Dr James F Richardson Joins Us On The Steve Jobs Inspired Join Up Dots Podcast
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Introducing Dr James F Richardson
Dr. James F Richardson is todays guest on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots business podcast.
He is the founder of Premium Growth Solutions, a strategic planning consultancy for early-stage consumer-packaged goods brands.
As a professionally trained cultural anthropologist turned business strategist, he has helped more than 75 CPG brands (which stands for Consumer Packaged Goods) with their strategic planning, including brands owned by Coca-Cola Venturing and Emerging Brands, The Hershey Company, General Mills, Kraft Foods, ConAgra Brands, and Frito-Lay as well as emerging brands such as Once Upon a Farm, Peatos, Ithaca Hummus, Mother Kombucha, Rebel Creamery, zaca recovery, and others.
James is the author of Ramping Your Brand: How to Ride the Killer CPG Growth Curve, the #1 Best-seller in Business Consulting on Amazon.
He also hosts his own podcast—Startup Confidential, and his thoughts appear regularly in industry publications such as Foodnavigator.
Now if that all sounds very impressive it is, but not what a show like Join Up Dots normally delivers, then listen to this
You can plan exponential growth.
How The Dots Joined Up For Dr James
In his latest book, Ramping Your Brand he outlines a 4-Part approach to thinking smarter about growth as a CPG entrepreneur.
It is based on years of anthropological research into how and why consumers pay for premium-priced CPG items and intensive 4P pattern analysis among an elite club of premium CPG brands that all reached $100M+ in less than a decade.
No i didn’t understand it either, but what i did understand and want is the planning element of exponential growth?
So isn’t it simply to do more of what people are wanting at the time that they are wanting it that makes the difference?
And nowadays, with such strange times being experienced by everybody can you plan at all?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Dr James F Richardson
During the show we discussed such weighty subjects with Dr James F Richardson such as:
Dr James Richardson reveals the true definition of brand creation and why it is vital to bed this throughout your offering
Why it is so important to discover the geeks within any market that can multiply your sales massively.
How he developed the skills that took his business into the branding science of businesses across the world.
Dr James Richardson shares how some brands get going with totally the wrong audience, and the reasons why they need to stop and refocus.
How To Connect With Dr James F Richardson
Ramping Your Brand
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here– enjoy
Audio Transcription Of Dr James F Richardson Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:25]
Yes, have a good morning to your friends. Good morning. And thank you so much for being with us at Join Up Dots. Yeah, wherever you are, across the world really appreciate you tuning in as always. Now, today’s guest that we’ve got on the show is in Tucson, Arizona. Yeah, that’s near America. It’s very near America. And he’s the founder of premium growth solutions or strategic planning consultancy, but early stage consumer packaged foods brand CPG. As a professionally trained cultural anthropologist, turned business strategist, he’s helped more than 75 CPG brands, with their strategic planning, including brands owned by Coca Cola, venturing and the Hershey Company loads of them. He’s also the author of ramping your brand, how to write the killer CPG growth curve, the number one best seller in business consulting on Amazon. If that’s not enough, he also owns host his own podcast and we’ll start up confidential. And he’s sports appear regularly in industry publications. Now, if all kinds of sounds very impressive, of course it is. But you might be thinking that’s not what I show like Join Up Dots normally delivers and listen to this. You can plan exponential growth. Yes, in his latest book ramping your brand, he outlines a four part approach to thinking smarter about growth as a CPG entrepreneur. And it’s based on years of anthropological research into how and why consumers pay for premium priced CPG items. And intensive or P pattern analysis among an elite club of premium brands are all reached 100 million in less than a decade. Now, to be honest, I don’t understand it either. But what I did understand is we want the planning element of exponential growth. So can you bring this into your business? Is it simply to do more of what people are wanting at the time that they are wanting it and makes the difference? And nowadays, we have such strain times being experienced by everybody across the globe? Can you actually plan at all? Well, let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Dr. James F. Richardson. Morning, Dr. James, how are you?
Dr James F Richardson [2:40]
I’m great, David, thanks for having me on.
David Ralph [2:43]
Hi, I’m loving having you answer. You know, it’s not often I’ve got the chance of speaking to a doctor. And are you interested in sort of any rashes I’ve got or any sort of nastiness?
Dr James F Richardson [2:58]
For I’m sorry, I can’t help you
David Ralph [3:00]
now because I can turn the webcam on, nobody else will see your being fine. So with your business, what is and sort of a professionally trained cultural anthropologist, first of all, because I think that’s one of the key dots to where you’ve got to today. So what actually is that?
Dr James F Richardson [3:19]
So I, I’m an expert, specifically in the American branch of cultural anthropology, which means nothing to your listeners. But what it basically is, is study of shared values and symbol systems. And within complex or simple societies, whatever your whatever your whatever floats your boat, but in the case of what I do, which is essentially souped up marketing, right, and growth strategy, I work with folks to figure out essentially, what are the consumer audiences that can accelerate exponentially their growth and how they go to market to find those consumers and, and get their money?
David Ralph [4:01]
Right. So let’s just jump back onto your explanation. And and Dr. James, Dr. James, imagine I’m a complete idiot. Imagine just for a moment. So I try to say in even simpler terms, but maybe I can understand. So it was linking up cultural symbols, was it all right?
