I wrote recently about a meeting with a client in the natural food and beverage sector, during which the CFO stopped the conversation by sharing a quote from Confucius: “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”
It was super relevant to our conversation about innovation and brand strategy. Super timely, too, because as we’ve also written, the rest of this year will see a boom in new products and brands in the natural food and beverage category.
In my previous article about strategy-based innovation, I suggested that if you have a robust R&D process yielding a windfall of new product ideas, it’s best to first build out the ideas that fit best within your existing brand strategy.
Why? Those offer the potential for ROI with little downside, as they remain within the lane of your brand’s existing relationships with retailers and consumers. Successful brands are really great at focusing on a core mission and an ownable point of view that resonates with their audience — then building a product lineup that follows in those footsteps. We call that a brand’s “range of acceptable stretch.”
But sometimes your innovation process will surface a bold idea that addresses a different audience segment with a different need state seeking a new brand to fill a different part of their life that you’re not currently reaching. And it’s such a powerful opportunity that you simply can’t walk away from it. The potential ROI is too appetizing, even if the product falls outside your brand’s range of acceptable stretch.
So what should you do? Leave the idea on the table and watch as another company lands on something similar? (That’s deflating.) Add it to your offering, even if it’s a weird fit? (We certainly advise against this. Those opportunistic, cool-but-off-target products confuse your audience and dilute the brand you’ve worked hard to build. Just because you can make anything you want doesn’t mean you should.)
Or chase two rabbits?
If You’re Going to Chase Two Rabbits …
This path comes with its own set of organizational and marketing challenges – you’ll have to build recognition for the new brand by creating and funding a comprehensive brand strategy that includes a multi-year go-to-market plan. You will also need to establish new distribution and placement relationships for the second brand, and extend existing category buyer relationships without cannibalizing the original brand.
The secret to success here, beyond killer products and great packaging, is to mindfully build a crisp brand architecture with evident daylight between the concepts, audiences, and retail channels (including DTC and eComm). This is how to ensure that you and your entire sales organization can explain why you have two brands. And then be prepared to answer questions about how you intend to invest across them both.
… Better Have a Plan to Catch Both
Adding a second or sub-brand to your portfolio requires strong leadership and the ability to see and plan long-term, to be strategic and purposeful rather than opportunistic. If you’re chasing this second rabbit just because your CEO needs something new to focus on, better to let the prey go.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can simply roll the second or secondary brand into your existing marketing structure and sales systems. It takes committed (and separate) resources to develop a parallel brand. Think of it this way: You’d never manufacture tennis shoes on the same production line that makes tortilla chips; you’d go to a different factory.
By extension, you need to have the discipline to design a brand architecture that’s differentiated enough so that you, your teams, and the audience can see daylight between the two brands — otherwise, you’re in the murky middle.
Develop one-, three-, and five-year targets for both brands. If the exercise suggests that you could blend the two brands into one within three to five years, you don’t really have two distinct brands. Each must have legs to stand on its own long-term.
Businesses are chasing growth. And sometimes selling more of the same stuff to more of the same people isn’t enough. Growth means selling new stuff to new people. When companies bring in a bunch of really smart people and task them with finding growth opportunity, chances are good that you’re going to have to change the way you operate in order to act on it.
As you’re evaluating the really interesting ideas that churn out of your innovation pipeline, you’ll want cool, experienced heads to help you make sense of how potential fits your brand promise. We’re really good at helping brands ride the right kind of innovation to significant ROI. So let’s talk.