Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #192

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.


Welcome. If you've been listening for awhile you continually hear me tell you how I don't believe that brand should apologize for having quality ingredients. Customers want value, real value. They want products that they can know, like, and trust and that begins with the quality ingredients that you put into your product. After all, that's what differentiates your product from every other product on the shelf. The fact that you take the time to put the love and the care in selecting the very best ingredients that your customers want. This is all part of your messaging and you've got to be extremely clear when communicating that not only to the consumers but to the retailer. Why should a retailer put your product on their shelves over another product and that begins with helping to educate the retailer about the unique customer that buys your product and again that goes back to the ingredients.

Today we're going to talk to a registered dietitian that helped design some of the messaging that retailers use. This is critically important because if you understand from their perspective what they're looking for you can better communicate to them. Again why your product matters. The best part about this Is she's the real deal. She's got a complete alphabet after her name. We’ll joke about that in a minute. The key point here is that your brand success begins with clarity, not confusion and that begins with connecting agriculture, food, and health to your consumers. Help them understand where their food comes from.

As always I want to thank you for listening. This show is about you and it's for you and appreciation for your time always include one free downloadable guide that you can insulate drop and make your own one they can use to grow sustainable sales an compete more effectively with you learn more about that at the end of this episode remember the goal here is to get your product are more store shelves in into the hands of more shoppers if you like this podcast do me a favor and share with a friend help me raise the bar in our community. Now here's Kim with K2 Outcomes.

Dan: Kim, thank you for coming on today. Could you please start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you're at today?

Kim: Yes. First, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. I am a registered dietician and also a certified personal trainer. I got into dietetics as a personal interest. I always liked science. When I was in high school, I was an athlete. I was super active. I was also an academic, different competitions and things like that. Really grew up in a household where we valued good health and nutrition. My mom grew up on a farm. My dad actually had urban agriculture in his background.

Really, just connecting all the way across the food supply chain with the values that one would expect from that scenario. How to help inform choices so people were making choices they were comfortable with and still enjoying their favorite foods knowing that some foods are more treat foods and some foods are more for every day and really supporting our health goals and kind of everything in between.

I have worked in pretty much every arena intentionally that a dietitian can work in. I started out in hospital-based health and fitness centers right out of grad school. It was really good. It was very much focused on my belief in preventative care and also chronic disease management. Then, I actually was an outpatient dietitian and worked in the Chicago suburbs and did a lot of education on everything you could possibly think of. Basically, someone would get diagnosed by their doctor, and then they would make an appointment to come see me or one of my colleagues.

We would sit down and talk about what people were eating, what their day looks like, what their personal goals were, what their doctor told them they needed to do. Medication conversations came into play.

Then, I actually got into retail. I worked for Chicago's number one retailer, Jewel-Osco, for nearly 10 years and really enjoyed that a lot. Because when you see a patient in a hospital and they're diagnosed, they're learning new ways, they're relearning food that they thought they need that they always knew. All of a sudden, they have to go back to the grocery store and look at food in a new way. To me, the retail setting was very much about where the rubber hits the road if you will, and really practical application of the nutrition and food information that people learn from dietitians like me.

Really enjoyed that a lot, did a lot of presentations, TV, radio, newspaper, in-store tours, so kind of around the gamut in every connection in the best way possible that people could interact with somebody like me. Then, I was recruited to work in agriculture and probably work for America's dairy farmers for five years. Then, integrating all of that, if you will, all of those touchpoints with our customers, our patients, audiences we serve, started my own business and I now work on connecting agriculture, food, and health.

That's the long short story. That's kind of my journey and kind of how I got to where I am today.

Dan: Thank you for sharing all that, I appreciate it. There's a lot to unpack there. It's impressive that you've done so much. Okay, let's start at the very beginning. You've got literally the alphabet after your name. What does that mean? Why is that important? Why should someone care? What I mean by that, in all sincerity is, there are so many letters there, what does all that stands for? Why is that important?

Kim: I love that you called it alphabet soup because I call it alphabet soup too. That's always what I say when I talk about it. It starts with my last name with the double H's and double R's. That's just how my family spells it. It's Kim Kirchherr. Then, master of science, registered dietician nutritionist, licensed dietitian in the State of Illinois. I am also a certified diabetes educator. Now, that credential is going from CDE to CDCES and then fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Then, an ACSM certified personal trainer.

If you think about everything that I talked about that I do prevention, management of a chronic disease that's existing. When we look at lifestyle management, to me, I love this question from you so much. Thank you for having a platform for us to talk about that today. Because there's a lot of people who are passionate about fitness and wellness and nutrition and food and we all have a responsibility and enjoyment too to talk about those topics.

When you really are looking to make a difference and impact your health and well-being and you want to make a science-based choice, you always want to look at the credentials that somebody has, whether it's an exercise physiologist or certified personal trainer who's met some requirements in the fitness space. If you are looking for health and food nutrition-related topics, registered dieticians, and certified licensed dietitian nutritionist across the country, every state calls it differently.

