Perseverance, sweat, hard work, and a quality team are the recipe for building a solid brand. Inspiring natural brands align with worthy causes. Mission-based causes are in their DNA. Care2 amplifies their message while being social warriors for good.

Today’s story comes from an entrepreneur that tried a lot of different things before successfully getting his brand on shelves and in the public eye, while becoming a social warrior for good. At the heart of his message, you hear him talk about perseverance, about how you’ve got to continually work hard, and that a large part of your journey requires you to talk to a lot of different customers to get your product in front of live customers and talk to them and sample things and ask them, “What do you like? What do you like better?”

His story is the ultimate rags to riches entrepreneurial story. When I use the term riches here, I’m talking about the richness of having a successful brand, of being able to accomplish what few do, to be able to come up with a creative solution, snacking solution that customers love, that they evangelize. That to me is the definition of success in this industry.

As my guest shares, this is where you begin the customer journey. This is where you need to put all your focus on first, because customers will reward you if you provide a solution that they’re looking for that meets their needs.

Today’s story is about a young brand that started out with really no focus, no plan, and yet he was able to turn his determination into a successful brand, and in the process became a social warrior for good. Today’s guest is Justin Perkins of OLOMOMO and Care2.

What’s fascinating about Justin’s story is that it resonates with so many of us that have an entrepreneurial spirit. Despite all the challenges that he ran into, Justin never gave up. Justin shares with us today his story about how he was able to successfully build a brand and in the process, he was able to successfully connect consumers to important causes.

As a business owner, he talks about the strategies and the challenges that he ran into in terms of getting his product on shelves, and then he talks about how he transitioned his product to an online marketplace and how digital marketing strategy helped him get his products in the hands of more consumers.

In addition, Justin shares with us how he became a social warrior for good and how Care2 is impacting a lot of lives, how to improve the way we communicate social change and social justice through social media and through email marketing, the power of a solid digital marketing strategy.

I’m excited to introduce you to Justin Perkins. Here he is. Hi Justin. Thank you for coming on today. Before we get started, I’d like to learn a little bit more about you, how you started, and what took you on this journey from entrepreneur to social warrior.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about OLOMOMO

Click here to learn more about Care2

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #33

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #33

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

LETS ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND GET STARTED!

Dan: Welcome. Today's story comes from an entrepreneur that tried a lot of different things before successfully getting his brand on shelves and in the public eye, while becoming a social warrior for good. At the heart of his message, you hear him talk about perseverance, about how you've got to continually work hard, and that a large part of your journey requires you to talk to a lot of different customers to get your product in front of live customers and talk to them and sample things and ask them, "What do you like? What do you like better?"

His story is the ultimate rags to riches entrepreneurial story. When I use the term riches here, I'm talking about the richness of having a successful brand, of being able to accomplish what few do, to be able to come up with a creative solution, snacking solution that customers love, that they evangelize. That to me is the definition of success in this industry.

As my guest shares, this is where you begin the customer journey. This is where you need to put all your focus on first, because customers will reward you if you provide a solution that they're looking for that meets their needs.

Today's story is about a young brand that started out with really no focus, no plan, and yet he was able to turn his determination into a successful brand, and in the process became a social warrior for good. Today's guest is Justin Perkins of OLOMOMO and Care2.

What's fascinating about Justin's story is that it resonates with so many of us that have an entrepreneurial spirit. Despite all the challenges that he ran into, Justin never gave up. Justin shares with us today his story about how he was able to successfully build a brand and in the process, he was able to successfully connect consumers to important causes.

As a business owner, he talks about the strategies and the challenges that he ran into in terms of getting his product on shelves, and then he talks about how he transitioned his product to an online marketplace and how digital marketing strategy helped him get his products in the hands of more consumers.

In addition, Justin shares with us how he became a social warrior for good and how Care2 is impacting a lot of lives, how to improve the way we communicate social change and social justice through social media and through email marketing, the power of a solid digital marketing strategy.

I'm excited to introduce you to Justin Perkins. Here he is. Hi Justin. Thank you for coming on today. Before we get started, I'd like to learn a little bit more about you, how you started, and what took you on this journey from entrepreneur to social warrior.

Justin: Thanks, Daniel. Flashback about 12 years ago, I had started working with an amazing company called Care2 that has evolved to be now the largest social action network for good with about 45 million conscious consumers.

I started working with this company in Washington DC. This was after an adventurous year where I had quit my job with the Department of Defense after doing some research for one of their think tanks, which was fascinating. That kind of got me into internet stuff, and then I had quit my job.

I went on a vision quest for three days, came back, and said, "Okay, I'm going to be a musician and record an album." Worked on that for about four months. By the way, I was married. This was really great choices at that point.

Dan: Okay.

Justin: Roommate accidentally deleted the album. Went back, went on a bunch of other adventures, tried to find a job. We ended up going to Thailand. I think I had about 10 bucks left in my bank account when I finally got a job offer with this amazing company, Care2.

