Archive for the 'Brand Strategy' Category

Thinking with AND: Insights from KIND’s story

June 24, 2016

“I’m a confused Mexican Jew.” So says Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and CEO of KIND Snack, in his very personal interview with Columbia faculty member David Rogers at BRITE ’16. Their discussion touched on the many ideas behind KIND Snacks, from the beginnings of the company, to the strategic thinking that forces Lubetzky to stay away from false compromises, to his thoughts on brands and purpose.

After studying law at Stanford, Lubetzky had planned to become a Mid-East Peace negotiator, “That was my path and that was my dream and I ended up feeling that the power of business to drive change may potentially be more impactful in bringing neighbors to work together than diplomacy.” As the son of a Holocaust survivor, the common threat in everything he does is, “building bridges between people because that’s my commitment: to prevent what happened to my dad from happening again.”

It was precisely his intention to create business opportunities for neighbors in conflict regions what brought him into the natural food industry. Ten years after his first attempts, he identified the need for a healthy and tasty snack, and KIND was born.

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Lubetzky went on to share some insights on how to maintain creativity when bringing ideas to life: “To challenge conventional wisdom, which says you have to choose between this or that, think creatively and try to do this and that, and make a business that’s both socially impactful and economically sustainable or a product that’s both healthy and tasty. In any such venture there is a tension and you need to use creativity to generate that extra value.”

When asked about KIND’s purpose, Lubetzky explained that he was looking “to have a company that was going to have a social impact and that was going to be economically impactful and successful, combining the social and the business objectives. The social impact [being] inspiring kindness, celebrating kindness, finding a way to increase kindness in society, while also selling healthy snack foods.”

He also warned entrepreneurs that having a social mission doesn’t guarantee success, the product has to shine through for the social mission to be relevant, Lubetzky said. “We need to be careful about assuming that because you have a social mission suddenly things work. Ninety-nine percent of the people [who] have tried KIND bars -or maybe 90%- don’t even know about our social mission. […] It is by design that we lead with our product and our taste. The social mission adds loyalty and meaning to [me] and to [my] team, and hopefully passion to [the] consumers. But the fundamentals have to be there, they’re really what drive the business.”

Watch the full interview with Daniel Lubetzky.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

Reflections on Business, Leadership, and Branding: Shelly Lazarus ’70

February 22, 2016

Much has changed in the world of advertising from the picture painted by Mad Men. Shelly Lazarus ’70, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather, was one of the women helping pioneer these changes. Making the journey from ‘the only woman in the room’ to CEO and Chairman of Ogilvy gives Lazarus a lot to reflect on in the world of business, branding, and leadership.

“Being the only woman in the room in an industry where most of what was being sold at the time was to women was remarkably powerful,” Lazarus notes. This was a dual power, driving value both in the workplace and for the client by providing more accurate perceptions about a target audience at a time when decision-makers didn’t have the breadth of data in front of them that exists today.

At the time that Lazarus entered the advertising world, typing was in many ways the only skill that was expected of women. Having been inspired by the women’s movement of the time, this expectation was disheartening to her. “I must have looked so crestfallen at some interview, when some recruiter was telling me this, that she said, ‘You know, I bet if you got an MBA, they couldn’t make you type.’ Frankly, I didn’t even know what an MBA was. But I found out.” After enrolling at Columbia Business School in 1968, as one of the very few women in the School at the time, she took great pleasure in her marketing classes, and that kicked off her future career.

A lack of women in the business side of the ad world also impacted Lazarus’s leadership style, as she recalls, “I really didn’t have any [women] role models… that turned into something wonderful for me, actually, because I just was myself from the beginning.” She says this focus on authenticity has always been crucial to being a strong leader, and it will be increasingly important as the Internet and social media further drive people to expect and demand transparency from their leaders and corporations.