Here in Illinois, it's LDN, licensed dietitian nutritionist. What that means is you want to look and see, does a person have a degree in the topic area that they're talking about. I jokingly always say, if you have a foot problem, you wouldn't go see an eye doctor. It's making sure that what your values and goals match up with the person that you're talking to. With that said, a lot of us in the healthcare space or in the wellness space has a lot of scope creep in a good way.

Let's say, you start out at the pharmacy counter and you're talking to a pharmacist and you have a lot of food and drug questions. Then, all of a sudden, it morphs into more of a nutrition deeper conversation, that pharmacist is going to pass that conversation back to me and vice versa. If I start talking with someone and they have a deeper need in exercise than what I feel comfortable with or more appropriately what's in my scope, I might actually engage with a personal trainer of a different sort with an exercise background of a deeper nature, maybe a cardiac rehab specialist.

I'm kind of using loose terms. You can see that's what's beautiful about some of the things that I've done with my network intentionally is going through and finding the other experts. Because we can't all be good at everything, so how can we work together? When you and I first talked, it's like, there's a lot of conversations where people are making their food decisions based on agriculture. If you're not talking to a soil scientist, but you have an interest in soil health, that's something that you want to connect right away.

If you are interested in a certain type of farming, you should find a way to connect with farmers and it's much easier to do that now, whether it's in social media. A lot of them, a lot of farmers are on Twitter like dieticians are too. You can also go to great sites like and I could go on down the line, we could talk more about that. It's really just, to me, connecting the dots with a true expert, while also still enjoying conversations with people who just enjoy talking about food and nutrition.

Dan: Thank you for going through all that. I run into the same problem anyhow, the bottom line is you're the real deal. As I said, I run into the same problem. I'm the first person certified at the highest level category management proficiency, which is, I think, a big deal. It's kind of like a CPA, kind of, right? Thank you. Where I really wanted to go with this and thank you for unpacking that is that you've got deep insights into other aspects of things that I may not be thinking about.

If I'm thinking about it, okay, I need to lose weight. What does that mean? If I go to someone who just knows how to say these are the foods that I read about in a book versus someone who gave you exercises where you develop these habits. That's more important. That's exactly why I wanted to have you on the podcast today. Thank you. With that said, let's go through some of the different things that you've talked about. Going from, if you will, sort of a clinical setting to a retail setting, what was that like in terms of working with customers? What did you see what was different? Then, how did you help make an impact with the people that came to you differently, if that makes sense?

Kim: Yup. First of all, let me just say, I love category management expertise as well. When you put together a health professional like myself with someone who's got that business acumen, really, the sky is the limit on strategic thinking within the infrastructure of a grocery store. I would say that's one of my favorite things is I would talk to the people who would put the plan-o-gram together. If I wanted to do a program, I would talk to our operations team.

I talk to our buyers, like how do we want to work with this because it's a win-win scenario. I'll get to your question by kind of going through the back door. When you think about health and well-being, one of the things that I've been really championing across the food supply chain to everyone who will have me speak is that health and well-being are really customer service. We are in service and I was listening to some of your other podcasts as I mentioned earlier. When I heard Jeffrey talk about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I just started smiling. Because to answer your question specifically, when you put a health professional in a store, whether it's in store, I was more in a hybrid situation, where I would do some in-store events, but also I was impacting public health on a broader scale through the media market and then social media when it came into play too.

It's really helping say, okay, once you've been diagnosed with something or maybe you're training for a marathon or maybe you just want to have a more prevention mentality because heart disease runs in your family as it does for so many of us across the country and around the world. When you set foot into that grocery store, you are intentionally going there to make decisions to support your lifestyle, to support your health goals, and to support what you are either trying to manage, prevent or both.

When you have that connection and you really have a strong team, like I've been fortunate to be a part of in my career, all of a sudden, you can have those conversations. We hear about the win, win, win all the time. How are we problem solving for people? Maybe it's as simple as dinner on a Tuesday night and figuring out what that is. A lot of people walk into the grocery store after work and say, "Gosh, what am I going to have?" Now, there's a little bit more time for planning. I mean, look at the world now, people are at home cooking all meals, all snacks a lot of the time, a majority of the time.

We've got this incredible opportunity when people are making decisions to help inform them. I think when you and I first talked on the phone too, it was such a fun conversation because there's no one right way to eat. When you look at the cultural relevance of food and you go back all the way into why we eat what we do, food is grown and raised where it makes sense from a regional perspective to do so. My favorite joke about that's true is there are no banana farms in Illinois. You cannot have a local banana that's an Illinois banana, but you can get it and obtain it from where it's local and it's grown with respect to natural resources.

I kind of share that and went down the agriculture path. The same thing with diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, blood pressure, somebody comes into our store, of any type, whatever type of grocery store you have, and they're looking for a solution to the problem or challenge that they have. Helping them understand how to interpret labels, understanding what have legal definitions like an excellent source of, a good source of, high fiber, low sodium, those terms are regulated.

It's really one of those things where instead of just saying, "The doctor told you to watch your sodium." First of all, do people know that that's salt, salt, and sodium are kind of in the same conversation? I've had people tell me they didn't know that. How do we start at the beginning of the story and help meet people where they are and say, "What is it you're trying to accomplish? What is it that you need? Let me help guide you to that." You put a health professional into a setting where people are walking the aisles and it's magic to me.

