Gen X is that “old generation” now, creeping up into their 50’s, and uncool (clearly) to the younger generations. And in many marketers’ eyes, Gen X is even less relevant. In fact, most marketers do not even target this age group any longer. Our youth-obsessed culture is overlooking one of the most obvious targets.

Well, I’m here to say, we’re going to change that right now.

I’ll be honest, when I first started researching this article, I was pretty darn sure I was going to be searching for days to find data that supported Generation X’s spending muscle. How surprised I was when data point after data point surfaced, disproving my hypothesis. In fact, most research I found states that (at least for now) Generation X has the greatest spending power of all other generations – generating 31 percent of all U.S. income with only 25 percent of the population.

Generation X is a group of big spending tech fiends who were taught to break the rules.

Picture this: my friend’s basement in 1981, MTV comes on the air, blows our minds seeing artists transform music over the airways, and creates a visually-obsessed culture that legitimizes cable television as a new marketing platform.

The 1980s helped shape Generation X into people who are comfortable pushing boundaries, quick at adapting to innovation, and willing to spend their money to get the goods. Yes, Generation X spends more than any other generation. Home-based video games, MTV, cable TV, and microwaves brought a new definition of easy family living and entertainment, as well as access to lifestyles many had never seen before. Keeping up with the Joneses went up a level. We had a whole world of things we could buy.

What defines Gen X?

  • Education: More educated than any generation – 35 percent have college degrees versus 19 percent of Millennials.
  • Technology: While not digital native, innovation and technology became keys to their life (think cell phones, email, and personal computers).
  • Cultural revolution: More women going back to work meant women had power and money. We saw families on TV with moms that worked high-paying jobs as the new normal. Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show), Maggie Seaver (Growing Pains), and Angela Bower (Who’s the Boss) were different moms than we had seen before. Characters like an African American lawyer and a single mom advertising executive with a male nanny created a generation of people comfortable pushing boundaries and cultural norms.
  • Independence: An increase in single and working moms created a new, more independent youth.
  • Hope: As the first generation unrestricted by the cultural norms of the past, they believed they could have it all; and subsequently came crashing back to earth wondering about work-life balance and wellness.
  • Rebellion: Stuck between two large egocentric generations, Gen X revolted by creating grunge rock and popularizing dystopian novels like Shampoo Planet, by Douglas Copeland.
  • Materialism: A strong relationship with materialism meant Gen X was hit hardest by the Great Recession of 2008.
  • Career length: Despite the fact that Gen X currently holds a significant percentage of high-level jobs, the Great Recession, appetite for spending, and longer life expectancy means they need to remain in the work force longer to pay off mortgages, their children’s tuition, and save for retirement.
  • Age: America is a youth-obsessed culture and Gen X is no longer the youth.

What marketing trends does Gen X influence?

  • Better-for-you and wellness: While Millennials rank evenly with Generation X in their love of mission-driven brands, Gen X-ers spend significantly more on today’s do-gooder brands. Thus, making organic, ethically produced, and sustainable products a viable marketplace for everyone.
  • Email marketing: As the first group that opted out of print catalogues, email marketing became the norm.
  • Convenience: Online shopping’s confluence with social media: They are busier than heck – leading their companies, running kids around, and trying to stay healthy. Online shopping, social media, and on-demand services (such as streaming services like Netflix and meal-kit delivery systems like Blue Apron) are ever-popular with this generation.

How does all of this affect marketing to Gen X?

  • They are skeptical: They learned the hard way. These folks have been through two impeachments. They gave the world grunge music and modern marketing. They are today’s power brokers and executives. They don’t fool easy. They give trust to those who earn it. This is the generation who will research your brand in detail before committing to parting with their money. So, don’t try to win them over with glitz. Show them your true colors and they’ll respond. Gen X has a history of loyalty when it comes to authentic, transparent brands.
  • They are currently the parental generation: The youngest Gen X-er is just now entering into parenthood and the oldest have begun shipping their kids off to college. Almost every sale to a child is a sale to a Gen X-er too. If you’re targeting kids, you’re targeting their parents too.
  • They are premium focused: As professionals and parents with hard-earned money to burn, Gen X-ers put a premium on quality. They want to know that a brand is reliable, that a product is hardy, and that media is sophisticated.

