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6 consumer trends impacting growing CPG brands

Most leaders feel overwhelmed by uncertainty right now. The questions CPG brands are asking are big ones, and they have consequences for companies with limited resources who are trying to grow and scale. What from the last year was an aberration? What can and should I count on going forward?

Here are six trends we have identified that CPG brands can and should plan to take action on:

  1. COVID-19 made “buy online, pick up in store” a mainstream option for shoppers, meaning even more purchase decisions are being made on our devices, not at the physical shelf.
  2. At the height of the pandemic, consumers would put up with inconvenience to support small businesses by buying direct. Now their patience is waning.
  3. The rise of remote work means that where consumers are spending their time has changed drastically.
  4. Amazon is becoming even more flooded with both brands and third party sellers, increasing competition.
  5. Consumers are becoming harder to reach, which means the ability to speak directly to your current and prospective customers is more valuable than ever.
  6. Consumers are expecting more from social media content than most brands are delivering, meaning there is opportunity for those that create truly relevant and engaging content.

Read on to learn more about each of these trends and get tips you and your team should use to address them.

Trend #1: More retail purchase decisions are being made online. 

 

THE DATA

  • “Buy online, pick up in store” orders placed online increased 202% in just three months from March to May 2020 (Rakuten Intelligence).
  • It’s not just for the upper-middle class. 29 percent of dollars, orders, and items are coming from consumers earning $25,000-$50,000 annually.
  • New order-for-pick-up activity spans all generations. In fact, Gen Z buyers and seniors are the two groups accounting for the most first-time orders, with each group accounting for 22 percent of the new growth respectively.

WHAT TO DO

  • Since CPG brands previously depended on a strong shelf presence in-store, you now need to translate the same experience to digital environments. Here are some ways to make up for that lost tactile experience:
    • Invest in high-resolution, naturally lit photography that will allow shoppers to zoom in on details.
    • Set a style for primary product images (image quality, lighting, distance from camera, background, size, styling, etc.), and then maintain it consistently across all of your brand’s products.
    • Leverage 360-degree product videos to mimic the in-person, three-dimensional shopping experience.
    • Mix in-use and lifestyle images and video with your product images, too. Don’t rely solely on product descriptions to convey your product’s features and benefits. Help your customer imagine how the product will fit into their life.
    • Take image loading speed into consideration. Your product photography can be “saved for web” after photoshopping to limit file size, without significant effect on image quality.
    • Tailor product descriptions to your primary target customer, ensuring you anticipate what questions they will have, and consider their top priorities when making purchasing decisions in your category. Emphasize keywords most important to that primary target, and build your product information hierarchy in a way that’s consistent with their shopping priorities.

Trend #2: Customers did put up with inconvenience to buy direct from CPG brands before the pandemic. Now they expect more of you.

In addition to more widespread consumer adoption of online shopping methods, more retailers have arrived (albeit a bit late) to the ecommerce party, too. This perfect storm will result in higher expectations for CPG brands in direct sales as well-polished, seamless ecommerce experiences become a shopping norm.

 

THE DATA

  • 19 percent of small businesses began selling products online or shipping to customers for the first time in 2020. (Chase Ink)
  • Large retailers are making it more difficult for brands to be competitive with their direct sales. Digital Commerce 360 notes that the top 100 retailers, minus Amazon, accounted for 74 percent of the new, non-Amazon ecommerce growth in 2020.
  • More competition means increased investment required to move your target customer from awareness to sale. The top spending increases for small businesses in 2020 were shipping, social media and search advertising, and ecommerce platforms.

WHAT TO DO

  • Understand how building direct-to-consumer sales fits into your brand strategy and business plan. If you’ve punted on selling direct-to-consumer through your own website and are unsure if the model makes logistical sense for your brand  — now’s the time to decide.
    • Our Solve for Y Ecommerce Gap Analysis can provide guidance on what it will take your brand to compete in ecommerce. We will dive into everything from shipping costs, to logistics, to SEO, to how (and how much) your competition is advertising.
    • Then, invest accordingly. If CPG brands intend to rely on direct sales as a significant revenue stream, you must invest in tech (platform), creative that aids the sale (web design, product photography, video), and advertising that drives traffic (SEO and search advertising, social media advertising, etc.)
    • Winning a first-time sale is only half of the equation. With ecommerce acquisition now more costly than ever, be sure to have a retention strategy in place to keep customers engaged, happy, and purchasing regularly.