As you can imagine, my loyalty to Care2 after being offered an amazing job like that has been very deep. 12 years later, here I am after watching the evolution of the internet and Facebook and YouTube and all these other social media channels. Meantime, Care2 has been profitably, by the way, growing an audience of now what is 45 million people who are taking action every day on really important causes.

I'll get back to that. A quick side jaunt, which is probably why you and I are talking today, is while living in DC, there was this amazing fellow who was at the farmer's market selling these super tasty roasted nuts. His wife was a chef and he bought a nut roasting machine on NutRoastingMachine.com. One of his employees was my intern at Care2, and that's how I got the idea to start OLOMOMO Nut Company.

I was a Boulder, Colorado expat living in DC, trying my darndest to get back home, and I used to be an organic farmer. I put two and two together and said, "Okay, roasted nuts, Boulder farmer's market, 2008, economic downturn." This is going to be the side hustle and potentially some employment for my wife, as she was transitioning careers. That was kind of the kernel of the idea, if you will, for OLOMOMO Nut Company.

Meantime, I've kept a day job going with Care2, but that's where my worlds collided. I started going to Expo West and learning more about building a natural products’ brand, that's where I put two and two together and said, "Oh my gosh, all of these conscious consumers that we've been communicating to through Care2 for the purpose of helping nonprofit organizations essentially build their fundraising capacity through direct donations and cultivating relationships through email marketing with millions of conscious consumers, it's the same audience that all the natural products brands are trying to reach."

Over the years, I've learned that I'm kind of hard wired as an entrepreneur, I'm always looking for those connections of how to take and borrow brilliant ideas from one market and bring those to the other. That's what now from my experience as the owner of a brand, OLOMOMO, and understanding what the needs are of building a brand in the modern environment as retail gets hammered by a lot of changing economic forces, a lot of brands are really turning towards digital marketing as a way to build their brands, do direct to consumer sales, et cetera. Care2 is sitting on 45 million people that could really help brands grow.

That's kind of the short story of how I got here. I'm happy to kind of dig into some more of the learnings around building a brand, OLOMOMO, as well as kind of switching hats and talking more about how Care2 is working with brands to really help them activate at a large scale, Patagonia, So Delicious, Annie's, et cetera. There's some wonderful stories of how we've broken through, gotten amazing press, and actually done some good in the process.

Dan: I love that. I love how eclectic your background is, the fact that you've tried so many different things, put on so many different hats, and then decided that you wanted to build a business. Okay, OLOMOMO-

Justin: I say OLO, you say MOMO.

Dan: OLOMOMO Nut Company. You started that. What was it like? How difficult was it to roast nuts, put it in a package, get it on a retailer's shelf? What was your journey building that story, that brand, that piece of what you were doing?

Justin: Sure. Interestingly, the concept was spot on right away and we were the first company in Colorado to really sell roasted nuts at a farmer's market. It started very grassroots. I think I put 10 grand on a credit card and knew the farmer's market system really well, so basically just repurposed the displays that I used for selling produce and kind of made those more lively for a funky nut brand.

Stepping back a second, before that, the initial concept was actually called Spice, little known fact. The theme was secret recipes from my world travels. I'd always been really interested in world travel and exotic food and loved the culinary experience of travel and have lived in Brazil and Africa. My wife's from Mexico.

That was just kind of a big part of my DNA and my passion was around international food, so our initial concept for farmer's markets was actually spiced coffee, spiced hot chocolate, fruit waters, and spiced nuts.

I quickly realized after the first all nighter, before the first farmer's market, trying to cover both Cherry Creek and Longmont with one truck, that this was going to be really unsustainable. It was a nightmare in terms of logistics and trying to deal with fresh food and health laws, et cetera.

That very quickly got scaled back to roasted nuts, because it was a product we could make a big batch and had a bit of a shelf life, so we could gain some efficiency in production. We started out with those, literally bought a nut roasting machine at NutRoastingMachine.com. Was living in my parents' basement back in Boulder to try to transition back to a lifestyle here, and we did five farmer's markets every weekend with the help of a couple of employees.

From day one, the flavors were a hit. We had cinnamon cayenne almonds, vanilla cardamom almonds, which we now call chai vanilla, and we had a couple of pecan flavors, maple, masala pecans, and the other initial flavor was a maple orange pecan. We went a long way with just those flavors and then tried a bunch of other things.

After that first summer, we were completely burned out, about to throw in the towel, and then I made the mistake or had the fortune, I'm still trying to determine which, of doing the Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam back in 2008. We got into the finals, and were the runner up at the pitch slam.

People came out of the woodwork, including a couple folks that are on my board still, Doug Grady, who was at that time at Grady's Organic Bakery, and part of their turnaround team, and folks like Brook Eddy from Bhakti Chai and TJ from Boulder Brands, now Bobo's, et cetera, and just all these amazing people came out to help.

