You’re standing in the grocery store, shivering in front of the dairy section. Picking out yogurt is taking much more time than it usually does because you’re facing a sudden and unexpected decision. Do you buy the same brand you have for years, or go out on a limb for something new?
A myriad of factors could be contributing to your hesitation: price, new health facts, maybe even boredom. But whatever factors contribute, you find yourself staring at that new brand—one you haven’t heard of before. It has a quirky label that’s clear and simple. It appeals to you, even though you’ve never tasted the yogurt.
Whether you realize it or not, your options as a consumer are constantly evolving. And a myriad of factors right there in the grocery store aisle are playing a subconscious role in your decision-making process.
Research shows that shoppers today are gravitating toward brands that reflect their personal values and lifestyles. They’re looking for brands that offer more clarity and transparency in labels, healthier options or locally sourced products.
Emerging brands are rising to these challenges. Nimbler and more responsive than large, established brands, small and mid-sized brands are increasingly providing the quality and healthy products that consumers demand and are gaining access to larger retail markets earlier in their lifecycles. As they take on large, established category leaders, they become known as challenger brands.
But starting a business can be an uphill battle. Emerging brands still face enormous challenges if they want to grow into new markets.
“There are so many pitfalls,” says Brooke Smith, who knows a little something about those pitfalls. For a decade, she ran Salem Baking Company, a challenger brand.
“As a small brand, we guessed much more than we should have,” says Smith, “but that’s a very common challenge for small brands. Measuring what works for your company is difficult without data and without insights.”
The bottom line: in an age when marketing content dominates every media available, emerging brands sometimes need help breaking through the clutter and getting noticed.
Inmar’s Brand Resources
Inmar, a leading data analytics company and anchor tenant of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, recognized that need.
“We were working with hundreds of these small and mid-size brands,” says David Mounts, chairman and chief executive officer of Inmar. “They were developing great products, but execution was hard for them. We realized that we had the tools that they needed, and we wanted to find a way to connect with these brands.”
With recent marriages between Inmar and other tech companies, Inmar’s stockpile of resources are quite robust. For example, the addition of Scanner Applications increases its trade promotion management and tracking services, and combining efforts with Willard Bishop amplifies shopper-based analytics and cost modeling capabilities. In addition, Inmar can marshal the experience of its 4,500 industry experts in big data, shopper sciences, modeling, promotion analytics and retail.
Our vision is to see small brands become big brands by helping them along the way.David Mounts
Mounts wanted to explore the possibilities of pairing Inmar’s resources with emerging brands, so he put together a lunch with a group of people he calls “freethinkers.” Their goal was to answer the question: how can Inmar connect earlier to growing brands and provide them with the strategic tools and resources?
The answer that emerged from the lunch meeting was Inmar’s Center for Brand Excellence.
Inmar’s New Center for Brand Excellence
The Center for Brand Excellence was developed to help emerging brands approach their growth strategically by providing the resources and expertise growing brands need to stand out, gain retailers and engage customers.
“Young, emerging brands tend to be data poor,” says Smith. “They don’t always have the resources and expertise to know who their shoppers are, if they are targeting the right group or which retailers are the best fit for them.”
To find this fit, emerging brands team up with the Center for Brand Excellence to gain insight from people who have walked a mile in new brands’ shoes. This made Brooke Smith a perfect fit for the new center. Smith had participated in Mounts’ brainstorming lunch, and her input and experience were so valuable that Inmar hired her in November 2015 to be the co-director of the new center. She is joined by Tim Clark, who also brings extensive brand experience, having held business development and sales leadership roles with Salem Baking Company and Krispy Kreme.
The objective of the center is simple: assist emerging brands in finding opportunities in an ever-changing market. They accomplish this objective by providing companies with the data they need to understand purchasing behavior, strategically target retail partners, develop sustainable practices and generally stand out in the marketplace.
A major aspect of this process is helping small brands know how best to spend their budgets, using data to help growing businesses determine what is best for their specific product and where their limited resources can make the most difference.
“We don’t provide a cookie-cutter solution,” says Smith. “We provide emerging brands with a team that creates custom solutions for their brands and finds the best fit and the right resources. We find the fit by providing data and the ways to use it.”
That data are then used to influence any number of aspects of a brand’s identity – packaging, marketing strategy and retail placement. Those aspects all put together are designed to encourage you, the purchaser, to pause in the middle of a grocery aisle and make the decision to go in a new direction – perhaps even to a new brand of yogurt.
“Our vision is to see small brands become big brands by helping them along the way,” says Mounts. “Smaller brands are underserved. Not many companies in our field offer resources in this way—a full-service, one-stop shop for emerging brands.”
As consumers change and re-evaluate their choices—like which yogurt they are going to buy—emerging brands now have a resource in Inmar to know how to respond to the shifts in the market with quality, innovative insight.
“There’s nothing harder, more challenging or more exciting than managing a new brand,” says Smith. “Our goal is to take the guesswork out of some of the decision-making.”
by Jessica Brown