The Brand Journey: as told by Foodpreneurs pt1…
Northern Munkee: I am fascinated by the stories we tell and, more fascinatingly, the way we tell them and why. I’ve been watching a lot of TED Talks recently and I believe that everybody has a story it tell, it’s just our ability to tell it that is the difference between a contagious story and a forgettable one.
The same is true of brands: they all have a story to tell but they don’t all tell it well.
As a buyer I was always captivated by what’s behind a business or a brand. I’d always listen intently to an entrepreneur’s journey and to the essence of what brought them to where they are now.
In this series I have sought to deconstruct and simplify branding to then re-build the elements into actionable steps. The idea behind the series was to breathe life into some of the subconscious relationships that we have with brands and to understand why sometimes we just click…and other times clunk!
This final post is an extension of my fascination and instead of me doing the talking I want to scratch beneath the surface of some brands that I really admire. I have posed a series of questions to foodpreneurs at various stages of business growth to get an insight into their world and their view on branding. The response I got from my network was phenomenal, so I’ve split this post into two parts.
Firstly, I’d like to introduce the brands, the faces behind them and then the elements I admire about them. Then, I’ll hand over to the foodpreneurs and let them walk you through their journey…
Charbrew is a speciality tea and ice tea brand created by young entrepreneur from Preston, Adam Soliman. The brand, like all the brands featured in my interviews, has hit on a growing trend in the UK. Specialty teas and ice teas are growing at a rapid rate and is the tea leaf’s (not cockney rhyming slang) answer to the coffee bean boom.
Now, whether you like tea or not you can’t help but be taken in by Charbrew’s branding. It hits on a number of its core demographics’ key cues: health, natural and fun. I won’t steal Adam’s thunder but Charbrew is definitely a brand to look out for.
Funky Nut Co is a nut butter business based on The Wirral and was founded by the foodpreneur Julian Campbell. Nut butters are exploding, not literally because that would be a chunky sticky mess, with proliferations and brands coming out of the woodwork at an increasing rate. So, it’s not easy to stand out from the crowd.
In my opinion, Funky Nut Co successfully breaks up the wallpaper on the nutbutter fixture with a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously but appeals to the new age of nutty customers.
Well that’s enough of that, onto the main event…
I wanted to get inside the heads of two successful brand creators, Adam Soliman and Julian Campbell, to understand what makes their brands tick and their journey perpetual.
In your view, what is a brand?
Funky Nut Co: rather than spout what the text books tell us branding is. I see branding as everything the company and employees do. The quality of product, our interaction with customers and social media followers. In short, anything that enhances the relationship between us and the customers.
Charbrew: a brand is something that encapsulates a message through words, actions and images. Charbrew gives us the opportunity to mix well-being and deliciousness. As a brand we summarised this into being ‘naturally eccentric’. We are healthy and natural and we are different in the way we deliver that message.
Our work and communication delivers the same message, whether it’s on the website, packaging, press, POS or social media, the consistency of strategy, tone of voice and look & feel is fundamental in order to establish our presence. We feel, all communications should sound like they’ve been written and crafted by the same person. My other view is, successful branding is achieved over time by delivering this consistent message.
Why did you start your business?
Funky Nut Co: I was befuddled as to why peanut butter had only existed in smooth and crunchy while jams had many, many flavours…I’m fixing that!
Charbrew: poor job market in 2009 but I initially wanted to become either a currency or commodity trader. I saw an opportunity in the tea market and decided rather than to do a post graduate degree, invest that money in trying to start a business – the initial idea has evolved and changed over the years.
What other brands do you admire?
FunkyNut: Dollar Shave Club, Moz, Amazon.
Charbrew: surprisingly not food brands – Apple, Nike, BMW; all masters in delivering their brand message.
What is your proudest moment in business?
FunkyNut: no single moment but still being here after 2 years with a plan for growth makes me smile…or maybe being invited onto Dragons’ Den (twice)!
Charbrew: seeing individual customers bothering to post images and selfies with my product shows me that, in some people’s eyes, my brand is worth something.
What were the biggest problems you faced when developing your brand?
FunkyNut: I considered first having my product co-packed but realised there were no nut butter co-packers in the UK. I could have gone to Holland like other UK brands but, instead, decided to manufacture myself. It gives me total control of the process. Now companies approach me to manufacture their nut butters.
Charbrew: for all young and not so young brands, money is an obstacle to growth so having to overcome funding options to expand and conquer to build visibility and brand loyalty.
What is the most important element of your brand?
FunkyNut: the product… all the social media, marketing, advertising and relationship stuff in the world will be worthless if the consumer hates the product.
Charbrew: maintaining a healthy and natural product range that contributes to the well-being our customers.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
FunkyNut: laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.
Charbrew: take some advice with a pinch of salt but be prepared to listen – everyone knows something that you don’t.
What one piece of advice would you go back and give yourself starting up?
FunkyNut: get rid of dead wood sooner!
Charbrew: business is a game of identifying problems and solving/overcoming them; don’t take it too personally. A problem today will likely not be remembered in a few months or years.
What one piece of advice would you give to food startisans?
FunkyNut: don’t spend cash if you don’t need to (and when you need to…wait a while). Get your product out there. Don’t wait forever trying to get the perfect product; that will just delay or stop you in your tracks. Take advice from everyone but don’t be afraid to ignore it and go with what you want for your business.
Charbrew: starting a food company isn’t a quick process and takes many years. Don’t create a me-too product but similarly don’t create a product that is too niche with a limited budget; if you do you will be having to build a new market with a new product which is near impossible.
Thanks to Adam and Julian for their brand journeys; it’s always useful to build your network and learn from people that have been in the same position that you’re in.
Brand strategy can be a really scary topic and there is a lot of literature out there that seems designed to confuse startisans. Stick to your convictions and sources that you can trust such as Tessa Stuart’s Flying Off the Shelves.
Just before I close my laptop, I’ll offer up some quick branding do’s and don’ts again:
- get advice; everyone has a story to tell and you can always learn something from the people you meet.
- take time to reflect; every entrepreneur needs a reason to be proud, write it down and remind yourself of it.
- offer advice; if you’ve been fortunate enough to have a great mentor then remember to give back, you’ll definitely learn something from having a mentee.
- stick to your convictions; it’s really easy to blindly take the advice of ‘more experienced entrepreneurs’ but they have never been in your shoes so don’t feel obliged to follow all the advice you get.
- neglect research; it’s important to know what good looks like in terms of branding, like Adam and Julian, you may need to look outside your own marketplace.
- stop being uncomfortable; Adam said that business is about identifying issues and solutions, you won’t progress if you don’t find new solutions to new issues so expect some discomfort!