Dan: Love that. I love the fact that you understand a little bit about what I do, which is kind of cool because most people really don't. Let's get into the weeds a little bit to really dig into what we're talking about here. Excuse me. What the difference between just generically speaking, this is what it is, et cetera. Where I'm going with that, Kim is in my world and in your world too, people tend to commoditize everything. Everything is the same. You're female, therefore you buy just like every other female. That's not true, obviously.

What I'm getting at is that the generic commoditized way of thinking about stuff is where brands and retailers fall down. It's where, I think, you make the biggest mistake. I'll you give an example. In category management, what I do is, you would find someone with my skill set at a really, really high level, I'm not trying to be braggadocious. The point is deep strategic thinking like you, I mean, kind of at that level. More importantly, in terms of what I'm getting at is how does that impact the consumer? How does a consumer shop?

Here's the example. Did a project for Pacific Foods. Okay. You've got soup. If you look at the database, there's sodium, less sodium, reduced-sodium. I mean, there are all sorts of different versions of it, right? First of all, the databases aren't coded exactly the way the products are made. That's an issue. Cleaning that up, that's my secret sauce. Secondly, understanding what that means. If you're trying to develop a soup schematic, plan-o-gram, for a customer that is worried about heart health and stuff like that, that's really confusing.

If you look at the databases, like I said, you got reduced salt, et cetera, trying to explain or trying to understand what does that means. People don't understand, chicken naturally has salt in it, sodium in it. That's different than something that has sodium added to it. Reduced sodium means that it has less sodium today than it had yesterday. I'm just being a little bit sarcastic. My point is, there's so much confusion around one simple topic rather than simply saying, this much sodium per serving or something like that.

That's something that isn't done in this industry in terms of the way the data, the way schematics are looked at. By taking someone with your level of expertise and applying those deep level insights to the data to understand what matters. Where I'm going with here is that the conscious consumer will pick up a can of soup and look at it and say, "Here's what I want. Here's what I need," and they understand the differences. It's the consumer that doesn't understand it that's trying to figure it out. As I liken it to be the ripple in the pond, so the conscious consumer is the one that is driving those trends.

If a retailer could isolate those specific trends, that's where the growth in the category is coming from because you're giving customers what they want. Using that long-winded explanation, how would you recommend a retailer merchandise work with et cetera brands. By the way, I'm, as you know, a huge proponent that the brand needs to bring these insights to the retailer and not have the retailer just trust generic commoditized results that most likely overlook the core customer that buys products in your store. Your thoughts?

Kim: I love this topic too. This goes right back and circles around why you need different experts in your own arena. Because think about the expertise that you just talked about and what I just talked about and put it together. That's the answer to your question. I think there's so much to manage when you think about one specific nutrient, one specific product, one specific type of cuisine in a region. We could go through and kind of pinpoint all of those different things together, right.

That's the beauty, complexity, and challenge of exactly what you just described. You have to have a general bumper if you will. Think of a bowling alley or a swimming pool with lanes. It's almost like you have to have those clearly defined, okay, we're in the same pool or we're in the same bowling alley. Then, you have to come down and say, okay, now I need to stay in my lane. Let's stick with sodium for the topic since I talked about it, you talked about it.

When you think about salt or sodium, first of all, do people understand what words are in the ingredient list? The nutrition facts panel just underwent a big change, font sizes are bigger, there's a lot more help with that. Serving sizes per package is a conversation. There's one of the complexities, another one, right. Then, when you start to think about, to your point, the different levels of sodium and then from a taste perspective, our taste buds get used to high levels of sodium. There's a timing perspective that all of those different products that you named could become super helpful to someone if they were buying the original and then they went to a reduced-sodium and then they went to low sodium and then they went to a no salt added.

All of a sudden, they're allowing time for those taste bud changes to happen. All of those products served a purpose. I'm oversimplifying, but for the sake of our discussion today, just to give a simple example for people to follow. That's what's so exciting about this is there's no wrong choice. There are just better choices most often. That's not a word game. That's really how life is. My birthday is in June, I will be eating a piece of birthday cake. Jokingly, I would tell people, if it's not your birthday every day, you don't need to be eating birthday cake every day.

Again, it's an oversimplification but it takes a complex topic or topics, family of topics, and helps people put their mind around it. That, again, is a challenge too when you think about category management and you think about seasonality and you think about changing things up. There's a reason why endcaps are different at different times of the year. You're not looking for a winter holiday display in the middle of June.

In the context of what's on people's minds, we're in service to people on anticipating those general categories that they're in and having enough choice within it, that they can then partner with us on their end and choose what's needed. I just read something about personalization in the last few months. It talked about the fact that everybody's thinking that consumers, which we'll get to that topic in a second, the word consumer. When you look at what people are looking for, they don't want to be told what to do.

To your point, we really can't be prescriptive to them. We can anticipate that within a category, within a section or a food group, these are the types of questions people are going to have. We cast that broad vision of gathering as many people that are interested in that particular area as possible and then within that category, trusting our customers that they are going to navigate that area based on the information and the product selection that we've given them.