Trend #3: Where consumers are spending their time has changed drastically.

Changes to where and how consumers spend their time means your advertising focus should shift. It also means you could quickly become out of touch with your target customer’s new lifestyle if you aren’t proactive. 

THE DATA

Lifestyle changes, new hobbies, new financial priorities — this is a transitional time for everyone. Your target customer has gone through an evolution that will have lasting effects.

  • Job status and finances are volatile. We’ve still lost 10 million jobs in our country overall. Millions have transitioned jobs, and/or have transitioned to working remotely.
  • The number of people continuing to work remotely could increase three to four times compared to pre-pandemic levels of remote work.(McKinsey & Company).
  • An estimated 9 million Americans relocated between March and October 2020 (National Association of Realtors).

WHAT TO DO

  • Go straight to the source. Interview and survey your existing customers, and plan to do so more frequently than you have in the past.
    • Use email surveys to engage past customers who haven’t made recent purchases. 
    • Capture in-the-moment feedback from your site’s visitors with an intercept survey. 
    • Mix optional survey questions into the checkout process.
    • Follow-up with a survey post-purchase as an opportunity to re-engage the customer in your brand. 
  • Compare pre-pandemic website analytics (2019) to present day analytics.
    • Are you noticing major shifts in visitor location? It’s possible that your customers are moving away from major cities, into suburban and rural areas where you may be able advertise more cost-effectively. 
  • Go through the exercise of mapping the customer journey again.
    • For most, the daily commute has instead been replaced with more screen time, frequenting social media and other digital channels during breaks in the day. How you influence the first stage of the customer journey — brand awareness — will need to shift further towards digital spaces. 
    • Think about all of the decision-making advantages your customer has in-store. If your packaging tells your brand story in a way that immediately resonates with customers, that experience needs to be brought into the ecommerce shopping experience. If consultation from a store associate is an important part of the decision-making process for your product, look to mimic this experience in ecommerce. Cover frequently asked questions through multimedia when possible, limiting reading time for the customer. 

Trend #4: Amazon competition continues to increase exponentially.

Amazon’s 2020 growth (38 percent net growth in North American sales) means sellers will be spending more to jockey for the attention of Amazon shoppers. 

 

THE DATA

  • Amazon currently boasts 2.4 million active sellers, with as many as 1.5 million more expected in 2021. 258,000 have joined in Q1 2021. (Marketplace Pulse)
  • 96 percent of Amazon sellers plan to expand their business in 2021. (Jungle Scout)
  • Amazon advertising dollars increased 47 percent year-over-year, with bidding on popular searches commonly costing $7 or more per click

WHAT TO DO

  • If you’re selling on Amazon, a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to your product listings won’t get you the results you need anymore. Invest in optimizing copy, images, and videos for your product listings. Build an Amazon Brand Store, making it easier for fans of your products to shop your full product lines. 
  • Tap into video ads, which don’t yet suffer from the same level of cut-throat competition. 
  • Understand which Amazon fulfillment model best fits your goals. All have their drawbacks and positives. If you don’t know the difference between them or haven’t recently reviewed them, you need to. If you don’t know where to start, contact us and we can recommend an expert that can help you.

Trend #5: A direct connection to current and prospective customers is more valuable than ever. 

While Amazon’s Fulfillment-by-Amazon (FBA) model makes it easy for brands to sell more without logistical challenges, it’s still critical to keep a direct throughline to your target audience.

 