We fixed our packaging a bit and just started to get serious about saying, "Okay, could we actually sell this in retail?" We won a business plan contest at the University of Colorado Denver through the Bard Center, which is now called the Jake Jabs Center. That started to get us some press and attention. We started to sell through third party websites, like Abe's Market, and back then, Foodsy. We started to sell through coffee shops, and it kind of snowballed.

We got on The Cooking Channel. Every time The Cooking Channel would air that program, we'd get a bunch of online orders, so just very organically built over a period of about five years to where with very little resources and time, we had kids in the middle of that. My wife really wasn't interested in selling nuts, so she got out. Somehow, just kind of kept it going with kind of an anchor employee, this wonderful woman named Jillian Godowski, who was sort of literally the cook and bottle washer while I held down the day job and just tried to keep it going.

Somewhere around 2013, we started to get some attention. People realized that we were onto something. The brand was bigger than our sales. A wonderful guy named Ross Shell, who's the founder of Red Idea Partners, had been talking with me for a couple of years and he was starting to get serious about investing as long as we had kind of an anchor operator that was competent and could really drive the day to day, because I just wasn't in a position to do that. I liked my job at Care2 too much.

At any rate, this beautiful house of cards came together with a fellow named Mark Owens, who has been the CEO for the last five years. Red Idea put in the first investment check, and then was generous in opening their relationships with a couple of their angel investors. Then, over the past five years or so, we've made a go of it in retail and I'm proud to say that we're distributed through several major retailers throughout Colorado, Whole Foods, Vitamin Cottage, and Natural Grocers, as well as doing really well in Safeway and Albertson's and we're about to roll out in King Sooper's here pretty soon.

We did have some hiccups along the way, as most startups do, and we got a little over our skis in trying to distribute out of our home region without the capital resources to manage that stretch. Tough lesson to learn, but we also learned that we could sell into channels out of our region as long as we had more ability to support the marketing and consumer development of self through in those channels.

We've kind of pulled back to really focus on finishing Colorado, and then made a major shift recently to focus on the opportunity with Amazon.com, which is substantial. I'll stop there. I know that's a lot but that's kind of the story in a nutshell, ha ha.

Dan: No, I love that. I think that's great. The fact that you've got all those Boulder rock stars literally. I know all those people, and wow, what an impressive lineup. The fact that you were smart enough to realize that you got over your skis and decided to come back is impressive. A lot of brands that I talk with are struggling with what do I do now, I've got distribution clear across the country, do I take it? That's something that I think a lot of brands need to really pay attention to is you want to be excellent where you do business, where you live, before you start going outside your market. Thanks for bringing that up.

Back to the pitch slam and the fact that you were able to organically build this stuff, what tips or strategies would you suggest to a new brand? This is exactly the story that young brands need to hear. That you just don't give up, you can't give up. If you’ve got the right idea and the right people behind you.

Justin: Yes. I think in retrospect, I think part of what worked was early on as the founder, I was out there literally schlepping one nut at a time, telling the story to anybody that would listen. It's a lot of hustle and a lot of groundwork you have to lay.

I would say what I learned is that the natural products industry and even as you get into conventional grocery stores and any sort of distribution, it's very old school and very relationship-driven, and those relationships matter a lot. As much as it's super important to have a high quality product that is well-differentiated and awesome packaging and a lot of great benefits, I think where the rubber hits the road is in a brand's ability to actually execute it and follow through with things like actually doing what you say you're going to do, and making people feel good and developing long-term relationships and solving problems for the people in retail that you work with.

We're not doing that perfectly by any means, but I think I have a deeper understanding of looking at other brands who have really broken through and how often it's just the execution of their distribution game, and really understanding the key metrics and really understanding how the systems work and taking an approach that's very service-driven to helping the retailers be successful versus just trying to go pitch stuff and sell stuff and really looking at how you solve problems that a retailer needs to be solved. I've heard you comment about that on a couple of your podcasts, as well.

That's the philosophy we're really trying to execute against and switch towards building upon the traction that we already have, and I would say that it's just a lot of persistence, a lot of showing up, a lot of trial, a lot of testing. The beauty of natural products and especially food is that if you have a really good product and you get people to try it, that's the key, and so figuring out creative ways to get people to try things.

I was lucky to have started in a farmer's market, which is a really great way to test new products and test the traction of a product with a large number of people all at once in a concentrated period of time. Early on, we did some testing and found that all of our flavors were spot on and we had something different for everybody, and we got that initial feedback.

Sometimes people will say things that are actually not honest, but when you have a combination of looking at somebody react and their body language along with what's coming out of their mouth in terms of what they say about your product, that data is super valuable. Early on, we were lucky to have just gobs and gobs of data with 15,000 people walking by our booth every day at the farmer's markets on every Saturday. That was a great way to start, and then to be able to leverage that experience with confidence that our product was really good and a lot of people would like it and it was more of a challenge of just getting it into more mouths.

