Thursday, October 29, 2015

Using Your Influence for Cause

I'm pleased to share that I will be speaking at the BarkWorld Expo in Atlanta. By an amazing coincidence, some other matters have brought me to the East coast, which made it possible for me to attend this conference. I've previously attended and been a featured speaker at BarkWorld several times in years past. In particular, back in 2010 I made a presentation with a colleague from Petco about "Making Money in Social Media". 

This year I will be presenting and moderating a panel discussion entitled: 'Using Your Influence for Cause'. The presentation is designed to help digital media professionals and bloggers better understand how to market cause related issues and influence others.

The panel members are from one of my clients at the Lucy Pet Foundation and Lucy Pet Products.  The session will provide a unique glimpse into how and why the founder of a top pet food brand donates his time and millions of his own dollars starting a pet foundation to actively affect pet euthanization numbers at a local and global level. 

Attendees will hear how he is influencing others to support a new cause-driven product company - and how you can use your influence to inspire and champion for cause, too.

Takeaways for attendees in my session will include:

  1. Hear why cause marketing is transforming product innovation.
  2. Learn how influencing for cause can build your own brand equity.
  3. Ask the Vet, Doc Halligan, Chief Veterinary Office at the Lucy Pet Foundation about supporting cause and your pets.

My public speaking engagement calendar has been quite full this year, literally from every corner of the U.S.A. to the U.K. and regularly in Hong Kong. It will be a pleasure to return to BarkWorld once again to see so many familiar faces--and friends that I've known for many years. If you will be attending BarkWorld, I hope to see you during my session, Using Your Influence for Cause.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Launching a Successful Brand

Rick Rockhill, Managing Partner and Founder of Zarhill Partners Group
Whether I am speaking at events in the US, Asia or Europe, there is one common thirst for knowledge from marketers, entrepreneurs and new business owners: "How to successfully launch my brand?".  During a speaking engagement last week in Chicago one of my presentations addressed this very topic. Without question there is no shortage of great product and service ideas percolating in the minds of creative individuals. What is often missing however is the know-how to bring great ideas to fruition, how to develop well thought-through strategy, and how to execute the plan.

I often say to clients that "You can only launch a new brand for the first time once." This is intentionally a bit of a mind game statement, but this play on words is intended to get marketers to pause and THINK before acting. The fact is that most new products and brands fail.  It is exceptionally difficult to get a new product on the "radar" of consumers. In fact, the Harvard Business Review's study shows that "American families, on average repeatedly buy the same 150 items, which constitute as much as 85% of their households needs".  From this fact, you can understand why it would be difficult to break into the shopping habits of American consumers.

In the early stages of launching a product or brand, there are some critical questions to answer, such as evaluating the current product category in which you wish to compete. What is the retail landscape like? Who are the competitors? Where is it sold? Is your product or brand better than what is currently available? Why would anyone want or need your product? Why would retailers want to carry your product?

Whether working with my clients or when speaking at conferences, I often speak at length about what I view as the most important steps to launch a new brand. The details behind these are what comes from experience and business knowledge. During my 27 year career history thus far, I have found the same common themes to hold true across multiple industries. These hold true in the U.S., UK, EU, Asia and beyond.

There are Ten Mission Critical Steps to Launch a Brand:

  1. Establish Core Value Proposition
  2. Know your Target Consumers/Channel Strategy
  3. Develop Brand Identity
  4. Establish Goals
  5. Build A Launch Strategy
  6. Find the Industry Experts & Influencers
  7. Develop a Compelling Marketing Message
  8. Forge Partnerships
  9. Make it easy to Interact with Others
  10. Monitor, Listen, Evaluate & Respond
If there are steps to launch a brand, I can assure you there is also a list of the most common mistakes and reasons that new brands and products fail. Knowing those steps can literally save a company millions of dollars. My firm Zarhill Partners Group works with emerging and established brands to navigate the treacherous waters of the consumer goods marketplace. Smart marketers recognize what that don't know, and seek advice. 

If you are launching a product, brand or have an idea that you wish to bring to market,  my advice is to always find someone who will give you honest feedback, and not worry about hurting your feelings.  Get as close to the consumer as possible, to truly understand their wants, needs and behaviors. Write a business plan and have someone shoot holes in the plan. Then re-write it.

One final piece of advice--provided you are well funded and truly have done your research--including advice from people with experience...listen to your gut instinct, and execute your plan. Launching a successful brand can be a rewarding experience and incredible learning opportunity. Even if you don't make millions, you will be rich in experience.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Conference

This week I am in Chicago attending the Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Conference at the Hilton Chicago. My firm Zarhill Partners Group is featured for several sessions at this year's pet industry event. As a 19 year veteran of the pet industry and a 27 year career professional I am frequently featured as a public speaker at conferences, webinars and business podcast events. My background as a subject matter expert extends to topics around brand strategies, retail channel strategies, the natural products industry, luxury consumer goods, dog and cat products, and the pet specialty retail channel. Through my Hong Kong office, we regularly host Brand Summits, Leadership Luncheons and Breakfast Networking Meet Ups for key business leaders and brand executives across Hong Kong and mainland China. These past few months my international travel schedule has been hectic, so it is nice to be in Chicago this week, not too far from home.