Dr James F Richardson [4:21]
Yeah. So when I think of, if you think about the concept of a brand, which I think we’re all familiar with, because it’s a word we actually use in our everyday life. When we’re pointing out usually it’s in a conversation, right? We’re like, Hey, I discovered a new brand of blank, right. And then obviously, industries like the beauty industry are ones because they fire out so many new sexy brands, where that kind of conversations happening along, but we use that word in our conversations. But a brand is interesting because it. It’s where my professional training intersected, I think with the business world the most and got me very interested in continuing to stay in business after having left academia, but a brand, if you think about it is really, it’s, first of all, it’s a name, right? They call it a trademark. And you can legally defend that you register it in each country. And you get to defend that in court, if someone decides to, if you if you have a trademark name and an ice cream, and someone comes along and produces another ice cream with the same name, you can sue them and get them to stop. So there’s a defensible name, but that’s one element of the symbol system behind a brand. But then there’s going to be all sorts of other stuff, right, which is the words and the symbols, and even the graphic design of a package for like food or beverages. Let’s just talk about ice cream, since I have a lot of ice cream clients for some reason. So there’s all this symbolism on a package. And most of us actually spend no conscious time thinking about it. And that’s the trouble, right is that when you’re when you’re designing a business, so you pick up a food category like that, and you come up with a formulation that you think is new and innovative. You’ve got to figure out a way to present it to shoppers who really don’t care that you exist. B don’t care if your business fails, see, don’t feel no obligation to try you.
David Ralph [6:32]
So let me just says jumping after me just jumped in there about the ice cream. So somebody like Ben and Jerry’s Okay, yeah, there we go. Right? Do I actually have a brand? Because to me, I just pick up the thing and eat it. You know, I don’t even think anything about it. Other than the name Ben and Jerry’s, is there a brand attached to that? Are there symbols that I’m missing out.
Dr James F Richardson [6:57]
So here’s the thing is that there’s, with brands like Ben and Jerry’s that are fairly mature now, although you know, they have spent they’ve had years to sort of colonise your stomach, so to speak, so that what you associate, especially with food and drink, with a with a brand, like that trademark name on the package is the experience you have of consuming it. And that can be a social experience, it can be a personal one, it can be both. And it’s that experience of the formulation of the product and how it intersects with your life, especially your social life. Which you will cause you then to impute things on the brand. Now, if they’re always in every category, David, some folks who just randomly pick whatever thing first appears. Yeah. And that may, that may be just how you approach ice cream. And I know people like that too. And every category you can meet sort of people who just like whatever the cheapest thing that but then you take the same person and I used to do research on this kind of behaviour, take the same person over to another category. And maybe it’s a whiskey, suddenly their geek. Right. And suddenly, they’re suddenly they’re parsing all the backstories whiskey. And you’re like, Who is this person, they just just Jekyll and Hyde. What happened to them? Well, they care a lot more about whiskey, right? And it’s for whatever reason, it’s a big deal to them in so for those people, you can actually get an enormous premium price from people like that if you can actually convince them through symbolism, language and symbols and other things, certifications that you actually have a superior whiskey.
David Ralph [8:34]
So it’s a kind of status thing is it people will pay early, if they’re sitting there looking a bit James Bond and pay premium.
Dr James F Richardson [8:44]
There, there’s that group, I call them the status buyers in my book, wrapping your brand. But there’s also some folks that are actually a much bigger group, and I call them the pragmatic adopters. And so they’ve developed some rationalisation in their head, David, for why they want to pay premium in a category. And that rationalisation may be sort of a half truth. But it doesn’t really matter. Because if you if you still have to sort of humour it as the business person because they often drive most of the money in premium goods, the status bars you were just talking about, they tend to be a tiny percentage of folks, and they just have a lot of money to throw around. Right? And so they may buy premium alcohol just because they have money, and they just don’t care. And you can find out that you know, you can find this out because you go ask them what why’d you pick that $75 bottle of whiskey and they have nothing very detailed to say, yeah. But then there’s the geeks, right? I call them category geeks. And they’re often the people who start consumer brands, especially food, beverage, personal care, they’re like, they’re super geeky about that particular category because they’re either they’re really into it, or there was some huge personal problem they had with the existing brands and they just had to go solve it but usually they’re just geeks. And that’s an interesting crab. It’s also small. I talked about this in my book. And the founders often confuse themselves. They confuse that their own geekiness about whatever it is ice cream, or bread wine or olive oil. they confuse that geekiness with a large audience of people out there, right? So
David Ralph [10:21]
isn’t everyone isn’t everyone who’s got a passion for something, you know, I used to pass the Apple store in the morning. And I used to think why you queuing up, just wait another day, the crowds would be gone, you still get the same thing. But these people were obsessed with getting the first thing. And we used to, we used to call them geeks. And I couldn’t understand why they would want to get there at midnight to just get the first one in a box isn’t? Isn’t it more passion?
Dr James F Richardson [10:49]
Every now every one of those lines is a mix of geeks. And satisfiers I swear to God, if you interviewed them, you’d find only those two types, what you’re not going to find is the kind of people that made like iPhone into a success. And that’s the bulk of the people out there. And they traded up to a ridiculously overpriced smartphone, you know, over the last 20 years or 15 years for reasons that can actually be predicted they can be measured. And they’re behavioural. And some of that behaviour is is functionally how to fit into certain social groups. Like if you work certain industries, the smartphone took off really fast, because it just took off like a virus inside the office. It added so much value to the work day. At least you thought it did. And it became very addictive almost. And in other industries and other lifestyles like retirees did not jump all over iPhones, unless they were just rich. Because they were they didn’t have all this stuff to optimise. And they didn’t have to be able to check their email on the toilet. You know, I mean,
David Ralph [11:54]
nobody and that’s the one place but you’re busy enough, you don’t have to be checking anything else out.