THE DATA

  • Tech giants are preparing to roll out new advertising targeting policies that will inhibit brands’ collective ability to target potential customers.
    • Apple’s new policies will allow its users to opt for increased privacy in mobile ad targeting. 
    • Facebook is making its own adjustments to remain compliant with Apple. 
  • FBA is an easy sales model logistically, but as more CPG brands lean on it as a primary ecommerce channel, they’re missing out on useful customer-identifying information Amazon doesn’t share. 
  • As consumers uproot and move across the country, your customer data is likely to quickly become out-of-date. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Maintaining a direct-to-consumer ecommerce strategy, even if not a primary sales driver, can help you build and segment CRM lists.
    • Email marketing keeps your brand top-of-mind and reengages existing customers. 
    • Communicating regularly with existing customers helps to increase their lifetime value to you, and provides access to cheaper revenue vs. costly one-time advertising and acquisition programs.
  • Build “data collection” into your social media content strategy.
    • Focus on building a community of engaged fans. 
    • Poll customers where they’d like to be able to find more of your products. 
    • Run contests and giveaways, building a direct connection with winners you can survey or interview in the future. 
  • Engage influencers.
    • Influencers have a built-in, trusting audience. If you can find influencers that appeal to your target audience, you can shortcut the process of getting in front of them. Find influencers that align with your brand, and begin building partnerships. 
    • Start with a $10,000 budget while you’re still learning what influencer partnerships will work best for your brand. In general, influencer activity shouldn’t dominate your marketing budget — and it doesn’t need to dominate it to add value. 
    • Understand that costly “big names” aren’t the only partners who will get a return on investment. In fact, content posted by “nano influencers” (1,000-10,000 followers) and “micro influencers” (10,000-100,000 followers) gets more engagement.  

seTrend #6: Consumer expectations for relevant and engaging social media content are high. 

Virtually all consumer brands have social media presences, and consumers are spending more time perusing social media than ever before. Still, consumers have indicated that the majority of brands are still missing the mark with their content.

THE DATA

  • 68% of people don’t think brands or companies share interesting content. 

As noted in HootSuite’s Social Trends 2021 report, brands are now counteracting this by paying closer attention to what their customers want. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Begin social listening, the practice of tracking conversations and mentions related to topics relevant to your brand. Brand mentions, relevant hashtags, competitor mentions, industry trends, and keywords will provide you with complementary insights you can’t get from customer surveys and interviews. 
  • Use the insights you glean to make adjustments to your content strategy. 
  • Between social listening and trial-and-error of new content, answer the following questions:
    • How does your brand fit into customers’ lives on social media, and how does that influence your posting frequency? 
    • How can you find creative ways to fit into the conversations customers are having, instead of leading them? 
    • What will “break the wall of indifference” customers have to brand social media?
    • Are you “reading the room” to get timing right before launching campaigns? 
  • Treat social listening as ongoing practice and critical must-have to optimizing your social media results going forward.

CPG Brands: Count on the six trends outlined in this article to continue into the long-term future. Nimbleness is an advantage for second-stage brands over slower-moving, enterprise-level competitors. Lean into that advantage! Adjust now, and capitalize on change as opportunity. If you wait until beyond 2021 to address new consumer preferences, expect to fall behind your savvy competitors.

Answer the questions keeping you up at night.

If the pandemic has brought into question your purpose, your target customer, or your brand strategy altogether, find out if Solve for Y is the right solution for your team.

Brand Purpose: The Competitive Advantage Second-Stage Companies Need to Win 2021

Purposeful second-stage companies are more likely to grow and scale in 2021 and beyond following industry disruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Research suggests that consumer expectations are changing, and consumers now expect brands to be meaningful problem-solvers. The main advantage that these challenger brands have in common: brand purpose.

In every recession, there is opportunity.

For the goliaths, opportunity means digging into deep pockets and outspending weaker rivals (or purchasing them). For challenger brands, opportunity means outthinking and outpacing the larger, slower, more unfocused competition.

The second-stage challenger brands that will win 2021 (across all industries and markets) have a competitive advantage in common: brand purpose.

Before crunching the numbers on business model adjustments with your leadership team, answer these two questions together:

  1. Why do you exist?
  2. Who are you built to serve?

Use these questions as a compass. In 2021, purposeful second-stage companies will get ahead by taking these actions:

  • Making focused pivots. Purposeful second-stage companies will make nimble business model adjustments informed by “why” and “who,” creating exponential value for their customers – gaining new traction in the marketplace faster than their slow-moving, enterprise-level counterparts. 

  • Following through with brand purpose. These companies understand that purpose in the business model must follow through into branding to yield sustainable, long-term results like market share and brand loyalty. Their brand positioning will resonate with their prioritized (one) primary target customer and communicate their value effectively. 

Purpose-driven organizations pivot more effectively.