The pet industry has long been near and dear to my heart, so it is with great pleasure that I will be seeing so many familiar faces this week in Chicago. In advance of my two sessions, I wanted to share two teaser quotes regarding brands:

"Your brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life, and positions you in the mind of consumers."

"A must always be protected through a disciplined strategy."

If you are attending the Petfood 2.0 Event, my presentations are as follows:

  • Tuesday 10/20 "Developing a Brand Identity & Strategy" (Main Stage) 
  • Wednesday 10/21 "Launching a New Brand" (Meet Up Sessions, by Advance Registration only).

Attendees can submit any brand questions to me prior to Tuesday's sessions via Twitter @RickRockhill

Monday, October 12, 2015

Products With a Cause: Lucy Pet Products

One my my clients, Lucy Pet Products has just launched a line of brand new shampoos and leave-in conditioning sprays for dogs. Their 'Products With A Cause" is really cool because they have developed a line of products where the proceeds go to the Lucy Pet Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) registered animal charity.  I love working with brands and companies who have a greater purpose and mission. It has been really fun working with Lucy Pet Products to help develop their first product line to benefit animal welfare causes. These shampoos and leave-in conditioning sprays are very high quality, with incredible scents like Coconut, Lavender, Apple Oatmeal, Tropical Berries, Blueberry and a gentle Baby Powder scent for puppies. These products are only available in pet specialty shops like local independent pet stores, or Petco stores. 

One of things that has been especially fun has been developing the Surfin' Jack brand. Surfin' Jack is a real dog who was rescued from death row at the Los Angeles East Valley Animal Shelter. Jack is a family pet now, and after some training, went on to star in a Super Bowl Sunday commercial for the Lucy Pet Foundation, and now has inspired a line of grooming products called Surfin' Jack.

This is a great example of a brand that cares and puts its ethics into action. With the proceeds going to help animals, its easy for pet parents to do something good for other animals in need. It is an honor and true pleasure to work with the Lucy Pet Products brand. If you need a good shampoo for your dog, look for this brand at Petco or ask for it in your local pet shop.

PS- I really like the conditioning sprays. I used them on both Sheldon and Duncan. They actually condition the coat and smell so good too. I've been using the conditioning spray a few times a week to freshen up their coat, and it helps make brushing them easier. For Sheldon I like to use the "Blue Lightning" blueberry one, because it brightens his black hair. For Duncan I like to use the Surfin' Jack Coconut moisturizing one...and I think the Surfin' Jack one suits Duncan's personality too. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pet Food 2.0 Conference: A Sneak Peek

I'm pleased to be one of the presenters at the upcoming Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Conference. I'll be presenting two sessions during the week;

The organizers posted this article below on their website, which I have decide to feature below. I hope to see some familiar faces and new ones too. If you want to attend, there is still time to register.

Conference Speakers Cover All Angles: Education Sneak Peak
 - Blog

The Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 conference in Chicago is almost here, and our staff couldn’t be more excited. Besides an exhibit hall filled with forward-thinking potential partners, the two-day education lineup includes some of the brightest minds in animal nutrition, such as:
• Bill Bookout founding member and president of the nonprofit National Animal Supplement Council (NASC)
• George C. Fahey Jr., Ph.D., professor emeritus of animal sciences and Kraft Foods endowed professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
• Industry consultant Deena Krestel-Rickert, Ph.D., who worked at companies including Ralston (now NestlĂ©) Purina, Trouw Nutrition and AFB International
• Dave Ratner, who has more than 40 years’ experience in pet retail, owns his own line of dog and cat foods, and is actively involved with the National Retail Federation (NRF)

We’re also looking forward to the sustainability session featuring Sara Snedeker, project manager, Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition (PISC) and Jim Thomas, Petco’s vice president of sustainability, safety, environment, risk, ethics and compliance. In just a couple short years, PISC has made great strides in arming the pet industry with tangible tools and resources to advance sustainability in businesses of all sizes, no matter how ominous the task may seem. Petco was an early-adopter founding member of PISC, as well as leading the pack of pet retailers by creating an executive position to support sustainability efforts. It will be interesting to hear how the two organizations have made strides collaboratively and as individual entities.

Also of note are the branding sessions led by Rick Rockhill. Managing partner and co-founder of Zarhill Partners Group, a retail, brand and sales consulting company based in Burbank, California, Rockhill has 27 years’ experience in merchandising, innovation, product development, sales and marketing, both in and out of the pet industry, which offers rich perspective.

“Good marketers understand that a well-defined brand strategy is critical to launch a successful brand," he said. “A brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life, and positions you in the mind of consumers. Think of your brand as a living personality that interacts with consumers. Start by writing a background story about your brand, and incorporate it into your company materials. The expression ‘live your brand’ refers to the need for employees to understand and be able to articulate the brand in everything they do."
Rockhill will discuss the importance of defining the brand’s target customers and channel strategy, the latter of which “is much more than a matter of where your product will be sold," he explained. “It involves an aspect of corporate soul-searching to align your brand with retailers." Through this process, brand holders can identify retailers with the right mix of customers, brand support and opportunities for their unique brand’s growth.
Rockhill shares more of his expertise in our November digital issue, “The Science of Launching a New Brand," which goes live Nov. 6. Several of the conference speakers have written or been quoted in recent Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 articles. 


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