The Ueber-Brands Podcast
FRoSTA: Putting your Money Where Your Mission Is - Felix Ahlers, CEO and his food brand make-over story

FRoSTA: Putting your Money Where Your Mission Is - Felix Ahlers, CEO and his food brand make-over story

August 21, 2019

German frozen foods brand FRoSTA ...

  • prepares meals like grandma would have,
  • uses natural, unadulterated ingredients,
  • puts them on the label in plain language,
  • states where the they come from,
  • ads no artificial flavors, enhancers or fillers,
  • seeks to ensure that the people who grow the food get their fair share of the value creation...

and all of that without being required to do so.  - Quite the opposite. It is FRoSTA that lobbies for laws that would provide more transparency on ingredients and methods across the industry.

"Wow - This must be one of those premium-priced, artisinal Honest Food brands that makes Big Food industries' life miserable", you might think.  But - wrong again.  FR0STA is part of the traditional food industry establishment.

As Felix Ahlers, CEO and Chairman of FRoSTA AG told us, his grandfather founded the business in the 50ies as a deep sea fishing company.  His father grew it to become a leading player in frozen foods in Germany, helped by several acquisitions starting in the 70ies.  By the time Felix joined the company in 1999, FRoSTA operated across several European markets, relying on 'food technology and -chemistry' to help scale production and keep costs down in the cut-throat supermarket environment. Looking behind the scene did not offer a pretty picture. As Felix says: "Our employees, who knew how our food was made, chose not to eat it."

Loving food and having trained as a chef, Felix had a different idea of how to remain relevant and competitive as a food brand when he assumed a leadership role and led his team to radically revise what and how FRoSTA sourced and how it prepared its meals. "Following the "Reinheitsgebot (purity law)*" and "how grandma would prepare it" became the guiding principle from 2003 and across the assortment - which meant abandoning about half the assortment which could not be made compliant.

In other words FR0STA became a 'Honest Food' brand long before that became hip.  It did not 'start-up' from scratch with venture capital support, but 'hard converted' a traditional, industrial business.  It did so without compromise.  ...   And FRoSTA paid a heavy price for its principled, purpose-driven move, as you will hear (hint: they almost went bankrupt).

Looking back and in the long run, however, the brand might just turn out to be one of the rare success stories in evolving an industrial food business in response to changing consumer needs and wants, as the bad news about brands like Heinz, Kraft, or Kellogg's keeps adding up.

We think that FRoSTA has many of the core ingredients - higher Mission, a brand Myth and its unique 'Truth' -  that are the foundation to creating an 'Ueber-Brand.'  A brand that carries meaning beyond the material, that is peerless and priceless.   It 'just' needs some more fine-tuning in bringing its story to life and connecting with it's design target**.  Recognizing and talking to these influencers-cum-muse early-on might also have helped buffer some of the impact of the brand transition.  -- Don't you think? --

Listen and Enjoy!

 

FURTHER READING:

For more insights into what drives the success of purpose-driven brands read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands,” and other posts on this blog-cast.

** Here are some questions brands should ask to recognize and leverage their design target - or 'Ueber-Target' as we call the best of them.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

Here are links to the FRoSTA corporate site and its online store.  And, here is a rare article in English on Felix and the Frosta turn-around story from CEO Magazine. It's easy to find bad new about the traditional prepared food brands nowadays. Whether it is about their brands or their business.  Here is just one example.

* Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the "Reinheitsgebot", a beer purity law that the Bavarian authorities enacted in 1516 as brewers started to 'taint' beers with flavors and colors and FRoSTA's modern, frozen food interpretation of it (only available in German).

For a more in-detail look at FRoSTA's stringent ethical, environmental and nutritional commitments and specific actions taken, check out this part of their site:  https://www.frosta-ag.com/en/responsibility/

Finally, Wageningen University pulled together a rather complete case study on FR0STA and the European Frozen Food market in 2011 if you really, really want to go into the details.

Fresh fish, real butter, house-made pasta - Food prepared the FRoSTA way.

