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

The Pyramid of Causality in CPG Growth

Deep in my book - Ramping Your Brand - I have a long, somewhat torturous chapter on how to diagnose your brand’s early-stage performance. This is for Phase 2+ brands primarily.  However, the main point I make is that Product is the number one source of

Building a Brand is a Social Process

Yeah, this bro greeting may not return in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but social excitement sure will in many forms. And the surefire way to accelerate same-store velocities or online sales is to insert your new brand into high-intensity social events as a

Brag About Your Email List, Not Your Door Count

The following is a preview of Episode 53 of Startup Confidential, the fastest-growing podcast for founders of consumer brands. Yes, the chest-beating about door count continues unabated in the trade media. Must be proof of traction, eh?  Um, no.  So, there are 38,000 primary grocery points of

Founders’ Triple Marketing Burden

The last thing a Phase 1 founder wants to hear is: ‘ you need to ramp up your paid marketing to build awareness.’ Why? There’s no money! Are you kidding? 90% of Phase 1 P&Ls return negative pennies per unit on a net profit basis (after all

Sometimes, Founders Need to Make Weird Cool

In my book - Ramping Your Brand - there is a line that gets at the fundamental danger in CPG innovation, the fundamental threat to above-average memorability in a crowded, oversupplied marketplace. "Rarity in its purest form—rare ingredients, rare flavors, rare sensory textures,

Are Medical Niches a Trap for Founders?

Not necessarily. Splenda launched in the United States as an ingredient in branded product launches like Diet V8 Splash. When it came time to market the table sweetener directly, McNeill chose two groups: diabetics and middle-aged, weight-conscious women who like to bake.  “The target audience is

Top Three Reasons Founders Need a Creative Brief

Writing a creative brief is one of those BigCo professional practices that should be taking place at every consumer brand startup. Yet, I rarely meet founders who even know what I'm talking about when I mention this. It's partly because it's a stuffy BigCo term.