Dava Guthmiller: Creating your mission-driven food brand
Dava Guthmiller knows a thing or two about creating brands for mission-driven food businesses. As the founder and Chief Creative Officer of branding and design agency Noise 13 she’s supported many good-food brands in developing their identity. Dava has also been an instructor at the Academy of Art and a judge for the Good Food Awards every year since it’s creation. She has been on the board for Slow Food SF since 2008, and sits on the advisory board for the Good Food Awards, Get Gone Traveler and Good People Dinners.
Teaching alongside Wendy Wieden, Dava leads our upcoming Business Planning and Positioning course. We sat down to chat about the Dos and Don’ts of brand development for new and aspiring food businesses.
Q. How did you get into brand development?
I went to college at Academy of Art for Graphic design. Brand classes were always my favorite as they really make you think about the business as a whole. What is the big picture, the goals for growth etc. Brand is also more than the logo, it’s the set of values, the marketing message, and the visuals that make up the overall experience someone has with a company. I started with logo design of course but have really come to love the big brand work where I can use my business mind as well as my visual creativity.
Q. What are some top considerations for food businesses before creating their business branding?
1. Know what makes you different from your competition
2. Understand your target audience and their concerns as well as their preferences
3. Clarify your core values as a person and a business
A great brand should be Relevant to it’s audience, Authentic to the company and it’s strengths, Differentiated within the marketplace. Using all these as a guide for your message, visuals, product development and marketing will help your brand to really connect to consumers.
Q. You work with a lot of food brands. How should a new mission-driven food business approach brand development?
In addition to the relevant, authentic, differentiated rules, one of the biggest suggestions is to realize that branding takes time. Both to do it right in the beginning and to build the brand over time. Do not wait until a month before you need to put your product in packaging before you work on your brand – especially the mission and values part. Your logo and visual look can change over time but why even start a company if you don’t know the core of the company and brand to start with? This should guide everything you do. A great brand is not something that happens at product launch – you have to prove that your brand is what you say it is.
Q. What are some common mistakes or missteps you see food startups make around brand development?
1. Not being consistent with messaging. You don’t need to say the exact same thing all the time, but the tone of voice and core statements need to be consistent across all touch points.
2. Not thinking about the core of the company when doing product development. Brands can get off track quickly with new products if they don’t make sense with what the customers expect the company to create. Be sure to tie in messaging that lets existing customers understand how any new product fits into your lineup. A good example is Hint Water starting a Sunscreen line. They had to do a lot of PR and marketing to tie it together to make sure that customers understand why this is a valuable extension to the brand and ultimately to the customer.
3. Trying to be too much like their competition. I see a lot of brands that look just like their competition visually. I understand that you want to look like you are in the same category and fit well on the shelf line up, but copying your competition just because they are doing well will not be enough to take over that market share. Stay true to what makes you unique and compliment, don’t copy.
Q. We’re excited for you to lead the Brand Development portion of the upcoming Business Planning and Positioning course. Who would you encourage to attend the course?
I think any new brand that is in the planning phase of business, or those that are looking to move into a larger market or expand to new product lines.
You can join Dava and meet other food startups at our upcoming Business Planning and Positioning course. She and Wendy will be covering essential early food startup decisions including: What’s my vision for this business? Do I really need a business plan? How should I position my product (and what that actually means)? What is brand identity and how do I develop one? How should I structure my business legally and when do I need to talk to a lawyer?
More details and enrollment information here.