 

TerraCycle: How To Brand Waste - Tom Szaky, CEO and Co-Founder explains

TerraCycle: How To Brand Waste - Tom Szaky, CEO and Co-Founder explains

June 3, 2019

Tom Szaky tells us that him and fellow student Jon Beyer scratched together a few thousand dollars from friends, family and from winning some business plan competitions to buy a continuous-flow composting system from its inventor in 2002.  The idea was to use worms to process the organic waste from the dining halls at their university - Princeton - and beyond into fertilizer.  They called the company TerraCycle and Tom sketched what he described to us as "a stylized worm eating itself" to serve as a logo. Not having the funds for materials and a packaging line, they re-labeled and re-filled empty soda plastic bottles to sell their 'Waste-to-Waste' liquid fertilizer in supermarkets.

Soon they were in the news for paying schools for organizing 'Bottle Brigades' to collect the PET trash, for fighting with Scotts Miracle-Gro Company over claims and artwork but also for not only gaining permission by Coca Cola, Pepsico and others to officially use their bottles but actually being asked by them to help organize more ways to recycle the packaging trash they caused. This way of earning media attention and generating industry demand is prototypical of how Tom and TerraCycle generate awareness and adherance to this day. This is how you might have heard about the 'Drink Pouch Brigades', seen pencil cases, totes or back-packs made of Capri Sun pouches or Chip Ahoi bags with Tom pictured as their designer wearing a blazer made of Doritos bags. Or maybe you played 'Trash Tycoon' on Facebook' or saw 'Garbage Moguls' on the National Geographics channel?  You might see a pattern not only in how the TerraCycle brand attracts attention but also creates a brand myth.

And companies certainly started to pay attention. Packaged goods manufacturers like Kraft and Stony Field Farms and retailers including Walgreens and Target were eager to connect and offload millions of bailed juice pouches to Terra Cycle.  Somewhere along the way - ca. 2007 - Jon left to join a private equity firm and Tom made a pivot to focus the company on up-cycling and re-cycling the seemingly unstoppable avalanche of waste our throw-away society generates rather than the 'Worm Poop'.  He also chose to no longer own the operations and associated capital but rather own the material- and data flows, the intellectual property associated with them and the hands-on promotion of the platform.

 

Since then Terra Cycle has been very visible at the forefront of developing platforms to collect and recycle all kinds of consumption waste.  One example is cigarette butts.  Humans throw away some 5 trillion of them a year (and estimated 1.7 billion pounds).  Butts do not bio-degrade but rather leach out toxic chemicals - just one can contaminate over 7 liters of water enough to kill aquatic life in it - and decompose over a 2-10 year period into plastic micro-trash that slowly finds its way into wildlife.... and our food and water stream.  Terra Cycle reportedly spent six months developing a separation process that allows the butts to be recycled into compost (paper and tobacco) and plastic products like benches or shipping pallets.  Other examples: Collecting and up-cycling US Old Postal Service bags, converting used milk jars to flower pots, or fishing plastic from the oceans and recycling them into shampoo bottles are a few more of a growing list of projects Terra Cycle has kicked off around the world.

Tom has preserved a controlling stake in the company which is said to generate about $10-20 million in revenue, a low single digit profit margin but a high double digit growth rate.  The company points out that it is barely scratching the surface of the total market opportunity (TerraCycle is estimated to process far less than 5% of the potential waste material stock it targets in the US).
He certainly is a master marketer. However Tom's greatest skill - and the requirement to grow the business to a size that makes a dent (in many respects) - might be in bringing together industry partners like Procter & Gamble or Unilever on the sourcing side and worm farmers or Suez Environment on the treatment side to create a market for his ideas and actually make things operationally happen - at scale.

 

The occasional critic - and there seem surprisingly few - say that rather than help prevent waste in the first place, TerraCycle absolves manufactures, retailers and consumers alike of their waste sins in exchange for buying the TerraCycle seal for their packaging or throwing their trash into one of the collection boxes the company sells.  They argue that the company's mission of "Eliminating the Idea of Waste" is too focused on collecting money and a tiny fraction of our garbage in exchange for removing the inconvenient "idea that we are being wasteful."

In our interview, Tom agrees that "recycling only addresses the symptoms but not the root cause" ... and goes on to talk about a latest project he just announced at the World Economic Forum and which might just get at that root of the problem: TerraCycle launched 'Loop' a program of re-fillable product containers that are delivered to households, 'milkman-style' ...

