If you’re trying to grow a brand, you know firsthand that it can be complex and challenging. Short-term goals are routinely prioritized over long-term systemic growth. Despite your best efforts to grow revenue in one market share, gains are fleeting and real progress often plateaus.

Welcomed back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Hussein Al-Baiaty and my next guest, Jared Schrieber, is here with me to celebrate and talk about his new book, Breakout Brands. Let’s get into it.

Hello everyone, thank you for joining me today, I’m super excited to have my friend, Jared Schrieber, with me today to talk about his new book, Breakout Brands. Jared, thank you so much for joining me today.

Jared Schrieber: Thank you, Hussein, great to be here.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, this is exciting for me because you know, I owned a small business for a while, and I knew a little bit about branding, but once I got into that world, oh man, it was a whirl. So I’m really excited to get your insights, experiences and stories as we kind of wrap our heads around this new book that you formulated for all of us to learn from. So thanks for taking the time and energy and resources to put this thing together.

Jared Schrieber: Oh, my pleasure. Really been a passion for me over the last several years working on it.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So I want to start off by giving our audience a little bit of your personal background. Perhaps, where you grew up, where you ended up in university and what got you into branding in this world of marketing and all that good stuff.

Jared Schrieber: All right, sure. Well, I guess it all starts in Arizona; I grew up in the desert. In terms of my backgrounds, the biggest things that relates to this book is that I worked a lot of retail jobs to help put myself through college. I went to Arizona State University and put myself through school by working odd jobs, including two different retail jobs.

I got to see firsthand on the sales floor retail of how things really worked both from a, let’s call it a merchandising standpoint and new product launches and promotions and pricing and the role of sales associates and consumer needs states and all of these kinds of things that kind of came together as forces in driving what we think of as consumer behaviors.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, I love that so much. So your introduction into the branding world really started from you just taking on jobs to get through school, which I feel like most of us try to do. However, you went really deep. You ended up at a university, and then you kind of took this leap further in. Can you take us through that journey a little bit?

Jared Schrieber: Sure. So after university, my first job was actually with Intel Corporation back in the .com boom and later bus days, and then in the process, I started working with data a lot and actually just really fell in love with analyzing and driving insights from data and realized that’s what I wanted to do for a career and not only within a company but across an industry. So that led me to, onto MIT, which is known for entrepreneurship and computer science and other areas and I studied systems engineering and entrepreneurship and learned a lot of the techniques, in terms of interrogating data to tease out meaningful insights from my studies there.

And many of those techniques were applied in the research that went into this book to understand how do winning brands win and why do losing brands lose, and what should we learn and understand about the dynamics of how branding and marketing in terms of driving growth. So there was a very formal experience and led me in my career to actually move into the world of retail and consumer goods for a number of years.

I help build a company called Retail Solutions from the ground up that got retailer point of sale data and helped brands and retailers work off of that same data to drive insights in terms of what assortment of product should be carried in each store, what promotions should be run, at what price points, how pricing should be handled.

All of these kind of key decisions that are made jointly between brands and the retailers who sell their products, and it was in building retail solutions that many of the largest brands, Coca Cola, Nestle, and others started coming to me with sets of questions. They couldn’t be answered from retailer point of sale data, believe it or not.

Simply something like, “Was this promotion I ran in the store, this buy one get one free, was it truly good for my business? I see the sales went up at Walgreens, for example, when I ran that promotion but did those buyers, were they going to a big full price at Walmart? Had they not bought it on sale at Walgreens and therefore I kind of cannibalize my profits? Did I steal share from competitors?”

“What happened? Was it truly incremental for my business?” And you can’t figure that out from retail sales data, and so that led me on a hunt to figure out, “Well, how could you answer that question of if any given promotion is actually good for your business?” And I realize you really have to study consumers and consumer behavior. You have to track consumers everywhere they shop, no matter what they shop or what they buy, and then look across that pattern of behavior to understand answers to this question. 