You said secret sauce, the magic sauce. That's where those kinds of things can happen is it's like, okay, well, if you look at shopper data and not just conversation data, and I actually with a colleague of mine, we just did a talk about that last year. It's like, does the conversation on social media actually match what's going into the cart? If you're only looking at the conversation but you're not actually looking at sales data, you're really missing a huge opportunity to connect with people because you're missing what they're actually deciding to purchase.

It's a lot to unpack as you like to say but I feel like that's what's the exciting challenge about this because it's like how do we appeal to the most people in this space? Still, make it personalized and make them feel like we hear them individually because health and wellness is a personal conversation. It has to be.

Dan: It is. Thank you. By the way, full disclosure, my sister that was her dropping off when you said she didn't need to have cake every day. Yeah, she loves it. She's a super athlete. She'll run six miles a day, anyhow. It's important that you said that. Thanks for getting into that. This is where I'm getting at when you talk about personalization, understanding the journey, understanding how the customer buys the products. My belief is that the brands need to step up and do more to help the retailers understand the customers in their store and how the customers buy the products.

In other words, there's no retailer that can possibly be an expert in every product, in every item they sell, in every category and every customer. Therefore, I believe, and this is where I get into the focus of what I teach is that the brands need to become experts in their customers. They need to become an expert in how their customer shops a category. Answering all those key questions, that needs to be what the brand brings to the retailer to help the retailer understand what's going on.

That is the opportunity. By the way, I launched a free webinar series, a weekly webinar series, to help brands impacted by COVID. One of the topics that I did was how to future proof your store. This was the key topic. This is a key point around it. Instead of retailers making all the decisions for your customers on your behalf, not knowing that the idea is that let's switch the conversation. Let's leverage the brands to help the retailers et cetera. More of a symbiotic relationship instead of the relationship, unfortunately, that exists today.

When you're talking about personalization, this is key. When you're looking at the sodium choices and then making those choices available and making it easier for a customer to choose low sodium versus sodium added versus ... and then what's the difference between the different kinds of sodium Himalayan salt versus iodized salt? What metabolizes in the body? I know we're really getting deep into the weeds but the point is that giving the customers that education, the brand should do this.

Then, help the customer at retail, at the shelf, make it easier to make the right choices for them. When you're working with a retailer, how did you help make that happen? Or what would you recommend a brand do to make that happen?

Kim: I think that's where people get really confused because marketing messages that are not based in science get people very confused very quickly. I love that you brought that up. Because when you're dealing with monitoring your sodium for a medical reason, it's incredibly important to understand all the types of salt and understanding that sodium isn't all of them. Like you said, getting into the weeds, but just a nugget of information that it's like, that's where I was very fortunate to work with retailers in my history.

First of all, when I was full time and then also during my consulting years now too, is really looking at it and saying, you know what, let's bring the experts to the shoppers. We can curate the content for them and they can hear my voice as a dietitian, but also find their way to great information. Right now, everyone's referring to the CDC, as we should, following the protocols and guidelines and really looking to that space to stay as up to date as possible in the current scenario that we're in.

I think that's where when you go in and understand what a buyer is trying to do, what we're trying to do when we set up a store, and what we're trying to do from a shopper perspective. That's really why I think it's so beneficial to pivot from thinking that health and wellness is marketing into pivoting that it's actually customer service.

Because there's nothing more personal, I mean, if you think of the reasons why you eat what you do, if you've got a loved one or yourself who's managing something, there's a very specific reason why you buy what you do and choose what you do, cook it the way that you do and we could go down that path. When you sit down, I always used to love to sit in the meetings with our buyers to answer and ask questions as they came up. I'll give you a scenario. If you put a salad, that's a lovely salad, it's got maybe reduced-fat cheese in it and then it's got garbanzo beans or other beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, a variety of vegetables in addition to the lettuce.

Then, you put it in a non-recycling package with a full-fat salad dressing, that's going to limit your shoppers. Because if you've got someone who's really looking for that glorious salad with the multiple food groups in it, super convenient, lots of great nutrition in there because you do have the multiple food groups. Then, all of a sudden, you've got a high-fat dressing and there's no choice there. That's a limiting factor.

Being able to be in those conversations to say, would you consider having another dressing option? Would you consider a salsa package which is a much lower calorie choice, super delicious on a salad, and it kind of fits more into a line with people who maybe don't want to douse their salad in a full-fat dressing every single time?

That choice factor is huge. Having that conversation about your shopper who's going to buy that salad, what about that packaging? Can it be used? Can it be washed and reused for something else? Are we helping people completely through the journey of their food? Meaning, they're at the shelf or in front of that refrigerator case making their decision, are we in the same value space with them? Whether it's the product itself that they're going to eat? How do you cook it? What is it wrapped in? What's going to happen to the leftovers? How long can they keep it in the refrigerator? Can they do something else with it? Is there a recipe you can make with it?