Generation X is a true hybrid when it comes to marketing. As a brand owner, you are playing the long game. Simply put, ignoring this generation puts your bottom line at risk for the foreseeable future.

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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FoodNavigator-USA Summit 2020: Food for Kids: David Lemley Keynote: How To Build A Brand Kids and Parents Will Love

School closures – and tentative re-openings – have compounded stress levels for families, while COVID-19-induced economic anxiety is also straining household budgets. So how can food and beverage brands come up with enticing – but affordable – recipes, products and culinary solutions to make life easier for parents when long-established routines have been upended?

What does the ‘new normal’ look like for families and has this crisis given a boost to direct to consumer brands targeting babies, toddlers, and young children? Will the recent growth in interest in kids’ multivitamins continue, or is it risky to assume that buying patterns in 2020 provides a useful indicator of where consumers are heading in 2021?

Find out the answers at FoodNavigator-USA’s third Food for Kids summit – which is transitioning from our usual face-to-face event to an interactive broadcast series.

The series will bring five category-focused events, including:

  • The Consumer Panel
  • Kids and the Plant-Based Trend
  • Beverage Trends
  • Innovation in Action… Meet the Trailblazers
  • Meeting Children’s Nutritional Needs, from Foods to Supplements

Watch the On-Demand Event Now

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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COVID is Hitting Millennials Hard. Here’s How to Market to Them Now

Every demographic group has faced its own set of challenges during the COVID-19 crisis, from health concerns to economic hardship to personal stress. But experts suggest that millennials have been hit especially hard.

So what you think you know about this demographic group—and how to reach them—may have changed in this unprecedented time.

First, let’s do a quick review of the generational breakdowns:

  • Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980) are the children of the Baby Boomers; the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Gen X would peak in population in 2018 with 65.8 million people. The youngest Xers are 40 this year.
  • Millennials (born from 1981–1996) are now the largest adult population in the U.S. They range in age between 24 and 39.
  • Gen Z (born from 1997–2015) ranges in age from 6 to 23; as of 2019, there were 67 million Zers in the U.S.

The Paradox of Millennials

The millennial generation has been heralded by marketers for its spending power. This cohort’s collective annual income is estimated to exceed $4 trillion worldwide by 2030. But these 20- and 30-somethings have always been a tricky bunch to market to, because they’re a giant walking paradox.

  • They consider themselves to be tastemakers, but they’re extremely price-conscious.
  • They want the finer things, but they’re putting off major purchases like cars and homes (preferring instead to lease or rent).
  • They’re interested in health and wellness, and are heavy consumers of natural food and beverage products, yet they’re more concerned about the results of those products than the products themselves. In other words, they’re willing to accept artificial sweeteners in pursuit of a keto lifestyle.
  • They want brands to uphold values they share, but they’re not willing to sacrifice convenience and price.
  • Just 30% say they feel loyal to certain brands, but that loyalty tends to be longstanding and powerful. We describe their loyalty as a slow burn—they fall in love with brands gradually over time; in the meantime, they’re willing to “date around” and try out other brands and products.

Millennials are Getting ‘Walloped’ by the Pandemic

Financial analysts and demographers suggest that millennials are being “disproportionally walloped” by the COVID crisis and its fallout, particularly related to employment.

“With this current recession, millennials — especially younger millennials — were more likely to lose their job than were older generations. And since millennials are more likely to rent than older generations, the looming eviction crisis will be worse for millennials, too.”

— University of Alabama associate professor Peter Jones

“The oldest millennials lived through the 9/11 terrorist attacks and entered the labor market in the recession that hit around the same time. They spent their early years struggling to find work during a job recovery, only to be hit by the Great Recession and another recovery. And, of course, yet another recession.”