So that led me to found a company called InfoScout. We were the first ones to create mobile apps that incentivized consumers to take pictures of their every day shopping receipts, no matter where they shopped or what they bought, and then we would, from that data, from those shopping receipts, create a total market picture of kind of omni chance shopping and use it to help brands and retailers better understand consumer behavior and that really became the genesis for the core of the data use in this book.

People Want to Fall in Love with a Product

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Wow, what a journey. I mean, talk about taking data, but even humanizing it more and trying to figure out, like you said, there are these questions when it comes to the world of branding and selling products and things like that where it’s just beyond the numbers, right? And that is where you go the most. I feel like the human behavior aspect and lifestyle of a human being — and you talk about this throughout your book, and you open your book with a very powerful story, the pasta story. 

I’ll let you share on that a little bit more but can you sort of also weave it with this idea of human behavior because I feel like that’s something I didn’t really understand or learn until I really got into how to brand, you know, my t-shirt company or whatever it was and how to get in that sort of, that trust and these things that are very long-term. They take a while to cultivate and develop that idea of going from like a customer to like, a fan, which we’ll get into deeper but you know, talk to me a little bit about that story, the pasta story, and if you could weave it with human behavior, I would love to hear your insights.

Jared Schrieber: All right. Well, gladly. So as context, we looked at every consumer goods brand in America over a five-year period and found the brands that really took off in terms of sales and market share and their product categories, and one of the biggest standout winners in our study was Ralph’s Homemade Pasta Sauce. It was actually a pasta sauce that I wasn’t personally familiar with.

I’d never tried before, and I couldn’t believe the kind of, you know, more than a hundred million in retail sales growth over a few year period and taking on giants like Ragu and Perilla’s and I wondered, “How did they do it?” And that’s really the whole thesis behind the book. How did these winning brands win? What did they do? And it became very clear that what they did was offer an incredible product. 

It just had better ingredients without all the sugars or corn syrup the other products had. It was a premium product and a premium price point that once consumers tried, they absolutely loved and fell in love with and kept repeat buying and recommending to others, and that really, that aspect of if you find a product that you just love, the odds that you’re going to repeat buy it the very next chance you get and continue to buy it over and over again are quite high.

If you find a product that you’re so-so about, maybe you occasionally buy it and makes you find a product that you just really don’t like, you probably never buy it again, and somehow, in the world of branding and branding management, we’ve got a disconnect between that fundamental human behavior of repeat buying versus what we’re being told now by marketing thought leaders that all that matters is get more people to buy your product, is the number of people you reach.

Where actually the data shows us that it’s repeat buying, people fall in love with the product and they buy it over and over again, every chance they get, and that makes all the difference in the world between the winners and losers and so, it’s just like you said, Ralph’s would go to retailers and say, “Look, we don’t just have customers, we have fans. When people buy our product, 60% of them come back and buy it again the very next time.” 

That may not sound like a lot but in fast moving consumer goods or grocery retail, that is an incredibly high repeat rate, and so we want brands to get back to some of these fundamentals of understanding consumer behaviors with respect to their product just based on something as simple as when they buy your product, what percentage of time that they go back and buy in your product category, do they buy your product again? Very basic measure that doesn’t get measured today, and it’s really unbelievable to me.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Right, and you know, it’s interesting. Back to this… You know, my goal with any book is I try to see if I can relate to it, and in your book, I related to components of it because, especially when you’re talking about this — I had an apparel printing company. So my goal was the low hanging fruit, if you will. 

My customer, the customer that I know is going to love our work, love our product, and go tell others is the ones that you know, I would deliver the T-shirts to, I would throw a little goodie bag in there, throw some extras and you know, just the ones that I would threw about this idea of coming because I know for a fact, they’re going to need to print more stuff later on, and they have options, right? 

So for me to stand out was for me to be in their vicinity, be in their good grace if you will by delivering things in the unique way. So, I love that because that told me personally that the ones that are closest to my circle are the ones that are going to keep coming back but if I can impress them enough, they’ll kind of impact almost subconsciously, if you will, the next layer up. So, you know, a lot of… this is like, the who they know, who they, they know, right? 

