May 16, 2016

The Role Of Positioning In Your Marketing Strategy (PODCAST)

small business positioningIn this second of our 4-part podcast series focused on marketing and packaging, we continue our discussion about the role positioning plays in your marketing strategy and how that ultimately impacts everything from your packaging to your marketing message.

Ben Garthus of GardenHaus

Ben Garthus of Garden Haus


Jennifer: Hi. Today we have the second in this four-part series in our discussion with Garden Haus. Today we’ll be talking about the idea of positioning and marketing, how you use that in marketing strategy, why you use that, and how that can impact your packaging, other visual collateral that you have, and also your marketing message.


Garden Haus is a Brooklyn-based food packaging design firm that is brought to you by Ben Garthus, who’s a 15-year veteran of designing packaging for MegaFood brands, and Chitra Agrawal, a seasoned digital marketer and chef. In 2014, the pair launched Brooklyn Delhi, and within a year their artisanal Indian condiments line was carried in 50 stores nationwide and featured in 30 publications, including the New York Times and Saveur. Realizing the impact great packaging can have on quality products, Ben and Chitra created Garden Haus to serve the design needs of growing craft food brands.


In an earlier podcast, you were sharing information with us about how food companies can develop strong brand identities and we were talking a little bit about understanding your marketing strategy. Today I’d like to talk about positioning, and I know that that’s something that Garden Haus can help food entrepreneurs with and understanding. To start, again, with a basic question in case anyone listening doesn’t really know what we mean when we talk about positioning, what exactly is positioning for your company? What does it entail?


Chitra: Positioning is actually a strategy, and that strategy is trying to figure out where the place of your product is in comparison to competitors. When we started the process for Brooklyn Delhi, it’s basically figuring out where are we going to be selling our product, who are our competitors, how can we differentiate ourselves from them, and then from those types of exercises you figure out basically the pricing for your product and what are the elements that we’re going to call out on our label that differentiate our product from our competitors.


I guess we could take Brooklyn Delhi as an example. For instance, we make Indian pickle or achaar and that is a product that is usually sold in Indian shops. A lot of times, the product that’s sold in Indian shops, though, is not handmade, there’s no commitment to local ingredients or non-GMO …


Ben: Right.


Chitra: … ingredients, right. For us, our product would probably be too high of a price for consumers that are buying pickle in an Indian shop, so we found that the best place to launch our product would be in a specialty store where consumers are looking for products that either are sourcing responsibly or using ingredients that are healthier. With that said, since we were the first achaar in these specialty stores, that’s in itself a part of the positioning of your product.


Ben: Totally. I was just going to say that the other thing was that when we initially started thinking about this, we were going to call our product Indian pickle because that’s the way that people refer to it, but when talking to a lot of people we realized that everybody just associates the word pickle with vinegar-based pickles and so we thought that that was a little confusing, so we decided to go with the achaar, the Hindi name, for a couple different reasons. First, so people wouldn’t make that …


Chitra: Confusion with dill pickles.


Ben: Exactly.


Jennifer: Yeah.


Ben: Exactly.


Then also because we are marketing it towards specialty food stores and foodies and that sort of thing, I think calling it achaar, it makes it a little bit more adventurous for people, it’s something new that they can try.


Chitra: We wanted to educate people on the name achaar even too because in specialty stores you see harissa, you see kimchi, you see all of these different products that are coming out with their authentic names, and I think that that was an important part of how we wanted to position our product too.


Ben: Totally.


It takes more work upfront I think to get people up to speed with it, but I feel like in the long run it’s a better decision.


Chitra: And we’ll own the category …


Ben: Right.


Chitra: … if we’re the first …


Ben: Right.


Chitra: … in some of these stores.


Jennifer: Yeah. That’s a great point because harissa and kimchi are now “to the foodie group” those are second nature. There’s no even question about what that is anymore. You’re right, just thinking about that education process and when it was the first time that you heard about that if those weren’t foods that you grew up with.


Chitra: Yeah, definitely. Our friend sells kimchi and he started about five years ago where nobody knew what kimchi was. It was a learning curve for consumers and now it’s appearing on menus across the country. I think if you’re starting your own category, it’s your job to educate consumers. I think if you stick with it, you’ll definitely see your impact.


Ben: For sure.


In a way, in that sense, it’s great to be first, but obviously it can have it’s pitfalls. I worked on designing a kolachi, fast, casual, restaurant in Berkeley quite awhile ago. A kolachi, just to bring you up to speed if you don’t already know, it’s a Czech pastry. It’s usually filled with either savory meats or sweet stuff, jams, different things like that.


Jennifer: Okay.


Ben: At the time, I think it ended up failing, and I think part of the reason why was that they had to create this whole new category and they weren’t able to educate people. If somebody launches a bagel shop, it’s easy to a certain degree, granted then you have the problem of almost too much competition.


Jennifer: Yeah.


Ben: Everybody knows what it is and everybody’s already developed a relationship with bagels.


Chitra: It’s harder when you are the first in a category because you have to find a common denominator. With our product, it’s a spicy condiment and it has Indian flavor, so we have to liken it to the same category as a sriracha or harissa. It’s a new product, but we also have to make a parallel.