Are we really truly thinking through our shoppers' lenses through our audiences' lenses and problem-solving at that broad scale to say, you know what, we can't have 80 million dressings, but we could have three or we could have seven, whatever the number is. This is really the package that's the best quality and food safety and everything else. Here are some other things you can do with it. I think that's where a brand and a retailer, a health professional, the expertise that sits within that retail space, from the product to the retailer to the employees like myself, if you will, and to you.

You put us all in a room and say, all right, well, here's what we're going to deal with. Here's the barrier and here's the why they would choose it. Then, all of a sudden, you've got a focus that doesn't seem so ginormous that you can't manage it.

Dan: I love that you said that. Thank you. This is why I get excited. This is so critically important, brands and retailers need to work together. This is at the heart of what we're talking about. One of the things that you said that I'm thinking about in the back of my mind, the reason I launched my free turnkey sell story strategies course, is to teach brands exactly what we're talking about.

As an example, there was a company I was working with that had an oatmeal. They thought that they were a breakfast cereal. They were surprised, after going through the course, to learn that a lot of customers that were buying the product were buying it as an infant formula, infant food, excuse me. They had no idea. In addition to that, becoming a true expert in your brand and your customer, et cetera. This is honestly the Achilles heel of all the big brands, actually, every brand, but literally the big brands.

This is how I was able to push P&G and Frito, et cetera, because they don't take the extra time to get to know their customer in an intimate basis, one. Then two, you need to be able to communicate that with the same passion, authenticity, enthusiasm, et cetera, as the founder. In other words, everyone's going to be in lockstep. You can't have one person off on the side saying, "I don't believe that," or whatever. I mean, just with a different ... not communicating the same values in the same way. The point being is that the real opportunity, in my opinion, for brands to help retailers, help retailers help their customers that their same customer buy products, is to help them on this journey.

The way you do that is to understand those nuances and understand how you, as a consumer, shop different than I as a consumer. One of the things that frustrate me is that when you look at the data, again, we're all commoditized. You live in Chicago, therefore you buy like everyone in Chicago. No, that's not true. You have a unique mindset, a unique understanding of food and how food works and why food is important. Being able to get down and personalize your offerings, personalize the store's offerings, to support you within that community. That's how a retailer differentiates itself. That's how a retailer and a brand becomes future proof.

One of the things you said about the packaging et cetera. This is the other thing I talk about a lot, where I believe that your selling story, your go-to-market strategy, which is what we're talking about here, in broad terms, needs to be every bit as creative and as innovative as ingredients inside your package. By learning about the customer that buys your product, what aligns with them. I don't have the time today to go work in a soup kitchen. I do have the time to pick up a product that has a mission that aligns with something that's important to me.

I want to feel good about the choices so I know that's a lot, again, but what are your thoughts? Then, how would you recommend a brand, leverage that relationship to help a retailer drive sales? By the way, where I'm going here is that customers have literally unlimited choices. The name at the end of the game is how do you keep that customer in your store and not invite them, literally not invite them, to go shop your competition.

Kim: This is why I knew this was going to be a great conversation because when you think of the magnitude of everything that you just covered in the context of everything else that we've been talking about thus far, there's a lot to do. Yet, it's simpler than we think. I want to start by saying that it's all about relationship building. It almost doesn't matter about the size. To your point, I think, this is a really critical piece of connecting with each other and really trusting each other. I mean, brand, health professional, retailer trusting each other across the food supply chain, that we're all in service to our end audience if you will. I'll start with that.

To your point about whether you live in Chicago or Florida or wherever the case may be, that where you are doesn't define you, but it helps set parameters. Like if it's 100 degrees, you probably aren't going to be putting out stew recipes, because nobody's going to eat stew when it's 100. It doesn't matter where you live. That's kind of the scenario. It's tongue-in-cheek but still the truth. I feel like if we can get to the point, both from a business perspective, and from a shopper perspective, it's not about the size, but to your point, it's about the values and the process.

When you try to say, to your point, all-female shop the same. No, we don't have different needs. Just like everybody else, all-male shop the same. No. Or, it's only the mom shopping. Nope, dad shop too. Instead of going after those things that are very comfortable to think about, let's go after the shopping behavior. Let's go after the cooking skill expertise or lack thereof. Let's go after household size because whether you are a college kid with your first apartment and first job or you're an empty nester, your needs for quantity are very similar.

It's not an age thing. It's a logistics thing. I love this part of the conversation because so often people are alike, it's big. It's small. It's this. No, it's not. From a business perspective, it's what are our values? I love what you said too, because to your point, we can't be everything to everyone but we can certainly be the best that we are. That's why I like that, here's who I am. Here's the problem I can solve for you. Here's how I fit into the context of a family, an individual household. Here's what I offer you. This is what I'm best at. This is why you might need me.

If you can flip the conversation into the answer to why someone would purchase your product, versus, I want to sell more stuff. Everyone's got a different way to generalize those kinds of scenarios. If we're truly coming from the audience lens and we're truly trying to connect on values, then we really need to do a good job of saying, here's who we are as a company. Here's what we stand for. Here's why we make what we do. If it's a company that's maybe not the most nutrient-rich food, maybe that's the biggest memory of somebody sharing a treat with a grandparent. That's a health and well-being moment too.