In the interview, we also talk about:

  • Why the legends spun around him and his mission are "critical to get attention and  excitement" - not only by the press.
  • How TerraCycle's "job is to keep packaged good producers wanting to beat each other".
  • Who the various TerraCycle target segments and 'Ueber-Target' are.
  • How you have to "distinguish between the steak and the sizzle" when it comes to promoting the brand and recruiting people into the industry.
  • and much more

New Zealand kid yogurt brand 'suckies' promotes TerraCycling collection of its pouches[/caption]

FURTHER READING:

For more insights into what drives the success of purpose-driven brands like TerraCycle read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands,” and other posts on this blog-cast.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

Here is a link to the TerraCycle and Loop Store websites and some of those accounts of the Garbage Mogul and the 'garbage as hero', butts for cash and similar stories that help create attention and add some myth to the material (or rather trash). And here is an early video in which Tom deploys his marketing mastery, explaining to us how worm poop and the re-use of PET bottles starts to 'eliminate the idea of waste'.

As always, we also want to provide some critical third party perspective.  This was harder than expected.  But here is a critical assessment by The Guardian that also talks about TerraCycle (scroll down towards the middle of the article).

Finally, here is a detailed review of what is known about the Loop program, as of print.

 

 

Trust and a shared Truth are keys to Airbnb’s Success - Douglas Atkin, ex-Global Head of Community explains

Trust and a shared Truth are keys to Airbnb’s Success - Douglas Atkin, ex-Global Head of Community explains

May 11, 2019

Douglas Atkin became interested in how some brands attract a cult-like following long before social media and digital brands became all the rage. He wrote a book about 'The Culting of Brands' in 2005.  -- So it came as no surprise that he told the founders of Airbnb that he would rather research what drives commitment among the brand's loyal hosts and guests than do some strategy development exercise when they asked him for it in 2012.  They liked the idea.  In fact, they made him their Global Head of Community a few weeks into the journey. This journey led to the brand's definition of a purpose - "Belong Anywhere" - its translation into a communication campaign, a visual identity and, most importantly to Douglas, into a unique way Airbnb host, guest and employees could think about their relationship with each other and act on it.

Among many things, Douglas will share in this interview:

  • How he went about uncovering that higher Purpose of Airbnb and why it was quickly embraced by its diverse stakeholders. - Hint: 'Ground it in a Truth'.
  • How the big pioneering achievement of Airbnb lies in the area of 'engineering a system of social trust' rather than a room sharing platform.
  • How he also took on to evolve the culture of the company and...
  • How 'constantly doing things that have never been done before' is exhilarating but also lead to 'Airbnb Burnout'.

 

FURTHER READING:

For more insights into what drives the success of brands like Ben & Jerry's read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands,” and other posts on this blog-cast.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

Here is a link to the Airbnb site, its blog and the Airbnb Experiences, mentioned in the interview.  I found the blog surprisingly 'corporate' vs 'community' feeling, I have to say.

Douglas' book 'The Culting of Brands' is a classic.  Find a recent series of articles he wrote on Medium about "How Airbnb found its Purpose - and why it's a good one."  Here is the perspective from co-founder Brian Chesky on what Airbnb stands for.  Surprisingly, it was not easy to find this statement.  I found it buried in the middle of their blog.

Of course, not everyone agrees and is happy with the impact Airbnb has on the world. Here is a critical opinion by Gaby Hinsliff on how "Airbnb [...] is hollowing out our cities" that appeared in The Guardian, UK.  She writes: "The romantic, if sometimes risky, fantasy of swapping lives with a local for a few nights and seeing the city through their eyes is being replaced with a more corporate, impersonal experience. Sign here for the keys; check out promptly in time for the next guest to arrive. Too bad that what could have been a young couple’s starter flat is now just another asset to be sweated, and one that probably stands empty half the time."

Airbnb's perspective on its corporate citizenship is reflected on a dedicated site at https://www.airbnbcitizen.com.

You can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, etc. as well as to our blog (top right) to receive weekly new post notifications. 