Dr James F Richardson [12:02]
Right. So the, there were certain groups that really glommed on to the iPhone, and then it spread from group to group. And honestly, that’s how a lot of brands actually build in figuring out that puzzle. How to how to build, you know, in the first couple million with your geeks out there in the category, how to get it going so that they can generate some word of mouth, because some of them are actually very persuasive. Not all of them. But some of them are very persuasive. They’re not a, you know, when I say geek, they’re not like me, who is like the Uber geek, the PhD geek, those people like myself generally aren’t very good at word of mouth. But there’s other people who are and they can get the brands really going in the early years. But you got to get to there’s a certain point where you actually have to change the whole symbol system is what I formally call it of your brand. So you can start to speak to folks who are what I call pragmatic adopters. They’re the folks who they need like a functional or social rationalisation not status, but something why they need to do X, right? So often, it’s often the geeks and that it could include the founder of the brand who’s figured that out. So like the classic examples that we go to when I explained this and I talked about in my book are like Clif Bar, right? Gary Erickson was a mountain biker. I believe it was even a competitive one. I don’t think he was on the world class level. But it was a competitive mountain biker, really early on in the 90s on the west coast, you know, in in the Marion County area where mountain biking was born in the United States and the world. And he was he he ran into a problem that problem was super functional. You know, if you’re on the bike for seven hours, even when you’re young, you still have to eat something and you and the stuff he was bringing was not working. He kept bonking
David Ralph [14:02]
I thought you were going with sore buttocks. I thought that
Dr James F Richardson [14:04]
was going to be the issue. I don’t know that after about six weekends that sells itself now.
The first couple months is tufted But no, he he didn’t have anything that would sustain him that he could eat really quickly and then not have to worry about eating because unlike road cycling, I don’t know if anyone listening understands the difference between these two but I’ll walk you through road cycling it’s not that hard to eat something. You just find a flat stretch you can hold the handlebar with one hand and you just start putting food in your mouth. on a mountain bike you need both hands on the on the on the handlebar or you you will break both your collarbones and maybe your neck. So he wanted something that he could eat relatively fast that would just basically give them three or four hours of fuel.
David Ralph [14:55]
So it’s gonna be it’s gonna be like a sucking yoghurt kind of thing is going to be well so that you can just saw
Dr James F Richardson [15:01]
what they were other innovators who were doing that in the US. And that led to Google something called goo, which is I think they have in UK. It’s like a glycogen jail and Apache squeezing. But what Gary Erickson developed was a was the first all natural, organic, because he was from California, of course, your massively dense protein bar. Okay. And it had sugar as well, right. So it was basically mountain biking fuel in a little pressed bar. And that’s what started that whole thing. Super functional, super geeky. He spent a lot of time optimising the nutrition. And then he would test it on his rides, and go back and do it again. I mean, it was super geeky.
David Ralph [15:45]
So he did the classic look for the pain point and then solve it.
Dr James F Richardson [15:49]
Yeah. And geek. That’s what geeks do in their categories. Right. And that pain point could also be not quite so athletic. I mean, and when it’s athletic, it’s like almost, it’s almost anatomical and medical the issue. But I mean, you could go into like, liquor, and you could look at pain points, like, why does all this whiskey tastes like garbage? You know,
David Ralph [16:10]
I’m saying to be very interested in alcohol. James, and we got an issue here, do you need to compare
Dr James F Richardson [16:17]
Anglo Saxon, that’s the only confession. So but in whiskey, you know, it’s more of a sensory thing, right? Because the alcohol loads are the same. Right? I mean, it’s like, people aren’t sitting there. wondering, God, I wish I could have another 5% alcohol and it was good. That’s not the issue. The issue is purely to finish how it moves through your mouth, how much it burns it, the story behind it. So some people, you know, just get off on geeking out a different formulation, maybe with different ageing processes that lead slightly different flavours, right. And that’s the whole artisan route of geeking out. And you can get massive price premiums and alcohol for that kind of work. And you can create big brands really fast. But at some point, you’ve got to get beyond the geeks, as the innovator, and that’s when I help a lot of my clients do is figure out how do you get what I call the pragmatic, a doctor, which is sort of goofy social science language for someone who needs they need a non geeky, non nerdy, non PhD, we used to pay like 100% more in the category.
David Ralph [17:29]
And you can design the base, you can design as throughout everything, can you?
Dr James F Richardson [17:34]
What would you do, David is kind of like, almost so obvious that, you know, it probably is occurring to some of your listeners, right now, you just go ask the people who are eating and consuming your thing, right, because some percentage of them are not super geeky. And they’re not just rich punks who throw money around, they’ve figured out usually some of your once you’ve been in business for a couple years, you’ve got several thousand people out there who are pragmatic, pragmatic adopters. And they figured out another rationalisation another reason to, to trade up to you. And it’s your job as the business person to go figure that out. And I help people do that. And then you can quantify that. And then what you can do is you refine what they call your brand positioning. But to me, it’s more of your refining your competitive strategy in total as a business.