— “The Unluckiest Generation in U.S. History,” Washington Post

Furthermore, millennials (particularly women) are assuming responsibility for managing school at home for their children. And they’re more likely than other generations to be returning to their parents’ home to live during the pandemic.

Is Your Pre-COVID Understanding of Millennials Still Relevant?

The short answer is, probably not.

Certain influential aspects of their buying behavior remain: They’re the first digitally native generation, so they’ve always been comfortable browsing and buying online. That preference has solidified during the crisis. And their desire for curated, personalized products and experiences hasn’t changed.

The key to increasing (or maintaining) your brand’s relevance with millennials in the new normal is this: Don’t go back to business as usual. This is the time to understand some new truths.

Millennials want brands to be more human—but still highly curated and well designed. (There’s that paradox again.) In other words, they want brands to reflect their own reality: put together on the outside, but also honest, real, and authentic.

As they’re tightening their belts, millennials are becoming even more price sensitive, even as pre-COVID research indicated that they were cost-conscious to begin with. They’re more inclined to buy private label products than before. And they have become more likely to join a loyalty program or use coupons (a 30% jump compared to pre-COVID habits). Previously, millennials shunned those discount programs because they were something their parents did. Now is absolutely the time to review your pricing, promotion, and loyalty strategies to respond to these changing consumer needs.

And if we combine the previous two points—outward appearances and value consciousness—we get a third change in millennial shopping habits. They’re still willing to pay a premium for technology, fashion, and CPG items that they believe help them to look or feel better even in these trying times. And they are cutting corners where they can on the stuff that nobody really sees—like pouring low-shelf booze into the empty bottle of premium vodka or wearing a designer shirt with sweatpants for a Zoom meeting.

As COVID has driven shopping online, it has forced brands to get savvier about delivering a great online experience to consumers. Millennials always had high expectations, and now that we’ve all been exclusively buying online for the past 8 months, the bar has been raised.

Brands must figure out how to reach all consumers—and especially to overdeliver for millennials. COVID has added friction to everything they do in their lives, from fitness and fashion to friends and family. Millennial women in particular are bearing the brunt of managing education for younger kids and sacrificing their productivity or career or self-care in order to keep the family solvent. The key to wooing them and winning that valuable long-term loyalty is to reduce the friction. Make it easy for them to find, choose, and learn to love you.

Your brand can’t afford to overlook or miscommunicate with this cohort, because the efforts you make now have a long tail with millennials. Let’s talk about how you can connect with 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.

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White Paper: Navigating Brand Disruption

Covid Series: Vol 01

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

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

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

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

Download this white paper to learn how to:

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

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

Connect with David
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Better-for-You Brand Marketers: Don’t Ignore Boomers

In most marketer circles, it’s not sexy to talk about marketing to the Baby Boomer generation: they seem too old, stuck in their ways, out of step with modern ideas. Instead, brands chase millennials — the on-the-go tastemakers who are all over Instagram — and Gen Zers, whose world views align with mission-driven BFY brands.

Each of these cohorts has distinctive demographic and psychographic characteristics. And growing a brand with a Gen Z or Millennials is tough, as they tend to be price sensitive and fickle. So are you missing out by overlooking Boomers?

Why Brands Overlook Boomers

The “OK, Boomer” meme sparked by Gen Z to diss their elders might as well apply to marketers, too. Why do brands dismiss these consumers?

It’s human nature that we’re always looking for the new and next. In a business sense, marketers think they already understand all they need to know about the customers they’ve been talking to for years. And many companies mistakenly think that the path to growth moves beyond their current demographic into others.

In addition, millennials were just so difficult for marketers to figure out (in part because most of those marketers were likely Boomers themselves until fairly recently). Millennials are disillusioned and pessimistic: they came of age during an economic downturn and are overloaded in debt and technology. Marketers were initially taken aback by this cohort because they were so different, and it took so much research to understand them.