Dan: The poster child is exactly what I've been talking about all this time. Brands cannot expect retailers to be an expert in every single category of every single item. For you to be able to provide them with a resource, in other words, as you said, provide them with a solution, how do you help them sell your product, et cetera, more importantly to go one step further, being able to know your consumer. I've always been a staunch believer that focus panels and things like that are really not a good way to go. You need to talk to people. You need to get down in the ditches and in the trenches and have one on one intimate conversations.

I'm going to get to the social piece in a minute because that's so important. I really love the fact that you did that, and the fact that you're solving problems and that you're testing things in real life and you're taking those strategies, those learnings, to help retailers better sell your product. Thank you for sharing that.

Going back to Care2, earlier you made the comment about the social piece, the social marketing to support your brand. I believe that that is truly the most important thing any brand can do is to leverage those insights, what they like, what the consumer likes, how they like it, et cetera, to really leverage and support your brand not only on the shelf, but on the line.

One of the things that I've been talking a lot about, Justin, and thanks for bringing this up, is that your messaging needs to extend beyond the four corners of your package. What strategies would you recommend to a brand in terms of pulling all this together, using social media, and that intersection where you've got traditional brick and mortar, and then online, and then again communicating beyond the four corners of your package and sharing those insights, who loves your product, et cetera?

Justin: Yes. There's a spectrum of challenges and a spectrum of tactics here. What I'm going to try to do here is share what I've learned and kind of switch back and forth between my hat I wear as the founder of a company and then the hat I wear as somebody who runs digital strategy programs for a wide variety of brands, and also nonprofits, so kind of the Reader’s Digest version is as follows.

I think one of the things I've learned is that as a brand, where a lot of brands and also nonprofits get it wrong is that they talk about themselves all the time. They get the formula wrong. When I built OLOMOMO and kind of rebranded from Spice to create this new brand that I thought would be attractive to people, I followed the format of a book that I really appreciate calling Winning the Story Wars. This was written by a guy named Jonah Sachs, the founder of Free Range Studios, who early on, was one of the first producers to figure out how to do a viral video back in early YouTube days. They had some wonderful stories.

What he did is he went back and reverse engineered the story formula from both movies, as well as the Joseph Campbell stuff, and studied a bunch of the breakthrough brands like Apple and Nike and really digested the science behind how human beings interact and learn information and also sort of view themselves and communicate. The key to that is really understanding the story formula.

In summary, when your brand acts like Yoda as sort of a mentor guide and the consumer is the hero, that's how the most amazing brands in history communicate. The experience that a consumer has with that brand leads them to sort of the moral of the story where that connection with the brand becomes quite deep, and that's why you'll see people wearing Patagonia jackets. That actually has a personal deep connection to that individual wearing that jacket, or people wearing Nike shoes feel heroic when they're running because of the marketing support behind the Nike campaigns that activate that emotion with the humans.

When I designed OLOMOMO, I kept that in mind. OLOMOMO is the monkey god of adventure. He's the Yoda character, so to speak, a trickster guide that is inspiring people to be their most nutty good adventurous selves, and that's kind of our mission and our tagline. Everything kind of centers around that, and then we think about the consumer activation side around those themes and try our best to activate those things through social media and email and all these other channels, as well as on the package. That shows up in the language, the clever silly language we use on our packaging. It shows up in our attempts to be a good brand, and we have been a B Corp in the past and we're trying to regain that status as we switch production facilities. We've always done what we can to give back in process.

For example, we used our email list to raise money for Haiti and ended up helping contribute to a friend I had who was going down to the Dominican Republic to establish a supply chain to a remote region of Haiti that none of the major NGOs were getting to, and he was able to save some lives and help an AIDS orphanage that he had built there, so things like that where we try to really create authentic experiences for our consumer base to be heroic, whether that's on a personal, individual level or on a collective level.

We try to give back through a percentage of sales to a nonprofit, like the group here based in Colorado called Big City Mountaineers where we did a giveback campaign where we asked people to buy online and a percentage of sales went to help kids who might not have access to wilderness, outdoor education, do the Big City Mountaineers program, which can be super life changing for a kid living in New York City, for example.

That's the approach we take is to think story first, consumer first, and then all of the product thinking, the packaging, the marketing, all that integrates around that core theme. If you don't know what that is, it's tough to do all that. That translates and it makes decisions really easy in how you should open the world, how your staff communicates, how your culture is, the rules and values that you live by. All that becomes a part of the brand, and really the power of the brand is what most of the companies in this space are trying to build. There's really only four or five moats that a business can create to last, and one of the most powerful ones is brand.

That's absolutely core to nail, and so it's the product attributes, it's the gluten-free, it's the non-GMO, it's the sourcing story, it's the way that you treat your employees, it's the way that you take a stand on things in the world. All of those things add up to the trust that a consumer has of your brand, and you have to nail that in all of the channels. Super hard to do. That's kind of the core philosophy.

