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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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Brand Slam Episode 5 – featuring Plant Works

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

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

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

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

Diana Fryc

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

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Brand Slam | Call For Entries for Season Two

Retail Voodoo is recruiting participants for Season 2 of Brand Slam – Episodes starting March 2021.

CPG brands spend a lot of time telling consumers how different they are. And with the brand world changing faster than ever, the fundamentals of brand building are receiving scrutiny. What is a brand anyway? A logo? An idea? An ad campaign?

We have decided to answer those questions, in real-time and have created a monthly workshop for food, beverage, health and wellness company founders looking to gain insights on how to use brand positioning, language and strategy to gain unfair advantage in the market. Learn what opportunities and details Retail Voodoo looks for when building a strong brand and how your brand must use these tools to educate consumers about it.

Our Brand Slam Brand Tune-Up will start by auditing and benchmarking your brand against competitors in your categories to develop a powerful platform for brand growth. Our goal is to help you think about building a stronger brand by giving you tools and examples from a live case study.

Each month, Retail Voodoo’s David Lemley will choose one entrepreneurial brand (maybe yours?) to showcase the lessons and strategic thinking that go into building the heart of a brand – in a live broadcast.

Are you ready for a Brand Slam?

Application Criteria

  • Must be a food, beverage, wellness, or fitness brand
  • Applicants should be $2M or less in annual revenue
  • Must be in market a minimum of 6 months
  • Must be based, and doing business, in North America

Watch Previous Episodes:

Sign Up To Apply – Deadline: January 15, 2021

We can’t wait to meet you!

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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Bevnet’s Office Hours: Design Workshop – Current Trends in CPG Package Design with David Lemley

David Lemley had a chance to sit on this panel with Kate Ruffing and Kara Nielsen and share thoughts on how brands and design will be impacted by the events of 2020.

This Office Hours episode focuses on the ways that brand design has been influenced — for good or ill — by the tumultuous events of the past 8 months: COVID-19, social and societal turmoil, changes to retailing and D2C environments, and the growth and emergence of new branding conventions that have been derided as “Blands.” This is a great talk for companies that are thinking about the look of their packaging and labels, who are thinking about the overall positioning of the visual aspects of their products, or who want to match their innovations with their brand design.

Jeff Klineman, the Editor-in-Chief of BevNET, hosts the panel discussion, including trendologist Kara Nielsen, who is the director of food and beverage insights with WGSN, David Lemley, the president of branding firm Retail Voodoo, and Flashpoint Strategy Consulting founder Kate Ruffing. The Office Hours live audience had a front-row, interactive seat and asked questions on everything from nuts-and-bolts questions about design to a deep exploration of branding trends for food and beverage companies.

Sign into BevNet to watch full episode 

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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Before You Redesign Your Naturals Brand, Do This

As we turn the last few pages on the calendar, you and your marketing team are working on your final initiatives for this year and planning for 2021. If you’re eyeing a redesign for your company’s natural food or beverage brand, allow us to make a suggestion:

Work on the brand strategy first.

No doubt, as a veteran marketer, you’ve worked on or overseen more packaging for consumer brands than you can count. You have an eye for design and a nose for trends. The systems you’ve created may have scored raves on The Dieline and generated a boost in sales.

And yet, the consumer landscape has changed. Brands are no longer built through communication and design tactics; they emerge from the experiences they create that produce a gut-level preference for a brand among its fans. Design, while important is transient, reactive, and subordinate to whatever medium you are using to communicate.

We’ve seen this play out in our 10-year transition from award-winning design firm to strategic brand-builders. And we can guarantee this: Your creative vision and design expertise will lead to Beloved & Dominant status when they’re layered on top of a strong strategic foundation for the brand.

Brand Strategy Begets Package & Logo Design

Typically, when brand leaders come to us for help addressing challenges or opportunities (tough competition, or potential growth or investment), they’re convinced that they need a visual makeover. Pretty quickly, we help the marketing and leadership teams understand that their need is strategic first. The entire communication roadmap—what we call the Brand Ecosystem—depends on three foundational elements:

The brand’s mission: the problem in the world or in consumers’ lives that it exists to solve.

The brand’s environment: competitors, retail space (both online and in-store), consumer behaviors.

The brand’s culture: the internal mindset that drives the organization.

A well-defined mission, a firm grasp on the brand’s world, and a unified internal culture provide focus—guardrails if you will—for every business decision. From a marketing perspective, strategy prevents arbitrary design decisions based on whim or preference or trend. Imagine developing an enduring visual identity for the brand that connects deeply and intuitively with a growing tribe of passionate believers. Imagine creating a packaging system that doesn’t need to be updated every 18 months when a new look dominates Instagram—but rather endures for five or more years and flexes to accommodate new products.

Brand Strategy Allows for Bold Design Decisions

Among all the communication channels in the Brand Ecosystem, packaging is extra important because it’s often the first touchpoint a consumer has with the brand. And it has a long tail: She’ll engage with it after she makes the purchase and brings the product home.