Here’s What Marketers Should Know About Boomers

Your brand may not be actively communicating with your existing Boomer audience, figuring you’ve already got them in the fold. Or you may not see them as a growth opportunity. Worse, your startup BFY brand may not be targeting them in any way, at all. We’d suggest that all of those strategies are misguided. Here’s what you need to know about this generation:

They’re not old. First, let’s remember who the Boomers are: Born between 1946 and 1964, the youngest of them are now in their mid to late 50s. They’re hardly old. The Greatest Generation was old at age 60; there’s a bias about Boomers—but they’re incredibly active, they’re big spenders, they’re traveling and going to the gym and even still working.

They’re the original “naturals.” Remember: Boomers launched the conscious consumerism movement in the 1950s and ’60s. At that time, teens and young adults were concerned about pesticides, animal welfare, and Big Ag. They read “Silent Spring” and started the first natural foods co-op stores. They embraced whole foods and vegetarianism. Their children, the millennials, took the movement mainstream. But if you’re a BFY brand, Boomers are your first-line audience.

Boomers are redefining aging. Nutritional supplements, expensive skincare products, gym memberships, cosmetic procedures — Boomers are embracing everything at their disposal to look, feel, and behave like their younger selves. Just as they did in the 1960s, Boomers are disrupting culture; this time, they’re disrupting age. They’re reinventing their lives so they can live another 30, 40, or 50 years on their own terms.

They are big spenders. Baby Boomers account for more than half of U.S. spending. They take between four and five leisure trips a year. They’re renovating the family home or furnishing new downsized condos. In addition to spending on health and wellness products, they’re big snackers — as empty-nesters or solos, they don’t prepare big dinners at home anymore and tend instead to snack heavily.

They value experiences. Boomers favor brands that deliver great experiences that align with their interests. And they’re willing to pay a premium for products that deliver.

Finally, Boomers behave like younger consumers do — more than you may think. The difference is that they’re not building the platform they’re going to live their life on; they’re looking to optimize the lives they’ve built. Boomers are influenced by the younger generations of their kids’ and grandkids’ age. They’ll bring home those products their kids and grandkids like, and then they’ll sample and adopt those products. Too, Boomers behave more like Gen Z on social media: They’re more plugged in because they have time, but their preference for personal interaction vs. digital mirrors Gen Z’s habits.

How to Market to Boomers

As with any demographic, you need to understand how to talk to and persuade Boomers. Here are some smart tactics:

  • Appeal to their caregiving nature — having raised kids, they’re still looking to nurture, whether it’s a pet or a relative or a neighbor. Brands can leverage the fact that Boomers are used to spending money on others.
  • Don’t call them old — Boomer consumers don’t want you to start talking to them like an older person, i.e., “Hey, Boomer, we know you need these comfy shoes …” While their Greatest Generation parents saw themselves as old at a relatively early age, Boomers don’t think of themselves that way. Speak to them honestly, but appeal to their sense of younger self and their appetite for staying forever young.
  • Play up the premium — Remove obstacles to a premium experience, even if you don’t have a premium brand. Take the friction out of the process of buying and using your product. They’ll remain loyal to brands that deliver the experience they expect.

Remember: Boomers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They represent 20 to 30 more years of sales for brands that can catch their attention and stroke their youthful egos. Does your brand need to take another look at your target audience? Let’s Chat.

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 Brands Can Improve Consumer Package Testing

It’s the singular, make-or-break moment for a better-for-you brand: The consumer has browsed the category, scanned the shelf, and picked up your product. Now, will she buy?

Ascertaining whether she’s likely to buy — and if not, why not — is the essence of package testing for consumer goods. Package testing helps new brands form a visual presence in the retail environment and helps existing brands as they restage or line-extend. It helps marketers answer the question, “Is this package better — better than the old version, better than the competition, better than these 5 other variations we’re considering?”

But package testing is tricky. Often, it asks consumer panels to evaluate a box or bag not in the crowded retail space but rather in an idealized setting. And marketers tend to populate their test groups with people they know already like the product and are likely to buy anyway, regardless of which package winds up on the shelf. Run the test in the wrong way or ask the wrong people, and you’ll wind up with faulty results that don’t accurately predict future sales. And that’s a dumb way to spend marketing dollars.