 

 

Purpose and Promotion Don’t Mix Well – Ben & Jerry’s Global Social Mission Officer Dave Rappaport explains

Purpose and Promotion Don’t Mix Well – Ben & Jerry’s Global Social Mission Officer Dave Rappaport explains

March 26, 2019

Attaching a higher purpose to your product in your Promotions seems like the ‘flavor du jour,’ the latest ‘P’ in the Marketing Mix. We see Audi promote equal pay and Pepsi reconciliation, while Lush calls out police spying and Gillette ‘toxic masculinity.’  I admit, I have chosen these recent advertisements because they have so tremendously backfired that most readers will be aware of them and because they illustrate what happens when the so-called brand purpose turns out to be puffery… at best (references below). It’s like Mark Zuckerberg declaring that Facebook is all about community building.  ‘But only if they can sell our private data for profit’ many will think.

The priority of profit seems to be the quick litmus test, the winnowing that separates the corn from the chaff.  Is a company willing to forgo profit maximization to live up to its promise of a higher purpose? Is it willing to stick the neck out when declaring a certain position goes beyond popular conveniently non-committal ‘virtue signalling’? Is the company actually practicing what it preaches when nobody watches? Internally and consistently?  This is where Audi is found out to be paying its women managers less than men and for not having any on their board and seen retreating quickly and choosing some other idea to advertise.

So is ‘putting some Higher Purpose into your Promotion’ a bad idea – despite being so popular with marketers now? Is that because, ultimately, Purpose and Profit don’t mix well – in fact are opposing forces?

The short answer is ‘Yes and No.’  The longer one comes through this interview with Dave Rapaport, Global Social Mission Officer at Ben & Jerry’s, a brand that seems to have succeeded at promoting ‘Peace, Love and Ice Cream’ over the past forty years quite credibly but also quite profitably – at least that’s what its owner Unilever reports of its subsidiary (since 2000).  Among other things, Dave talks about how

  • social activism and ‘euphoric concoctions’ mix well when they are loved and lived
  • the intention can not be marketing but the purpose can drive popularity
  • work is too long and purchases are too precious not to be meaningful
  • profit is not an after-thought… but comes later
  • the most important thing is to stand up when it really counts…

… but, where are all the other brands when you need them?

 

FURTHER READING:

For more insights into what drives the success of brands like Ben & Jerry’s read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands,” and other posts on this blog-cast.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

Here is a link to the Ben & Jerry’s values on their websiteand the ‘Pecan Resist’ limited edition flavor Dave is referring to in the interview.

Here are some links to the debate over the AudiPepsiFresh ads and our post on Gillette (and CPG’s) foray into social activism.

You can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, etc. as well as to our blog (top right) to receive weekly new post notifications. 

 

Humbly Served and Successful – RXBAR Co-Founder Peter Rahal tells the story

Humbly Served and Successful – RXBAR Co-Founder Peter Rahal tells the story

February 20, 2019

In this interview Peter Rahal, co-founder of RXBAR tells us how the nutrition bar was conceived (in his kitchen, of course) and how it made its swift four-year ascent to becoming a brand so talked-about and appealing that Kellogg could not resist buying it for a whopping $600 million in 2017.

This brand creation story seems seductively simple:  A single-minded focus on a specific product offering missing in the market. A simple package and communication – a few ingredients on the front of the label and “no BS” (that is, no “Bad Stuff”).  A disciplined targeting- and distribution strategy – with focus on a receptive early adopter community and distributors, at first, followed by a logic roll-out. A personal- and company set of values centering around listening, working hard, succeeding but staying humble; Foregoing claims about honest ingredients, sourcing integrity, feeding the hungry or another higher purpose which ‘feel disingenuous’ even when the company does participate in food donations.

In fact, it might be this ‘straight-forwardness’ that delivers differentiation and the key to success in what can feel like an increasingly complex and convoluted ‘new food world’. – Organic, non-GMO, ‘sustainably’ grown and fair-traded camu-camu, anyone?

Things might get a bit more complex, nevertheless, now that RXBAR has joined the Kellogg Company house of brands neighborhood.  Not the one to lounge around a pool just living off his fortune, Peter has decided to stay on as CEO of the new subsidiary, which provides important continuity¹.  But can the ‘humble straight forwardness’ be kept alive and be scaled across the globe and other food categories at a fast pace, as intended.  — Listen in and tell us what you think.