Designing boxes and bags and bottles for natural food and beverage products is exciting, energizing work. It’s also incredibly frustrating because you’re roped in by the visual and structural conventions of the category. A package has to communicate so much information from a distance (defining the category, like popcorn or energy bar or enhanced water) and up close (whispering in the shopper’s ear and convincing her to buy).

When everyone in the category plays by the same rules, it’s a recipe for sameness. Look no further than the “anti-brands” popular on Instagram, and you’ll see what we mean. This proliferation of products packaged in pale pink with simple serif type isn’t branding; it’s blanding. When the retail set is full of indistinguishable products, only big-budget advertising campaigns or bottom-line-chewing discounts will persuade the customer to buy.

Beloved & Dominant brands don’t chase trends. They use strategy—a higher calling, a deep understanding of their place in their fans’ lives, a passion for excellence—to make bold design moves that other brands are afraid of. Confident in their beliefs and engaged with their consumers, they break out of the category conventions to create packaging that not only makes a splash, it makes sense.

Creative Plays a Key Role in Strategic Planning

We believe that design and marketing rest on a solid strategic foundation, but those disciplines aren’t mutually exclusive. Creative input is mission-critical as part of our brand strategy process.

We engage key members across the client’s organization to collaboratively build insights that will fuel a creative translation. (That said – I’ve had experiences in my career when I’ve been tasked with design based on a strategy I had no say in. It’s simply not an optimal situation for creating great work.)

For us, brand strategy isn’t just about crunching consumer data, scouting the competition, and dissecting the R&D process. It’s about creating a common vision, a singular path, and a shared language. Those tools make it easier to develop creative output—whether that’s a logo or a social media campaign—because they innately define goals and outcomes. They streamline input and approval because everyone’s using the same playbook.

Building a Beloved & Dominant Brand

When a unified vision for the brand translates into breakthrough creative, the results are so much more powerful than an aimless redesign:

  1. Your brand will act, look, and sound different from everyone else in the category.
  2. Your value propositions will scare the daylights out of your competitors because they can’t achieve what you have.
  3. Your sales team’s pitch to retailers and distributors will be easier; retail managers will “get” the brand and look to your team as partners, not vendors.
  4. You’ll spend less on retail promotion and advertising because you look and behave differently.
  5. You’ll sustain or regain relevance with consumers.

Creating breakout results for the business you support, disrupting the category, building a brand that changes the world—brash goals like these require vision. Bucking the trends with clarity and confidence based on mission and strategy will elevate your brand to Beloved & Dominant. We’ve walked lots of veteran marketers down this path. Let’s talk about how we can help your team.

David Lemley

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

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The Future of Plant Based Period Products with Denielle Finkelstein, TOP

Gooder Podcast Featuring Denielle Finkelstein

In today’s episode, we are joined by a highly accomplished retail executive with a proven track record in growing large scale businesses profitably and creating new business opportunities within brands, sharp business acumen with a keen ability to assess business conditions and manage towards opportunity with a relentless focus on the customer, Denielle Finkelstein, President and Co-Founder of TOP (the organic project). She is experienced in overseeing brand development and strategy, launching businesses, Omni-channel merchandising, marketing, international expansion and operations. She is also recognized as a passionate and strategic leader, known for relationship building.

Join us as we dive deep into healthy living, her organic business, plant-based organic period products and the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur and how to overcome them. We discuss the decisions that helped her leave the retail fashion world to focus on a passion and build a brand (from the ground up) to tackle the legacy taboo of period products, building a greener product and doubling down on the leadership and innovation that she’s been craving.

In this episode we learn:

  • The genesis of The Organic Movement (TOP) – organic/natural period products.
  • How Gen Z is changing the conversation around personal care and period products.
  • What plant-based innovation has been a game-changer for the brand and the industry.
  • How the leadership experience of a large retail brand helps, and hinders the start-up business process.
  • The challenges legacy conventional brands may have converting natural shoppers.
  • What period poverty is and how pervasive it is in the United States.
  • Denielle’s call to arms to major period product brands.
Gooder Podcast

The Future of Plant Based Period Products with Denielle Finkelstein, TOP

About Denielle Finkelstein:

Denielle Finkelstein, President and Co-Founder of TOP (the organic project) was raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY. Post graduation, she moved to NYC with her future husband and started her career in fashion retail at Ann Taylor. She went on to executive merchandising roles at Coach, Kate Spade and Talbots. She was always recognized for her strength in building businesses, finding the white space and managing high performing teams. At the height of her career, she began looking for more purpose in her work and how she could do things differently for future generations.

After spending 22 years in fashion retail and sitting in the C-suite, she took the best risk both professionally and personally and left the corporate world to join Thyme Sullivan, to launch TOP the organic project. As moms, they went searching for organic period products that were healthy and safe for their girls and the environment and came away empty-handed. They have set out to build TOP as a business to drive positive social and environmental change.  TOP is bringing innovation to period products with Organic and Plant-based Tampons & Pads.  What we put in and on our bodies matters more than ever!

Show Resources:

TOP (the organic project) – We are here to educate, enlighten, and embarrass ourselves so that every girl and woman on the planet has access to healthy, 100% organic, eco-loving tampons and pads. and every step of the way, we’ll inspire stigma-shattering conversations about periods.

