Brendan Synnott is what you might call a powerhouse entrepeneur. At 35, he has already built and sold a health snack company (that would be Bear Naked, which Kellogg bought in 2007 for roughly $60 million), served as an adviser during the transition, and competed on the reality TV series Survivor.
You may also know Synnott from his work with Revelry Brands, the investment firm he founded that's focused on bringing growth-stage private equity to clever, one-of-a-kind businesses in the natural foods and consumer products sector. Two examples are Siggi's premium yogurt and EVOL frozen burritos--which Synnott also happened to co-found.
These days, you can find Synnott promoting his latest venture, an all-natural pet care company called I and Love and You, whose products are now being sold in Kroger stores across the country. It's every bit as playful as the other brands he's worked on and, unsurprisingly, just as unique. I chatted with Synnott to learn more about branding and how you, too, can find your company's voice.
Know Your Mission
Each brand Synnott works on has its own voice, which conveys to customers what the company is about. "I and Love is a very chatty voice," says Synnott. "It's a confession--an expression of how much you love your pet." EVOL was about cherishing the food," while "Bear Naked was very much about transparency and playing off that word, 'naked.' It's, 'Hey, look at your food.'" Although the packaging design and copy both help to establish voice, they would be meaningless without a core mission.
Tell a Story
Just as every brand has its own voice, it also has a story to tell, Synnott says. "I can copy somebody's copy, I can copy somebody's product, I can go buy an ingredient from somebody," he says. "The only thing that we have that's truly different is our story." If the customer doesn't get why you're doing something and why you're in their life, "it's going to quickly become noise like everything else."
Everyone loves humor, and if you exchange a funny one-liner with the customer, Synnott says, "the chance of engaging in a deeper conversation is greater." For instance, back when he and Bear Naked co-founder Kelly Flatley were bombarding cart pushers and store managers in the cereal aisles of supermarkets, he'd ask, "Do you want to get Bear Naked?" and the customer would be so surprised, right off the bat she'd want to know more. "The consumer was just so engaged," he recalls.
Make Copy Count
Always put as much time into the copy on the packaging as you do on the package itself, Synnott advises. "When a lot of people think about branding, they think about the visual interpretation of the product," he explains. "But that's washed out because everyone's looking visually similar, especially in the natural foods space. White space, primary colors, clean packaging--everyone has that look and feel." By focusing on your copy and voice, you'll stand out and create stronger bonds with the customer. "I assume my packaging is crap or equal compared to everyone else," Synott says. "But that next level of interaction that you have with the customer [through copy] is what makes them feel good about the product."
Educate the Customer
You never want to be obvious from Day One with the consumer, Synnott says. They should learn about your company as you spend time with them. For example, on the back of EVOL's packaging, the philosophy is simply stated and the customer is introduced to the burrito's primary ingredient in a humorous way: "Meet our chicken!" it exclaims. "Meet our beef!" "Just trying to be forthright and transparent says you're healthy without you having to come out and communicate, 'Hey, it's a healthy product.'"
Keep Packaging Clean
"Really well-organized communication is super-important," Synnott says. In the case of EVOL, it was about appealing to foodies who couldn't afford to dine out every night. "The food had to be the hero from a packaging standpoint," he says, which meant the food had to look good, even when frozen. To tantalize customers, Synnott chose mouthwatering product shots for the front and clearly spelled out the health benefits on the back.