By now, everyone knows this story. In 2010, four friends completely disrupted the consumer brand business by creating an eyewear company that was determined to provide better-looking, lower-cost glasses directly to the consumer. This business was called Warby Parker. Famously, their Wharton professor at the time, Adam Grant, declined to invest in the business because he believed they were destined to fail. And as of 2018, they had a $1.2B dollar business on their hands.
But in 2019, it seems like we spot more and more billion-dollar valuations of cult-favorite start-ups every single day. And “the entrepreneur” and “the influencer” are becoming synonymous with each other. So how did we get here? Was the consumer brand market really not paying attention to their customers, or did these brands just happen upon the magic formula?
Neither really. The “secret” to their success has been around long before the invention of Dove soap in 1957, and in fact, it’s that exact success story that we should examine to unlock the keys to success in the CPG world.
1. Find the gap in the market
Dove won because in 1957, soap was… soap. By developing a personal care product that did not dry skin, but rather moisturized it, Dove quickly carved itself out a piece of the market. This differentiating factor assisted them in gaining consumer trust with their high-quality and reliable products that delivered on their promises. And only once they mastered their core product did Dove gradually build its product catalog and apply the same research and development skills to other areas of personal care.
Emily Weiss, with her current $1.2B valuation of Glossier, is not that different of a story. Through her blog, Emily found the gaps in the market and knew exactly what one very specific group of people (her blog followers) would purchase. She started with a four-piece range of skincare-focused lotions and balms that was purchased for $80 and perfected the range before moving on to a line which now includes skincare, makeup, and perfumes.
2. Understand the power of marketing
Long before Dove’s current “Real Bodies” campaign, they were creating ads that drove the core value of the product. And it was as simple as the fact that the bar did what it promised—it moisturized your skin unlike any other soap on the market. And that was all they had to do at the time: prove the value that their product did something that no one else could do.
If you look at the genesis of Rent the Runway, a venture imagined by Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, their advertising campaign was baked in the value add of the product. What does renting give you? Style, confidence, flexibility, and no credit card debt. Something they detailed in their first New York Times article in 2009.
3. Find the right partners and capital to push your business further
Founded by the Lever Brothers in 1957, Dove Soap was fortunate enough to be imagined after Margarine Unie and the Lever brothers joined forces in 1929. But resources and capital really accelerated because of Unilever’s focus on packaging, market research, and advertising in the ’80s. And the true success for Dove was in 2011, when profits were over three billion in sales, up from a respectable $200 million in sales in the early 1990s. Who was the perfect partner to help catalyze this success? Ogilvy & Mather, who envisioned the “Campaign for Real Beauty” in Brazil in 2004.
It was just announced that AWAY luggage received a $1.4B valuation after collecting $100MM in series D funding. The secret to this success? Strategic Partnerships. Away has imagined everything from a line of millennial pink luggage with influencers Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse, followed by collaborations with Minions, West Elm, Madewell, model Devon Aoki, and actress Rashida Jones in 2018 alone. And their collaboration with NBA superstar Dwyane Wade only furthered the notion that the AWAY suitcase is for anyone and everyone. Sport fans and millennial pink lovers alike.
Launching a consumer brand in 2019 is no easy task. You’ve got to have the right product, with a differentiation factor that matters to consumers and the network to push your brand forward. But learning from industry giants and experts who have done it successfully can be the make-or-break moment for your brand. And that’s where FounderMade comes in, with their mission to propel purpose-driven, next-generation brands to the place they belong—into the hands of those who want them. FounderMade empowers founders with exclusive access to the most well-regarded industry leaders, distribution, high-impact marketing initiatives, investment opportunities, and annual summits, and helps people discover life-changing beauty, food, and wellness products.
Photo: Veronika Koroleva via Unsplash