“Organizations that know why they exist and who they’re built to serve are uniquely positioned to navigate unprecedented change.”
Deloitte – 2021 Global Marketing Trends: Find Your Focus

Purpose-driven organizations arguably have a stronger competitive advantage now than any other time in our generation. As Deloitte points out in its 2021 report, “why” you exist and “who” you exist to serve ultimately take precedence over “what” you sell during times of economic and cultural transformation.

When “why” and “who” inform every decision you make, your adjustments in times of turbulence are much more likely to be successful. This is really an exercise in alignment. You avoid disconnects between you and your primary target customer, and you don’t lose sight of what sets you apart from the other brands around you jockeying for position.

Keep in mind that your customers do notice the adjustments you make, in real time. Fifty-eight percent of respondents to Deloitte’s study could recall at least one brand that quickly pivoted to better respond to their needs, and eighty-two percent said this led to them doing more business with the brand.

What does brand purpose mean for small businesses?

At Six-Point, we often field the question: how does a small company live out a “big” purpose? The Deloitte study provides a helpful example of purpose being tied to action by Ella’s Kitchen, a mid-sized baby and toddler food brand much smaller than many of its behemoth category competitors.

The Ella’s Kitchen brand purpose:
Create healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

How Ella’s Kitchen enacts its brand purpose, beyond selling products:

  • Providing resources to educate parents and givers about healthy eating.

  • Donating products to underserved children around the world.

  • Committing to an ethically sourced supply chain.

It’s not too late to become a purposeful brand.

As The Marketoonist Tom Fishburne points out with the help of a quote by brand strategist Tom Roach, “if being purposeful means doing ads to you, you’re doing it wrong.”

Roach also differentiates between two types of purposeful brands: some brands are “born purposeful,” clear about their purpose at launch, while others are “corporate converts,” re-orienting their businesses around a purpose along the way.

It’s not too late to become a purposeful brand if you’re not there yet. The only prerequisites to becoming a “corporate convert” are authenticity, and a willingness to commit to strategic, long-term work ahead. Injecting more purpose into an existing brand requires substantial change management. It’s also worth the investment.

If your business has purpose that’s getting lost, we can help your leadership team begin the realignment process:

  • Our Build Your Brand Strategy workshop guides leadership teams to begin aligning their business purpose with their branding and marketing decisions.
  • Together, we uncover what’s holding your brand back, prepare you to make smarter decisions with your limited resources, and put an actionable road map into place for building better connections with your target customers.
Customers expect you to solve problems.

In today’s world, consumers look to businesses as problem-solvers, which indicates they’re actively seeking brands with purpose. The pandemic has accelerated this trend.

  • In the Edelman 2021 Trust Barometer, consumers ranked business as the only societal institution that’s both competent AND ethical.
  • 68 percent of consumers also believe CEOs should step in when the government does not fix societal problems.
Customers also expect brands to use their platform to speak up about their values.
  • 66 percent of consumers believe that brands who speak out can facilitate real change, and 67 percent say that brands are effective at increasing awareness of issues when they use their platforms, especially social media (Sprout Social 2019 Brands Get Real report).

These trends aren’t new, but they are growing, and the impact is now felt by brands of all sizes — not just enterprise-level household names. Consider the following:

  • The assertion that consumers only expect the most culturally relevant brands (the likes of Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, and Apple) to further the dialogue on social issues is a misconception. Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer found that 53 percent of consumers agree that every brand should get involved in at least one social issue that does not directly impact its business.
  • Brand activism is an opportunity to build long-term brand trust from your market by demonstrating transparency and authenticity. Nine in ten consumers are more likely to give brands who are highly transparent second chances after bad experiences, and 85 percent are more likely to stick with them during crises.
  • Your brand can mitigate risk and still find its voice, reaping the benefits of the opportunity.
  1. Start with issues relevant to your business operations, your employees, and your customers to avoid being met with skepticism.
  2. Take the time to learn which issues are most important to your customers. The Brands Get Real report found that when consumers agree with a brand’s stance, 37 percent will refer that company to their friends and family and 36 percent will buy more from that brand.
  3. Assess each opportunity to speak on social issues before taking action. Harvard Business Review published a helpful three-question framework you should use to determine if you can make an impact on an issue, and if you’ll be aligned with your customers.