Like, it goes further than that, and that’s how you can create this fanbase that you’re talking about, which is very powerful to then bring that data to, you know, to a sales call, to a sales meeting and say, “Hey, this is what we can offer you” as supposed to “What can your store offer my brand?” Right? Which is just so unique.

Jared Schrieber: I think that’s one of the keys that we also found is the brands that really grew, grew primarily by getting more and more retailers to carry their product and to carry more and more of their product within the brand portfolio. It’s not through advertising, it’s not through marketing, it’s not through other gimmicks, it’s through flat-out getting more retailers to carry your brand or product.

And the best way to do that is to say, “If you carry our product, your customer’s retailer who buy it are going to love it, they’re going to buy it over and over again, and as a result, you’re going to capture more and more of the total sales of this category that are happening out there.”

Knowing How to Build a Brand

Hussein Al-Baiaty: You put it beautifully because it’s really all backed up by this human behavior aspect, and once you understand that then it’s up to the brand, right? Then it’s up to that company or organization to deliver on this product, and I thought there was something unique about that pasta. It’s a very simple recipe, it’s old school, and it’s really freaking delicious, right? Like, it’s really good as a product in of itself.

So it kind of carries some of that weight. How does a brand do that? How does a brand create something? I mean obviously, with every brand and every type of product, there is levels of complexity, but how can you instead of waste tons of money on advertising, and some people may argue that and that’s fine but instead, maybe pour it into ensuring that your product is remarkable?

Jared Schrieber: This is one of the key things that we identified in our book and recommend to brands is, first of all, really understand in segment consumer usage occasions. How they use your type of product, how they use your competitors, how they use your product, dive in, go deep, really understand what is it that that consumer is trying to achieve.

Now, there’s a famous thought leader and author, Clayton Christiansen, who came up with kind of the theory of jobs to be done. What is the job that the consumer is trying to do, and how does your product fit within completing that job? You know, the great example that I call out in the book is lettuce. You know, the lettuce industry back in the 80s or 90s was kind of stagnant, and then somebody kind of realized, “Well, how is a head of lettuce getting used, what’s the job to be done?” 

Well, the job to be done is often making a salad, and making a salad often involves, you get to shred or cut some carrot and you’re going to maybe have some croutons and peppers and other things, and somebody said, “Well, why don’t we just do all of that work for the consumer? Like they shouldn’t have to wash the head of lettuce and tear it and shred it and cut everything.” And all of a sudden, you got these ready-made salads come out of the market and they were an enormous hit because they got the job done for the consumer. 

The consumers didn’t want lettuce, they wanted a salad. They want something light and fresh and tasty and lettuce was one of the ingredients. So I think that’s an example, and we saw some of our breakout brands did that kind of thing. So really understanding usage occasions, how the products have been used, what the consumer is trying to achieve and make sure that your product sells at that. 

The other thing we saw is focus on the behaviors of the heaviest category buyers, the heaviest users of your type of products, your competitor’s product, and really get to know their needs and where they see products coming up short or failing. They’re the experts, they’re the ones who understand the needs in the space better than anyone else, and if you can get them to kind of help tease out where products are falling short, and you can find a way with your products to better meet those needs, you are going to have a home run. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s so powerful, which kind of this is kind of a great segue into the next phase of this conversation, I think, which is this idea that we have all heard before, especially as business owners or entrepreneurs, you know, this idea of brand equity, right? It’s this building, cultivating, almost this invisible layer of energy within a brand. How do you view brand equity? What does it mean to you, and how can brands cultivate that? 

Jared Schrieber: Well, I really like this particular topic because, I’ll be frank, because I started this, I certainly wouldn’t have considered myself an expert on brand equity, that scenario where I just had to do extra research and learning and talked to experts in the field to get a better sense of it and then take that everything that they were saying and compare it to what we actually saw happening in the data with the winning brands that broke out and the losing brands in comparison. 

I think the first thing is a lot of people think that the primary way that you influence brand equity is through marketing and advertising, and what we saw was, in fact, the primary way that a brand influences brand equity, which is how consumers think of the brand, what mental associations they have of it, what memories, what it triggers in terms of emotions for them, that is what we are talking about when we’re talking about brand equity. 

