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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.

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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The Simplicity of Life and Health in a Bite-Sized Moment with Christy Goldsby, Honey Mama's

Gooder Podcast featuring Christy Goldsby

Food as medicine is not an out-of-the-box idea now. But back in 2011, it was not conventional thinking. After watching a friend struggle with food-related illness and attending the journey of wellness self-discovery, Christy went on a mission to change the diets of us all. The goal: refocus people away from diets fill with processed foods and bring back health empowerment through food choice . As she says – knowing what you’re eating may be the first step of and most powerful form of medicine.

Join Christy Goldsby, CEO and Founder of Honey Mama’s and I, as we discuss how her love of baking, innovating and caring for people developed into a healthy indulgence brand with the express goal of spreading vitality and playfulness into everyone’s life.

Innovation and change doesn’t happen in one moment. – Christy Goldsby

In this episode we learn:

  • The genesis of the Honey Mama’s brand.
  • How Christy’s health experiences combined with her baking background turned into a passion for caring for people beyond her immediate community.
  • How slowing down and being present can be a powerful leadership tool.
  • The long-term vision and impacts Honey Mama’s wants to make in the world.
  • Why brands producing snacks should innovative and promote healthy snacking.
  • How indulgent treats can boost our immune systems to prevent illnesses in more than one way.
  • Fundraising during COVID and how Amberstone Ventures is poised to help spread Honey Mama’s vision.
Gooder Podcast

The Simplicity of Life and Health in a Bite-Sized Moment with Christy Goldsby, Honey Mama's

About Christy Goldsby:

Christy Goldsby, CEO & Founder of Honey Mama’s, an award-winning premium melts in your mouth delicious, honey-sweetened cocoa bar in the refrigerated better for you indulgence category. Growing up in a family of cooks, bakers, farmers, and gardeners, the kitchen was always a place of celebration, creativity, nourishment and joy for Christy. She started Honey Mama’s as a way to share these celebrated family traditions, a passion for healthy living, and a love of the natural world. She was determined to create a treat that exudes vitality and playfulness, something you’d as likely take to a formal dinner party as enjoy on the hiking trail or share around a campfire. Made with pure honey as the only sweetener, Honey Mama’s are full of everything delightful: bold, deep flavors, and decadent textures and are naturally free from gluten, soy, dairy, and grain, allowing your body to thrive.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/christy-goldsby-30201866/

Show Resources:

Honey Mama’s – “We create opportunities that empower well-being for all people by making treats that are fun, nutritious and delicious. They are an invitation to be present, playful, open, and genuine. Our bars are full of bold, deep flavors, decadent textures, and are free from gluten, soy, dairy, and grain, allowing your body to thrive and your taste buds to celebrate. Made from five whole foods, Honey-Cocoa Bars are perfect to grab as a snack between meals, buy as a gift, or serve at your next dinner party.”

Amberstone Ventures – We started Amberstone to support entrepreneurs building breakthrough food and consumer product companies. We partner with brands at their earliest stages, providing the capital and insights necessary to scale efficiently into category leaders.

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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Brand Slam Episode 2 – The Life Cycle of Better-For-You Brands

Learn the category audit techniques these leading brands have leveraged to average triple-digit growth.

In this episode of Brand Slam we will cover how better-for-you brands can move from First and Only to Beloved and Dominant.

As covered in David’s book, Beloved and Dominant Brands, the brand ecosystem allows you to develop a realistic, unbiased assessment of your current state and your market opportunities based upon competition, your company culture, and your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. This analysis combined with a deep understanding of the changing nature of consumer preferences provides the platform on which brand strategy is built.

Watch as we host a Q&A with David Lemley, focused on solving a brand’s pain points across the brand ecosystem. Pain points that we have been hearing from the market this year. The tools and tips we will offer will give you insights on the areas of your brand that you can impact immediately, and how to plan for the future.

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 feature in the book Beloved and Dominant Brands,) we uncover key areas that we have seen brand’s struggle at each touchpoint and how to overcome.

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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It’s Time to Lead with Passion and Heart with Jane Pinto, Pinto Barn

Gooder Podcast Featuring Jane Pinto

We humans, especially in the naturals space, have desires to live strong clean, and healthy lives. My guest Jane is no different – however, her journey into the better-for-you space took a route many of ours don’t. A child born with food allergies added fuel to her entrepreneurial ways and inspired her to use her natural leadership ways to help move the free-from movement mainstream.