Authenticity, Lazarus remarks, is also key to becoming a leading brand. “If people ask me what’s important when you think about branding,” Lazarus told AdAge, “it’s understand your essence, figure out who you are, and then consistency — maniacal consistency — is really what makes for strong brands.” Sadly, despite growing attention to exactly this point, companies still don’t always fully value the strength of a brand and its associations. “[I’m] flummoxed when a company buys another company because they believe in the brands, and then, within the space of six months, they fire all the people who have been there forever.”

Oglivy & Mather is renowned for building long-term relationships with both its clients and its employees. Lazarus believes developing these types of relationships can help agencies play the role of brand steward at times when changes within a company may drive it to lose focus on the perceptions of its brands.

As for where the future of brand building is heading, during her recent Marketing Hall of Fame speech, Lazarus highlighted a huge contrast from her early years in the ad world, “[Back then] you could run two campaigns per year, and the only choice was which magazines would get to run the campaigns—Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens,or Cosmopolitan … I used to start presentations with, ‘Imagine if you could engage a customer as an individual.’ And now you actually can.” The marketing world is abuzz with the concept of personalization, but most would admit that there is still a long way to go before consumers experience such a relationship with a majority of their favorite brands.

We are delighted to be hosting Shelly Lazarus ’70, at a special panel at the BRITE ’16 Conference honoring Columbia Business School’s Centennial. She will be joined by Lew Frankfort ’69, Chairman Emeritus of Coach; Russell Dubner ’00, CEO of Edelman US; and Nt Etuk ’02, Founder of YourGuru to examine “Is Past Prologue? The History and Future of Brand Building.”

Register now for BRITE and join us on March 7–8, 2016, at Columbia University.

BY MATTHEW QUINT

Can a Company be pro-regulation and pro-commerce? Gregg Renfrew from Beautycounter thinks so

February 19, 2016

It’s the middle of an election year and, according to the Pew Research Center, the country hasn’t been this polarized since the Civil War. In such a climate, it would seem to be an oxymoron for a company to push for both financial growth and tighter regulations. Gregg Renfrew, CEO & Founder of Beautycounter, wouldn’t agree, however, and she is on a quest to “put safe cosmetics into the hands of everyone.”3dfa42f7c2b2ffd9468fd94bec859b22

In 2012, a federal analysis showed that 400 popular lipsticks contained trace amounts of lead. As reported in The Washington Post, “in 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 red lipsticks and found that two-thirds of them contained lead — and that one-third exceeded the FDA’s limit for lead in candy.” Since 1938, when the FDA was given authority to oversee the safety of cosmetics, the agency has enacted almost no regulations on the use of ingredients in cosmetics. In fact, cosmetic labels list known toxins linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption without warning their customers. (The Environmental Working Group has built an extensive database to compare ingredients listed on cosmetic labels with databases on chemical toxicity.)

Before launching Beautycounter, Renfrew had already established herself as a retail leader. Regarded as a serial entrepreneur, she is known for turning concepts into thriving businesses. Prior to founding Beautycounter, she sold her successful bridal registry company, The Wedding List, to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Renfrew also served as CEO for the legendary children’s retail group Best & Co., which she reinvigorated through design, traditional retail, and hundreds of national trunk shows. Renfrew has led new-concept, brand, marketing, merchandising, and operational consulting engagements with Bergdorf Goodman, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson, Intermix, Sugar Paper, Lela Rose, and Jessica Alba, among other high-profile corporate and entertainment clients.

beauty-counter1In an interview with the Huffington Post, Renfrew explained the reason behind her company: “I started Beautycounter because I wanted to create a safer and healthier place for my children, family, and ultimately everyone in the world. My decision to start a company was initially rooted in emotion, but being the serial entrepreneur that I am, it translated into an incredible vision for a business that is filling an existing void in the marketplace.”

Because Renfrew knew that Beautycounter had a story to tell, she decided against creating beauty counter displays in department stores. Instead she committed to an ecommerce platform and selling via independent consultants, thus allowing the company’s mission to be shared online and friend to friend. In addition, Beautycounter strategically partnered with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.com and J Crew.