That the number one driver of brand equity is the consumer’s actual experience with the product. If the consumer has a great experience with the product, brand equity is going to go way up, and if they have a terrible experience with the product, brand equity is going to go way down. By comparison, great advertising or other marketing tactics have rather limited effects in terms of their impact to brand equity. 

So I think that is one of the biggest things that we found and what it means is brand managers and marketers really need to hone in and get that focused on product again and the actual experience delivered to the consumer and, in some cases, the advertising needs to support an emphasis on what a consumer should feel by consuming the product because, in fact, setting up that kind of expectation will actually increase the likelihood that that is what the consumer will feel and experience when they do consume the product.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that. It is a very sort of outward-from-within sort of marketing and advertising is, it’s not that it’s a bad thing, but it needs to emphasize this feeling that you are trying to create within your product and service, right? It’s this idea that one thing needs to connect and lead to the other so that this expectation that you are trying to create is valued at a higher brand equity level. 

So it’s funny, right? Because we see this often in our culture today and especially in pop culture, right? It’s funny because the advertising can do X, Y and Z, pull you away or not, you know? And then you go to the product and it’s kind of, you know, it’s a mismatch like there’s sometimes things aren’t connected. We know when it does, right? We know when you click on an ad, and it takes you to that thing, and you’re like, “Oh, this is cool.” 

Then you actually receive the thing, and you kind of experience that. However, more times than not, I feel like it’s kind of the opposite where, you know, like in movies too much of a trailer. I feel like movies sometimes give away too much. I’m like, “No, I want to experience that.” 

Jared Schrieber: So where’s the suspense? Yeah. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, and so you know, even my wife and I’s like, “Oh, we should watch the trailer over here.” I’m like, “No, absolutely not. No more trailers.” Like we need to just go and experience this, you know? So I love that. I love that idea of distinguishing what the brand equity is, and that is a – it is on a scale, and you could be intentional about how you move across that scale. 

I like that a lot, and you really break it down and contextualize it very well throughout the whole book really. I mean, it was really powerful. So we all know not all branding is in media, and advertising is the same and how we can reshape how we think about a brand. Yes, it does come through in media and advertising, but also sometimes I think, I live on the word of mouth, right? 

I lived on word of mouth ideology. We are very human when it comes to – and so if you can provoke that word of mouth sort of brand equity within your product, for me that’s like the golden circle right there, but can you talk a little bit more about, you know, in the real world, how do these brands start to maneuver even if maybe you help come in and transform what they are thinking about.

Maybe a story or two that you had where you went in and created that opportunity where they saw something that they hadn’t seen before to move forward. 

Learn How to Create Messages People Will Listen Too

Jared Schrieber: Let me just start with a general thought, which is, first of all, we as humans trust our own experiences before those of others, and so we’re going to trust our own experience with a product or a brand before we trust someone else. Next, if we are going to trust someone else, we are going to trust a friend or a relative more than we are going to trust some random person, and then beyond that, we might trust an expert, you know, a doctor or a famous athlete or an actor, you know somebody famous worthy of kind of respect, and so we might follow their lead. 

Last and the least, we’re going to trust some kind of sales pitch or clear advertisement takes place, and so again, I think this helps us understand why brand equity is most influenced by our own experiences, by the experiences of people we know, that we often receives from word of mouth or various forms of reviews or other forms of social validation, such as, “Nine out of ten doctors recommends.” Or if it’s a sports drink that LeBron James and James Harden are promoting, you know, maybe somebody is going to listen there. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Obviously, you’re a fan of those individuals. You are increasingly being aware what they are sharing with you, and there is a level of trust that can, obviously in today’s culture too, can easily be built or broken, and I think with branding, it’s a very emotional state that the company can live around, right? I think especially when it comes to human behavior. 

Can you walk us through a little bit about this idea of the brand growth flywheel, which is like this looping effect that you talk about again that you really break down, so smooth and throughout your book but can you kind of break it down to our audience to just kind of get an idea of where they can kind of move through the book with this idea in mind? 