David Ralph [18:24]
Now I work with a lot of people, and more often than not, at this stage of canvassing opinion and feedback. Most of them will say to me, should I asked my audience and I always mean, duh, they these people, these people are listening to you already, you know, why would you not? Why would you not go over to say, Amazon and look for similar products and see what the people are saying, you know, not not the five star fanboy ones, and not the ones that have got a vendetta about, you know, the twos and the three stars, look at all the positives and the negatives, and see how you can improve it. But a lot of people just sit there in their underpants and think that I can just create this product and it’s gonna fly without testing
Dr James F Richardson [19:08]
out, or they have correct and so that, you know, in my book, ramping your brand, and one of the key things, it’s got a very inspiring title is very optimistic is very good, very sexy. And I
David Ralph [19:22]
like that it’s got the word brand in it.
Dr James F Richardson [19:25]
And I had to because I’m a social scientist, and just so you know, we’re fairly cynical folks. Like, the irony is that AI behaviour change is very hard to induce. I know this because I’ve been trained in what it takes to get it to happen. And it’s quite a lot either at the individual level or at the societal level. So the title of my book is surprisingly hopeful. But in the book, I dial it down a lot because the reality is I preach experiment thing, which is what you’re just talking about, you got to go out slow enough so that you have time to interact with your early fans. get beyond your geeky bubble that you’ve created, which is generally where the founder is like, I think my solution is so awesome. I think my, you know, artists and whiskey is literally, you know, should be in every Gordon Ramsay restaurant that’s still open, sorry. And you have to get beyond that you got to start dealing with people who they like you, they’re willing to pay more for you. But they’ve got a different set of what they call in marketing demand drivers. In other words, they don’t want the geeky explanation, they want something else. And what we call that in marketing is a benefit. I call it an outcome. In other words, people really, they want an outcome. So if your whiskey is so amazingly different in the mouth, that means that that person can generate an outcome in their social circle, when they feed it to their guests, right when they pour it, they also can give it to themselves as well as a snack.
David Ralph [20:59]
This is getting a bit kinky, I think, I think there’s something going on here.
Dr James F Richardson [21:03]
Alcohol is a ritualistic beverage category always has been, even though a massive amount of it’s consumed alone. Now, that’s more a function of how our society set up. But the category itself lends itself to ritualistic sharing, we know that you don’t need a social scientist to tell you that. So there’s a group, there’s if you can create a story around why your whiskey should be shared in a sensory experience, that’s interesting enough, plus the story, maybe that’s the kind of thing that can create what you might call status, but I would simply call social capital inside your social network and makes you seem a little more modern and a little more with it a little more interesting in the dating scene.
David Ralph [21:42]
Right? Right. And, and this will apply to all businesses the desire to share,
Dr James F Richardson [21:48]
there you go, and that that social capital behind some brands premium, usually premium price. That’s a different driver. That’s a different force than millionaire rich dude. And Rolls Royce who just buys expensive stuff mindlessly. You see how that’s different, huh? Yeah, that guy actually doesn’t give a crap what you think, or anyone else.
David Ralph [22:12]
For the sort of the small scale entrepreneur, they can still go through these processes, and still hit those emotional triggers that will make people share on Facebook and share on social media
Dr James F Richardson [22:26]
and that I see that they can, but it’s an experimental art, right. And I think what you alluded to is some of some folks are a little too impatient. They might have had a great idea, or they might have found a gap in the category that’s kind of interesting to fill. And they created their widget, and they, they went through the hell of getting it on the shelf, which is a big deal. It’s really a lot harder in the UK, that is us. Be honest, because you don’t have that many chains, and they’re very arrogant. So if you even get on the shelf, it’s a miracle. But that’s actually when the experiment begins. David, and that’s what I preach in the beginning. My book is congratulations on the show, if you just started now most people have been doing they’ve been working on it for two years. Hmm. Right. Yeah. So they’re, they’re the one everyone wants hit the gas pedal, because they’ve been killing themselves on product development, figuring all this stuff out. So much prep work, battling with the buyer to get on the show. And now they just won’t hit the gas. And that’s generally where everybody face plants.
David Ralph [23:23]
So we’ve said that they were at this stage, they’ve created some sexy product. They’ve got it through manufacturing, they’ve got it onto the shell. And then you come along, and you say, right, okay, one of the things we need to do is experiment. Now, I would think most of them would go now actually, we’ve done this. We’ve done this, Dr. James, where we’re applying, we’ve got it covered. We’re okay. Go and have our glass of whiskey. I know it’s only nine o’clock in the morning, but go and have your third glass of whiskey.
Dr James F Richardson [23:54]
Well, I have a couple lines like that in my book, which I tried to inject a lot of humour in. What was the line I use? You I? I can’t remember what it is. It was funny, something I
David Ralph [24:07]
can imagine it was and that’s a reason why people should buy your book. Through to find that healing joke.
Dr James F Richardson [24:14]
I have a sardonic wit that I did not since I published myself it was not taken out by a horrible editor. And people have enjoyed it. But I do make fun of myself at a few points. But you pointed out that yes. One in those early moments does not when I work with anybody really. And so I actually have a podcast episode about why I stopped working with startups.
David Ralph [24:39]
So if you came along and just say I I came along with this product, I’m intrigued by this. And I’ve got it onto the shelf. It’s not we’re doing a great deal and you could you come along and then say things as simple as it needs a different name. It needs a different colour. It needs different visionary. What How would you pivot? Once already on the shelf, if I if I’ve created something that seems an obvious name, that’s gonna sell massively. And then you say no, actually, you shouldn’t call it that.