Poo-Pourri – We’re Poo~Pourri. A poop-positive brand dumping the shame around the things we *all* do. We deliver quality products made with natural essential oils that leave the bathroom smelling amazing and liberate you from harmful ingredients and inhibiting worries.

Beautycounter – One by one, we are leading a movement to a future where all beauty is clean beauty. We are powered by people, and our collective mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. Formulate, advocate, & educate—that’s our motto for creating products that truly perform while holding ourselves to unparalleled standards of safety. Why? It’s really this simple: beauty should be good for you.

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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Better-for-You Brands: Quit Playing Small

Occasionally in our work, we encounter a curious phenomenon: We’ve completed deep-dive brand strategy work with a client in the better-for-you space, and laid the foundation for them to achieve growth. Everyone’s committed to the new strategic direction.

And yet when it comes time to execute — a packaging refresh or marketing strategy or advertising buy — the client team hesitates.

Often, it’s not because of budget concerns — but because of fear. Marketers and executives are afraid to actually make the big moves they need to on design, innovation or activation, often to their brand’s detriment.

Why Marketers Fear Success

Setting strategy is largely theoretical; execution is where it gets real, where the risk lies. Some people are more comfortable playing small instead of going big, because it’s familiar and safe.

Our philosophy on the perils of playing small comes from this quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson

The founder/leaders of entrepreneurial BFY brands are perceived to be so bold and brave. So why the hesitation to bring the brand fully to life through execution?

Commonly, we see that the companies that hesitate on execution are those whose culture avoids change or risk. We hear comments like this: “Prove it first, and then we’ll fund it.” “That’s not the way we do things.” “That’s not how we spend our marketing dollars.” “We’ve never had to do this before.”

Conversely, bold brands operate on a test-and-learn mentality and are open to incremental risk. They look to meaningful event horizons in the future and ask, “What will it actually take to make this big thing happen?”

To take the big steps that spark meaningful growth, you have to make smart educated guesses about what years three and five look like. What’s the likely future you’ll move into based on trends and scenario planning? Only when you take that long view can you get comfortable with risk and rationalize the resources it’ll take now to achieve that future.

Clients often ask us what it will take to execute the strategy we’ve developed together. After a few years of experience, we’ve determined that companies should anticipate spending 1 to 5x for the first year of the strategy cost in order to leverage the opportunity. It’s not a small figure, but neither are the stakes.

Your Responsibility is to Make it Big

Re-read this part of the quote above: “Your playing small does not serve the world.”

Customers want — and sometimes need — your product. So quit downplaying how awesome your brand is. Your company wants your brand to succeed in a big way, not just make enough to cover hard costs.

You have an obligation to follow through. What’s the point of coming up with amazing ideas and then not sharing them? Remember:

If you go small, some other brand will go big and you’ll be left in the dust — this has proven true 100% of the time.

In fact, all the encouragement you need is right there in your brand strategy: your brand’s WHY, its mission or passion or reason for being. Brands that know their WHY and institute it culturally aren’t afraid to play big. They have a different mentality around everything than brands that are just trying to hit growth targets. When you have a powerful WHY, you can’t let the mission die. You can’t play small.

Our client Loma Linda is the best example we know of a brand that wasn’t afraid to go big.

Loma Linda is the world’s oldest vegetarian brand, you’ve probably never heard of, founded in 1890 by J.H. Kellogg and owned until 1990 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. When they came to us, Loma Linda was a small brand embraced by a specialized cohort of loyalists. But they were seeking to expand their audience beyond church membership and tap into the growing plant-based food trend.

We helped the marketing and leadership team listen to their loyalists and identified a key brand value — sustainability — that would appeal to a wider consumer base. With that strategic foundation, we then helped them build a new message that conveyed the brand’s heritage: “Vegan before being vegan was a thing.” We reformulated products and reimagined packaging to suit the modern consumer (for example, shifting from cans to pouches). We kept a core group of beloved long-time products and introduced new global flavors.

Loma Linda’s team was so committed to the brand’s mission that they knew the products had to be available everywhere, to everyone.

Their big play paid off: Loma Linda’s customer base grew from about 2 million church members to 50 million global customers, a larger distribution network including big-box retailers, and a growth trajectory that was 10 times what they anticipated.

Whether your brand team is ready to go big, or you need a bit of encouragement, we’re here to help. Let’s talk.

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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Confessions of a Marketer Podcast: Marketing in Retail (1 of 2)

Featuring David Lemley

On Episode 97, we have David Lemley in to chat about marketing in retail—he calls it retail voodoo. David was an early employee at Starbucks, and that experience taught him a lot. His company, Retail Voodoo, does brand strategy for specialty food and beverage brands. David’s expertise in brand strategy, innovation, consumer markets, and consumer behavior is deep, so I wanted to talk to him about retail marketing, what the retail landscape looks like, and of course Starbucks (which we get to in part two). But in part one, we get the low down on Retail Voodoo.

Listen on Confessions of a Marketer

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