Jared Schrieber: Sure. Well, I think the first thing we have to understand is that marketing often gets taught as the four Ps or seven Ps of marketing as if they’re these individual pillars of product, price, place, promotion, people, et cetera, as if they’re independent of each other and what we find in reality and through the data is nothing could be further than the truth. They are completely interdependent upon each other. 

Interactive in the same way as any other complex system, and that actually they result in various kinds of feedback loop. So if you increase the price actually in some way, you’re increasing perception of quality and value, and therefore in some way, you’re increasing brand equity. These aren’t independent of each other, and if you run a promotion and lower the price, that actually you might be decreasing brand equity. 

So what we started doing was using all of these data on the winning and losing brands to map out the relationships between different marketing platforms, price and place or product changes and innovation, and as we started mapping out kind of the kinds of horses between them, a pattern started to emerge, and that pattern was something that we called the brand growth flywheel. 

It was a reoccurring positive feedback loop where if you could win a purchase occasion from a consumer, they bought your product, it made them of course more likely to try and consume it, and if they had a positive experience consuming the product, that would increase the brand equity, and if you increase the brand equity, it made the consumer more likely to notice and get attracted to the brand on the shelf the next time they went to buy that kind of product, which of course, resulted in them to get another purchase occasion. 

If you have another purchase occasion, another positive experience, higher brand equity, more likely to be attracted to the product and buy it again, and you get this positive reoccurring feedback loop. It sounds really simple when you play it out this way, but somehow, we’ve completely lost sight of this as marketers and brand managers of how fundamental that is as the key to brand growth, especially for grocery type products where 85 or 90% of all purchase that happened are from people who have already bought the product before. We can’t lose sight of these people. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I mean, I would agree. I go to the supermarket, or at least my wife does more often than I do, and we have our things. Like we have the type of taco stuff we get, the type of vegetables or whatever it is like the things that my wife repeatedly buys is, more or less, I would say like 80% of the time the same brand. So I mean, and I am sure a 100% of Americans out there would probably agree with what I just said. 

So you’re 100% right. So in writing this book, I mean obviously you poured your heart and soul into it because it is very detailed. It goes into a lot of the science backing and experiential that you have formulated over the years, which I found really powerful. There is a lot of sort of backed up information to these stories and how to really analyze these things. Who would you say are you trying to reach with your book, the audience that can really benefit from this book of yours?

Jared Schrieber: Sure. If I think about the primary audience, it’s people who have a responsibility for helping brands grow. These are brand managers, brand marketers, sales, account managers for brands selling to retailers, and then more broadly, consumer services brands would be directly involved and marketplaces and others. The findings in this book is spread well beyond the realm of consumer goods and across many different industries actually. 

But anybody who has a brand or works in a brand that is looking to try and grow it, I think there is some fundamentally new and important insights revealed through the examples of the brands we studied in this book and that we demonstrate hold true across a large scale of brands. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah man, that’s really powerful. I just want to say I appreciate you so much for just, you know, taking up the time, the courage, the resources, the energy, because it is no easy feat to write a book, but congratulations to you. If there was one thing you would hope that the reader would take away from this book, what would that be? 

Jared Schrieber: Oh boy, I think it would hopefully cause them to rethink that the only way to grow a brand is through advertising that, in fact, all of these different levers of marketing are important and that marketers need to play a much bigger role in terms of helping define the actual product and the value it delivers to consumers as oppose to taking the product for granted and saying, “Well, this is the product I have to work with. I guess I’d better just go market it.” 

I think that is absolutely the wrong way to grow a brand, and as soon as marketers start taking greater responsibility for helping deliver better products, we are actually going to see better products out in the marketplace and a lot more growing brands than we do today. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Jared, I learned so much today. Thank you for sharing your stories, experiences with us. The book is called, Breakout Brands: Why Some Brands Takeoff and Others Don’t. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you? 

Jared Schrieber: Yeah, I would say breakoutbrands.com is a great way. There is some additional resources going live on the website, and certainly LinkedIn is a great place to reach me as well. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for joining me today, Jared, I really appreciate your time. 

Jared Schrieber: Awesome. Thanks, Hussein.