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Good Creative Lasts a Moment. Great Strategy Lasts for Years.

I get it: You’re in a hurry. There’s a deadline, perhaps a category review with your dominant retail partner. Or maybe someone new in your organization wants to put their stamp on the product. So you want a new packaging design for your food and beverage product, and you want it now.

A new package or identity is exhilarating. It can make a splash in the market. But it’s oh so temporary. If your creative isn’t doing the heavy lifting of translating your brand strategy, you aren’t winning.

The secret to great packaging and identity is strategy, not beautiful design. Strategy and creative execution are inextricably linked.

Great creative without great strategy is wallpaper that will be wildly outdated in 18 months. Great strategy without great creative is a binder that sits on your conference room shelf.

Skip the strategy part and go straight to playing with typography and color, and someone else in your category will make the same moves within about six months. So you’ll have to redesign all over again.

Unless you do the strategy work first.

Why Brand Strategy Should Lead Brand Creative

Brand Strategy as a Foundation for Creative

In the world of consumer goods, great design is table stakes. But what makes creative last is a strategy that looks beyond your management team’s understanding of the universe. A brilliant brand strategy allows you to ignore what your competitors are doing (moves that often inspire a we-gotta-do-this-NOW approach to redesign) and build a deep and powerful relationship between your brand and your audience.

Strategy, of course, isn’t just a marketing activity. All roads lead back to your WHY: your brand’s unique point of view and the promises you make. It’s a risk-management and resource-management philosophy. Strategy drives every decision your organization makes: the products you launch, the channels you sell through, the audience you attract, the opportunities you don’t pursue. And yes, the way you package and present your products.

The output of strategy isn’t killer creative. Rather, it’s a defined framework for making decisions, including creative. Brand strategy is creative’s superhero suit—it repels competitors, fends off trends, flashes a signal that summons fans. It allows you to make the right moves that will disrupt your category and remain a force for 5 years or more.

This is the reason we audit a client’s brand positioning against the category and all adjacencies — before we start any design work.

Sometimes, this takes a bit of convincing. Prospective clients who come to our firm for a packaging design makeover may want to skip the strategy — perhaps because they don’t understand its importance and value, or they have limited time or money (or think they do). We explain that taking 8 to 10 weeks to do it right means they won’t have to redo the design in 12 months.

So if you think you need packaging, how do you know you need strategy?

· If something is broken but you don’t quite know what it is

· If you sense that your brand’s relevance is eroding and your sales are trailing off (this is not something packaging alone can fix)

· If you’re pretty confident that you know your audience well (you may know your current people, but who are you not selling to that wants your product?)

· If your sales trajectory is inconsistent with your competitors’ and you aren’t sure why

· If redesigning is just a thing you do every X years

Design Follows, It Doesn’t Lead

Some marketers believe that doing the design work will answer the bigger questions, that they’ll turn up the strategic stuff as they go through the design process. But letting design lead the initiative is a lousy move because the brand team will get emotionally invested in visuals before they get invested in the strategy.

The discipline of package design will never illuminate a new audience or new product or channel strategy or pricing structure; those are all things that only brand strategy can do.

Repeat after me: Creative is always the output of strategy. They’re always done sequentially, not in tandem.

Which isn’t to say that your design team shouldn’t be involved in the strategic work. Inviting senior creative people to the table is a real time-saver. (And if you’re up against a deadline, a pretty great reason to make time for strategy.) When you bring senior creative people in to ride shotgun on strategy, they can get to the solve in just a round or two of ideation. It brings alignment and prevents burnout … “We’re on Round 37!” You’ve created a North Star that provides guardrails for design exploration, focuses feedback, and drives decision-making.

Early in my career, I was guilty of making really beautiful stuff that was so transformative that it pointed my clients’ business in a new direction … and then I came to understand that beautiful stuff doesn’t really cash the check. So our team’s work always starts with our competitive audit – a benchmarking exercise that informs brand strategy and identifies opportunity. Armed with that insight, leaders can make really bold moves that only your brand can make. Including packaging design that doesn’t copy what’s already on the shelf — but transforms the shelf.Ready for a smarter approach to your brand’s creative expression? Let’s have a conversation.