 

 

FURTHER READING:

For more insights into what drives the success of brands like RXBAR and many more read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” about the Ueber-Branding model and method of application and other posts on this blog-cast.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

Here is a link to the RXBAR website and an article on the acquisition by KelloggCompany in 2017.

¹ Here is a post based on our book in which we describe the strategy of ‘Ring-Fencing’ which can help small brands stay nimble and successful – even after they get acquired by big, scale-driven groups.

Remember, you can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, etc. as well as to our blog (top right) to receive new post notifications. 

Master Myth Maker - Interview with Ramdane Touhami, mind behind Buly and other exquisite Brand (Re-)Creations

Master Myth Maker - Interview with Ramdane Touhami, mind behind Buly and other exquisite Brand (Re-)Creations

September 25, 2018

"I don't do 'experiences' or 'storytelling'... I hate when people say 'your package is beautiful'.  We are not about 'status' ... we are all about selling the best product!"  Such statements might surprise, coming from Ramdane Touhami, a serial creator of Prestige and Lifestyle brands who has more recently focused on transforming businesses long on history but short on relevance into coveted Prestige brands - notably Cire Trudon and Buly - that stand out offering inspired, total ... experiences. - Sorry, Ramdane.

As we question him on these bold statements and probe deeper into what he means by 'selling' or 'best product,' it becomes clear that Touhami's definitions diverge from the norm and that he follows rather unconventional strategies.  And, staying true to a reputation for being 'outspoken' he does not shy away from contrasting his approach to brand building - he talks about "building an institution" - to those of other players ranging from Aesop and Glossier to L'Oreal and Shiseido.

Bully_Boutique_Horizontal_small.jpg 

To us, it is a prime example of myth-making in marketing¹ when someone feels compelled to build a neo-romantic beauty boutique (half Classic, half Art Deco), calls it 'L'Officine Universelle Buly' (after a perfumer, distiller, cosmetician and boutique owner 'Bully,²' who, in 1809, invented an iconic multi-purpose 'vinaigre de toilette') and locates the it in the Rue Bonaparte or the former foundry where Rodin cast 'The Thinker' in Paris.  And, in case you miss the mythic connection, a commemorative plate next to the door will tell you that Bully was the inspiration behind one of Honoré Balzac's heros (César Birotteau - its contested).  Cards placed throughout the store and the uniformed boutique staff will share - in a whispering voice - stories about the place and each of the hundreds of products and potions on display.  The 'vinaigre,' we are told, can tighten the skin as well as refresh the mouth.
Ramdane calls it "education" and the environment "hyper-real," with a reference to Umberto Eco³.

Bully_and_Blazac_Plaques_horizontal_sm.jpg

But hi-/story is just one ingredient.  Touhami really employs all the latest strategies and tactics one finds in modern Prestige brand building and crafts them into unique expressions of Buly.  As Ramdane tells us, the brand is on an important mission: To save traditional but effective beauty secrets from extinction.  Products are made of exotic, artisan-sourced and elaborated ingredients from around the world - but eschew synthetic preservatives. (Does that sound traditional, yet 'of-our-time'?).  Extreme attention is paid to package design featuring vintage graphics, glass, even marble and heavy metal lids.  And what about the environment?  The desire is for this exceptional packaging to be re-discovered and "re-used for decades to come".

The 'selling' includes a lot of un-hurried, highly choreographed rituals (taking time is luxury, after all) such as the origami-like⁴ folding of wrappers over your purchase complete with hand-calligraphed labeling. - That's  called 'Personalization' in modern marketing speak.  And, like most modern 'retail experiences', the latest Officine Buly has a 'food & beverage component'.  But, of course, it is special one.  The 'Cafe Tortoni' is a revival of the famed Paris cafe once frequented and written about by famed authors like Stendhal (in the 'Le Rouge et le Noir'), they serve Madeleines in honor of Marcel Proust... (you get the hang of it?)

Buly_Boutique_in_mirror_sm.jpg

Finally, we were told that a major investment into bringing Buly to life (and to your shopping cart) digitally "with a WOW" is close to coming to fruition. (Aka omni-channel and owned-media strategy.)