Dan: I love that. In fact, that's exactly what this podcast is about, my free resources for our community — all my content, the free course, et cetera. The point is that you've got to be authentic, and I love the fact that you keep talking about how you give back and the story first and the consumer first. Again, if no one buys anything, it doesn't matter if your mom likes it, no one else may buy it. Getting those things right from day one, and then going back to your story earlier about all the things you could've done better, what you've learned and how you go forward.

Brands need to make sure that they're doing all the legwork upfront, get as much education as they can in terms of how to get the product on the shelf, understand what retailers really want, et cetera. They also need to focus on assuring that they have the right product solution correct, the right consumer mix, are they getting the consumers the products, the solutions that they want? Then, like you said, having all of that baked into your DNA so that every time you communicate, you have a solid selling story across your entire funnel, at every touchpoint. Anything else you wanted to add on that?

Justin: Yes, I think that's great. The way that this translates into sales at scale is when you become a brand like Patagonia, where all of a sudden, you've got the power of a consumer base to actually activate and do some really interesting things, so I think Patagonia's an amazing example to shoot for.

There's others, too. New Belgium Brewery is one of the brand crushes I have and the way that they've been able to create this offline and online ground swell of people who are just super passionate about the lifestyle. Goodness is kind of baked into the DNA of these companies from the get go. It's not like a major CPG that's trying to tack on cause marketing later on. From day one, there's an inherent goodness built into the brand.

That's super powerful, which is why these brands that kind of break through on the execution side to actually build a real business and get to some amount of scale are now super attractive to the General Mills and the Kellogg's of the world. They have to kind of buy that innovation because it's really difficult for them to authentically build it from within just because of the inertia of their historic structure and the way that their traditional brands were built over in some cases, a century.

It's a really interesting dynamic that we're in here and a tipping point in history, I believe, to where culturally, there's a massive shift happening to where on many layers, you've got consumers really demanding that companies behave well, and the expectation is that a company is doing good on some level and a company is doing more good than harm.

That's kind of the anti-in these days. Where the disconnect is, most companies miss this, is they tuck away their CSR program into a little black box or they summarize it in a CSR report that nobody sees. The opportunity is to operate more like Patagonia, where when Patagonia says, "On Black Friday, we're going to donate all the profits to environmental organizations," all of a sudden, their sales skyrocket because of the authenticity of that stance, or when Seventh Generation stands up and says, "Hey, this is ridiculous. No more glyphosate in our supply chain." You can imagine the consumer commitment to a brand like that who's willing to stand up for the voice of their consumer base. That's where this can go when you nail that and get it to scale.

The other thing that's happening on a cultural level is obviously the political environment is fairly uncertain with polarized political points of view, and brands realizing that there's some dysfunction in the government right now, so brands are kind of taking a stand on things that they believe in and being more outspoken about that.

Also, you have this major disruption in retail where again, the folks that are advising me are really questioning the future of retail, and not that it's going to go away forever. Especially with food, there's always going to be that need for people to go buy particularly prepared foods and produce and things like that, but for a snack brand that can basically be shipped really easily and go anywhere, there's a ton of opportunity now to sell online. That tipping point really is just in the near past.

If you were to ask my advisors four years ago, the whole strategy was how do you grow from a natural channel like Whole Foods to conventional channel like Safeway and King Sooper's, and then into club stores en masse like Costco and Target, et cetera. Really the opportunity for direct consumer eCommerce was still pretty unproven, but then you see brands like Rxbar and Quest Bar that were built in the complete reverse order where they got to serious scale, five to ten million dollars in sales, and I don't know if that's accurate for those brands, but that's kind of what we're hearing, and then they start to do the retail strategy, which all of a sudden accelerates a lot faster. Rxbar is amazing. They executed very fast, I think in part because of that strategy, from what I understand, but that's the opportunity now.

As part of that strategy, I picked up an advisor, wonderful guy named Josh Tabin who has been making really good progress with Amazon and his direct consumer sales with his brand, Wild Zora. He's helping us with our transition into kind of an Amazon first strategy while we maintain our retail footprint. It's still doing well. The losses are good, margins are good, but we've kind of taken our foot off the gas of growing in retail because the margins are so much higher through Amazon right now and we can see more scale and ramp that up faster.

That's kind of from the high level to the specific, and now let me talk a little bit about how this applies to the thinking of the founders of brands and what they should be thinking about in terms of how they prioritize their digital strategy. This is what I've observed. Over the last almost decade since Facebook came out, there's been a huge amount of focus and inertia towards Facebook and the promise of Facebook.

I think what's really important for a digital manager or the CEO or founder of a brand to understand is that each of these channels has a specific purpose and value to it, but what happens is everyone's trying to figure out Facebook and Instagram, so all of the energy goes towards that, and then what happens is just structurally, a lot of the folks that end up managing those programs are in their first or second job often and may not have necessarily grown up with using email, for example.