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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Pioneering the New Tea Culture in America featuring Sashee Chandran, Tea Drops

Gooder Podcast featuring Sashee Chandran

“Luck is hard work and opportunity meeting.” – Sashee Chandran 

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Sashee Chandran, the founder, and CEO of Tea Drops. We discuss the historical colonial influence in American tea culture and how her diverse background has encouraged her to create something new: Tea Drops. We also learn about the tea category shaking innovation of Tea Drops’ products and some of the trends her brand is leveraging. Along the way, we get to hear the inspirational story of a diligent and humble entrepreneur who transforms the traditional way of enjoying tea. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • About the history and inspiration of Tea Drops. 
  • The surprising A-ha moment of her product idea. 
  • About her go-to-market alternate channel strategy, and why it worked.
  • Where Sashee’s passion and drive for risk-taking come from.
  • What Tea Drop’s give-back program has been doing to tackle the global water crisis.
  • Diana and Sashee’s personal stories about their love for tea and how tea has helped them connect to their loved ones. 
Gooder Podcast

Pioneering the New Tea Culture in America featuring Sashee Chandran, Tea Drops

About Sashee Chandran: 

Sashee Chandran is the founder and CEO of Tea Drops, which creates bagless whole leaf teas using a patented process — shedding about 15% less waste than traditional teabag packaging. Tea Drops has become a favorite among new and experienced tea drinkers alike, launching innovative tea experiences that merge flavorful blends, food art, and edgy design. Tea Drops an omnichannel brand, selling D2C and also available in 1,500 retailers — loved by Oprah Magazine, Chrissy Teigen, and former first lady Michelle Obama. Sashee is a 1st Place $20K Women Founders Network pitch winner, 1st Place $100K Tory Burch Fellow Grant winner, and the 1st place $50K PepsiCo WomanMade Challenge winner. She has also raised over $3.5M in VC funding for Tea Drops. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sasheec 

Email: sashee@myteadrop.com 

Website: https://www.myteadrop.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Loose leaf tea is tea that does not come pre-packaged in tea bags. Because the leaves are not crammed into a tea bag, the tea maintains a higher quality and aroma while offering the best possible health benefits. 

eBay Inc. is an American multinational e-commerce corporation based in San Jose, California, that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales through its website. eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, and became a notable success story of the dot-com bubble.  

Bubble tea is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It most commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls, but it can be made with other toppings as well. 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification. 

Tory Burch Foundation competition Designed to provide women entrepreneurs with the tools and platform necessary to grow their business. 

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

United Natural Foods, Inc. is a Providence, R.I.-based natural and organic food company. It is the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor of health and specialty food in the United States and Canada. UNFI is Whole Foods Market’s main supplier, with their traffic making up over a third of its revenue in 2018. 

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.  

Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., originally Neiman-Marcus, is an American chain of luxury department stores owned by the Neiman Marcus Group, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. 

The Thirst Project is a non-profit organization whose aim is to bring safe drinking water to communities around the world where it is not immediately available. The Thirst Project collects money and builds wells all across the continent of Africa where villages do not have immediate drinking water.

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

Gooder Podcast featuring Jessica Lyons

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

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

In this episode we learn: 

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

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

 About Jessica Lyons: 

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

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

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

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

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

Email: jesslyons117@gmail.com 

Website: https://www.pccmarkets.com/ 

Show Resources: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diana Fryc

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

Connect with Diana
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Food & Beverage Companies: Time to Go from Bland to Brand

If you’ve walked the health and beauty aisle at Target in the past few years (back when leisurely strolling a retail store was an everyday occurrence), you’ve seen the rise of a particular brand aesthetic.

Lots of whitespace, sans serif type, an absent logo, soft modern colors. Designers and marketers have dubbed this aesthetic “blanding” — a sort of no-brand branding. Lots of successful brands have adapted this style: Brandless (the exemplar), NativeHey Humans and others. Target’s newly launched Favorite Day brand of 700 (!) indulgent food and beverage products is another example.

The personal care and natural food/beverage categories are ripe for the blanding approach: The aesthetic is right for wellness or better-for-you brands because the whitespace and cleanness echo an old-school pharmaceutical look that implies health and purity.

Why Brands Embrace Blanding

Brands favor this blanding style because it plays well on social media, it’s scalable for different digital channels and screens, and it’s easy to systematize. Blanding is essentially a kit of parts: Pick a sans serif typeface — or, if you want to parrot Goop, a quirky, cute serif — add Pantone’s color of the year, no need to design a logo, and you’re cooking.

