Transforming Your Brand into a Beloved Icon and Category Leader

When companies come to us seeking help, it’s often because they’re stuck in neutral. Their innovative initial product hooked fans, but then that popularity led to trouble as retailers and other companies introduced cheap knockoffs. Better-for-you brand owners and marketers (and their investors) want to return to glory — what we’ve dubbed “Beloved & Dominant” status — as category leaders with an army of passionate fans.

That trajectory, and the desire to achieve Beloved & Dominant status, is common to BFY brands. And that quest is what led us to publish “Beloved & Dominant Brands: The Brand Ecosystem that Drives Better-for-You Brands from One of Many to Category Prominence.”

Retail Voodoo founder/president/chief strategist and “Beloved & Dominant” author David Lemley, talks about what inspired the book and what it can teach marketers in the BFY space.

Diana: The book helps marketers win devoted consumers, build stronger retail partnerships, and achieve bulletproof dominance in their category. Why did you choose this topic to write about?

David: The BFY category is being flooded with opportunity, and a lot of that is coming through acquisition. Many of the investors coming into the space have experience in tech, but not in food, beverage, beauty, or consumer products. So one of the primary reasons I decided to write this book now was to give brand founder/owners, executive leadership, and the acquiring entity some common language that would update their thinking from small-to-medium scale tactics to the power that comes when brand strategy integrates big-picture business strategy.

 Why did you decide to publish the book now?

David: The pace of change in food & beverage category is astonishing. Marketing is different now than it was just two years ago. Because of this, we’re still talking to brand owners, investors and marketing teams that don’t have a consistent understanding of brand strategy — and how it’s different from branding — and what impact it has on their business. I’ll give you an example: Companies come to us with what they think is a packaging design problem; once we start to have conversations with them about the difference between brands, branding, marketing strategy, and marketing tactics, they often come to the conclusion that they really have a brand strategy problem.

Diana: How has your expertise evolved in this category?

David: Personally I became interested in the BFY category when my child’s pediatrician told me that I was loony because I suggested that some of his health struggles might be from food allergies. (This before gluten-free or free-from were even a thing, long before foods as allergens was acceptable to mainstream medicine, let alone consumers.) As a parent, watching my son suffer and working to manage his diet, I began fighting for theses ideas; that

1. you are what you eat,

2. food is medicine,

3. the food system was broken.

I became passionate about creating a platform to bring the strategic, brand, business, and creative tools that I’d been using to help multinational businesses dominate their categories to help companies that were committed to disrupting the food system for the better, by making products that are so much better for people and the planet.

In my career I’ve been blessed to have a “seat at the table” multiple times when really brave, smart business people and brave, smart marketers had deep conversations about culture and purpose. I learned a lot from literally hundreds of those conversations and had a high degree of confidence that we could help these do-gooder brands solve creative, business, and marketing problems all at the same time — in a highly collaborative, strategic way that’s very different from the typical agency. I realized that these brands have the opportunity to change the culture — corporate culture and consumer culture — in really powerful ways, and we could help normalize the idea that brands should use their power for good.

Diana: So, let’s talk about “Beloved & Dominant Brands” … David, can you give a quick overview of the book’s content?

David: We’ve built a holistic brand ecosystem that modernizes the traditional understanding of a marketing platform and reorganized it to connect deeply to the consumers who believe in the BFY world. Early feedback is that the book causes brand owners, executives, and investors to become introspective about their business while reading and then comes out asking a new caliber of questions about what’s possible with their business. (This is really humbling because, while writing I was so intentional about crafting the chapters to push the reader to think not just about their brand’s what but its why, not just your business’s now but it’s future.)

The book is broken into seven chapters that cover the Retail Voodoo Brand Ecosystem model — it’s a pyramid that includes all the external-facing components of your marketing strategy. The theory is stunningly simple: Everything needs to be in balance or your marketing will not drive performance and create preference. The book helps brand owners, investors, and marketers audit their brands to identify any areas that are incomplete or unbalanced. That’s where you should focus your attention. That’s where you find opportunity.

But I’ll say that marketers first need to do all the work below the waterline to be a brand that’s worthy of being Beloved & Dominant. Beneath the Brand Ecosystem pyramid lies the audience analysis, brand strategy, and positioning work that underpins not just all the marketing, but why the business exists. Essentially really powerful and effective marketing works best when it’s built leveraging the mind, body, and soul of the organization.

Finding your audience — your passionate current fans and your future adopters — and dominating the competition rely on a marketing strategy that’s built on knowing who you are as an organization. There are no shortcuts.

Is your brand stuck in neutral? Maybe we can help.

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Founder, President, & Chief Strategist
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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