Committing to authentic diversity and inclusivity in your marketing and advertising creative will also have similar long-term effects.

  1. Authenticity goes beyond simply “checking a box.” A report by Stackla found that when brands made work that gave dimension to people beyond gender or skin color stereotypes, they were met with a 15 percent rise in consumer perception.
  2. Diverse, inclusive marketing is a long-term commitment. It’s not a one-campaign or even one-year initiative.
  3. Take the time to exhaustively reflect on your creative. The World Federation of Advertisers’ 2020 guide, A marketer’s approach to diversity and inclusion, has examples of the questions change-making leading brands are asking themselves.
  4. Talking the talk (in advertising) is most effective when you’re walking the walk internally, too. Align company culture to the same values you’re going to push out into the marketplace.
Live into and articulate your purpose better than ever before.

The good news is…

If your company has grown beyond start-up phase, you likely have some degree of purpose in your DNA. Most companies don’t make it this far. You’re doing something with purpose.

At this stage, the questions are:

  • Is there a disconnect between your perception of your company’s purpose, and the experience customers have with your brand?
  • Is your purpose omnipresent throughout your operations and culture, or is it siloed to certain departments and leadership roles?
  • Are you getting “credit” with your customers and prospective customers for your purpose and value, or are you a “best kept secret?”
If you are ready to amplify your purpose, and make it a sustainable, long-term strategy, you are ready for our Solve for Y program. In it, we:

  • Align your team, your positioning, and your messaging. 

  • Uncover hidden assets in your existing brand. 

  • Avoid confusion, customer loss, and team frustration by guiding you through proven step-by-step communication and engagement plans. 

Market Research: Big Returns on a Little Sweat Equity

One of the alarming statements Six-Point often hears from small-to-mid-sized companies — even the ones seeking aggressive growth — is that market research isn’t something they do.

High-potential brands don’t achieve their potential unless they make informed decisions about their future. Making assumptions about the customer or the opportunity simply isn’t good enough.

Your company can and should be doing market research right now, and it requires no formal budget.

Six-Point creative strategist Tyler Leahy explains where to start.


Misconceptions on market research

One of the alarming statements I often hear from small-to-mid-sized companies — even the ones seeking aggressive growth — is that market research isn’t something they do. Often, it’s mislabeled as a luxury reserved for industry titans with millions or billions of dollars to spend. Sometimes these companies feel they don’t know how to do basic research on their own without outside expertise, or just feel that they don’t have the people or the time. 

Sure, the goliaths have more resources (not just capital, but people and dedicated time, too) to put towards primary research, either hiring glamorous agencies or building a specialized internal team to glean insights that will help them make more strategic decisions, mitigate risk, and forecast the future. That truth, however, doesn’t mean you should do nothing, hedging your brand’s future on unchecked hunches. 

In fact, there’s quite a bit of useful research you can do with almost no formal “market research” budget…and it’s the fruitful work your team should be doing right now.

Here’s an example

At ExpoWest 2019, Eat Your Coffee CEO and Co-Founder Johnny Fayad told SnackNation the story of how his brand collected insights from its superfans, shortly before they began selling direct-to-consumer via their own e-commerce operation. 

Without access to customer email addresses, Johnny and his team began cobbling together mailing addresses from different Amazon order data sources. They then discerned their top 200 Amazon customers, and Johnny sent hand-written thank you letters to each of them. He also encouraged them to complete a survey (in exchange for free product and brand swag) that led to insights that helped shape the brand’s future, particularly at this critical juncture of planning an evolution to its sales model and preparing to launch an e-commerce site. 

The types of questions Eat Your Coffee wanted to answer? Smart ones about customer lifestyle and product use.  

  • How did these top customers get their caffeine fix before they discovered Eat Your Coffee? 
  • How do the caffeinated snack bars fit into their day now

What Eat Your Coffee’s team learned from this process was invaluable. They learned that one of their top three customers was an 82-year-old woman who eats the all-natural bars as a caffeine solution that’s friendly to her acid reflux. Their brand was solving a problem they hadn’t deeply considered. Another realization? While Eat Your Coffee isn’t marketed as a coffee replacement, many customers were starting their days with the product as they previously had done with a cup of coffee — an important consideration that could influence when and how to introduce potential customers to the brand in the future. 