You've got all of these really interesting cultural factors, but also just the way that businesses are structured, a lot of the brands that were sort of the pioneers in this industry grew up, so to speak, with a very traditional old school brick and mortar strategy. Transitioning to a digital marketing strategy, everybody just thinks they're supposed to go on Facebook. Well, that might be true and that might work for a handful of brands, but the challenge is that when you invest in a third party system like an Amazon or a Facebook, they can change the rules overnight.

That's in fact what has happened in the last couple of years with Facebook is it went from you could game the system and get to a couple hundred thousand fans pretty easily, but the writing was on the wall. I saw this having seen a bunch of different platforms pop up and kind of being close to the water cooler so to speak with my role at Care2, and now it's pay to play. You spent millions of dollars in some cases building this fan base of people on Facebook, and now to actually access them, you have to buy advertising.

What's happened is, the other kind of factor is that historically, the bigger brands that are reliant upon ad agencies, the line item that they would see was, "Okay, we're spending money on banner ads," and that kind of shifted over the last decade to where a lot of the advertising that happens through banner ads is now what's called programmatic.

That's kind of managed by agencies that are essentially doing kind of commodity level, demographic targeted advertising across in some cases thousands and thousands of websites. Whenever you see a belly fat ad that pops up on a random website and then it follows you around the internet, that's often through what's called programmatic advertising or retargeting.

You kind of have to understand what all of these tactics are for. In that case, you're trying to build brand awareness or you might be trying to drive direct to consumer sales in doing things like affiliate marketing to drive sales on your Amazon site or direct to consumer. There's this really kind of wide range of tactics available, and it's really important for a brand manager or a CEO or a digital manager to understand what those specific tactics are for.

In summary, Facebook is good for having people to share a really interesting story. It's pretty lousy for acquisition because one single brand is going to have a hard time getting efficiency and creating enough content to be able to get an efficient email subscriber to their website, for example.

Influencer programs are kind of interesting, but unless you have a sophisticated process for enticing enough influencers, you might get a few blog posts, but the traffic to your website is really spiky. It's not consistent unless you have some sort of evergreen content that's really juicy and really meaningful and shows up high in search results. Instagram can be really interesting for engaging with influencers, but again, it's kind of hard to sustain the traffic from Instagram because it's so instantaneous and it's flash in the pan.

What's challenging is there's so much to manage and so much to chase, but Care2 has really anchored its business around email acquisition for a very strong assumption and reason, and that is as soon as an adult hits their first job, they're going to be stuck in the inbox probably 50 to 80% of their day. 40% of eCommerce is driven through email, and we know that if you want to have any sort of effective brand engagement campaign that gets any volume of traction, unless you're just super lucky or you have millions of dollars of advertising budget, email tends to drive the highest result of that. Ironically, the natural products industry is about a decade behind the nonprofit sector in terms of sophistication and prioritization of email marketing.

Kind of cutting to the chase, that's the problem I've been trying to solve for the last five years in the industry is to help the executives at natural products companies understand the power of email marketing in coordination with all these other channels to make the entire game more efficient.

That's where things are heading now, and a lot of brands are starting to wake up to the fact that they have spent a bunch of money on Facebook over the last few years and it's not really generating a lot of returns. Lots of examples of how that's played out. I'll stop there in case you want to kind of redirect me here.

Dan: No. I really appreciate it. I know we've got to be sensitive of your time, and again, I thank you for coming on. We're talking about a couple things. Consumers demand that brands behave well. Cannot emphasize that enough, the fact that this authenticity, and they've got to have a brand that actually stands for something.

The point is that you get a product you trust so much and you love and you believe in, and again, it's about the company, like you said. I love the fact that you brought that up, and also the fact that you said that brands need to take a stand on things.

One of the things you said is in terms of disrupting retail, I agree. Brands need to have a multifaceted approach to how they go to business, and I know that there's a lot of talk, I heard this at Expo, that traditional brick and mortar stores are going away, going by the wayside. I don't believe that at all. I would highly encourage anyone listening to listen to the episode I just did with Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru, where we have a very candid conversation about this.

What I believe, what I think is going to happen, is that these small brands that you're talking about, Justin, are going to become what's relevant on the shelf, because as you said so eloquently, the large brands, when they innovate, they just slap a different package on it or they talk to people, where the small brands get it. They understand who the consumer is.

I believe that the evolution is going to be more from large CPG companies across every shelf owning every spot on every retailer shelf in every store, et cetera, to being the small disruptive brands that are closely aligned with the consumer, which all ties nicely into what you're saying in terms of the online versus traditional retail and how your strategies all come into play. Thank you for framing that.

Now, when you get to Care2, can you give some examples, perhaps some case studies? You said you're trying to solve this. What have you seen that works, and where do you see the company, not Care2, but the strategies evolving to this year, next year, and beyond?