In the fall of 2015, Renfrew joined a group of industry experts on a trip to Capitol Hill. “At Beautycounter, we are leading a movement for better beauty. We are a company who is pro-commerce and pro-regulation. While we have shipped close to two million products, we know it’s only the beginning – there is a lot of work to be done. We are radically transforming the beauty industry by introducing safer, high-performance products into the marketplace,” said Renfrew.

Join us on March 7-8 for BRITE ’16 and see Gregg Renfrew talk about how Beautycounter is aiming to transform the beauty industry. REGISTER NOW.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

The Day We All Watch for the Commercials

February 10, 2016

For several decades, people have watched Super Bowl commercials almost as eagerly as they have watched the game itself. With the money now involved, $5 million for a 30-second spot, brands are even more committed to raise their creative efforts and capture the attention of both consumers and all the journalists covering this phenomenon.

It’s certainly a lot easier in the age of the Internet to spend time watching and dissecting the 60 or so ads that aired during the game. If you want to take a look at one ‘score’ of the ads to compare against your own impressions, check out the USA Today Ad Meter results that rank viewer submissions on each and every ad.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on how the 2016 crop of commercials reflects lessons on how to utilize advertising to create a real brand impact.

To Really Resonate, Combine Emotion and Function

Advertisers have become more and more focused on hitting emotional triggers with their campaigns, and rightly so. There is a danger, however, in creating an emotional message without connecting that impact to the brand.

It’s discouraging when people say, “Oh that ad was great, but, uh, I can’t remember what it was for.” Not surprisingly, ads that scored well in the Ad Meter – which lacks scientific rigor, of course – did a great job utilizing an emotional appeal, usually humor, along with a tie-in to some functional element of the brand.

In pre-watching the ads, the trio of Hyundai ads struck me as hitting this sweet spot perfectly. All three ended up in the top six on the Ad Meter. Granted, some of the stars in the ads prodded their social followers to go to USA Today and vote, but such a push is reflective of the pride these celebrities had in the quality of the ad.

Celebrities Need Quality

Speaking of celebrities, it’s no surprise that lots of them popped up in Super Bowl 50 ads – a famous face reflexively drives mental attention to the screen. But, using such talent can easily be wasted if the messaging and quality of the ad isn’t stellar as well.

Most of the ads did well in delivering on this mix, but one of the worst rated ads was Squarespace’s effort with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. While these gents are often hilarious, the characters in the ad weren’t that humorous, likeable, or understandable, so the effort fell flat. In the case of LG’s “The Man From the Future,” the content was just too vague to make much of an impact, and the product, a 4K TV, isn’t ready for prime time as almost no 4K content exists.

Another fascinating celebrity choice was Budweiser’s use of Helen Mirren. There is not a natural brand fit between the two, but for a public service announcement this disconnect was a smart move, helping strengthen attention to its “don’t drink and drive” message. Measuring the true impact of such an effort is difficult, but people seem to have paid attention as a Google Trends search indicates a 500% increase over any peak search for the word pillock over the past decade. (H/t to Frank and Ridley for driving me to research this.)

Beyond Machismo Targeting

In general, Super Bowl commercials are more expansive in their targeting than those running during regular season games. But two ads in particular broke the mold more than others this year.

Hyundai’s “Ryanville” ad was one of the most interesting ads of the batch (to me, anyway) because it specifically targeted women. Even with that target, however, the humor and sense of desire in the ad still maintained a broad appeal, with a relatively similar supportive rating from both men and women in the Ad Meter.

Despite estimates over the past couple of decades that roughly 40-45% of NFL fans are women, it wasn’t until a few years ago that the NFL, and its sponsors and supporters, recognized that they need to expand their messaging beyond just a male target.  Still, ads during NFL games have tended to just downplay gender differences, rather than recognizing that an ad can be more appealing to one gender without simultaneously being annoying to the other.

Going even wider in its demographic appeal, Mini Cooper pushed people to defy all labels. Such messages inevitably bring up these labels while also critiquing the use of them, making Mini the brand that would provide a nod to gay culture by featuring Abby Wambach stating, “This is a gay car.”