With this bit of background and our Ueber-Branding framework at hand, you are ready to dive into the interview with Ramdane.  His wife, Victoire de Taillac-Touhami, makes a 'guest appearance' as well.  Its rapid-fire and 'Franglish' at times but we are sure you'll find it inspiring and will want to study this "polymath entrepreneur" and his brand creations more once we are done (further reading provided right below). - Enjoy

 

FURTHER READING:

For more insights into what drives the success of modern Prestige brands like Buly and many more read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” about the Ueber-Branding model and method of application and other posts on this blog-cast.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

¹ Read this article for a summary of the Ueber-Branding approach and this one specifically on Myth-Making and modern Prestige branding.

Here are links to the official  'Officine Universelle Buly' website as well as the Cire Trudon websites, and our Ueber-Brand case study of Cire Trudon - at a time when Touhami was still involved.

² The story has it that Touhami dropped the second 'l' in the original Bully to get around the unfavorable meaning in English.

³ Umberto Eco talked about a 'better-than-real' or 'fantastic past' as he explored American commercial life and visited Disneyland, which makes some sense when thinking about Buly. Read an essay on Umberto Eco's writing on Hyperreality and judge for yourself what the two brands might have in common.

Ramdane and his wife Victoire de Taillac-Touhami in the boutique in Daikanyama, Japan, the first outside France. This one is built-out half Modern-Minimalist , half Classic - literally.

Here is an interesting piece Dana Thomas has written about Ramdame, his legendary backgound story and his "French Empire" for the New York Times.  Contrast it with an example of how it reads when a Luxury magazine reports on the 'historic French brand' or a fashion blogger's perspective - Blogger Irene says she loves the 'Pommade Virginale' and the brushes engraved with your name...

⁴ Another anecdote: Buly’s 'head wrapper' was trained by the only family that practices origata—the complex craft paper-folding previously reserved for the imperial Japanese court - of course.

For more about that origata wrapping technique, 'A day in the Life of Ramdame Touhami' - and the myth that Touhami's life itself has become by now - in this article in Kinfolk.

A bit of historic research into Jean-Vinvent Bully, the link to Balzac's hero (or not) and the re-interpretation by the Touhami's (- its in French).

Remember, you can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, etc. as well as to our blog at ueberbrands.com receive new post notifications. 

Ramdane Touhami - portrait by Lawrence Mynott

B2B Beyond The Material – Interview with Mohawk Fine Papers’ Creative Director Christopher Harrold

B2B Beyond The Material – Interview with Mohawk Fine Papers’ Creative Director Christopher Harrold

April 24, 2018

Can the principles of Ueber-Branding be applied to B2B brands, to elevate them in the minds of professional buyers and make them ‘priceless’ … or at least less dependent on price?  That’s a question we get asked quite a bit.  The short answer is “Absolutely, Yes!”  …   But, we know, people are hungry for examples that illustrate the point, that talk about an industry “that is not sexy or high tech” and about “small companies with limited budgets.”   That’s because many marketers feel that they are working in a commodity category and/or products that can not be differentiated due to lack of funds. We, however, have not encountered a category or company, yet, that would not be able to execute- and benefit from Ueber-Branding*.

How about a medium-sized paper- and envelope manufacturer  (2017 revenue est. $230 mio) that supplies people who design and print mailers, brochures, catalogs and the like.  Does that sound B2B, small, ‘commoditized’ enough?**  Some might even argue it sounds like a category doomed to die in a digital world.

Well – in this interview we talk with Christopher Harrold about how Mohawk Fine Paper is not only surviving but thriving, by “finding meaning in the making of paper”*** and passing it on through the products their business clients print on or wrap in.  Christopher is the Creative Director at Mohawk and tells us that craft-fully made paper can make you “feel the message before you read it.” – And that is an experience that is increasingly valuable in our sensation-deprived. One shouldn’t be surprised, then, that digital platforms and tech companies are a fast growing customer segment and that clients are willing to pay a significant premium for paper well crafted.

But as you will hear, getting there required a deep believe that paper making is a craft worth preserving – since 1931 – as well as investing time and effort into Ueber-Branding, including deeply understanding the needs of your most devoted users (your ‘Ueber-Target’), educating, enabling and seducing them (versus selling to them) and having patience in developing trust-based relationships, products and services for the long run. We also talk about potential sources of brand strength that are still largely untapped, like a mythical place of provenance and about the logic and fit of a very recent extension into the business-to-consumer space.