Dr James F Richardson [25:11]
So I think it’s fun that people outside the industry and even inside it like to like to critique, we all like to critique brand names don’t we do I mean even, that’s something I see everybody doing every once in a while, they’ll hear some name and like, That’s horrible. Who came up with that brand name? I actually have a section in my book where I, where I deliver the counterintuitive wisdom that there’s actually an art to brand name development. That’s true. But the surprising thing is that some of the most successful names in the history of commerce are completely meaningless when they started. Yeah. Or or Oreo has no denotative, meaning whatsoever.
David Ralph [25:50]
Ever heard of Join Up Dots? And any Yes. Does that mean anyway? Well, it
Dr James F Richardson [25:55]
does now after 2600 episodes, I hope so. But at least to the repeat listeners, but I think that, you know, the brand name is easy to pick on. But when I work with folks, I need to be able to work with the team to collect some information on their fans. And then on their competitive situation, the marketplace. I mean, there’s an analytical process. And that’s to your point earlier, that’s, you know, somebody who just got on the shelf and wants to sell, they’re not in the mood for that. And I don’t blame them. And I would say, hey, go out for a year or so in the market, build up a small fan base, maybe your sales will do awesome. And maybe your sales will struggle. Either way, once you have some people that you can contact once you can have some conversations with your fans. And once you can have the time operationally to step back for a while and work with someone like me, then it makes sense to bring someone in to help optimise your growth rate. But if you I tell people, you’ve got to be able to get to a million dollars in sales, on your books, basically, on your own without a lot of help. I mean, you might get some executional help, but you’ve got to be able to fight through that. Because until you it’s sort of I’m trying to think of a good example, it’s sort of like, you know, when you’re training a medical doctor, you can they go to four years of school, they do residency, but it’s really they really start becoming a doctor during residency, and they’re usually pretty bad. not technically, but they just the whole thing is not fine tuned. Right. But until they get through a couple years of residency in a couple years of practice, as a professional, they don’t even know what they don’t know about actually being a doctor. It’s the same thing in business. When you’re an entrepreneur in an industry, you got to get out there and just do it. For a couple years. I did the same thing in my own entrepreneurial business because I am an entrepreneur, I just don’t have I mean, employees. Right. So I did the same thing. Luckily, I had been in business long enough. And I created businesses internal to the firm that I was at. So I had some experience with failure. We
David Ralph [28:11]
all do. Don’t wait,
Dr James F Richardson [28:12]
we all do. I knew that you what you don’t do like when you’re James Richardson, you’re leaving your consulting, executive position, which is too cushy, and you’re going out on your own with like zero salary staring at you until you earn it. What you don’t do is predetermine everything. So I used an experimental mindset to and that that consisted of things that terrified me as an introvert, like putting my phone cell phone number on the internet, and my email address, like everywhere on the bottom of the page website so that I got as many phone calls as possible. And the reason I wanted to do that was because I didn’t really know in my own b2b consulting business, I didn’t know where the where it was going to fit. In terms of what you just said, like we’re in the lifecycle of a business do I actually help on and where am I just like a total waste of everybody’s time and probably annoying. And it took me about two years to really get that figured out. By testing and having some strange client gigs.
David Ralph [29:15]
Tell us tell it because I love I love strange client gigs. What What was the worst one? Was it the one that was a GIMP out there and made you made you rub them down with Vaseline every morning? What What was it?
Dr James F Richardson [29:30]
No, actually the worst encounters David were the ones that didn’t lead to clients. So they were beyond the pale. But I discovered this fascinating thing and I think some entrepreneurs listening will I hope to get this in the right vein and don’t you make gold, but when I had my phone number on the internet, right, I would get calls from you know, the funniest thing I would get phone calls and yes they were from in entre printers and you know, the website was described and was okay enough that the right people were calling startups. And I literally had people just sort of I mean, it became therapy session, I had one person literally read their investor pitch to me. And I said, Do you have any questions and they are going, this is a very odd business development.
David Ralph [30:27]
If I think speed dating or something, what are
Dr James F Richardson [30:31]
you doing being am being talked at? It’s like, and you have to understand that I wasn’t very good at dating. That probably comes as no surprise for an ex academic but but even for someone like me, like if I’m the one telling you dated, that you’re, you’re interacting poorly, then there’s something really bad going on. But I used to receive these sort of narcissistic monologues is how I took it, where they weren’t even trying, it was really weird. They weren’t even trying to pick my brain for free, which is usually the smart approach, right? Get the guy on the phone and test them out and see if he’s smart and get a few free answers. I mean, that’s what I said, and I got some of that, but I would get these people who just talk at me. Like they didn’t even know who they were talking to. And that’s when I realised, Oh, wow. I’m not dealing with a professional client base. And you have to understand I spent 15 years consulting for big publicly traded firms.
David Ralph [31:29]
I suppose if I start with, tell me what your where was professionals? Yeah. Tell me tell me what you’re wearing? And, you know, you’d have to move on, wouldn’t you?