Online, this less-is-more bland style pairs with perfectly imperfect lifestyle photos — all midcentury modern and luxury décor and rose gold and other visual cues that appeal to Millennial shoppers. Millennial consumers especially like to curate their lives, with products that have a complementary look that they can display on a bathroom vanity or kitchen counter. For that reason, blanding is purpose-built for Instagram, which is highly visual and focused on beauty. Consumers get to associate with that vibe and imagine themselves immersed in the images they see in their IG feeds.

Too, there’s a sort of faux consumer confidence that emerges among lookalike blands. “If my snack bar looks like my deodorant looks like my vitamins, then it must be good.”

Because it’s a) super popular right now, so a proven creative concept, and b) really easy to pull off without hiring a high-fee design agency, many startup and direct-to-consumer brands have adopted the blanding approach right out of the gate.

But there’s a real challenge for these companies. As a FastCompany article puts it, “Blands are like teenagers. They dress the same, talk the same, act the same. They don’t have a defined sense of self or, if they do, they lack the confidence to be it. It’s a school-of-fish mentality where the comfort and safety of the familiar outweigh the risk of attracting too much attention.”

Blanding is simply a visual style. It’s not branding. And without a capital-B Brand, your product risks becoming a commodity. By Brand, I mean a mission or purpose: a wrong that your company and its community strive to remedy, a higher calling, a better way of life for your customers.

Blands recede into the swirl of other similar products on the shelf; brands — especially Beloved & Dominant brands — stand up, stand out, and stand for something. And to do that, you have to use your own voice.

Graduating from Bland to Brand

I get the appeal of blanding. When done well, it can be quite attractive. It’s why so many charismatic entrepreneurs in food and beverage start-ups leverage the style: Their product looks great, their packaging looks great, and by association they look great.

My sense is that this design trend would have passed already were it not for the pandemic, which forced emerging DTC and ecommerce brands to rapidly ramp up their consumer presence in the first six to eight months of the quarantine.

You can get away with a bland for a while, but as the brand matures and starts to stand for something, this one-of-many design style becomes useless. The challenge is that just like emerging artists who haven’t yet gelled their own style, these young brands emulate their peers.

When the quarantine is over, people will go out to shop more frequently and more leisurely than they do today. And the blands will quickly start to feel like private label.

Bespoke brands understand how to stand out enough to become Beloved & Dominant category leaders. The first step is to look critically at the ecosystem of your consumers and then work to becoming a one-of-a-kind standout in their world. If Instagram frames your worldview, then you’ll land on the same visual construct that other players in your category are using.

Blanding is normcore — it’s riskless, you don’t have to stake a claim to meaning, it’s the easy path. Branding is unique — it’s risky, pegged to an idea, and demands a deep understanding of your consumer and their world.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with blanding as the tool kit that your startup incubator gives you; a beautiful package might get you into a conversation with retailers or investors, especially if you’re riding the passion of a charismatic founder.

I think of blanding as a “fake it ‘til you make it” business strategy.

But once you’ve lost velocity or aren’t selling through or can’t get meetings with new channel partners, then you’ve outgrown it. If Target wants you on the shelf but your products don’t move and then they make a private label version of your offering, then it’s time to hit “eject” and move on.

The good news is that you’ve already begun to build a following. Now it’s time to do the work to establish a strategic foundation before you get to the cool stuff like making a logo and choosing a color palette. That includes:

— Defining the brand’s mission and values

— Articulating a brand story that’s bigger than your product

— Identifying places where you want to play, outside of Instagram but in the real world of sales

In order to become a category leader you have to exit the superhighway of blanding and go offroad to seek your tribe who will love you forever and will pay what you ask in order to deliver on your mission.

Elevating from one-of-many bland to Beloved & Dominant Brand takes guts, vision, and leadership. It’s a massive, exciting opportunity because it means you’re ready to grow up and out. We can help you take those steps, so let’s connect.

David Lemley

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

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

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

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

Download this white paper to learn how to:

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

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

David Lemley

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

Connect with David
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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.

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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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Does Your Naturals Brand Have a Mission? Or Just a Mission Statement?

Type “how to write a mission statement” into Google’s search field, and it’ll return 434,000,000 results. Clearly, there’s a lot of advice out there for writing a mission statement.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about capital-M Mission: Your brand’s true purpose.

