I was in Santa Monica this October for the FounderMade Consumer Discovery Show, a showcase for some of the most innovative brands, products and leaders in food, beverage, wellness and beauty. The event draws up-and-coming brands and growing businesses in the consumer packaged goods space, and this year’s show offered fascinating trends, brands and insights.
Indigenous foods are big. Think gấc from Southeast Asia and popped water lily seeds from India. Founders are reaching to their roots and homelands to introduce Americans to natural foods packed with health benefits. From GacLife, gấc sparkling waters offer the highest amount of all-natural antioxidant carotenoids with the lowest level of sugar and calories. With just my fingerprint, their cool reader determined my carotenoid score. A good score is 500+, and mine was in the 200 range (eeek!). Plans are to roll out this technology with super-cool vending machines, so consumers can check their levels and then make a purchase to give their bodies a boost.
CBD is in everything. CBD (cannabidiol) is making its appearance in coffee, dermal patches, personal care products and more. It’s the new norm. One of the most interesting brands was The Good Patch. Like a birth control or nicotine patch, this transdermal patch delivers key ingredients to your blood stream faster than taking something orally. Stand-outs were Be C
alm (with menthol) and Nite Nite (with melatonin), both containing CBD.
The search for happiness: Depression, anxiety and angst are at an all-time high, so people are looking for ways to better their lives and self-care, such as through meditation, nutrition, mindfulness… and mud. I drank mud! MUD/WTR is a mixture of organic, earth-grown ingredients praised for their health and performance benefits. Packed with adaptogenic mushroom compounds, each ingredient in each blend has a specific purpose to “complement a life that demands one’s best.”
Personal connection and standing for something: Consumers – especially millennials – want to feel connected to brands and founders. Brands need to be able to tell their stories so that customers can relate. At the same time, consumers are seeking mission-based companies and organizations unafraid to take a stance on something (even if it brings controversy). As always, authenticity and transparency are critical.
For investment firms looking to sell their expertise, a successful pitch ultimately boils down to the numbers: whoever can offer the best performance at the lowest price should, in theory, win the business. Of course, in practice, it does not always happen this way – for a variety of reasons. One area where some buy-side firms tend to slip up (especially those involved in complex, quantitative-driven strategies, aka “quants”) is failing to have a cohesive, credible story behind the numbers. No matter how sophisticated the underlying models and methodologies, no matter how impressive the technology or how rapid the calculations, clients are, above all else, investing in a story. If the story doesn’t resonate, they will put their money elsewhere. From a marketing perspective, here are three lessons that can be applied in telling a firm’s stories.
The Power of Personality
As in any sales effort, personality counts for a lot. People want to know the who behind the product, sophisticated as it may be. An investment firm selling highly technical, quantitative expertise should incorporate meaningful messaging about the firm and its people (beyond a numerical performance record) into its marketing efforts. For example, is there a compelling narrative behind the firm’s origins? Does the founder or fund manager have an interesting career trajectory, skill set or driving passion that could relate back to the types of products the firm offers? These are the kinds of narratives that can be woven into sales messaging and reinforced by external PR efforts such as CEO/manager profiles and/or stories about the firm placed in top-tier financial media. Executive visibility initiatives, which might include securing speaking opportunities at major industry conferences and events, are another way quantitative firms can put a human face on their strategies, which may help boost both leads and sales.
Don’t Oversell the Tech
Related to the need to humanize the sales process, quant shops also tend to rely too heavily on technological superiority as their main point of differentiation. When everyone is affirming that theirs is the fastest, cheapest and most assured way of achieving performance, the message loses some of its punch. This is especially true for tech-driven strategies, which can be exceedingly difficult to communicate and even more difficult to understand. That’s not to say firms should not tout their innovation; they should. It must be clear, however, how the technology fits into the bigger performance picture. In other words, the tech story, if there is one, should be strong enough to pass the “so what?” test. Achieving meaningful visibility for a firm’s product/tech story can be a helpful component of a broader PR program.
One of the most key points Qualman brought up was benchmarking. Data means nothing without context. Compare the data to internal (month over month) to external (industry). Go from the offense of reacting to what your competitors do to using data for defense to start leading the industry. Don’t be ahead of the market; be ahead of your competition. In order to do that, you need to know what your competition is up to.