Now, we can't just live on one food. We certainly want nutrient-rich foods most often. Whatever your scenario is, be the best one you are and be proud of your details and explain it, not defend it. That's a very different setup if you will.

Dan: It makes all the sense in the world in what I think we're talking about here shopper loyalty. That's the fancy term people use. I always make the comment that I've got a loyalty card for every airline I fly in. I've got a loyalty card for every retailer in my market. Loyal, that's a myth, loyalty cards. Loyalty is earned. It's not something that's embossed on a plastic card. The way that a retailer remains relevant, meaning how does that retailer compete against other retailers in their market, including online?

That is something that is earned. When we're talking about true shopper loyalty, I know we've gotten into the weeds that sounds really complex. It's really simple like Tom Peter said, "Selling something simple is stupid." The point is that it's, yeah, you need to get to that level of understanding. This is not rocket science. If you were to go up to every customer that buys your product, why did you choose us? Then, why'd you choose a competition or someone else? Whatever. How do you use the product when you get home?

Give them reasons to celebrate your brand. Then, bring this into the conversation. This is how you develop a loyal shopper. This is how you help a retailer develop a loyal shopper that's going to come back again and again and again. That personalization is really just listening to your shopper tell you what they want. What they need. I got a good friend in your area that recently had a heart attack and he changes to diet and we're having this exact conversation about sodium. He was dumbfounded by all the different nuances, and we're talking about supplements and all sorts of things.

The point is, this guy's been in the food industry. He's one of the biggest names in the industry. This is where he's played all of his life. I mean, one of the best-known names, et cetera. I'm not trying to brag. I don't want to embarrass him, so I don't want to say his name. The point is, you would think someone like that would know, well, he didn't. Instead, having a trusted source that he could ask and I gave him the information that I could give him and pointed him down the road to someone else that could help him even more.

This is where this community comes in. What makes natural natural as I would say. The other thing where I want to go with this, and you've touched on it several times, thank you, is I think retail is broken. One of the reasons that I think retail is broken is because retailers spend most of their time trying to sell us stuff on their shelves, rather than trying to sell us the stuff we want to buy. Part of this listening changes that conversation. Now, all of a sudden, a retailer might understand, well, I need to have these other products in my store to support that customer's needs.

That's not to say the other products are bad, but the idea that prices only drive the shelf, I think, that that's ... I want to get away from that. You've mentioned market basket. Because of that mindset, the way retail is played today, the way that the retail game is played is how much margin can I squeeze out of a single item, that small sliver space that your item takes up on your shelf? What you're talking about, what I'm talking about, is that the customer journey is a lot broader than that.

If I go into a store using your analogy, and I buy a salad, a healthy salad, I might buy a healthy snack. I might buy other products, premium products may be depending on what I buy, right. If the brand understands what their shopper buys, how they buy and have the retailer, train the retailer, think about the shopping basket, the sum total of everything in the customer's basket at checkout. Then, work their way backward. When they're developing their go-to-market strategy, they're focused on the customer journey, so that they are helping the customer find all the things that they want. Again, not inviting that customer to go shop their competition.

How would you leverage that? First of all, if you agree, how would you leverage that with a brand strategy or a retailer?

Kim: I love retailers. I think once you are in the business and you understand how the business operates and the amazing challenges that retailers are up against. I'm speaking before the current scenario. I'm so glad people are understanding that retailers are working so hard to make sure that we have the affordable abundant food supply that farmers make possible for us.

I'm going to start out with a shout out to the retailers and to say thank you, not only to the retailers but to all of the packaged goods companies, all of the people who create the products that we trust are going to be in the stores for us. Shout out to the retailers first for being some of the smartest and best problem solvers, I think, I've ever worked with. I think once you're in the business to understand that. You with category management, you know too, there's so much amazing thinking going on. People don't realize how challenging retail really is. Because to your point with margins and things like that, it is a busy, not easy, complicated dance that retailers make look simple.

We walk into a store, we don't think about all the ins and outs behind the scenes that are going on every single day to make that happen. What I will agree with 100% is people are coming in to buy what they need and that's what retailers' jobs are is to have those solutions. To your point, the beautiful variety that is in a grocery store is almost too much for people. You are faced with this plethora of choice every single time you go in, whether it's a small store or a large store, there's a lot to choose from.

I think that's what gets people in a space where it gets tricky. You want to filter things because there's a lot of choices. Having the right filter, meaning, what is it you're trying to accomplish? What is your budget? Because, to your point, price is a conversation, but it's not the only one but it still plays into the conversation, especially right now. We all want value, and we all want quality.

I think the secret, and it's not really a secret anymore, because you and I have been kind of toying around this the whole time the best way possible, is it's like how do we build a relationship with our customers? How do we anticipate retailers do every single day what they need to have the right product selection and assortment? How do we pivot when people start to pivot? How do we understand science as we know it today to support the goals that we have and that they have?

I'm always saying, one of my favorite things is to look for the win, win, win. That's the win for personal health. It's the win to keep the business viable, because if the business isn't there, where are people going to buy their food where they're getting their nutrition? We need to take care of our planet. There's a way that if that's the big picture that it's like, you know what, we're not going to sell stuff that people aren't going to buy. People are going to buy stuff that they for sure want to support their goals. By the way, we got to take care of our communities, our families, ourselves, and a more global perspective of that.