It’s easy to have a mission statement. It’s harder to live a true Mission. If your operations team or customer service team don’t know how to do their job against your company’s Mission, you’ve got a marketing tactic, not a vision for the brand’s higher calling in the world.

The Difference Between Mission and Mission Statement

You’ve done this at some point in your marketing career, right? Been part of an internal task force to develop a mission statement for the brand. Someone on the team Googled “how to write a mission statement” and you went through the steps. Maybe you even stenciled the resulting copy on the conference room wall. Mission statements are Marketing 101.

But a mission statement without a Mission is BS. “Ensuring stakeholder value” does not a brand Mission make.

Mission, rather, is the very soul of your brand. It is your promise and the ways in which you keep it. It’s the wrong you exist to right in the world, the fight you fight, the good you do.

Why does Mission matter? Because no matter how good your product is, eventually, someone’s going to come along with a cheaper version. David outlines how this happens, inevitably, in his book Beloved & Dominant Brands.

And if you aim to rebound from One of Many to Beloved & Dominant status, then your Mission is essential. It’s the foundation of your brand strategy. Remember: People don’t buy products. They buy brands.

Mission is a Holistic Business Strategy

Your brand’s Mission doesn’t just guide how you market the product to consumers. It flows throughout the entire organization:

  • Does your corporate culture match? Do people in the organization treat each other according to your higher values?
  • Does your payroll match? Can your employees afford your products?
  • Does your decision-making match? Are the strategies and initiatives you pursue in line with your Mission?
  • Does your ops match? Is your ingredient deck as clean and natural as possible?
  • Does your philanthropy match? Do you work to solve real needs?

Every employee, from the C-suite to the folks taking customer calls and the marketers repping the brand in social channels, should understand how their work advances the Mission. It’s like the guy sweeping the floor at NASA in the 1960s, who knew that his role was essential to getting people to the moon.

When your Mission is clearly defined, it serves as magnetic north on your corporate compass; you can say no to all the stuff that falls outside the lines. Mission builds internal alignment, team trust, and momentum. If you’re working in a company that has a mission statement without a Mission, you know it: Every decision is hard, marketing campaigns don’t land, the organization is dysfunctional, and your product development is all over the map.

What a Strong Mission Looks Like

When we consult with a struggling brand, we often start by helping them identify or refine their Mission. A Mission should be a BHAG — a big, hairy, audacious goal. Furthermore, there are four key attributes to a strong Mission:

It must be an action – it leads with a verb to describe what the brand does toward the goal.

It must be specific and quantifiable – you need to have a dashboard on it so you can track how you’re delivering on your promise.

It must change lives — it’s not just about selling stuff and returning value to stakeholders.

It must avoid sentiment – you need to develop language that is not so emotional or self-focused so you can’t enroll the broadest audience both internally and externally. [Note: When you translate the mission into marketing, it can become highly personal and emotional.]

The magic happens, of course, when your Mission resonates so deeply with so many people that sales naturally follow. Consumers so thoroughly buy-in that they will stick with your brand over all others, no matter what. That’s Beloved & Dominant. (And that’s what we do!)

Organizations often write mission statements so they can check that box on the “what companies do” list. But there’s no there there.

Frankly, you can get by if you have a Mission without a catchy mission statement. But the opposite is not true. You can’t Copywrite your way out of a lack of Mission. No matter what those 400 million Google search results might suggest.

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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Naturals Brands: Is Your Charismatic Founder Helping or Hurting the Business?

We’re just gonna make a bold statement here: If the sole reason for your company’s success is the actual, physical presence of the founder — during visits with retail partners, sales meetings at trade shows, in-store demonstrations — then you have a branding problem.

Because when that charismatic founder/owner isn’t in the room, the wind goes out of your sails.

It’s a challenge that we see frequently in the natural food and beverage space, which is populated by brands launched by individuals who developed products that initially met their own needs. (Think: an avid hiker needed an energy bar to power through day-long treks; a parent with a kid with a food allergy needed a clean snack.) Typically, a brand rides to out-of-the-gate success on the back of that passionate, visionary founder.