Justin: Yes. What I've tried to do is solve some key problems that are pretty common across natural products, and frankly, any CPG. One is being able to efficiently educate and reach a lot of consumers, and deepen that connection to the brand through owning a content marketing channel.

Again, when you own the permission to actually email somebody who's signed up, taken action on something related to your brand, that connection is going to be way deeper than somebody who just liked your Facebook page because the email channel is pretty intimate, so to speak. Especially nowadays, you're not going to sign up for stuff lightly because of the volume of email that we all get. The interest level is high when people actually subscribe to stuff.

A couple stories. We worked with So Delicious, which is an awesome brand with plant-based beverages and some of the best coconut chocolate-covered with almonds ice cream bars you've ever had. Just chowed down on one of those last night, my little indulgence. So Delicious is not going to do advocacy or really kind of stick their neck out the way that a brand like Patagonia would. It's just not the way that their brand was built. They're much more about that plant-based living. It's more of a lifestyle brand, which is fine.

In the case of So Delicious, what we did is we got about 55,000 people to take a personal pledge to live a plant-based lifestyle for 21 days, so it's the 21 day dairy-free challenge. In the context of that, we got a percentage of those people, a high percentage, to subscribe to the email list of So Delicious.

About 10% of the people who signed that pledge also shared that on Facebook. Again, Facebook is a great platform for sharing content and personal stories and cute pictures and lifestyle stuff, but it's less good at driving direct engagement, direct response.

Now, So Delicious owns this substantial email list that they can go reach out to whenever they need to drive in store engagement. They can drive coupon programs. They can educate people about plant-based living, and they own that channel. That's a great example of how a brand that might not be as hardcore as Patagonia can really activate a large number of people tied into their mission, which in this case is about animal rights and sustainable living, plant-based lifestyle.

On the other end of the spectrum, we worked with Thrive Market, which is a large third party eCommerce platform. They're sort of like Whole Foods meets Costco. You get a membership and then you can order Whole Foods type products, grocery products, delivered to your house, and then every time you order, I think when you buy a membership, you're generating a membership for a family that lives in a food desert. The idea is that somebody who might not have access to a Whole Foods or natural products store can have healthy food delivered.

With Thrive Market, we did some interesting things where we did kind of both ends of the spectrum. We did some pledges around lifestyle type stuff, so pledged to live a healthy lifestyle, but then we also did an amazing activation where we helped change the food system and partnered with them on a petition. We got about 200,000 people to sign it.

We have a team that actually activated a protest in DC, and protested outside the USDA. The ask was to enable the redemption of food stamps online, which was something that was kind of hung up in the red tape of the government bureaucracy, so that actually got passed with Thrive Market's help and some other organizations that were in the coalition.

Likewise, in the context of that, we also were able to recruit a lot of people for Thrive Market's email list. Our philosophy that we've landed on in trying to solve some of these key problems around digital marketing is to lead with mission first, but then also, we're tying into the consumer shopping behavior.

What we found, both in the nonprofit sector and in the for profit sector, is that when you connect the values of an individual, which is essentially entity, we're connecting identity, which is especially important with millennials by the way. Brands become part of your identity just like your Patagonia jacket that your daughter stole.

We're leading with that value-based connection so that when somebody signed a petition for a Thrive Market or a Patagonia or So Delicious, they're going to be much more deeply connected to that brand when they go and see it in the store than they would be just by getting some sort of discount offer. We've proven that at scale with nonprofits. We know that if we get an individual consumer to sign a petition, they're seven times more likely to donate to that nonprofit, and that's proven now for the last 15 years.

That's kind of our philosophy, which is pretty different from other social media. We're a social action network, and we're able to drive brands to scale, so we now have the capacity to recruit on the order of 50 to 100,000 email subscribers for a single brand per month.

To put that in context, most brands, individual brands, cap out pretty quickly in trying to do email acquisition from other channels. Most of what other brands are trying to do is either some sort of sweepstakes or giveaway, and it's leading not with values, but typically with discount programs, which immediately dumbs down the value of your brand.

Dan: I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, one of the things to talk about is loyalty cards. I've got a loyalty card for every retailer, every airline, et cetera. The fact that you guys are really identifying what true loyalty means is your example. That's exactly what you need to leverage in retail, whether you're online or in a store.

I know we're running out of time. Again, thank you Justin. What things would you like to say, first about OLOMOMO? Where would we find information about that? I'll put a link to it on the website and in the show notes, and then anything that you'd like to share about Care2. How can people get involved? How do they get a hold of you, or how do they get involved in perhaps any of the missions?

By the way, on a side note, the fact that you were able to get the FDA to agree to allow food stamps online, I think that's amazing. What an impressive story.

