Joan Boykin, a founding member of Naturally Boulder and a former executive director at the Organic Center, is the first female natural products executive to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Naturally Boulder. Get a sneak peek of our interview with her here, and read the full interview at the Next Accelerator.

Jenna Fitch, Community & Conference Content Director

January 9, 2015

3 Min Read
A conversation with Joan Boykin, Naturally Boulder's 2014 lifetime achiever

You’ve been active with GMO-labeling initiatives like Just Label It. Given recent setbacks, do you think GMO labeling can really happen in the USA? What are the key factors that can create change?

Yes, I do think that GMO labeling can happen in the U.S.; however, it will take time and sustained effort for us to achieve the degree of transparency Americans deserve. Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Just Label It (JLI), awareness is growing and consumers are becoming more educated on GMO-related issues. 

When I served on the JLI board of directors, we worked with the Mellman Group to conduct a survey of 1,000 general election voters, and in March 2012, Mellman reported the results: more than 9 in 10 voters (91%) favor the FDA requiring that “foods which have been genetically engineered or containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled to indicate that.” Only 5% opposed such a requirement and another 5% did not know. That is a pretty strong indication that consumers want to know what is in the food they eat.

Our great country was founded by courageous people who ventured into the unknown to pursue a better life for themselves and their families. We can take a page from our forefathers’ book by pioneering a more transparent food system. We deserve the right to know what’s in our food and choose accordingly. It’s called truth in labeling. 

You’ve worked with many exciting young and growing brands in the natural and organic industry. If you had one piece of advice for them as they set out to build their brand, what would it be? What are some fatal errors you’ve seen in marketing a new natural brand? 

As you set out to launch your new brand, be sure you are able to answer a number of critical questions.  What benefits do you offer that make your brand different and better than others in the same frame of reference? Are these benefits relevant and compelling to your target? Do they fulfill an unmet need or solve a problem? Are consumers willing to pay your price? Where is the current market for your product? What is your distribution channel strategy? What is the cost of entry?   

Some of the fatal errors I’ve seen in marketing a new natural brand are:

  • Aiming at everyone (you cannot be all things to all people).

  • Too much self-confidence, not enough rigor.

  • Talking to yourself about how great your product is or “smelling your own fumes.”

  • Launching new products without research or letting market research trump all else like common sense and instinct.

  • Not developing a brand look that is recognizably different from competitors.

  • Betting on rationality; Consumers are illogical, emotional and irrational about decisions.

  • Launching new products without adequate marketing support (an anemic budget).

  • Trying to do too many things rather than focusing on the ones that will make the biggest difference to the financial health of your business.

Mo Siegel, founder and former CEO of Celestial Seasonings—someone I learned a lot from—used to say, "Sustain the core, stimulate progress," underscoring the need to keep your foundation strong, as you can easily get distracted or seduced by new, new, new.

My final word to the wise: Take a disciplined approach, for it increases the likelihood of your brand’s success in the marketplace.

Continue reading this interview on the Next Accelerator website (free registration required).

About the Author(s)

Jenna Fitch

Community & Conference Content Director, New Hope Network

Jenna is the Community and Conference Content Director at New Hope Network. In this role she is passionate about using education and relationship building to connect and empower stakeholders in the natural and organic products industry. Prior to serving in this role at New Hope, Jenna led digital content production for the NEXT Accelerator, an educational platform for entrepreneurs, as well as supported exhibitors and attendees as customer and exhibitor service representative for shows such as NBJ Summit and Natural Products Expos East and West.

An avid outdoorsperson, environmentalist and conscious leadership aficionado, Jenna committed her time before New Hope to working with organizations such as the Outdoor Industry Association, Restorative Leadership Institute, CU Leeds Professional Mentorship Program and the Lake Champlain Committee.  She earned an MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Leeds School of Business, as well as an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies with a certificate from the Program in Community Action and Public Policy from Connecticut College.  

When not obsessing about climate change, sustainable packaging, politics, or regenerative agriculture, you’ll likely find her hiking in Colorado with Oscar the Black Lab, playing beach volleyball or laughing out loud to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell me!  

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