Dr James F Richardson [31:40]
Yeah, I, I would just listen. And then I would just end I mean, I would just, I had to just, I took it all as research. I’m a social scientist. So I enjoy talking to almost anybody. When my brain frames them as sort of a research subject, because you could learn anything, you can learn stuff from almost any group of people, if you just
David Ralph [31:59]
show it’s not the right stuff is it is a
Dr James F Richardson [32:03]
business, it leads to it will make Well, this is the thing when you’re it’s the same thing with my clients. So in the early years, if you’re interacting with enough people, you’ll get a sense of who your actual odd fan audiences versus the bozos who are leaving your three star reviews on Amazon, and who you just ignore. So when I when I work with people, it’s funny, because a lot of people get really obsessed with the negative feedback, David, even like a couple instances, like they just don’t know how to process it. And that’s they’re in that vulnerable stage early on, where they’re like, Oh, my God, I made a huge mistake. And they have every right to be insecure, because the failure rate is high, I get it. But it’s really important that in the beginning, you focus on the people who like you and why they like you. Because that’s actually where the puzzle is solved. It’s not in going into this ocean of people poking fun of you making fun of you, trashing you on an Amazon review or whatever. And honestly, the louder you go out, like on social media, the more of that you’ll get in the beginning, because every brand that’s new David, is it’s like, it’s like the sixth grader in middle school. Maybe that’s a bad UK analogy. It’s like the first year at university, you just beat them up, right? That’s their role is to be made fun of it’s this hierarchical Bs, right? In human societies is the same thing with the new brand on the block, you just make fun of it, because you’re nobody. So people, people just feel empowered to like, be overly honest and unhelpfully critical, right. And so I tell people ignore the negatives, because especially for premium priced brands, of course, they’re going to make fun of you because you’re not consciously priced. That that’s the number one reason they’re gonna make fun of you is that they don’t feel they can afford you will ignore them. Right? They don’t even understand why they don’t understand the basic reason that you’re there. Focus on your fans. And I tell and I talked about this in the book, The key thing you have to figure out is you have to make sure you don’t have the wrong fans.
David Ralph [34:07]
I’d like I’d like any fans, so
Dr James F Richardson [34:09]
I will. Here’s a great example of the wrong fans in my industry. And that would be psycho hardcore vegans who will eat sawdust, to help animals
David Ralph [34:25]
enjoy a very strange man, it’s starting to become evident to me.
Dr James F Richardson [34:31]
So I know these folks, I’ve interviewed them. And they’re a percentage of the world’s vegan population, right? But they are not fans you want behind your business. And if they’re the only ones you’re getting, then you know you have some be problem and it’s usually with your product. Not to mention probably your strident moralistic symbolism on your packaging, and I see this every once in a while but if you look at something like impossible foods, impossible burger I’m sure you’ve heard They don’t really use that approach at all. And they built the trademark everything is about getting people like me to eat it. The guy who makes fun of vegans
David Ralph [35:10]
so and well, what is the impossible burger, Ben, because I haven’t actually heard that that’s a burger that’s got no meat in it
Dr James F Richardson [35:16]
is it it’s a it’s a burger developed by a biochemist who and he figured out a way to simulate the mouthfeel and taste of animal blood, which was the last missing link and creating a plant based burger that you with a blindfold on. And then it was plug, you can’t tell the difference between that and a McDonald’s burger. And I have to say, it’s about as close as seen anyone ever get. So it has the texture, it bleeds as the fat profile of a burger, but it’s just made of soy protein isolates and other stuff.
David Ralph [35:52]
When they sat close, just give us the original. And don’t tell us just give us a dead cow. And we wouldn’t notice any difference.
Dr James F Richardson [36:02]
So the point is this brands taking off in the US mainly in restaurants, fast food restaurants. But my point was that there’s an example of someone who he’s a vegan himself. But he his approach was no, I want to win the non vegan audience, I want to impress them, which is really really bold, ambitious and clever way to do it, as opposed to what a lot if you look at the first generation natural food brands that targeted vegans, whatever it was, they had an audience David that literally I can tell you, for a fact, would eat a tasteless piece of leather, just because it was a vegan piece of ham, like non ham. I mean, they would literally they would actually brag to their vegan friends. I am eating this fake ham slice made of process 10 pay, right, which is this prevented Indonesian soy product that you never want to eat. It’s not poisonous. And you know, those aren’t the fans kinds of things you want because they’re there. They are a kind of Geek that don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t know how else to put it. Have you? Do you have any vegan friends? I mean, these these are people who come over to your house. Don’t have any friends,
David Ralph [37:16]
let alone vegan pros.
Dr James F Richardson [37:18]
There you go. Well, no one has any friends anymore, I guess except to zoom. But the point is, you know, the hardcore vegan I’m talking about if somebody brings their own food to your party. Oh, Hasan.
David Ralph [37:28]
Dr James F Richardson [37:29]
I mean, it doesn’t get I mean, I’m a social scientist. I specialise in South Asia as a basic law of hierarchy. If you don’t share it, if you don’t eat the hosts food, you’re you’re symbolising in any human society that you think you’re superior to them morally. I mean, yes, that’s what it is. That’s actually what they are signalling.
