May 16, 2018

Get It Right – 4 Tips to Rebuild Your Emerging Brand

I recently enjoyed attending the New Hope Business School Seminar held in conjunction with the Natural Products West 2018 event in Anaheim.

An interesting session was focused on rebranding for early stage brands.

Brand builders and founders Perry Fields and Norah Eddy both have powerful stories to tell about the products they brought to market for the first time.

Perry Fields, a food scientist, was so convinced of the health benefits of tooth powder – as opposed to toothpaste – she created Frau Fowler, which she eventually built into a collection of oral health products.

Norah Eddy, a mother, believed there was so much value in sustainable, traceable seafood products for children and families, she came up with Salty Girl Seafood snacks like her Salmon Bites.

And while each found initial success when they introduced their products to the market, they discovered the stories they had to tell were not necessarily the stories that would help shoppers in the grocery store make that all important purchase-point decision.

But at least they were on their way, both told us in the session entitled “Packaging and Design as Your Brand Evolves.”

“You have to be a brand before you can rebrand,” Fields said.

Fred Hart of branding and packaging agency Interact Boulder pointed out during the session that each entrepreneur had taken the right first steps.

“Make sure your product is down pat first before you invest in branding and packaging,” Hart said.

He said he uses a simple equation when talking to those who are thinking about rebranding early in the development of a new product: “Your presentation plus your follow through equals your brand.”

In other words, the packaging you decide on, if done correctly, will set a consumer’s expectations. But then you must deliver on the promise of that expectation, taking into consideration pivotal elements as taste expectation, mouth feel and function. If you overpromise, you’ll get trial but no repeat. If you under promise, you create a hurdle for the brand. Finding the sweet spot in the middle is the goal of any brand.

And that is just the beginning, said another expert in branding and packaging, Adam Butler of Butler Brothers.

“Once you get into the marketplace,” Butler said, “you need some booster rockets.”

That’s exactly what Perry and Eddy found in terms of rebranding their packaging.

Perry’s Frau Fowler branding had started out with what she described as “kitschy” descriptions of the historical references to how much earlier in time tooth powder had been in use before toothpaste came along.

Eventually, she realized today’s customers are interested in taste as well as the verifiable evidence of its health benefits. So that’s what Frau Fowler’s branding now emphasizes.

While the look of Eddy’s Salty Girl Snacks packaging “popped” on a computer screen, she said, “At Whole Foods, it just looked like everything else. Standing alone, it looked beautiful, but when we saw it on the shelf, it just faded into the background.”

With the help of a designer with what she described as an “ocean-focused lifestyle” who understood the brand the way she did, Eddie went back to the drawing board.

Fields and Eddy had four pieces of advice for any entrepreneur thinking about whether to rebrand.

First, follow Hart’s advice about having your product “down pat” before you ever think about branding. Make sure you can deliver on the promise you make to the consumer.

Second, get out and talk to the consumer.

“Demos, demos, demos,” Fields reiterated.

That’s how she learned that, while the information she had about the health benefits of Frau Fowler tooth powder was helpful to people, what they cared about just as much was the taste.

“When we did that, we found out the questions people were really asking,” she said.

It’s not easy, Eddy added.

“But if you’re an entrepreneur, you need to be out on the floor,” she added. “It’s the way you reach your customer.”

Third, work closely with your designers and the branding consultants you hire.

Hart said, “Collaboration is a big part of the process.” Great work comes from a great relationship. Any easy stress test – would you want to grab a beer with your branding partner? Hopefully the answer’s yes, unless of course you’re more of a wine lover. You get the point.

Finally, know who your product is meant for and focus on them.

“Not every brand is built for every single channel,” Hart said. “You need to mean something to someone, not anyone.”