Why You Should Test Your Package Design

Consumer package testing is about trying to create a quantifiable data point that shows increased purchase intent. And that’s it. Don’t try to extrapolate any further than that.

Consumer testing is hot among BFY brand marketers because the landscape is so competitive — more and more organizations want confirmation of a new package design before going to print. It’s a smart piece of due diligence for of any rebrand or packaging refresh. It’s also important if you want to go to your retail partner or investor or distributor to talk about a new product — you can back your pitch with data that demonstrates that consumers are likely to buy.

How to Run Package Design Tests the Right Way

Consumer testing brings value to the design process, provided you run it the right way. Here are five things to know as you engage a testing partner to evaluate new package designs:

It’s about content more than design. Design is so subjective, and consumers will have a hard time judging the difference between text in different point sizes and logos in slightly different shades of blue. Instead, focus your querying on messaging. Use consumer testing to validate which front of pack messaging (within your packaging architecture) will create the highest purchase intent. What product attributes, features, and claims resonate, and what words should you use to communicate them?

It’s about the package, not the product. Consumer package testing won’t tell you whether people like your strawberry flavor better than vanilla, or whether they’ll embrace your new peanut butter version. It won’t, frankly, tell you much about whether they like the product. It’s about how they respond to what they see on the label or box.

It’s important to ask the right questions. It’s happened to us more often than we’d like to think: A client takes a package we’ve developed to testing, and focuses on the wrong issues. Make sure that the same keywords you use in your consumer testing are the same ones you have in your design brief. When the testing company designs the test without the input or feedback from the design team, they risk querying on keywords that don’t sync with the brand’s positioning and strategy. Even the most effective packaging system can “lose” a consumer test if the test asks the wrong questions.

You have to know what to study. And when you don’t get all stakeholders on the same page regarding the language used to develop the questions and criteria, you’ll spend a lot of time and money to generate flawed results. So make sure your testing criteria map to the brand strategy.

It’s a function of the test group. When gathering consumers for your panel, make sure you have the right balance of:

  • current loyal fans
  • fans of your competitors’ products
  • people who currently don’t purchase your offering but might if the messaging and value proposition were compelling enough

It’s essential to look at packaging in context. One of our clients had conducted consumer testing on previous packaging and got a positive review. But we discovered that the testing process involved having consumers look at digital images of the package on a white background on a computer screen. And that’s hardly an actionable study because you don’t get a realistic competitive set or a realistic view of the retail environment. Make sure your research partner places the package in context, whether a virtual scene or in a room with a live shelf set.

Even the best tools for gathering marketing insights can yield fragmented and incomplete data if they’re deployed incorrectly. And a packaging system is too big an investment to hang on data you can’t trust. Consumer package testing’s true role is as insurance — an important part of the design process that ensures that the package wins that 3-foot battle in the grocery aisle.

If a new packaging system is on your radar, we’d love to partner with you. Drop us a line.

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

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

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

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

It’s a matter of sequencing.

Insights that will impact your brand strategy looks like bad news

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

Data has a shelf life

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

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

Key insights included:

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

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

Audience segmentation helps keep your brand loyalists in the boat

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

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

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

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

Trend analysis will help make sense of research and data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Lemley

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

Connect with David
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Your Brand is on Life Support. What Now?

When a brand has backed itself into a corner in consumers’ minds, often the internal team is the last to wake up and smell the coffee.

It’s painful to realize that the brand has been disrupted by changing marketplace conditions, that competitors have taken root, that buyers have moved on. At that point, there may no longer be a way for the brand to keep the promises it once stood for.

So it’s time for the marketing team and company leadership to collectively recognize what’s happening and why — and to chart a path forward.