In this episode, Jane Pinto, founder of First Crop, Don’t Go Nuts, Sacred Sleep, and the Pinto Barn shares with me, her journey of developing brand ecosystems that are based on the foundations of reciprocal relationships. She challenges our thinking as brand owners and consumers to do one thing every day that holds our industry accountable for the claims we make and the passions and commitments we profess. And she reminds us that true leadership starts with the heart. Listen, learn, and get inspired!

In this episode we learn:

  • What sacred economics are and how companies can embrace this philosophy.
  • Why we should always believe that there is enough for everyone.
  • How to create brands using the foundations of love, transparency, and authenticity.
  • How being honest about your knowledge, abilities and your feelings can make you a better leader.
  • How to have courageous conversations with your consumers, customers, business partner, community and employees.
  • That it’s time to be bold, real, and fierce leaders.
Gooder Podcast

It’s Time to Lead with Passion and Heart with Jane Pinto, Pinto Barn

About Jane Pinto:

Jane Pinto is founder of First Crop, Don’t Go Nuts, and Pinto Barn. She is a lifelong visionary in the naturals and wellness space building cultures of love and care, companies with strong missions that are devoted to healing and elevating people and the planet, and spent her entire career helping corporations create workplaces that honor unconditional equality. Her companies create innovative products and services that help people improve their lives through engaging with consciously created, uniquely designed products.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jane-pinto-5977a814/

E-mail: jpinto@firstcrop.com

Show Resources

Pinto Barn – Founded in 2011, based in Salida, Colo., Pinto Barn is a collective of caring hearts who commit their energy, talents, and passion to consciously creating products that help people to live healthy, whole lives. Divisions include Don’t Go Nuts and Sacred Sleep.

Don’t Go Nuts – makes safe nut-free foods using organic, non-GMO ingredients that are good for you and good for the planet.

First Crop – A hemp and CBD brand with the mission of “Healing People and Planet one seed…one soul… one regenerative act at a time.”

Sacred Sleep – a division of Pinto Barn Inc., is a company dedicated to Lifestyle Sleep Wellness and to creating Sleep Sanctuaries to help people set intention around sleep. In addition to the new organic cotton and fair-trade alpaca collections, Sacred Sleep’s product offering includes luxury eucalyptus blend sheets and mattress covers, medicinal herb loose-leaf teas in daytime and nighttime blends, and custom locally made pottery mugs and tea bowls. Sleep is sacred, so are you.

Hilary’s Eat Well – is the creator of convenient and culinary foods that are made from real ingredients and are free from common allergens. We are helping to heal the American diet by bringing these foods to all people who seek tasty, nourishing cuisine. Our products forge innovative culinary paths and disrupt the status quo. We care about the health of our customers, employees and ecosystem.

EnjoyLife – Enjoy Life Foods is the leading brand in the growing Free-From category, featuring a robust portfolio of Certified Gluten Free and Non-GMO Project Verified products that are free-from 14 common allergens. Enjoy Life’s mission and brand promise is to deliver safe, better-for-you products free-from food allergens, but not free-from taste so everyone can Enjoy Life and Eat Freely!

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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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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Founder Fears Associated with Private Equity and Acquisitions

Better-for-you food and beverage has become the investment world’s industry darling. And with good reason. All but the most resistant non-believer understands that what we eat and drink and do to stay active have a direct impact on our health.

Combine this with the pace of change that technology affords entrepreneurial business, combined with the appetite for change of the typical technology-minded investor and it is just too fast for most incumbent brands. That’s why the longstanding practice of big companies buying startups to help them stay relevant is in high gear. And there’s no reason your company can’t be one their acquisitions and tomorrow’s breakout brand.

This white paper discusses a set of often unspoken expectations that minority investors, would-be acquirers and founder-owners need one another to understand in order to help you avoid getting swallowed up by anxiety.

The white-hot world of better-for-you food and beverage has more players from the equity world looking to get in before “old guard food brands” can discover the next rising star. A lot of these new players are holding companies and tech investors looking for a way to transition from Silicon Valley thinking to something more holistic.

This better-for-you flurry has got a strong head of steam. According to foodbusinessnews.net, the number of food investors has doubled in the last 5 years. Food has so much interest that its seems as though food & beverage investments now outnumber technology investments.

But this capital-infused high comes with its own challenges.

