The PGS Blog

What Founders Need to Learn, If They Didn’t Go to B-School

Here’s a clip of my podcast interview with Prof. Tom Eisenmann of Harvard Business School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, author of Why Startups Fail. Aired in June on Startup Confidential – the interview is available on all major podcast platforms. Believe it or not, founders with prior business operating experience

Honest Tea Lost Control of Its Killer Attribute

I've studied emerging symbolism in premium, early-stage brands for a long time. And "organic" is not a meaningful symbol in beverages outside of fluid milk. This is because 'organic' requires a broadly disseminated consumer fear of impurities in a beverage's supply chain to have any

Why You Need a Strategic Review, Not a Re-Brand

When early-stage businesses struggle in the premium end of consumer-packaged goods, a shocking number of founders and operators leap to the conclusion that they need a “brand refresh” or a “re-brand.” Look, branding agencies are numerous, and they network heavily at Expo West. They sponsor

The Problem With U/S/W Analysis

Put simply; it's about the nature of averages. Even today, the problem is always in chain store systems with huge, store-level variations in demand for premium brands.  A consumer brand’s sales in any chain will vary in U/S/W based simply on variations in-store traffic. But chain

Ideal Phase 1 Launch Channels for 2023

I get this asked about this a lot because most early-stage startups are in Phase one, like ~80% of them. Where do I start when ‘big’ premium chains like Whole Foods totally ignore me? Looking ahead to next year, here’s where I stand (which you should

Indifference is NOT Malevolence

I’m pretty harsh about various stakeholders you’ll encounter on this blog and my podcast. Suppose you re-read or re-listen to my commentary, though. In that case, you’ll notice that all I do is point out patterns of behavior that work against an undercapitalized CPG business and

Why Paternalism Kills Startups Part Two

On Monday, I gave a high-level POV on why paternalistic leadership works great for conservative, slow-growth companies where little is changing inside and outside, mostly outside. Of course, this is NOT what we’ve experienced in the past three years in CPG. This is not really

Why Paternalism Kills Startups Part One

You might think paternalistic work cultures are only a problem for aging Baby Boomer-owned family businesses. Wrong. Paternalistic operating cultures have nothing to do with the owner's age (or gender). There is probably a bit of an age-skew, but you’ll find young punks running paternalistic

Why Launching Your Way to Growth Doesn’t Work

I wrote a whitepaper years ago about how using innovation to grow just doesn’t work. I want to refine my case here. It’s a problem that affects platform brands built around an attribute that easily crosses categories and the grocery store itself.  Often, I’ve seen this

Recessions and Premium Consumer Brands

In January, 43 million student loan borrowers will have to make payments again after a two-year pause. This is hundreds of dollars per month in additional expenses. Covid payments have already ended. Inflation in retail CPG items is a permanent lift of ~10%. With or without