David Ralph [37:48]
Because I hate vegetarians, when vegetarians come to our house, and it doesn’t happen very often. We all have to eat vegetarian, because they’re coming. But when we go
Dr James F Richardson [37:57]
to their house, we still eat vegetarian, they don’t hear the cow and slap it down because we bring the they bring the church of vegan with them. Yes, indeed. So that’s an extreme. But you know, honestly, in the US, like the natural foods community, this is a big controversial group of people, right. But I would you know, they’re the kiss of death as fans for a brand because they alienate everybody they don’t do. So there are brands that actually get going with the wrong fan base. This is actually a thing. And sometimes it’s because they are geeks. Sometimes it’s because they’re morally ideological and alienating. But it’s often because they’re just geeks. Right? And so you haven’t, sometimes the fount the folks I’m working with, haven’t got their formulation and symbolism, right to actually be able to speak to somebody that would unlock a really big market. Here’s a better example we’ll get away from making fun of vegans will make fun of truck drivers in the US, because they built this category called jerky and jerky is made from jerky, kiln dried leftover meat scraps from ranches essentially abbatoirs. Right. At a
David Ralph [39:07]
belt. Yeah, exactly without the
Dr James F Richardson [39:09]
buckles. So most of those sales were in convenience stores and truck stops in the United States until the mid until about 2010. I and when I say most I mean like 90% of category sales were in those outlets and they were going to people on the road mostly blue collar men, working class guys, a lot of them were truckers, contractors, and it was just something to munch on, fill up their bellies between meals because they didn’t have time to eat. Maybe they had to skip lunch or whatever. Anyways, they had found a functional reason to have this tasteless thing. But the funny thing is they themselves rarely raved about it. They just it was there they ate it, it was a thing. And then comes this brand called crave jerky comes along invented by the son of an of a California Wine dynasty. And so he starts first of all he creates the super software It’s flavoured with like Cabernet. And, and puts it in a package. They’re selling at Whole Foods. And suddenly there’s all these upper class yoga moms eating jerky. It was literally hilarious to watch. But there’s an example of someone who just has a slightly different formulation, use a different marketing different symbolism and suddenly got a new audience. And wow, suddenly jerky is growing like crazy.
David Ralph [40:26]
Can you backtrack? This is one of the questions I’ve got somebody has been growing their business, and then they realise it’s not going well, can you backtrack and change everything? Or is it better to just start again?
Dr James F Richardson [40:40]
That is, you just hit upon my my secret business development filtering questions, which I can’t fully divulge. But I will, I will say yes and no. So there are some folks who are so dark, they’re so far down the path. And their team is set up in a way that I don’t know that they could actually rebrand whatever you want to call it, or optimise or change enough, quickly enough, effectively enough to pull the brand out of its problems. So I obviously, am honest with folks, and I don’t work with those folks. Because I use I know what the telltale signs are. But some of them the most important sign that is that you were way too late to the innovation, like you thought it was new, but it was actually 10 years old, but you launched your brand anyways. Except the profit 15 other people ended up doing basically the exact same thing. And in the US market, we get a lot of this. I don’t I have a light. Hello, everybody. I have a UK fan audience of entrepreneurs follow me from the UK. But I think it’s much harder to get credit to start these small businesses in Britain. And you know, that’s probably a good thing. Because it can cause you to think a little more in America, we have this thing called the free flowing credit card market. Yeah, yes. And, and banks that just banks that will literally with minimal documentation, give you a 3% 4% he lock home equity line, and we all a lot of people on homes here, right, so you can get 5075 grand pulled out of your house to go do something crazy. This is very hard to do in Britain and most of Europe. So it causes people to think a lot more. But and and so I do see a lot of people who aren’t doing mrd research. Or maybe they’re like in St. Louis, or something, not like one of the major Metro pools and so they think their thing is brand new, because it’s new in St. Louis Didn’t they haven’t bothered to go to LA and see this 10 brands of gumboots. And
David Ralph [42:54]
I could still win, but I could still win on the local market. And they
Dr James F Richardson [42:58]
they could win in the local market. That’s true, they could create depending on the space they’re in and the price point so that it can command they could create a multimillion dollar local business. And, you know, maybe that’s all that they want from their business. And that’s great. That’s not my particular client audience because you don’t need what’s in my book. And the kind of advice that I bring to get to 5 million you needed to get 100 million, you know, so I’m looking for the people who really want to create an the next crave jerky, the next breakout brand, the next innocent drinks to use a local example.
David Ralph [43:32]
So we kind of touched on the pre we we we’ve looked at designing to command a premium. And we’ve looked at managing a small experiment getting there, and then fine tuning the conversion playable. Now, the key thing to all this is accelerating to scale. Once you’ve got all those lined up, does it just naturally occur? Or do you even have to sprinkly Rocket Power
Dr James F Richardson [43:58]
it generally requires some deliberate moves, you know, there are some brands like skinny pop in the US that, you know, they really just the retailers all just came to them after a certain point and it all fell into into it. It fell into line almost breathlessly in the last couple years for them as they were scaling up. But most people what they have to do is they have to figure out how to get the mouse of their marketing funnel. So they call it in traditional marketing strategy to get even bigger and so what you have to do is figure out how to do out of store engagement, whether it’s advertising, or field marketing sampling. You need to work the streets is what I call it to really get people in large quantities in major cities to to try the brand. But you also have to do some things with your pricing right because once you get to 50 75 million That’s By the way, that’s super rare. But once you get there, if you want to become 200 300 million, you’re really going to have to figure out how to ratchet down your pricing. Because you may have started at a premium price of 100. You know, 100%, higher than the average, you know, which is sort of where Ben and Jerry’s would be versus like a store, label Waitrose ice cream or something. So you’ve got to start relaxing, the pricing is what I’m called, was what I talked about. And that’s a gradual process of using sale promotions, but also, simply just lowering through with your buyer, lowering your suggested retail price, so that you can unlock more and more people who they’ve heard about you. They’ve seen people consume the brand, they haven’t made that first step. And it’s that group of people, which tend to be pretty big in every category, who’s super price sensitive. And once you start, once you get to a certain point, you got to start unlocking those. In other words, they’ve got the aspiration, they’ve had time to develop the aspiration to I want the fancy whiskey now, but there’s no way I’m paying $50 a month. Right? So they want it but not bad enough, right. And so that group will get bigger and bigger as the brand grows with the early adopters, you get to start playing with pricing to unlock some of them, it’s super basic consumer, marketing, science, whatever you want to call it. And you just have to start doing it that makes people nervous. So they often want someone who come from the outside and say, and sort of baptised, their price reduction strategy, right? Because you’re, if you ever do if you in the world that I’m in day that you can never raise your price again, usually, until inflation has given you permission to do it. So you got to be really careful. You don’t want to suddenly drop at 75 cents a bottle or something. Now other things, yeah. But before
David Ralph [46:51]
we sort of make this show into like, Dances with Wolves, and it goes on for three hours, which it could well do, let’s sort of because I’m aware, we’re gonna we’re gonna be running out of time here, what would be two things, we’ll go with two things, but a standalone entrepreneur who’s creating their own solopreneur kind of business? What’s two things that I could look at all their content, their packaging, and see if it takes your boxes? Is there something that simply can be sort of demonstrated across the airwaves to our listeners, so they can go back and look at their, their offerings and go, Oh, right, okay, I need to change this, or I’m spot on.