Continuously collecting customer insights allows Eat Your Coffee to refine its value proposition over time. In the interview with SnackNation, Johnny noted that his brand is always “going the extra mile and doing something personal” in their attempts to learn more about their customer. 

I’m an advocate for all growth-minded brands adopting this mindset. B2C. B2B. Doesn’t matter. When you go the extra mile, customers open up, leading to more meaningful data. That’s not the only benefit, either. It turns a learning opportunity into a highly-personal, long-lasting brand touchpoint that makes the customer feel more connected to your brand.

Market research your team can (and should) do right now

Here are the low-cost market research tactics my team at Six-Point is recommending to second-stage companies coming out of the COVID-19 slowdown:

Interview and/or survey existing top customers.

Understand how COVID-19 is changing your customers’ pressures and behaviors. How is the way your product or service fits into their lives changing? Go the extra mile and do something personal.

As Johnny noted, go the extra mile and do something personal. Lead with a handwritten letter or personal touch from company leadership. Donate on the customer’s behalf to a charity reflective of your brand values during this difficult time. Offer a free product or service to help offset the financial pressure people are facing. Any of these personal touches can go a long way!

Analyze competitors, in real time. 

Instead of conducting a competitive analysis once or twice per year, observe competitors at least once per month in the wake of COVID-19 as your industry landscape rapidly adjusts.

How are competitors communicating with customers through different marketing channels? Keep tabs on their social media, their website, and their other owned content channels.

Has the customer experience changed? Mystery shop the online customer experience, looking for tweaks to messaging, delivery method, and the packaging and fulfillment experience.

Begin social listening. 

Actively seek customer questions and concerns. Use social media to create a dialogue with your customers, employees, and other key stakeholders.

Considering testing something new? Poll customers and get feedback in real time.

Track mentions of your brand and your competitors across social channels and influencer activity, news sites, industry blogs and podcasts, and product/service reviews.

Challenge your own assumptions about the target customer and the market opportunity. 

Making a pivot, or focusing more on a specific target customer? Consume existing secondary research to answer questions like…

  • Does existing research suggest this is a viable customer? 
  • How do they make purchasing decisions, and how do they shop?
  • What other brands do they love? 
  • Where do they consume content?

Still unsure where to start? Contact us!

 

 

Business Operations: Building a Disruptive Brand, Part 6

Brands that rise to the top of their industry are the ones capable of operationalizing disruption throughout their business operations.

In the final installment of this six-part series, creative strategist Tyler Leahy suggests healthy habits that hopeful disruptive brands should bake into the way they do business — spanning company culture, to goal-setting, to customer feedback, to operational analysis.

These healthy business operations habits require the entire company to operate with an entrepreneurial mentality. Becoming a disruptive brand requires a day-in, day-out commitment to innovation!

Alas, the final installment of my series for second-stage companies looking to grow disruptive brands. Links to all parts can be found here! Thanks for reading.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Qualitative Research, Done Right

Part 3: Study the industry academically

Part 4: Audit your own company

Part 5: Big adjustments, minimized risk


Rinse and repeat
You can’t do a deep dive once, and hope for the best. If you want to disrupt your industry, this thinking needs to be baked into the way that you do business.

Operationalizing disruption is the best way to keep it going (you may find the flywheel concept to be a helpful framework). Here are my recommended steps, which will engage your whole team.

Analysis

Collect multiple forms of feedback from existing customers on a regular basis — not just about their customer experience, but how your product or service fits into their lives, their unmet needs, their buying habits, and their preferred methods of communication and media consumption. Incentivize this audience in ways meaningful to them. Feedback vehicles could include:

  • Social media dialogue (response to customers’ private messages or public commenting)
  • Surveying through a loyalty program or email list
  • Interviewing particularly loyal customers 

Complete an annual brand, marketing, and customer experience competitive analysis of your industry. That whole learning process we talked about? Your team needs to be chipping away at it on a rolling basis to keep a pulse on where you are, and where you need to go. Otherwise, it will be too easy to fall behind. 

Create internal processes for new insights to be shared with your whole company and keep the communication lines open with everyone — not just the executive team, the CMO, or the head of sales.

Re-grade existing products annually on how well they’re meeting customer needs. 