Justin: Yes. Thank you. Really appreciated speaking with you and I appreciate the opportunity. You can find us direct order at OLOMOMO.com. We could really use some help with our Amazon actually, and if you order through Amazon and as a confirmed purchaser, please leave us a high rating and feedback, assuming you like the product, we appreciate honest feedback, that helps us essentially gain the algorithms on Amazon. There's your pro tip for part of the solution for Amazon sales.

We are available in most Colorado natural products retailers, Whole Foods, Vitamin Cottage, a bunch of coffee shops around Boulder and Denver, and we should be in King Sooper's by this summer as that project rolls out, as well as in 7-Elevens and C stores in Denver, et cetera. Those are kind of the main places to find us.

In regards to Care2, what I've found is that having been in this industry for a decade now, that it's so personal. I think what we're trying to prove here is that we can take that personal connection to a brand and take that to scale.

It's kind of funny. Again, I mentioned Doug Radi, who's on my board at OLOMOMO. He was at Rudi's when we started engaging. To this day, we still buy Rudi's bread for our kids. Every time I buy a loaf of bread, I just think of Doug. I can't help it. Now he's at Good Karma and of course, we have Good Karma in our fridge, and it's just a little bit of Doug.

That's what we're trying to connect people with at scale. When we did a campaign with Rudi's, we did a pledge to eat organics, and we got about 10,000 people signed up for their email list in about five days back in 2013, I think it was, when I was first started trying these programs. I think that's a really key part of the problem that we're trying to solve. How do you connect the capacity for meeting your business metrics with that personal brand connection for a brand like a Rudi's or a Good Karma or an OLOMOMO?

When we can tie that into a significant social giveback program, where sometimes we've done things like unlocking a donation for a cosponsored nonprofit like Compassion World Farming and the Happy Egg Company, they ended up generating $25,000 to support humane farming projects with Compassion World Farming.

That's where it starts to get really interesting and we can start to not only drive that direct to consumer feel-good result, but make real change, make a real impact. On a campaign like the Thrive Market one or the Patagonia one, we can then cycle that into the media and actually get significant press and news in mainstream media.

That's how it all ties together at scale with the brands that want to go there. It's a really, really exciting time where all these market forces are colliding, and I'm just grateful to be part of an organization like Care2 that has always been mission-driven long before that was in fashion, back to 1998, and has stayed committed to that mission and now is able to really make change on a massive scale.

Daniel, I really appreciate what you're doing in building this force for brands and retailers, and it's great. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

Dan: Thank you for your thought leadership and all the information. God, what a wonderful show. You've covered so many of the things that I talk about and you talk about how you've got to be authentic, you've got to give back, you've got to have a great message, you've got to really understand who your customer is. You covered all the key points that this show is about, so thank you, thank you, thank you for that.

Also, again, thank you for your time and for sharing information about Care2. Is there anything else you want to add about how does someone get involved? What would be the next steps to be able to work with you? Again, I'll put links to all of this on the website and then in the show notes.

Justin: Yes, that's great. What I typically do is I'll spend some time doing kind of a strategy session with brands that are a good fit, so usually a mission-driven brand that is serious about doing some sort of giveback program, or where the brand itself is authentically positioned, like a So Delicious, where by eating plants, you're giving back. It's part of the solution. Starting there, those are the types of brands that our audience responds really well to.

What I usually do is spend half an hour or an hour speaking with somebody, either the executive, the CEO, the founder, or somebody from the digital marketing team or the brand manager and really try to understand what their business goals are. We try to design a strategy to make sense, and so I become the Care2 strategic Sherpa, if you will, to help meet the goals of the brand, and then we figure out a way to make that happen, leveraging the resources and channels that we have.

If somebody wants to get in touch, we're often doing interesting things like activations around Earth Day or World Women's Day or World Water Day or things like that, where sometimes we'll cobble together a handful of brands that are working on a similar issue and generate a giveback program that Care2 does a donation as part of that sponsorship package, so a lot of really cool stuff we can do. Folks are welcome to email me just at justin@care2team.com.

Dan: Great. I'll make sure I get all that in the show notes and the website, too. Thank you again for your time, and what a great conversation. I look forward to our next one.

Justin: Thank you, Daniel. I appreciate it.

Dan: By the way, look forward to buying some nuts. I'm a Colorado native, so I love the brand, so thanks.

Justin: Yes. Appreciate it.

Dan: Take care.

Justin: All right. You too. Bye.

Dan: I'd like to thank Justin for coming on today. I'll put a link to OLOMOMO and Care2 on the website and in the show notes.

Have you ever wished you knew what retailers really want and need and how to get your brands on more retailers shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. If so, check out this weeks freebee. Today’s freebie is my Turnkey Sales Stories Strategies free course. You can get to it by going to TurnkeySalesStoriesStrategies.com/growsales. Again, TurnkeySalesStoriesStrategies.com/growsales. You can download the show notes at BrandSecretsAndStrategies.com/session33. Again, thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you on the next show.

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