Food & Beverage Brands’ Key Investment Players

The tech investors tend to make their money by pushing people and systems to the edge. They are not accustomed to being in the people business and, sometimes, can have the attitude of disposable people and disposable relationships. Tech investors love ABC’s Shark Tank and sometimes fancy themselves as the sharks (and that is okay as long as the brand’s founder is aware).

Founders create a gem of a brand with their own tears, blood, and sweat. They live and breathe their company culture (even if it’s bad). So, while they are looking for capital to grow their organization, they are often reluctant to bring in partners who have a track record of being heavy-handed in operations, equipment, HR, and, well anything other than sales, marketing, and funding. This isn’t because the founders don’t understand these key areas as being critical to building meaningful, operationally significant brand systems. It’s more primal that that. Many founders, when faced with the specter of an investor putting multi-expert-hands in their proverbial pie, simply recoil. It makes many of founder-owners feel that potential equity partner or investor is only about growth at all costs — and when they don’t talk openly, the relationship is bound for the therapist’s couch (at best).

To work through this, the founder needs to ask questions of the core acquisition team and talk to other brands in their past and current portfolio. This is the only way to discover if the investor’s normal mode of growing an acquisition fits well with the culture of the current brand.

What Investors Need To Understand About Founders

Food and beverage brand creators are running on emotion and will likely question their gut instinct in the face of investor bravado.

Once contractually together, investors will often push for changes that the founder owner hadn’t anticipated. This can be resolved during the due diligence phase if the founder owner can look at and ask the following important (and often undervalued) question. Will my new partners possess and behave with the same moral compass that we used to build this business?

Food & beverage founders face a common set of fears when seeking investors.

  1. Founders fear that the industry may perceive them as a sell-out, especially if the acquiring entity and/or investor do not allow the brand to continue with the moral compass they created.
  2. Founders are weary that the earn-out portion of the deal may remain unattainable if the acquiring company’s pro forma is merely lip service in an attempt to calm the their nerves. The founder is concerned that the EBIDTA demands of the acquiring entity will put pressure in places inside the organization that will change the company’s stance on ingredients, sustainability, and hard-earned business relationships. So, in a worst case scenario, the founder could be labeled a sell out, not get paid, and be seen in the industry as having been bamboozled by people with deep pockets and a shallow conscience.
  3. They are not gonna “get” me, and I will be stuck reporting to a room of accountants and analysts who don’t believe in the brand beyond the balance sheet.

Investor Types: Which Is Best For Founder-Owners?

As a founder owner of a food & beverage brand, you will sleep better if you know and understand your would-be acquirer’s investment strategy. Are they looking for quick flips? Will they invest strategically in building the company out the way you envision or will they default to a specific point of view once the deal is inked?

Here is a simplified view of common equity partner philosophies.

  1. Moonshot investors think like Google and Apple. These investors buy a bunch of thought-leading brands and let them fight it out in the court of public opinion, believing that, eventually, one of them will be amazing and a must-have for everyone. The other brands are left to languish, fight for resources and ultimately go away. After all, there can only be one Siri.
  2. Spendthrift investors search for brands in distress so that they can acquire them at a bargain. Hostess and Necco Wafers and are great examples that happen to share the same acquiring investor. Roundhill Investments has made a name for itself by acquiring and growing nostalgic brands that have fallen out of fashion with consumers. Hostess is well on its way, It will be fun to see what they can do with the beloved Necco brand.
  3. Aggregator investors are looking for ways to make their marquee brand better. This is great if you have an ingredient-focused brand, or have  product that is more than the sum total of its ingredients. But it gets risky if you think you have a consumer-facing brand but are making most of your revenue in bulk or private label.
  4. Shepherd investors look for brands they can guide to greatness. As conventional food companies see more consumers choosing innovative natural, organic, and better-for-you products over legacy brands, they are seeking ways to meet that demand from acquisition to early-stage investments, and they have demonstrated a willingness to pay high multiples. These conventional food organizations are best suited to make acquisitions like Hormel (acquiring Applegate) and WhiteWave foods (acquiring Vega).

Obviously the best kind of equity partner for a founder-owner who wants to stay involved is the shepherd investor. But how does a founder-owner determine precisely what kind of investor they are talking to?

We recommend having a list of prepared questions about their business practices and their past wins and losses (as well as references from both). Here is starter question to ask a potential investor:

In the last three years, what has changed the most in our industry?