 

 

 

FURTHER THOUGHTS AND READING:

*For insights into what drives the success of modern premium brands read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” and other case-studies on this blog.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

**If you want more paper industry ‘Ueber-Brand’ examples, then listen to our interview with the CEO of Renova, a premium (any quirky) toilet paper maker from Portugal or the episode with the co-founder of Moleskine – those little black notebooks with a lot of (hi-)story.  If you are more into the service kind-of-boring, read our case study on Vanguard Investments.

*** Quote from the Mohawk ‘Declaration of Craft’ video – see links below

Here is a link to the Mowhawk website note how they seek to bring the rich experience of paper to live on a digital screen…

See how the Mohawk Fine Paper brochure is a design project in itself. This one was featured in Communication Arts.

Here is our Ueber-Youtube Channel selection of Mohawk films celebrating their craft, ‘meaning in making‘ as well as their marketing tie-ins with clients like moo.com.

You can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, TuneIn, etc. or on our blog to receive new post notifications. 

Taking Brands and People Üeber – JP interviewed by getAbstract co-founder Patrick Brigger

Taking Brands and People Üeber – JP interviewed by getAbstract co-founder Patrick Brigger

January 29, 2018

 

Can Ueber-Branding be applied to any industry and brand? How about people as Ueber-Brands?  How do Ueber-Brands elevate themselves above the rest? How do they attract people? – Not only as buyers but as employees? … These are just some of the questions Patrick Brigger asked me in a recent interview for his blog getAbstract ‘life‘ … that tag meaning that I got to answer some personal questions, as well, which I will mostly spare you from listening to in this shortened edit (link to full interview below).

GetAbstract was founded in 1999 by Patrick and two friends.  It is all about evaluating ideas and concepts and ‘compressing knowledge’ so you can assimilate it faster.  They started with business books – and have the largest collection of rated summaries by now (some 15k and counting) – but have expanded into business information-, organizational effectiveness-, self-help- and other areas since.

Of course, our book ‘Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands’ can not be missing from their library – in fact, we are quite proud that it out-ranks some of the Aaker, Godin, Kotler or Kapferer ‘bibles’ in their assessment.  Wolf and I were interviewed last year for their newsletter and now they came back after me for this podcast episode on Ueber-Brands, their world, our world, … my world. – Enjoy

 

 

FURTHER THOUGHTS AND READING:

For even deeper insights into what drives the success of Ueber-Brands read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” and some of the many case-studies on this blog or listen to our podcast.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

Here are the links to the getAbstract website, the original podcast interview on getAbstract life (2018) and the interview Wolf and I gave for their newsletter (2017).

You can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, TuneIn, etc. or on our blog to receive new post notifications. 

 

A Brand Built By ‘Less’? - Interview with Brandless co-founder Tina Sharkey

A Brand Built By ‘Less’? - Interview with Brandless co-founder Tina Sharkey

January 3, 2018

'Brandless' is the only 'brand' you can buy at the eponymous e-grocer.  As co-founder Tina Sharkey explains, young 'Brandless' is not about the absence of identity or meaning and being a brand in that sense. Rather, it is about changing the way in which a brand connects with constituents and is distributed. Which, in her words, is no less than a 'revolution' in which Brandless seeks to 'abolish the brand tax' (see chart below) used by 'regular brands' to make up stories (aka advertising) and generate profits for everyone across the media employed and the long supply chain - retailers, in particular.

Instead, the vision of a 'Brandless life' is one where you 'shop by values' (ie. 'certified organic') on a website, where labels check-off (what are judged) key product attributes on the front (pics below), where less is more (ie. GMO free, gluten free, no added sugar, no pictures/logos/slogans, etc.), where you swap recipes with the 'Brandless community' and dialogue with the company on what they should add to the lineup.

And every item costs a mere $3, ships for free and an order triggers two meals being donated to NGO Feeding America - provided you signed-up to 'B.More'  for $39/year.  -  'Hurray!' (to quote the site).

The above are just some of the elements Tina talks about - enthusiastically - in our interview, as she illustrates how Brandless executes against a higher mission of 'democratizing goodness' with the help of a motivated team and brilliant agency.  -- You can imagine that we were intrigued.