Jennifer: Yeah.


Chitra: If consumers are looking at different products on the shelves, there has to be some type of indicator where they are able to grab a piece of that and know what this going to somewhat taste like.


Jennifer: Yeah. It’s not going to be a sweet.


Chitra: Yeah.


Ben: Yeah.


A good example of this was when we first started, we had a gooseberry variety and it sold all right, but we ended up discontinuing it at least for the time being and replacing it with the rhubarb ginger partially because we felt like since people don’t know what achaar is that’s already a hurdle to overcome. It helps that our ingredients are things that people are familiar with. People are familiar with tomato, their familiar with roasted garlic, and their familiar with rhubarb. That helps to bridge the gap a little bit.


Chitra: Also, in this category too, when you are new and you’re selling an unfamiliar product I think that competition, in a sense, is welcome because you’re building the category with other brands, and that helps to educate the consumer as well.


Ben: For sure.


Chitra: Because I think a lot of times people look at other products that may be similar as, “I’m going to take them down.”


Ben: Right.


Chitra: In reality, those products are important, especially if you’re trying to carve a new niche.


Ben: For sure.


Jennifer: As the consumer ultimately and hopefully becomes more educated, like in the case of first-to-market products, does it make sense or do you have to go back and revisit your positioning to figure out now where you stand? Is this something that you do once and you never have to do again? Is this something that you do every month, every year?


Ben: I definitely think you need to revisit it. I guess it’s just as time goes on, you keep tabs on who else is out there, who’s launched new products, and then you have to look and see what other ways you can differentiate yourself.


Chitra: What new trends are out there.


Ben: For sure. For sure.


Chitra: Like we were talking before about the beverage industry and how in the 90s it was owned by Snapple and Arizona Ice.


Ben: For sure. For sure. It’s a totally different space now. There’s all these more complicated flavors or they’re not as sweet. Those brands are like dinosaurs. People still buy probably Arizona Iced Tea.


Chitra: People are all into probiotics.


Ben: Yeah.


Chitra: Kombucha.


Ben: For sure.


They could definitely use revisiting their positioning and maybe even launching new products that are more aligned with where the trends are going now.


Chitra: I think that positioning should occur in the planning stages of the business, but as we were saying it should be revisited, definitely not ignored again after that.


Ben: For sure.


Jennifer: For anybody who’s listening out there right now and who started their business without having gone through this exercise, is all hope lost or is it just one of those like, “No, okay, you need to focus on figuring out your positioning now.”?


Chitra: Well, it’s better if they had, and if they hadn’t they should get to it right away.


Ben: Yeah. All hope is not lost, for sure.


Chitra: Yeah.


Ben: All hope is not lost.


Chitra: I guess that’s the beauty of a small business, you can make changes, right?


Ben: Yeah.


Jennifer: Very true. There’s much less red tape to cut through when you have a big decision to make.


Chitra: Yeah.


Ben: For sure. Yeah. Yeah.


Jennifer: With regards to positioning, is this something that food entrepreneurs can do on their own, or are we as entrepreneurs, are we too close to our own business that we either need to outsource it to another company or we need to ask a friend who’s really good at marketing to do for us? Are we too close to our own company, especially with these products where we’re making these products and we’re very passionately invested in this business? I’d be interested on your thoughts on that.


Ben: Well, I think it’s a little bit of both. Food businesses should look at some of these things, they should really have an understanding of who their competitors are, where they want to place their product, but in the same sense I also think that it is important to work with some people that have been doing it for a while. Like anything else, if you’ve been doing something over and over again for years, you understand all the pitfalls and you have so much more experience. I think you can definitely do it yourself, but you might make some mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. It may take a little bit longer to get there. If you hire a professional to help you out, you might get there and get it right the first time.


Jennifer: Follow-up question to that then because in our next podcast we’re going to be talking about packaging design. How much does the positioning statement or understanding where the company is positioned or hopes to position itself, how much does that help the designer develop the packaging?


Ben: It’s the roadmap. Positioning, it’s the foundation of the whole process. It’s the thing that I keep going back to every time when I’m working on a project. Usually, they’ll have a creative brief that will talk about all the positioning and all the different concerns, all the competitors and everything, and so as I’m working on the design I just keep going back to that.


Chitra: It’s funny because I used to be on the other side of the designer. I worked in an ad agency and then on a client side as a marketer. I think what Ben says is interesting with the creative brief is that my job would usually be to write out that creative brief …


Ben: Right.


Chitra: … to really understand the positioning statement, and hand it off to the designer to run with it. I think the better that creative brief is or that positioning statement is, the better the outcome is going to be for the design.


Ben: It just gives you a lot more focus. I think when I was younger, all I wanted to do was just make cool packaging or cool designs, you know what I mean? I was just interested in the self-expression part of it. As I got older and more experience, you start to realize that it’s not for me really, about me expressing myself, this has to perform a specific function. By having that brief and being able to go back to it and really focus, it channels your efforts. I can still be creative and still have this self-expression and everything, but it’s just way more focused and way more powerful.


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