Dr James F Richardson [47:33]
So the one thing I pound on is you need to have a product line, whether it’s a portion of your products, or all of them that, that that your fan, somebody, some audience out there is figured out delivers on on an outcome of everyday significance. And that the number one thing in the world that I’m in is weight management, right. So if you can connect, somehow through symbolism, the formula, whatever it is, that you have, you know, the next weight management thing, people will pay a premium for that. And then very, very, very, very large numbers. Right. So that’s the extreme example I talked about in the book. And it it built of, you know, a built businesses very fast like skinny pop popcorn, Halo top ice cream. It’s currently driving a lot of keto brands success. So if you have the ability to connect to that kind of outcome with your formulation, or your marketing, that’s really important, what you don’t want to do is develop some weird innovation that is appealing to you, and maybe 10 of your friends. But no one outside can figure out what problem it’s solving, or why it matters, or that outcome, that great outcome that your product delivers. You know, I only want it on on Christmas. So it’s like some seasonal but the brands that grow fast and hard are the ones that have an outcome, they deliver really well against it. And that outcome is something you need to experience on almost a daily basis.
David Ralph [49:17]
Like what that’s like, what would it be?
Dr James F Richardson [49:21]
So it could be something like making sure I don’t get fat, making sure that I have enough you know, energy in the afternoon every day so that I can coast towards dinner, work my butt off till eight o’clock when I have dinner, whatever your style is. So they’re very basic things, very simple thing. But you have to be able to communicate that you deliver against those needs those outcomes better than somebody else better than the incumbents or you just have to convince a small group of people initially that you’re the better one and they can do the word of mouth marketing for you. So I you know One of the things I do with my clients is we figure that puzzle out that communications puzzle out through research, but also through some of the techniques that I will train them on.
David Ralph [50:11]
Always good stuff. I’ll tell you what we could we could go on forever in a day on this. But of course we can’t. We can’t because people have got jobs. They’ve got lives. They can’t just sit here listening to this podcast, but ramping your brand ramping your brand, but book, is it out now? Can we jump over and get it? Who would be your ideal audience to buy this?
Dr James F Richardson [50:33]
Oh, I, I would say anybody who wants to start a consumer brand, whether it’s direct to consumer or in retail, I would, I would recommend that you, you get this. But if you’re trying to make your money with ordinary people buying a product, especially a manufactured consumer packaged good, then this is a book you want to read before you start and in those early years. So it’s a pretty broad within that group. It’s a pretty broad applicable audience. It’s available on amazon.uk. Right now you can get paperback Kindle, and it’s actually on sale right now.
David Ralph [51:10]
And I could get a hold a hard one that I can I can scribble an autograph in the front. Can I?
Dr James F Richardson [51:16]
Yes, the paperback prints on demand in the UK.
David Ralph [51:19]
Look at that. Look at that. I was trying to push for an autographed copy didn’t get there didn’t get there. Man. That’s what I want. That’s what I want. So I can lay in a bed and seem intelligence and and when my wife reaches over, because she’s just feeling that urge I can say no, I’m only on chapter board ramping your brand. You’re gonna wait.
Dr James F Richardson [51:41]
I’m happy to instil marital discord any way possible?
David Ralph [51:46]
Absolutely. That’s That’s the key. That’s that’s the strap line that you should have gone for. So Dr. James, what is the number one best way that our audience can connect with you.
Dr James F Richardson [51:58]
They can go to my website www premium growth solutions comm they’re always welcome to send me a line at James at premium growth solutions. But I may be gatekeepers my by my virtual assistant, I apologise in advance,
David Ralph [52:16]
I will have all the links on the show notes and make it as easy as possible, not the giants. Thank you so much for spending time with us today, talking about ramping your brand. And of course joining up those dots. And please come back again, when you got more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Dr. James Richardson. Thank you so much.
Dr James F Richardson [52:38]
Thanks for having me, dude.
David Ralph [52:41]
So interesting stuff. I felt like a proper journalist asking him the deep but killer questions. So ramping your brand, how you can plan exponential growth. And he starts with finding the right tribe. And Ben asking the right questions, and really building it from the ground upwards and allow people to share premium prices are out there for the right people. Interesting, really interesting the law psychology behind the scenes on that. Until next time, my friends, thank you so much for everybody who’s dropping us a line and we’re responding as quickly as possible to you. There’s a lot of great things going on out there at the moment through Join Up Dots. And I thought I come part of it. I feel like I’m just a small part of it. Until next time, I will see you again Look after yourselves. Cheers. Bye bye.
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you or wants to become. So he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on Join Up Dots.