But as the brand grows and the founder/owner can’t be everywhere at once, a few gaping holes begin to develop. While the sales team is capable of selling the brand’s offering to retailers, the product itself doesn’t match the hype. Consumers don’t see the brand as meaningfully different from competitors and choose lower-priced options. The brand loses velocity and risks discontinuation. It’s exhausting to rely on charisma, and it’s expensive to not get the sell-through you need to stay profitable.

When the Founder Becomes a Liability

In the lifecycle of a brand I describe in my book Beloved & Dominant Brands, the risk of founder-as-brand shows up when the brand tips from Beloved by Default (still riding the visionary’s coattails) to One of Many (lost in a churn of copycats).

First & Only — an innovative, world-changing newcomer

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

Two fundamental truths about entrepreneur-led brands are at play here: One, the founder can’t replicate herself, and as she spreads herself too thin her influence wanes. Two, and perhaps more important, the leader and her executive team assume, wrongly, that they ARE their customer. They fail to see that consumers’ needs are different, and that the product doesn’t fit as well into their lives. They think: “Everyone must love this brand as much as we do.” We see this especially in competitive categories where the barriers to entry are lower (e.g. snacks) and where look-alike products are hard for consumers to differentiate.

Faced with dipping sales, the marketing team often steps in with quick fixes: tweaks to the packaging design or sometimes even positioning. The deeper the bias of the founder or leadership about their product’s superiority (when for retailers and consumers, it’s parity) the smaller and more frustrating the moves. Marketing is often unsuccessful or merely produces a short-term bump prompted by ad campaigns or discounting. Meanwhile, the brand struggles to meet minimum velocity hurdles. Sales and marketing are doomed to fail if the brand and business are hinging on the charisma of the founder.

Separating the Brand from the Individual

So, how can marketing executives steer the brand away from the founder’s persona? Very gently.

First, it’s important to remember one definition of brand:

Brand is what they say about you when you aren’t in the room.

That’s because it’s about them, silly, not about you.

Perhaps the smartest thing you can do is to enlist an external ally to help identify the issue — the primacy of the founder/owner is creating serious branding and business problems — and to deliver the difficult news and take the heat for saying so. And yes, there’ll be some heat. (We’ve been in that chair, and we’re well-versed in sharing tough news with grace.)

Just as important, you must frame the situation not as a complaint about the founder, but as a natural, growth-related challenge that has a strategic solution.

Think of other brands pegged to an individual founder: Bob, Barbara, Justin, Annie … it’s been a long time since Bob or Barbara was in a regional retail sales meeting. But Bob and Barbara still project a halo of wisdom and a promise of quality over the brands, even those that are now owned by large multinationals.

As a spunky, entrepreneurial naturals brand grows, the role of the founder/owner must pivot away from hands-on, in-every-meeting doer to benevolent guide. The founder/owner becomes a shepherd for the brand rather than the brand itself. She shows up like a pastor or chairman emeritus; the brand stands for itself and its mission, and the individual hovers above in a sort of endorsement role. Like Justin or Annie, the founder’s presence serves as confirmation that the brand is a real thing based on real people.

Think of the founder/owner’s position like a patronus. (“Harry Potter” fans will recognize the patronus as a magically conjured apparition that guides, protects, and inspires a person in his moment of need.) The founder, then, doesn’t fight the fight, but serves as a beacon.

When we advise founder-centric brands on evolving the brand beyond the dynamic individual, we help turn the liability into a strength by involving the founder in the journey from lead warrior to champion. It often takes some coaching, but rarely have we seen the founder resist the move. Typically, he recognizes his responsibility for the business impasse, feels the pain of decreasing sales, and embraces his new role as vision-giver and mentor to the brand.

And then the whole organization breathes a sigh of relief. The overtaxed founder gets to step out of the day-to-day and focus on work that adds value. Product development responds to real market opportunity rather than the owner’s whim. Marketing moves the needle because the brand’s values align with consumers’.

Apple is often celebrated as a brand with a powerful connection to fans, and it’s also a case study in how dominant leaders can and should behave. In Apple’s darkest days, Steve Jobs was in every meeting, weighing in on every decision, driving every aspect of the business. When he stepped back to let other exceptional minds shape the company and instead became a spiritual guide and external presence at product-launch events, Apple soared.

If you’re working with an in-the-weeds Steve Jobs when you need a product-unveiling Steve Jobs, give us a call. We’ve traveled this path and can help founders find their most fulfilling and difference-making roles.

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