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In 2014, King’s Hawaiian overtook Bimbo as the leading U.S. vendor in “all other fresh rolls/buns/croissants.” In 2016, the bakery increased sales of fresh rolls and buns by 12.2 percent and hamburger and hotdog buns by 23.9 percent, outperforming competitors by a large margin. No matter what your business is, that’s success you want to emulate.
I had the chance to speak with Erick Dickens, CMO at King’s Hawaiian, on how he was able to double his revenue in a declining market overall. Here are six keys to capturing the market share.
1. Have an awesome product.
Sales aren’t going anywhere if you don’t have a brand worth selling. Enough said.
2. Get world-class creative on a budget by building your own team.
Dickens quickly realized that outsourcing to a traditional ad agency wasn’t going to work. For one thing, King’s Hawaiian was a relatively small brand with a proportional budget. “Larger agencies don’t give smaller businesses their best talent,” he says. King’s Hawaiian had never really communicated with consumers before, so their first attempt had to be just right. Since he wasn’t going to get that from the big agencies, Dickens decided he would have to build his own world-class marketing as a hybrid of in-house talent and highly talented contractors.
Dickens began reaching out to personal contacts he’d built over the years. One contact, Steve Levit, had previously run a major creative shop in Los Angeles. “I presented him with an opportunity to work directly on the business,” Dickens explained. “I got to pay him a fraction of the cost I would pay a creative agency, and I got a better result.” The new creative director hired a few more full-time employees along with freelancers, according to need.
King’s Hawaiian isn’t the only brand to develop in-house talent. Many have recognized that the traditional agency model is no longer working for them. Adweek reports that in “2008, 42 percent of member companies in the Association of National Advertisers had in-house agencies. Five years later, that figure rose to nearly 60 percent.”
3. Be the first and the best.
This year, King’s Hawaiian debuted its Super Bowl ad, which also featured its new line of BBQ sauces. During the 2015 Academy Awards and People’s Choice Awards, they aired another ad positioning themselves as the “Official Snack of the Awards Season.” The venue and message have succeeded in setting King’s Hawaiian apart from other breads; often, King’s Hawaiian rolls aren’t even sold in the same part of the store as other breads.“Nobody in the bread category is doing what we’re doing,” Dickens said. “Most bread companies are not interested in marketing. They’ve cut cost and price and commoditized the category.”
4. Stand out.
Whatever you do, the last thing you want is to blend in with your competition. Look for the deals that no one else is making, especially if your product is a so-called “everyday commodity.” For example, in 2013, King’s Hawaiian partnered with Arby’s to create the King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef and King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef & Swiss, two limited-time-only sandwiches sold at all Arby’s locations. They continue to strike similar partnerships, if on a smaller scale. “Our distribution is achieved directly through relationships with deli and bakery department or buyers,” Dickens said. “Separate yourself from the competition. Things we do that are different make us better.”
5. Don’t compromise on talent.
Your efforts to revitalize your brand will fail if the talent you bring on doesn’t measure up to the task. Speaking to Adweek, industry expert Marta Stiglin explained, “What’s essential when staffing any type of organization, internal or external, is that you hire the best and brightest people you can. If you hire ‘B players,’ you’ll end up with a ‘B team.’”
Dickens agrees. “I made a commitment to the owner that I wouldn’t build a ‘good enough’ brand team,” he said. That meant looking for individuals, not an agency, that valued quality of work over quantity or time. “I never have to hear the words ‘out of scope.’ For a lot of marketers, this pains them. The traditional agency’s model is of managing time instead of quality. When we give an assignment, you keep working until it is ready. We don’t get out-of-scope fees.”
6. Own your business.
In too many instances, brand team members are more concerned with building their careers over building the business. These members lack what Dickens refers to as “ownership.” “Ownership is focused on long-term health of business,” he said. “We’re able to make decisions and manage in a way that will benefit us in the long term instead of making short-term decisions.” Fortunately — and contrary to popular belief — the average employee is now spending more time with a single employer than 25 years ago. Employees want to find a company that they can commit to and where they feel appreciated. By fostering an environment of ownership, you can not only help your business grow but also keep your employees engaged and working.
We all want to have a business that’s strong enough to pull ahead when others fall behind. Recognize your product’s worth. Build your own team. Establishing yourself as the best. Stand out. Accept only the best talent. Own your work. Do all this, and your business is sure to take the cake.