On a side note, I found it even more interesting that the celebrities in this ad – from Serena Williams to T-Pain to Tony Hawk – are all actual Mini owners who have behind the scenes videos where they talk about their relationship with the brand.

Hits and Misses

Some final fun notes:

  • The Heinz Weiner Stampede is currently second in the Ad Meter, but I thought this ad was horrible. Something about image of a “hotdog” liking a face did not sit well with me. What do I know?
  • Will pharmaceutical companies ever find a way to make appealing ads?
  • I think the Pokemon ad was almost a little ahead of its time. It didn’t score well, and was confusing unless you know about Pokemon, but I loved how it tried to tie traditional sports intensity into the massively growing competitive e-sports category.
  • There is always an ad that isn’t well liked, but gets so much attention it has to be called it a success. That title clearly goes to Puppymonkeybaby.
  • Don’t try to get across too much or be too obtuse in an ad. Paypal, Quicken Loans, and SoFi,all had confusing messages and lost any appeal.

On a final note, I had fun discovering The Late Late Show’s “update” of Cindy Crawford’s famous 1992 Pepsi commercial that helped stoke the fire behind the desire to write articles like this one.

BY MATTHEW QUINT

KIND Snacks: Starting a healthy conversation

December 23, 2015

Daniel Lubetzky had the lofty goal of starting a company both economically sustainable and socially impactful. In 2004, after ten years as a social entrepreneur, he started KIND Snacks. Now valued at more than 700M USD, the company still follows his vision to build a community, a movement, and ultimately a company with the goal of doing the right thing.

It was early in his career, however, when Daniel Lubetzky learned the hard way that a mission does not sell a product, the product sells the product. Back in the early Nineties when he was starting PeaceWorks, Lubetzky methodically walked the streets of Manhattan selling dried tomato spreads. Peaceworks produced Mediterranean spreads and other goods, but Lubetzky’s pitch focused on the company’s model to try to promote peace in the Middle East by sourcing and partnering with companies from regions in conflict — Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesian, and Sri Lanka. He wouldn’t leave a store until they either bought his product or told him what he should do to improve it. Through these interactions with store buyers he realized Middle East peace wasn’t selling the spreads, the spreads were selling the spreads. So, he soon put quality first, even when it was more time consuming and expensive.

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As Lubetzky himself notes in his book Do the KIND Thing, “Yes, increasingly consumers are focused on ensuring that the companies they buy products or services from are genuine members of their communities, doing their part to make this a better world. But that is not a substitute for delivering on the functional merits. First and foremost, the product must stand on its own.”

After a decade of positive press with KIND snacks, it came as a surprise to Lubetzky when the FDA sent KIND a letter this year indicating that four of its bars were in violation of marketing labeling guidelines for the use of the word healthy and the plus sign.

Like many others would do, KIND responded immediately and adjusted its labels. Unlike others, they took the slap on the wrist as a way to start a conversation on what it means to eat healthy and how the FDA guidelines may be misleading. On December 1, 2015, KIND submitted a citizen petition to the FDA, asking the agency to update their requirements related to food labeling in order to reflect a shift in dietary guidelines that focus on whole foods that help achieve and maintain wellness, rather than on specific nutrient levels.

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This move, which if made by a different snack company could look like just another lobbying effort, has been embraced by KIND’s stakeholders as a way of doing something good for the community: aiming to help people recognize and understand distinctions between whole foods and processed, low-fat “healthy” foods. This permission is given because the snack company has built its brand with the hope of spreading kindness. One example of this is the #kindawesome initiative –part of the company’s KIND movement- that is“a little program we cooked up to celebrate kind acts everywhere, spot a kind act, give a KIND snack. On us!” Anyone can send KIND snacks to recognize an act of kindness via twitter, Facebook, or email to people they’ve spotted doing everyday kind things.

See Daniel Lubetzky at BRITE ’16 (March 7-8, NYC) to learn more about his story and KIND.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

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