Big Plans for Your Naturals Brand? Start With a Strategic One

November 10, 2020 | by David Lemley

Yes, 2020 has been a … well, we’re not sure what kind of year to call it.

While it’s still not business as usual, businesses still have to do many of the usual things, like planning for 2021. And if there’s one thing you should have on the to-do list for your natural food or beverage brand in the next year—before product launches or new channel strategies or investment opportunities—it should be brand strategy.

That’s because none of those initiatives stand any meaningful chance of long-term success without a strategic foundation supporting them.

Brands in 2020 are placing too much emphasis on commercialization and not enough on strategy.

Look, I recognize the importance of selling products or services and getting to market ASAP. But it’s risky business because it is less disciplined to chase an opportunity than it is to create opportunities based upon clearly defined strategic goals. By focusing on strategy-first, businesses can take the lead on branding and positioning, then translate those needs into new products, services, experiences, and personalization opportunities to grow both revenue and positive consumer-relationships.

Brand Strategy as a Smart Business Investment

If you’re going to spend dollars anywhere, brand strategy is where to spend them first. This is where your ROI will come from; every initiative that is strategic in nature will generate a return. Strategy anchors every decision your leadership team should make about the brand and every tactic your marketing team should deploy.

When you know the brand’s DNA, you can confidently make bold moves that might look risky to outsiders. You can stretch your product offering in just the right way that will a) make sense to current customers and b) attract newcomers into the tribe. You can renovate the brand’s identity or packaging so that it stands out in the category. You’ll be highly attractive to investors because you deeply understand who you are and have your act together.

The Process of Developing a Brand Strategy

Natural-brand companies that come to us for guidance have a shoot-first and aim-second mentality. They’re facing a challenge or crisis: Competitors are taking their lunch money, or retailers are shelving their products on the bottom row, or investors are sniffing around but shying away from a deal.

Perhaps you’re in a similar position.

In which case, allocating time to “do” strategy feels like you’re stuck in the starting blocks while the rest of the runners are halfway down the track.

Our work with naturals brands, though, is more like a cross-country race than a sprint. Without the right plan, you’ll come out of the gate too hot, burn out, lose your footing, or pull a hamstring. All are sure-fire ways to lose—or not finish—the race.

So what does this strategy work look like with our clients? It starts with our competitive audit. Not a category audit, mind you, which only looks at the other products in your immediate category. We look holistically at everything—necessities, experiences, luxuries, and other stuff—that competes with your brand for your core consumer’s dollar, time, and attention.

We look at all seven platforms in what we call the Brand Ecosystem to see where your brand wins or struggles.

Our brand strategy work looks externally to audiences, both those you have and those you hope to reach. Brands, especially those founded by visionary CEOs who pioneered a novel product, have a tendency to think that a consumer thinks about their brand 24/7. Most only think about them in the moment of need—at purchase, or when a product is needed to solve a problem (it’s raining; I need my Patagonia jacket). When brands forget that that moment of inflection with consumer happens on an infrequent basis, they over-inflate their importance to the universe. What’s more, leaders at naturals brands really believe in their products, and so they think that consumers automatically do, too.

It also turns the camera on the internal corporate culture. Your brand’s success is limited or unleashed by the people within your organization; we help companies align their people to their purpose.

It takes a fair, unbiased, honest perspective to bring actionable insights—instead of just guessing or making assumptions based on what you see in front of you. That’s what we bring to the table. We’ll help you discover what you don’t know.

A strategic brand foundation focused on body (the competitive environment), mind (your promise and the way that you keep it), and soul (your people) renders your business essentially future-proof. It makes decision-making easy.

A solid brand strategy is like a flight plan. Sure, you might eventually fly the plane from LA to New York, but without a navigational plan and waypoints, weather data, technical inputs, and the right fuel load, you have no idea where or how you’ll get there.

You run every other aspect of your business with a plan—finance, operations, sales. Why operate without a plan for the brand itself?

We can help you research, aggregate, analyze, and create a plan. It’s what we’re good at, and our clients see phenomenal growth when they dedicate the right time, investment, and people to building a strategic brand plan. Ready to go? Let’s talk.