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Expo West, Observations and Approaches

This is for the one or two person marketing team carrying the entire load alone, we are here for you and can be your speed dial to the best answers.

We’ve been going to Expo West for nearly ten years, so we’ve seen CBD come and go, along with many other ingredients and ideas. We’ve also observed a number of strategies and we’re happy to never see another Toms shoes knock off “one for one” approach ever again.

We’ve summarized a handful of 7 strategies we’ve seen work well, if executed properly.

The foible approach; Method did this years ago and it was an exceptional strategy executed precisely by a talented team. The idea here is, find a category weakness and exploit it, no matter how small it is. Best Behavior cereal is this idea brought back to take on the shrinking giant of cereal. And, of course, Verse Chocolate and Hu Chocolate have exploited the fact that most chocolate has way too much sugar.

The old, new job approach; This shows up in a variety of places, our historic favorite was the charcuterie of Applegate, designed as a snack approach to meats. The current example came from Endangered Species chocolate launching a Dip ‘n Joy, which found a great new “Job to be done.” Yet the design, messaging and brand execution didn’t seem to fit the existing Endangered Species brand.

The deep roots approach; the vertical integration of dates, we saw this with the original Joolies and now in Daties adds a three generation family as a kicker to the strategy. Vertical integration has some tremendous value in an unstable supply chain environment. Though there is that massive capital investment to own your origin.

The rewrite category approach; The current epic example of this is Liquid Death because they changed not just one category, but two (water and na beverages). And, they’ve got Monster wondering how someone outdid their personality, put water in a can and reached a billion dollar valuation overnight. But, don’t count out the new sodas, Poppi, Olipop and Good Idea Drink, they are out to change the category of soda.

The ordinary to extraordinary approach; over two decades ago Capsule designed a milk package that is still fresh today, Schroeder Milk; so this approach is certainly a classic one. The Helpful Hens did this with eggs, Pop and Bottle has done it with coffee and Painterland Sisters is wearing the tiara in yogurt. A fresh take on an ordinary product category is an endless opportunity as brands and categories age.

The better ingredient approach; while the ingredients determined to be better have changed over the years, the approach remains the same. Mushrooms have been taken out of the dark and continue to be a bright new ingredient. Bamboo as an alternative paper product, thank you Bim Bam Boo for the gentle touch. And, Haven’s Kitchen is just messing with our taste buds and calling for a “condiment economy” -- you’ve got to love what this team is doing.

The moonshot approach; the big CPG industry has turned to the entrepreneurial community for their pipeline of moonshots, which might be part of the reason big CPG isn’t really known for this level of innovation. Instead we see a big CPG approach that involves investing at the right moment, right before the exponential growth curve. The tricky part is timing, because social media can accelerate a brand like Gimme Seaweed to reach their exponential growth curve. And others are at year 5-10, still haven’t hit their curve and whether they have one on the horizon is unknowable. Which makes buying a moonshot a bit less risking than attempting one on your own, but not much.

And, if you want more of this moonshot stuff, seek out Kevin Ryan.

So, now you’ve seen some of the patterns we’ve seen at Expo West, consider these are not mutually exclusive, so you might deploy a few of these approaches.

Hopefully you can look at your venture, innovations and brand in a new light. If not, we’re happy to have a conversation and provide some specific feedback for you and your one person marketing team.

Thank you everyone for another wonderful show in Anaheim. See you in 2025.

And, if you have suggestions for our speaker series / podcast, please reach out. Or, if you’d like to discuss an idea or answer a question, you can do the same.

Aaron Keller, Keona Prokop, Rachel Dille
Capsule.us
Thinkandlink.org

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