I feel like it sounds very pie in the sky, but it's actually pretty common sense. It's like let's take care of each other. Let's listen to each other. Let's solve the problems that people bring our way. To me, it's that simple.

Dan: As a brand, I should have told you, I should have started out by saying I used to be a retailer. I used to have people come to me and say, "I need you to sell this at this price point, put it on this shelf this way," et cetera. "How much money can I pay you to sell this stuff?" That's unfortunate that the industry has changed to that way back when. Where we're going with this is how can a brand partner with a retailer to answer and solve these questions?

This is what I'm getting at. Thank you for unpacking that. With that mindset, it is critically important for the brand and the retailer in that kind of relationship. This is where you build that trust. Instead of walking into a retailer and demanding certain things of them, or using the same cookie-cutter strategies to sell your organic baby food that someone uses to sell motor oil or something like that, some different choose your product, insert product name or whatever you want to call it. Instead of that, understanding what's important to the retailer and understanding how do you help meet their needs? How do you help leverage your product? Or more importantly, the unique customer that buys your product to help accomplish their objectives.

Then, help them, help guide them, to make the best decisions that help them out. Where I'm going with here is that when you talk about relationship building, that adversarial relationship that, unfortunately, so many brands and so many retailers have. Because of that mindset that some have, hey, look at me, look at me, look at me, this is about me. Instead, when you switch that and you go into the retailer and say, "How can I help you? I understand, here's what your problem is, here's what you're trying to solve. Here's what your customers need and want. Here's how my customer aligns with that. Let me be a value-added resource to you."

Then, that's how you build trust, that same loyalty question within that retailer. That's how brands, I think, can differentiate themselves and help future proof those retailers. Help those retailers stand out in their community. Your thoughts?

Kim: I've seen retailers do this beautifully time and time again. I think, yeah, that's the best relationship building that a person could hope for and go after. When you see successful retailers across the country, that sauce, that formula, if you will, that let's sit down and figure this out together and share our customer data at some level. Here's what we know as retailers that our customers need. Here's what you as a product or brand offer. Then, you find that middle ground where it's like, okay, we could really do some great stuff here for people because we're solving a problem that they're bringing to us collectively.

You see retailers doing that time and time again and making things available. I think those are the moments that I focus on because we all know the retailers that come to mind that are our favorite. I mean, here in Chicago, it's my store. It's like you claim the store because you have that kind of relationship with it. At least, that's my experience. Those are the kinds of moments and relationships that are ideal that we strive for. I feel like, to your point, if that's what everybody starts to look at, is it's not about stuff on a shelf. I think exactly what you said that that's maybe where we used to be.

Grocery stores haven't been around that long. When you think about what a grocery store did for a community, does for a community, it's an anchor, it's a pillar. It's something that helps the community grow and thrive because you have a food source that is reliable and wonderful. The nuances inside it, those are the fun and complex parts that we have to figure out together. I feel like there's a lot of potential and I feel like right now, there is a chance for people to maybe look at things differently. I just actually did a presentation for the Housewares Show, and it was virtual, obviously, like everything else.

I said, "Maybe this is the time that we can look at are our messages still the right ones? Are we talking the right way? Are we claiming what's best about us and not trying to disparage somebody else?" Because I think right now, your point about trust and authenticity is critical. When we focus on what we're best at, that's where everybody wins. It doesn't have to be picking aside. It doesn't have to be like you can only do this or you can only do that.

I'll give you one last scenario here of picture a family around the table. You've got people sitting around a table, who maybe haven't eaten together for a very long time, if ever. Maybe they all have different unique medical goals, which they probably do. Maybe they all have a very different picture of what they choose to eat. Fine. You know what's beautiful about that is there are a farmer and a company and a brand and a packaged good. There's somebody solving that problem or having a solution for every single person and mindset and value around that table.

That, to me, is the amazing part of it is it's like, how do we continue to unite people around a dinner table? How do we continue to show our connection with other cultures through food? What you're describing is this ideal moment that is not far out of our reach. We see some people doing it wonderfully, some businesses every single week. That, to me, is the great part about all of this is it's like, okay, hard stop on what we were doing. What were we doing that was great, let's keep going. What are some things that it's like, okay, we've got a chance now, let's rearrange some stuff and try something new? I think that's what's amazing to me.

Dan: Okay. Thank you for sharing all that. I mean, I would go one step further and I'd say the food is that common language. It transcends all the dialects, the races, all of the different things, the ethnic groups, et cetera. It's that one thing that brings us together. This is what's common about it. One of the things I love about this conversation and about the brands that we're talking about, is these smaller brands typically have a more intimate relationship with their suppliers, with the farmers, with the growers, et cetera. Being able to bring that into their conversation and talk to a retailer in your area and say, well, we're local.

