For food and retail brands to stand out these days, they need to be innovative, not just with their products, but with their retail marketing efforts as well. Here are five companies who really made a splash when it came to building their brand – and lessons you may be able to adapt to your own marketing strategies.
1. Chobani – Building a brand from the bottom-up
The success of Chobani Greek Yogurt can be traced back to its founder Hamdi Ulukaya. He missed the yogurt from his childhood so much, he bought a closed factory and embarked on a quest to bring his yogurt to the American market. Once regulated to high-end specialty stores, Greek yogurt was yet undiscovered by the American consumer. Ulukaya was determined to break the mold and get his products into large grocery chains right next to other less expensive yogurt products.
They also started a grass-roots marketing campaign titled “Share Your Chobani Love Story” that helped build a brand reputation. These stories were shared on social media creating a sub-culture of “Chobaniacs.” This brand’s success was built on executing a strategy that resonated with consumers. They were transparent about why and how they were making their yogurt and ultimately why it was worth spending a little bit more.
2. Kind Snacks – Keeping the promise of the brand
Kind Snacks founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetsky, readily admits making many mistakes along the way before launching the Kind Brand. What made Kind a success he says is “being true to our promise.”
Lubetsky launched the product at a time when there were a lot of options in the snack food aisle, but few that were nutritionally dense. The energy bar market was flooded with choices, but most were packed with artificial ingredients or lacked any real taste.
Lubetsky decided to create a wholesome, natural product. The target consumer for this product shopped in natural food stores, so the company made that retail segment the focus of the product launch. Once they saturated this retail space, they went after specialty stores. The final distribution push was in larger supermarket chains and mass retailers.
In a recent interview at the iConic Conference in Boston Lubestky explain why they took this measured approach. "A lot of companies buy distribution and get everywhere overnight," he said. "Then the product doesn't pull and they get discontinued. You have to be very careful that wherever your product goes, it has the same power. Reorders are much more important than the initial orders. You can only bring the product for the first time once by definition. The reorders can be a revenue stream for many years to come if you get them right. You will only get reorders if the product sells. They will only give you the real estate if you deserve it.
3. Bai Drinks – Winning at retail
To win at retail, Bai founder Ben Weiss determined early on that they were going to take a contrary approach to growing their brand. The market for “functional beverages” has been saturated and vitamin water sales were lagging as well. Weiss decided to take his antioxidant-rich drink to the masses via Costco.
In a recent interview, Weiss discussed the distribution strategy they took to grow their brand. Unlike Kind, Bai was tested in natural food stores to get feedback from consumers. However, their retail focus was big box retailers like Costco.
The company participated in many “roadshow” events at the Costco stores and interacted with a large audience. To ensure they could execute consistently, they focused on the Northeast region of the US.
The quality of their interactions with consumers as well as retailers, created good will and brand growth. In 2014, Bai gained a distribution deal with the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. This deal was a result of a well-planned and executed retail strategy.
4. EOS Lip Balm – Leveraging consumer engagement
The EOS brand was built when three entrepreneurs decided to reinvent a product category that in Sanjiv Mehra, EOS cofounder and managing partner’s words, “had become lazy.” Namely, the lip balm category. While there were brands that had been around for decades, few had focused on the needs of the consumer.
Enter EOS. Once the company founders had determined that the lip balm category needed a facelift they conducted consumer research studies. They found that the primary target for these products was women and while they used other products they wanted something that could easily be found at the bottom of a purse and was easy to apply.
The first retail account they landed was Walgreens. After a successful launch with this retailer they got the attention of Target and Walmart.
Their engagement with consumers early on informed all their marketing decisions. They knew their target consumer was millennial women who were fashion oriented. And like many traditional brands, they used mass media to promote the products.
However, it was their focus on less traditional marketing techniques that made the brand really take off. EOS lip balm was one of the first brands to successfully leverage influencer marketing on social media. They targeted celebrities in their demographic of cool millennials and earned endorsements from Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Kim Kardashian to name a few. Their unique packaging helped make EOS a must-see celebrity – and young woman – accessory. The egg-shaped design was also key for allowing them to create fun, fashionable, and trendy content, which was readily shared by their core group of celebrity influencers.
5. Krave – Reinventing a product category
According to an interview in Food Navigator, Krave founder Jon Sebastiani, came up with the idea for Krave when training for a marathon. He wanted a high-protein snack that was low in fat. Outside of bars and chips, there was little available in meat snacks that looked natural or appealing.
Sebastiani targeted non-jerky consumers through natural food stores. He understood that while jerky was a well-known product, many people had a negative impression of the dried meat. He had to overcome that perception with high-quality ingredients and gourmet flavors that would appeal to more sophisticated consumers.
Along with reinventing the category, Sebastiani targeted a new customer base, women. Getting product coverage in women’s magazines like Glamour and Self helped align Krave with its target audience. They used social media to keep in touch and communicate with these consumers and tell their brand story.
The bottom line
One thing all these campaigns have in common: they don’t engage in a hard sales pitch. They understand that showing is better than telling. Don’t tell people to buy your product: show them why they should - tell a unique story, name your differentiators, and create fun content with influencers. The ad-savvy audiences on social media will follow you.
If you’d like help tying your in-store displays and branding into your potential social media campaigns, contact ProCorr. We’ve helped thousands of companies position themselves in-store to increase sales and achieve their marketing goals.