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How to hire the right agency when your brand is ready

Shawn Parr
Whether you're shipping out of your garage or raking in $1 billion in revenue, branding agencies play a critical part in any natural products company's business strategy. Agency head Shawn Parr delivers the need-to-knows about starting a partnership, developing a marketing team, and getting the most out of your brand to woo new customers.

When does it make most sense for a natural product manufacturer to seek out an agency or consulting partnership?

Shawn Parr: The right agency partner can help you tell the right story to potential investors at the start of your business journey and they are imperative to helping you communicate to suppliers, retailers, consumers and the world at large at each growth stage of your business. The right brand strategy and a compelling story are imperative from day one to help cement your credibility and stand apart from everyone else in your category. A partnership with the right strategic agency is as important as the relationship with the right ingredient supplier or funding partner. The right agency partner should sit at the table with you from the beginning and be treated as a partner not a vendor. The impact of their work can make a significant difference to your business early on as you're shipping out of a garage and they remain so as you approach a $1 billion in sales.

What are the most important considerations for natural product manufacturers when looking for such a partnership?

SP: Like any company looking to develop a strong and effective partnership, you should make sure you know what you want your agency partner to do before you go hunting for one. Be very clear about what you need. Are you looking for them to create your brand strategy, develop a name, identity and packaging or refresh and refine your current ones? Do you want them to develop and manage your advertising and media plans?

Most agencies say they do it all, but excel at only one or two things, so first make sure they have the capability and the competency. Then you should see a clear demonstration of how good they are as creative communicators, not just in terms of what they show or tell you, but the results their work has generated from their clients. Make sure every story is a story rich with results, and drill down into results and the team leading the work that created the results.

One of the most important considerations is chemistry. Who will work with you? Do they have what it takes to work with you, push you, inspire you? Do they share your values?

What are the most common aspects you work on for emerging or existing manufacturers?

SP: We work with everyone from international Fortune 100 brands to start-ups and early stage businesses. Our work for both categories is fairly equally balanced. We build brands from the ground up, including brand strategy, platform development, all the way through to naming, identity and packaging development. We also work with a significant number of brands developing new-to-world product concepts, where we search the globe for inspiration and trends to develop new products. We do this independently and with client teams.

Tell us about your Coromega Big Squeeze design experience. What was the scope of the project at the outset?

SP: Coromega exists to help more Americans achieve healthy omega-3 levels, and in the search for new ways to do this, they came to us with the world’s first squeezable omega-3 product and asked us to help bring it to life. Bulldog’s task was to design a complete packaging solution, which included naming the product, developing messaging, and designing the packaging for their innovative squeeze formulation. The sleek, functional pouch and the sense of fun that came from the delivery system inspired “The Big Squeeze.” The bright colors fit with Coromega’s vibrant brand identity and clearly differentiate them from the other omega-3s on shelf. And the results are delicious. 

Why is packaging so important?

SP: Look at any product category today, on any shelf, in any store, and there are so many products for consumers to choose from. In many cases the choices are overwhelming. Packaging is the only way you're going to stand out and appeal to your consumer from the shelf. All of the work you might have done through word of mouth, social media, product trial and advertising is so very important, but at that minute of purchase consideration what your brand says, what it looks like, and how it appears on the shelf is your last line or, in many cases, your first line of connection to the consumer. It's how your brand stands apart from the crowd.

Next time you're in the grocery store, look at how consumers shop. They are almost always short on time, know what they want, and are predisposed to an existing brand. So if you're new to the shelf, the power of your packaging to separate you and reach off the shelf for attention and consideration is imperative. It is the billboard on shelf for your brand. 

What other natural products brands have you worked with? What did you do for them?

SP: We have worked with Annie's, Cleanwell, Clif, Earnest Eats, Lotus Foods, The Honest Kitchen to name a few. We have played various roles from co-founding the company, business strategist designing the positioning, the brand platform, positioning, name, identity and packaging design, to new product concept development, advertising and website design all the way to being an investment partner and board member.

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