 

Is Brandless a blueprint for the 'new way we live and shop ... build communities ... and thus build brands,' as Tina says?  Or is it more simply a savvy shot by two digital serial entrepreneurs at disrupting 'Big CPG and Retail' - or at least scare it enough to buy them out?  The other co-founder, Ido Leffler, wrote a book in 2013 entitled "Get Big Fast and Do More Good' to summarize his experience in 'accelerated brand building' up to that date.  Him and Tina have certainly succeeded to catch attention fast if over 165k Facebook followers (as of Jan 2018) six months into their new venture are a solid indicator.

But is the @BrandlessLife here to stay?   Maybe, the best way to judge might indeed be to take Tina up on her offer and give it a try.  Let us know when you do and what you think.

 

FURTHER THOUGHTS AND READING:

For insights into what drives the success of modern brands - we call those that succeed to elevate themselves and can charge a premium Ueber-Brands - read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” and other case-studies on this blog.

If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

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Here is a link to the Brandless website and related FAQs on B.More (including that 'Hurray!' answer).

Here is another interview with Tina about how "Hot new e-commerce start-up Brandless is totally obsessed with its own brand" by Alison Grisworld at Quartz magazine.  We learn that the "brand bills itself as the Procter & Gamble of millennials" wanting "people to live more, brand less... and stop the false narratives sold by Madison Avenue".  Out of context quotes or an over-the-top portrayal?  Listen to our interview with Tina and or study the brand talking 'About Us' and you will hear/read that Brandless sees itself a "group of thinkers, eaters, doers and lovers of life with big dreams about changing the world."

Or watch both founders on CBS This Morning

 

You can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, TuneIn, etc. or on our blog to receive new post notifications. 

Making Slow Fashion Grow - Interview with Raleigh Denim Workshop co-founder Victor Lytvinenko

Making Slow Fashion Grow - Interview with Raleigh Denim Workshop co-founder Victor Lytvinenko

November 6, 2017

Victor and his wife Sarah are in love with making jeans the old, slow way in their Raleigh Denim Workshop. They sewed them themselves and proudly signed every pair when they started out in 2007.  But in the meantime, they employ some two dozen people and 'getting to use the signing Shapie' has become a rite of passage, of sorts, to becoming one of them - a true 'jeans-smith'.  And that's just one of the intriguing stories and quirky details Victor shares in our interview (click the play button below).  You can hear the love in his voice for his partner Sarah, for vintage sewing machines and for the 'good old' time when making things required some physical skill, happened in a workshop somewhere close and yielded objects with 'soul' - a quality beyond what can easily be described, seen or felt.

A steadily increasing number of customers and retailers seem to share their love for 'slow fashion' and feel that it is special.  So special that some make it a point to stop over at their store and workshop in Raleigh, North Carolina or make a special 'pilgrimage' to pick up a few pairs which go for around $200-400 a piece.  The industry has also taken note:  Sarah and Victor were into the coveted CFDA, the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

In the interview, you will also hear Victor tell us ...

  • where, he thinks, this appeal for hand crafted jeans comes from
  • who works for them and who buys their jeans
  • why retailers love to sell Raleigh Denim Workshop products and how
  • what role e-commerce plays compared to brick & mortar

... and how they look at growth and the future - among other things.  What do you think? Ueber-Brand material?

Raleigh denim Workshop, owner, jean and shop

FURTHER THOUGHTS AND READING:

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For more insights what drives the success of modern Prestige brands - Ueber-Brands as we call the best of them - wisit our blog at www.ueberbrands.com or read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands”.  And if you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at info@ueberbrands.com.

 

Here is a link to the Raleigh Denim Workshop website and store.  And here some Yelp reviews of the brand and store - passionate ... but not always.

It shows how difficult but critical 'living you mission and dream as a brand' is or 'the bubble might burst,' as we write in our book.  Creating and living your brand 'truth' faithfully is not easy and separates the good from the best.

An interesting 'sub-myth' is that of the 'last denim patternmaker' Chris Ellsberg who "works for us but is really our mentor" as Victor says.  They know their storytelling!

Here is a video that tells the RDW story and shows Victor's love for these old machines...

You can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes, Android, Stitcher, TuneIn, etc. or on our blog to receive new post notifications.