They should be able to speak candidly about the changing nature of consumers, the evolution of their preferences and behaviors, and connect these insights to your brand.

Many other situationally appropriate questions can be formed through a meaningful SWOT analysis prior to getting into due-diligence conversations.

For both parties it comes down to fierce, upfront dialogue. Be true to yourself and your vision from the very beginning. Listen, ask hard questions, answer boldly and with vulnerability, and whatever you do, don’t tell them what you think they want to hear.

Looking for a branding partner that has helped investors navigate founder brands – you found us. Drop us a note and let’s talk.

David Lemley

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

Connect with David
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Food & Wellness Brands, Beware: How Redesigns Go Wrong

When you were a kid, you probably begged your parents to let you have cookies before you had dinner, right? You wanted the sweets before you ate your vegetables.

Now that you’re running marketing for a food, beverage or wellness brand, you want the good stuff (cool-looking, trendy identity, and packaging) before you’ve had the good-for-you stuff (business strategy).

We’ll be the grown-ups here and tell you: No design until you’ve done the strategy first.

This design-before-strategy trap is becoming even more prevalent: We’re finding that about 75% of our prospective clients just want something pretty and they want it now. Why the rush? These are the most common reasons we see for moving forward quickly with design changes:

  • Brands haven’t allocated appropriate resources (dollars or people) to develop a sound foundational strategy.
  • CEOs and CMOs have been burned in the past by hasty redesigns, and they’re not convinced they should spend the time or money to do it right. See the irony here?
  • People in business tend to overestimate their own taste and expertise; they’ve supervised design projects before so they think they can fast-track the latest one.
  • Design is a tangible outcome and research is not, and it’s hard for people to be patient enough to wait for that outcome.
  • There’s a false sense of urgency: the sales team wants the change now, retailers are barking at the door, and competitors are coming into the market.

We get it. Setting the stage for an effective design or redesign takes time: The process we walk our clients through typically runs six to eight months. It’s intimidating: Research might reveal mistakes you’ve made; category reviews might show that your competitors are trouncing you at retail. It takes resources: You need to allocate a budget and secure the commitment from your leadership team.

And it’s worth pointing out that brand strategy does not equal creative strategy; one comes before the other, which is important to keep in mind when you set your expectations for working with an agency.

The Problems of Redesigning without Strategy

Design becomes a beauty contest. Let’s line up three splashy new packaging systems and pick one. Which one? The one the loudest voice in the room (the CEO) favors. This is a great approach only if your leadership team knows exactly how to pick a winning, on-brand, culturally relevant design that not only appeals to current customers but also captures a huge new audience. (I have met just two in thirty years who could do this.)

Design is just guess. Without the appropriate competitive analysis, trend forecasting, white-space mapping, and brand-driven positioning language, creative execution is a total shot in the dark. How do you make design decisions that will stand out on shelf, attract buyers, and stand the test of time if you don’t understand what the market needs and wants?

Design is a short-cut solution. You’re under pressure from retail partners seeking greater velocity, and you need a redesign — fast. So you skip the three months of strategy work and go straight to picking colors and typefaces.

Design is knee-jerk reaction. You’re just chasing trends in search of a sales spike. So you redesign every 18 to 24 months in response to what’s hot in ingredients, graphics, or food photography.

Redesigning becomes an endless cycle. When the creative execution fails to move the needle, and it inevitably does, the marketing team takes another swing at it. Bad design begets bad design, and pretty soon everyone thinks it’s the design’s (and the designers’) fault. It’s the natural outcome every time.

What does a smart redesign in our space look like? Check out Kashi’s 2016 brand overhaul. They updated the logo, dropping the swishy rectangular background and emphasizing the leaf motif. The mark plays a more prominent role on packaging, yet it’s still familiar to fans. New boxes feature super-close product photography on a stark white background. A primary typography system reinforces the brand’s iconic green. It’s a pretty major redesign, but still completely in line with what the brand was before. The Kellogg team clearly built the redesign against Kashi’s existing brand strategy and in response to the marketplace, instead of changing for the sake of change.

And we’ll bet that Kashi’s marketers won’t be doing another redesign anytime soon.

You only have to look at Coke and Pepsi to know that a brand’s design can last for years. They hang on to those design systems because there’s so much equity — customers freak out if the brands make even the smallest tweak.

So, that last design your brand team unveiled … How’s that going? Not what you wanted? Thinking about a do-over? Let us guide you through it — the right way.

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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