Strategies & Insights

Up for Discussion

Posted: July 20, 2016 by
Katie Gravely

Every brand has a story behind it, and every story has a beginning, middle and end. Whether the brand is fairly new or centuries old, for it to be successful, all departments within that brand need to be aligned, so that the end result is close to perfection.

Some brands have nearly 10 people working behind the scenes and other brands have hundreds making sure everything works correctly. Whatever the number may be, there are plenty of factors that come into play to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Brian McGee, co-founder of Functional Formularies has more than 20 years of experience in international product brand development and design, and that experience was used to create the Functional Formularies brand and its two products: Liquid Hope and Nourish.

Liquid Hope came about after McGee’s father-in-law suffered a traumatic brain injury nearly 10 years ago. His wife, Robin McGee is a whole foods chef and noticed that what her father was being fed through a feeding tube contained corn syrup solids, sugars, MSG and synthetics, McGee says. Therefore, Robin McGee put her head together with her husband and developed an organic formula.

McGee worked with brand development firm LPK and now has 10 people working at his company, Functional Formularies, and says the most important part of any alignment among different departments, such as creative, marketing, etc. is communication.

Open door policy

McGee stresses that as the brand manager of Liquid Hope, he has an open door policy for his team.

“For me, the most important part is complete transparency,” he says. “Make sure everyone is on the same page; have regular meetings, and when new information should come up or come out, make sure we have a meeting where everyone is on the same page.”

His door is always open and during meetings, the team can ask questions and those questions get answered at that point in time.

Boarded with vision

“I think it’s always about the on-boarding process,” McGee continues. “We make sure that when new people come in, they are on board with our vision, and we make sure they understand the story behind how it all started.”

The basic mission behind Liquid Hope and Nourish is to provide a feeding tube formula product that contains organic whole food ingredients, no added sugar, nutritionally dense and that uses the functional medicine model, making it the first and only USDA certified in the world.

“To really do this, it had to be done with great integrity, authenticity and all those things that we weren’t finding in all the other products,” McGee says.

Down the line, McGee plans to make a manual for all his new employees.

“We are working on an employee manual that will have all the answers in there,” he says. “When questions come up, we document them, so that basically someone coming in can look through this manual and have a reference guide for anything they encounter.”

Package design

When it comes to the package design or a brand refresh, how are bigger companies on the same page? Stoner Inc.’s marketing director Jeff Campbell says that with its brand Invisible Glass, making sure all department leads are thinking the same, is crucial.

Invisible Glass has two package designs, one for automotive and another for household.

“We were hearing from women who used their husbands’ Invisible Glass,” says Campbell. “They said they’d like to purchase it in the grocery aisle, so we pursued that. Our research said we needed to modify the package to make it more appealing to women, so we revised the design and launched it in 2012.  Today it’s available in the home cleaning aisles at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot.”

If something within the brand needs to be looked at, Campbell says the brand manager drives the conversation. A hypothesis is developed and everyone from the CEO of the company, sales representatives, R&D, marketing and creative departments, and designers are brought into the conversation.

And the question “What are we going to do about this?” is open to the room. They looked at the automotive packaging vs. the household packaging.

“They [Invisible Glass] knew they didn’t have any major communication issues (in automotive) because it was successful and had solid repeat purchases.  They also knew it wasn’t a product quality issue, or a packaging format issue,” says Tom Newmaster, partner at William Fox Munroe, the firm that worked on the packaging for Invisible Glass.  “So you might think you can just put it in another section of the store, it should work . . . not always.”

R&D ended up getting involved in several ways. 

“The household brand required a different delivery system,” Campbell says. “The automotive product is in a 22 oz. bottle but the household product required a 32 oz. bottle, which meant using a different sprayer, a different bottle, and some technical changes in production, so those guys had to be involved.”

“When you put them side by side, they still look like the same brand,” he adds. “We will continue to evolve both packages as we further separate automotive and household.“

New brands

Both Newmaster and Campbell tell new brands to make sure to talk with the departments about any research obtained when it comes to the industry or product category, and to make sure to have everyone respect the outside resources and value of the input from others contributing to the discussion.

“I would say, don’t assume anything. Sometimes people think they know the answers, and they might know the answers, and they might be right,” Newmaster says. “But I think when you start assuming, take a step back, maybe even two or three steps back. Look at the product and look at the category. If you’re trying to launch a new brand, is there room for that new brand? Is there a gap in the consumer category that you could fill?”

Whatever the task behind the brand’s team, communication is inevitably the option.