How to Recognize the Symptoms of a Dying Brand

We’ve counseled troubled brands, and they come to us with any number of problems: loss of market share, loss of shelf space, loss of confidence from retail buyers and consumers, pricing pressure, commoditization, private label knock-offs, and more. The common denominator of these challenges is that consumers have found a product that’s new and trendy, or cheaper, or better suited to their lives, or more aligned with their values. The brand isn’t relevant anymore.

It’s easy to recognize the key factors contributing to the brand’s demise. Maybe it has been slow to respond to changing marketplace conditions, like new sales channels and shifts in the ways consumers find and purchase its products. New, better-funded, well-organized, or just hungrier competitors have entered the market. Perhaps the brand team has flat-out missed the evolving consumer preferences and lifestyle megatrends that changed perception of the brand. Or the leadership team is simply stuck — or arrogant — and unable to change with the times.

Do any of these scenarios feel familiar to you, perhaps painfully so?

You’re not alone. We find that marketing executives are often the first to recognize the symptoms. You see the signs because your job depends on watching the market and deeply understanding how consumers engage with your brand. While your ownership may not be paying attention to those details, you see the evidence first, and you know its implications.

What Marketers Can Do About Challenged Brands

This is a hard position to be in. You recognize what’s happening, fear the repercussions that may be coming your way, and worry about what’s next.

When a CMO of a troubled brand comes to us for help, she’s facing a very short window in which to execute a radical fix. The marketing staff is usually in disarray. And she’s also the bearer of bad news to the rest of the C-suite.

Having that conversation with your founder/owner and leadership team can be brutal. We get it: You’ve built relationships with these colleagues, you’ve talked about fears and dreams and ambitions, you’ve shared victories. Telling them, in as frank and loving terms as possible, that the ship is going down and that drastic measures are needed can be an abrupt wake-up call that they don’t want to hear. Your owner is likely to be embarrassed and deeply skeptical, because the business isn’t just business for him; it’s personal.

Because of those connections to each other and to the product, we know that your leadership has lost perspective, making it difficult for you to identify a cure for the illness plaguing your brand. We can bring that outside, neutral point of view to finding the right prescription.

It’s essential to be as objective and data-driven as possible when dealing with a lagging brand. Several years ago, we worked with a troubled, family-owned founder/owner retail company that sold a majority stake to a private equity firm. The newly installed president came to us for guidance because a competitor was unraveling their business. We presented data that made an irrefutable case for rebranding the company, overcoming internal resistance, and mapping a path to future growth. You have to use data in order to gain buy-in to create radical change.

Two Potential Outcomes for Lagging Brands

If the company is truly out of options and the founder is ready to get out, then the logical option may be to close or sell at a deep discount to an investor willing to fund significant changes to the business. It takes a lot of character to admit it’s time to move on.

But not every ill brand must die; it’s possible to build something new out of the ashes. Here’s an example: Not long ago, we worked with an ingredient company that sold both directly to consumers and to food manufacturers. Commoditization of its core product had caused significant loss in total revenue, and when we stepped in, the business and the brand were running on fumes.

We gathered tons of data and conducted interviews with leaders and trusted external partners to identify the brand’s deep DNA. We held an innovation workshop and showed them where their capabilities and passion and expertise could get them — opening their eyes to new possibilities. We killed the old brand and established a new holding company with two new independent units (one B2C and one B2B) and related brands. In this case, the best option was to reboot rather than close or sell.

As you’re considering a way forward for your troubled brand, know that it will take unwavering commitment from your leadership team. In the throes of reinvention, we find that executives are prone to second-guessing and foot-dragging. We’ll make sure you stay on track. We can help your team understand your brand’s place in a shifting market, identify the best outcome, and then use data as a compass to find the way forward.

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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Seeking Growth in the World of Conscientious Consumers

Millennials embrace brands that promise something bigger than product: environmental sustainability, fair trade and employment, transparent practices, whole ingredients. You might think that this “conscientious consumerism” is a new-ish thing, born into fashion with this generation.

But it’s not. It’s decades old. And it has different flavors, with different implications for your brand.