What does that mean? Here, you buy my product, you're supporting the community. Again, that's part of the brand story or should be part of the brand story. Instead of saying, hey, I'm a nice guy, I got a cool t-shirt, a great slogan, buy my stuff. Instead, I'm giving back to the community and I'm supporting the community. I'm here to help you. My product is I listen to my consumers and then I've tried to make it more nutritious by doing this by only supplying the best and the best et cetera. Thank you for sharing that. This has been a lot of fun.

Kim: Can I just say one thing about the local?

Dan: Yeah, please.

Kim: I love the conversation about local because I agree to support your local community and understanding what's grown and raised in your region, we should all be connected to that. What I love about, I'll call it the second level of local, is farmers are local everywhere it makes sense to grow and raise food. This goes back to our conversation. No matter where you are, or how you choose to eat, you're supporting a farmer and a farmer supports you.

That would be the one last local thought that I'll share is it's about the relationship, it's about the connectivity. There are farmers supplying retailers and companies of all sizes and having worked for farmers, and my grandfather having been a farmer too. I will just say that those moments where you see some of the best of the best, let's just give them a shout out too because they're working hard too.

I so appreciate this conversation today. I think we covered a lot of really important topics. I'm grateful for the opportunity to talk with you.

Dan: I appreciate it. No, thank you. I mean, it's my honor. Thank you. I'm glad you brought that up because when you hear the stories about all the restaurants closing and all the brands impacted by this, I listened to a news report, it was great. It was one of the first times I'd ever heard someone connect the dots like you were saying.

My point being restaurant closes, okay, now the person that supports supplies the food for that restaurant, they're not supporting their business, they're losing the sales too. Now, the person that has the facility to fix their tractors, et cetera, they're not getting money. The trickle-down effect all the way throughout the entire system. This is about the community. This is about how do we help each other.

The thing I love about these small, disruptive brands is that they have a unique ability to pivot and change and do more good. Where I'm going with that is that if I can help those brands survive and thrive, those are the brands that typically do more to invest back into the community that is focused more back on their specific community. Whereas big brands, yeah, we still need them et cetera. I'm not saying anything discouraging about them.

Certainly, I'm not going to say they're wrong or whatever. The point is, it's these little brands that are trying to save the climate that is trying to change the way we think about regenerative agriculture, et cetera. They're the ones leading those conversations. The thing I love about this going back to what you said a minute ago, it's being able to feel good about the products you buy on the shelf.

Again, the brand helping the retailer, makes it easy for the consumer to buy and find the right products. Then, a brand leveraging someone with your expertise to help with that selling store, to help connect all those dots. Thank you so much for your time for being here. I look forward to our next conversation. Any last parting thoughts?

Kim: What I'm hearing you say is pulling out and helping people tell their stories and highlighting what they're best at. I think you and I are very passionate about that because it's like, you know what? Everyone's great at something. Tell your story from that perspective. Be proud. We own that. Whatever that magical moment is, that's your moment. That should be shining fast, high, proud, all of it. This is what I do. This is why I do it. This is what I want you to know.

I think that part of it is really exciting. I think people are ready to hear a little bit of different storytelling right now because it doesn't need to be about what others aren't or are. It's about what you as, a company organization, are and what your product is. That's where everyone can chime in. That's where everyone can start to filter through all of the choices that they have. I think the work that you're doing is super important.

Dan: Thank you so much for saying that. That's exactly why I built that course so I teach brands how to tell this story. Instead, again, of saying that I'm a nice guy, I got a great package, great slogan, put me on the shelf. Tell that story and help the retailer understand why that story matters to their customers. It's not about me, it's about how do I help you, the retailer, drive sales by leveraging the strength of my brand?

How do I help you, the retailer, drive sales by bringing my customers in your store. By the way, when they're in your store, here are the other things that they buy. This is why my customer is hopefully more valuable than another customer. Thank you again, I appreciate that.

Kim: I just want to say thanks again to you for having me. Thanks once again to all of the experts across our food supply chain. Because there's so much great work being done and the beauty of this moment right now is that everyone's important, everyone is needed. Quite frankly, there's a place for everyone and some room for some new ideas too. I appreciate it very much.

Dan: Yes. Thank you. Honestly, this is the time to lean in. This is the time to develop the kind of food system we need, the kind of support system, the kinds of communities that are going to bring us together. Thank you again for your time. I'll be starting to put a link to everything on my website in the show notes. Please send those to me and have a great rest of your day.

Kim: You too. Thanks so much.

I want to thank Kim for coming on today. What a great conversation. This is exactly the type of conversation that you need to be having with your customers with your retail customers as well the point here is that you need to help them understand the value of the customer that you drive from their store and that begins with the value of the product your product the ingredients in your product. Specifically why do they matter and why do they matter more than other products on the shelf again this is how you differentiate yourself from every other brand out there. I'll be certain to put a link to Kim and K2 outcomes on the podcast show notes and then on the podcast webpage.

Today's free downloadable guide is my Trade Marketing Essentials To Grow And Scale Your Brand. The reason I'm including this is because when you understand the nuances about your product down to the ingredient level that can help you better target or pinpoint the customer that you're trying to reach this helps you maximize your trade spending and more importantly this is how you communicate more effectively the value of your product to future customers but you get this download on the podcast and then the podcast show notes and you can get there by going to thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you

K2 Outcomes

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