Your Sales Strategy Is Not Enough To Win

The vast majority of CPG startups operate as B2B businesses. They don't interact with their consumers. They aren't curious about how they receive and use their products. As long as case volumes grow, they're happy. As long as their wholesale price can float operations and

Upskilling Challenge for Founders in the 2020s

Most of my clients are founders new to the CPG space, regardless of their dominant sales channel (DTC or brick). Most high-growth companies raise money from investors at some point to keep growing quickly.  And once you have a board that has a vote on what

Emotions are NOT a Strategic Outcome

When folks take my Riding the Ramp training each quarter, I ask them to do a live, rough draft of a competitive strategy statement using the theory in my book. Then, they send it to me for critique.  I regularly get folks who write down emotional

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