The Birth of Conscious Consumerism

First, let’s differentiate the words ‘conscious’ and ‘conscientious.’ Conscious consumerism arose among young people in the 1950s and 60s in response to the industrialization of Big Agriculture. Teens and young adults were highly concerned about pesticides, animal welfare, and what industrially produced food was doing to their bodies and the planet. They were the readers of J.I. Rodale and Rachel Carson and the acolytes of Euell Gibbons. They were hippies before hippies became a defined group.

Conscious consumers were the founders of the naturals movement, establishing the first natural food co-op stores, embracing yogurt and whole grains, avoiding animal products, and growing their own food. Broadly speaking, they operated outside popular culture, becoming metaphorical off-the-grid people.

Over time, the conscious consumer movement evolved to encompass other ethical issues like fair trade and fair wages. Conscious consumers hold the brands they buy to the highest standards. They’re vegan, they wear non-leather shoes, they embrace B-Corp brands.

Fast Forward to Conscientious Consumerism

The conscious consumers’ kids are Gen Xers and Millennials. And while they share their parents’ preference for brands that are clean, sustainable, fair, and ethical, their beliefs are less strident. They’ve tweaked the definition of conscious consumerism to make room for modern life and creature comforts. They demand choices, not rules. They don’t want to stand culturally apart; they fly the flags of brands whose values sync with their own. They’re not willing to suffer for the cause. They wear their Toms shoes as they climb into their SUVs.

The Intersection of Conscious and Conscientious

Conscious consumers remain on the fringes of the natural marketplace as an outspoken minority group representing less than 10% of the market. Meanwhile, more than 50% of American consumers identify themselves as conscientious consumers — preferring brands that take a stand for something more than just a product, but less freaked out by the threat of Big Ag than their parents were.

Legacy better-for-you brands grew up right alongside those conscious consumers. And yet the market opportunity lies in that larger 50% segment of conscientious consumers who want clean, fair, whole products but aren’t die-hard, hemp-wearing, electric car drivers.

In order to expand your brand into this broader audience, you need to understand the psychology and behavior of the conscious consumer. They’re opinionated, passionate, and vocal, so brands fear alienating their core customer base in search of new fans. They’re also fickle, always chasing the fairest-trade-cleanest-greenest-most-exclusive product. Ironically, they’re the most likely to be the anonymous haters bashing you on social media — while still buying your product, because that’s what they’ve always done.

The key is to identify the boundary between your most radical customers and a broader audience whose values also align with yours in a less radical way. Don’t fear your core audience but instead start talking to the rest of the world to bring more people into the club.

Our client Hilary’s Eat Well was in this challenging position when they came to us. Hilary’s is a badge brand for vegans. The company saw opportunity to grow its audience with new products that expand its mission to improve the American diet and to support grain farmers. Brand leaders feared their longtime vegan customers would beat them up if they added non-vegan products, so we coached them to change messaging. We touted the brand’s allergen-free culinary ingredients and focused on the story of the brand’s commitment to healthy eating and family farming. With the new positioning, Hilary’s didn’t lose much of their core audience but won new fans and market share.

Every brand in the naturals category has a subset of passionate fans, people who found you on the shelf in your very earliest days and who love your product and what you stand for. But they’re a fixed asset. Growth comes from creating a larger tent.

Expanding the Audience for a Better-for-You Brand

To move your BFY brand forward, you have to leverage the passion of your most devoted fans, even knowing that they’ll be disappointed. How? Four keys:

  • Enroll them in helping the brand stay on mission — invite their feedback and let them know they’re an important part of what you do.
  • Enlist their help in doing right in the world — create ways for them to partner with you.
  • Evangelize what your brand stands for — encourage them to talk about your shared values.
  • Emphasize the brand’s mission — center your marketing and promotion not on price, features, and benefits, but on what you stand for.

We live in a consumer society, and today, consumption is far more than a simple economic action: It has socio-cultural and psychological implications. Once you extend a welcoming hand to the conscientious consumers, you’ll find them to be fiercely loyal, even more so than the older, more ideological conscious consumers.

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