Each month I write a feature for Media Post:CPG, an integrated publishing and content company whose mission is to provide a complete array of resources for media, marketing and advertising professionals. This article first appeared on Media Post: CPG in January 2015.

Article Link (http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/241749/kind-lessons-what-every-cpg-marketer-can-learn-fr.html)

At the start of another year, we tend to look for inspiration around us and to vow to adopt new behaviors. As a CPG marketer, there are few more inspirational brand stories than the incredible rise of Kind Snacks.

Kind has been one of the top-performing small companies ($100 million to $1 billion) in consumer packaged goods for the last three years, with one of the largest dollar sales gains last year of any brand in its classification (122.6%). In fact, its meteoric rise in a crowded nutritional bar category (five of the top 10 selling bars out of 2,000 in the category are Kind bars, according to Nielsen) led Fortune to say, “it is a bit of a mystery how exactly the company is beating out its larger competitors” – as if only some alien or nefarious force could be delivering this kind of incredible result.

So for a little 2015 inspiration and new behaviors to adopt, let’s quickly break down the things Kind has done so incredibly right:

1. Unprocess The CPG industry has always been about adding value to commodity products. But in recent years, consumers have awakened to the health consequences of ever-increasing processing of ingredients. Kind recognized the turn in consumer behavior and created the most unprocessed-looking bar in the market – the first big step toward market dominance.

2. Transparency If you’re going to make the least processed bar in the category, then it only follows to put it in a clear package and let consumers see this dramatic point-of-difference. But when we talk about Transparency with a capital “T” these days, we’re talking about the broader consumer demand for an honest and trusted relationship with the brands they buy. Kind delivers on Transparency in its clarity of promise (“ingredients you can see and pronounce”), in its clarity of product names (e.g., Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt), and in its line extensions (Strong & Kind – with less sweet flavors, like Roasted Jalapeño, and a more chunky profile to appeal to young men).

3. Values-Based Branding The unprocessed nature of the product and transparency of the packaging are communicated in the first seconds of shelf acquaintance. And while the brand name also quickly communicates a positive vibe, Kind has embraced what Jim Stengel identified in Grow as one of the five human values that distinguish the highest growth brands in the world. In Kind’s case, it’s Eliciting Joy – what Stengel describes as a brand that is “activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility.” So beneath the happy and accessible brand name, Kind “makes the world kinder” every month with a gift of $10,000 to a cause that shares its values. It encourages its community members to “kindspot” and share acts of kindness at #kindawesome. And in this way, connects with its consumers on a deep level across platforms.

In 1979, Nick Lowe unleashed the somewhat mysterious lyric, “it’s cruel to be kind” upon the Top 40 airwaves. In 2015, Kind Snacks is showing CPG just how cool it is to be kind – and how cruel it is to be one of the snack brands competing against their thoughtful and powerful marketing approach.

Michael Bollinger
Michael Bollinger

Thanks to Michael, clients benefit from the breakthrough brand storytelling skills of Smith Brothers’ creative heritage, delivered with the speed, efficiency and real-time optimization demanded by today’s digital environment.

Michael joined Smith Brothers in 2005 as Director of Client Services, after spending the previous 20 years with DDB Worldwide where he was Senior Vice President, Group Account Director of the agency’s flagship, Chicago office.

Excited by Smith Brothers’ creative firepower and entrepreneurial spirit, Michael joined the Smith Brothers’ team with a vision for delivering big agency resources on a dramatically more nimble and effective platform.

Under Michael’s leadership the agency acquired digital agency, Hot Hand Interactive, in 2007. It added its Social Media practice in 2008. Developed an Analytics practice in 2009 and a Product Innovation specialty group – Sliced Bread - in 2016.

Layered onto its existing strategic planning, creative and media capabilities, Smith Brothers is now a force in the CPG marketing world – working with brands like Nestle, Del Monte, Heinz, Ghirardelli, Red Bull, and more.

Michael holds a B.A. in English from Union College