Maintaining a clear vision and mission

  • Determine your non-negotiable brand values, even if aspirational, and re-evaluate annually.
  • Set criteria for your ideal retail partnerships, and use the criteria to vet opportunities. Re-evaluate criteria and existing partnerships annually.
  • Constantly re-assess your ability to fulfill your vision and mission, annually or more frequently. This will require company-wide input.
  • Re-sharpen your partnership pitches to be in service to your vision and mission on a rolling basis.

Launching new offerings

  • Start with “why” when assessing product details for new offerings — from distribution model, to pricepoint, and profit margin — to branding, packaging, and promotion. Every decision needs to have a clear reason.
  • Test all new products in a familiar market, collecting customer feedback, before a mass-market launch.

Playing offense

  • Set aggressive goals (quarterly, one-year, three-year, five-year)  and use timelines as accountability tools.
  • Build company culture standards and business operations processes that drive innovation, assigning employees to assess effectiveness going forward.
  • Attract talent interested in doing challenging work for a mission-driven, scaling brand. Doing transformative work isn’t for everyone!

The takeaways

There’s a lot to do! No doubt about it…but this is it what it takes in your business operations to think and act like a highly disruptive insurgent brand. The good news is, it’s doable.

Have questions? Ready for a rebrand, but not sure where to start? Send me a message. Thanks for reading!

Strategic Moves: Building a Disruptive Brand, Part 5

Disruptive brands make substantial adjustments when they’re needed, but they do so carefully through strategic moves that minimize risk. Never bring a product to market without testing it in a familiar market, or without the confidence that product quality and consistency will not be an issue.

In part five of this six part series, creative strategist Tyler Leahy explains how to bring your well-informed brand adjustments to market with strong returns.

Need a refresher? Say no more: 

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Qualitative Research, Done Right

Part 3: Study the industry academically

Part 4: Audit your own company


Make big changes

One of the most remarkable traits of disruptive brands? They make big 
adjustments over time as they continue to learn, but they do so carefully through strategic moves that minimize risk. 

If you know the target customer, you know the state of the industry, and you know what brand you’re building and why, all of this plays to your advantage when making changes. 

The below to-do list? It’s part of what all insurgent brands have in common. 

Here’s what you do:

  • Test new products or modified products in your most familiar market and do extensive testing in that market before launching mass-market. This is called shopper visibility.
  • Ensure scalability before growth. Get quality control down before introducing a new product to your entire distribution network.
  • Focus on hero SKUs“. Build your products with maximum profitability. Create buzz for these select offerings through consistent quality and product memorability. Avoid product complexity too early in the life cycle as you build consumer mindshare.
  • Build brand ambassadors through targeted marketing and earned media, maximizing your limited budget.

Here’s what you don’t do:

  • Rush products to market. It only takes one mistake to cut down your brand.
  • Bring a product to market if it’s not scalable, or keep it out in the market if the quality is a serious concern.
  • Assume that more is better. Having “more” products doesn’t necessarily strengthen your value proposition to distributors, retailers, or the end consumer.
  • Spend on mass media exposure until you can afford it, are prepared to expand your brand’s audience, and are prepared to expand distribution.

The why

Playing offense, as all disruptive brands do, requires strategic moves through a game plan. To disrupt your industry, you need to be ambitious, but you also need to shield yourself from vulnerability. Test your products in the marketing you know best before a full launch. Even after the brand began to get traction, Noosa continued testing products in the Denver metro area, refining as needed, and then taking them national. At the time of its first big break with Target, Noosa remained focus on just five SKUs it knew were primed for success.

The whole purpose of all of this action, after all, is to scale. If a product isn’t scalable and you know it, don’t try to scale it. Figure out how to make it scalable, or focus elsewhere.

If you know your target audience, the good news is you should be able to spend less on marketing. In the early days, Halo Top promoted trial through highly-targeted social media ads that put coupons in the hands of the fitness buffs they needed product trial from. That was the extent of their marketing at first, and these strategic moves worked.

The takeaways

You’ve been really patient and calculated in your learning. Now be thoughtful about what you’re bringing to market, and how. If you have a product you stand behind, and you follow these steps each time you launch a new offering, or to a new market, you’ll be confident about the likelihood of success using these strategic moves.