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Episode 283
December 23, 2022

“If You’re Building for This Moment, You’re Already Late”

Where are people shopping and how is that affecting how people are launching brands today? The guys sit down with Calvin Lammers to hear what he is seeing as an emerging CPG leader to get his take on the opportunity available to brands today.

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this episode sponsored by

Rare Eye for the CPG Guy 

  • How brands launch has now significantly changed. Before, brands could decide to avoid Amazon but now, it’s an imperative part of their early business strategy.
  • Amazon is a true platform now and has become more competitive, so differentiation at the start is very important for a brand to be set up well for success and scale
  • When it comes to emerging brands, Instacart is better at helping those brands be discovered and scale than Walmart+, especially if it’s in the grocery category
  • The path forward for a lot of brands could be taking advantage of the opportunity to grow quickly and then moving to an aggregator or portfolio
  • We may still see a lot of brands, but we likely won’t see them scale like Venture wanted them to scale
  • “If it's hard that means not everybody's doing it and there's a reason why. But that also means there's an opportunity to succeed.” - Calvin
  • Good partnerships are key, and they have to cut through the clutter and build your audience authentically to make sense
  • You have to learn to anticipate what the next thing is going to be so you’re not late for this moment

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Phillip: [00:00:09] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of Commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:00] And I'm Brian, and today we have a super cool guest with us, Calvin Lammers, CPG brand leader extraordinaire. Super excited to talk to him. Welcome to the show, Calvin.

Calvin: [00:01:13] Thank you, guys. Yeah, great to be here, and really looking forward to having a good conversation about all things digital commerce here with you both.

Phillip: [00:01:21] I'm old enough to remember when eCommerce was just one thing. And now we have CPG Twitter versus DTC Twitter versus...

Brian: [00:01:30] Omnichannel Twitter. Wait, hold on. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:01:33] That's just the old people now, Brian. Come on. Beverage Twitter. There's Snacks Twitter. The categorization gets finer and finer. Give us a little bit of a definition of like your career arc and what you've been doing over the last few years and how you fit into all of this.

Calvin: [00:01:49] Yeah. So I think I'm a little long in the tooth in the Food and Beverage CPG space. I've been on the digital side for about ten years. It's funny, I actually got my start in the industry on the retail side as I worked at Target Headquarters D71 snacks. So that's where I first got my foot in the door. First taste of CPG, the CPG world, and I always remember my PepsiCo rep at that time saying it's much better on the brand side. So I eventually made my way to Amazon subsidiary, Quidsi. I worked on a category merchant side before finally breaking over to the retail side, and my first brand was Kind Snacks, which if you're looking at case studies of disrupter food and beverage brands, it's one of the best you could possibly find. So an early adapter for eCommerce and Amazon DTC, and I was hooked. So I've been on the brand side since leading eCom at Kind Snacks, then Bai before moving over to Spindrift sparkling water, Health-Ade Kombucha, and most recently at TRUFF. So it's been a fun run.

Brian: [00:02:52] It's a party is what it is. And some of these brands just looking at the time frame you were there, you were catching them right as they were really disrupting. Looking at when you were at Kind, I mean, that's back in the 2014 range.

Calvin: [00:03:13] Another era.

Brian: [00:03:13] That's when they were just hitting stride. Yes. Snacks needed a little disruption, and Kind brought a lot of energy to that. And then looking at Bai and Spindrift, Spindrift, you were there for three years, from 2017 to 2020. I don't think I heard of Spindrift until 2020, or maybe 2019, somewhere in there.

Phillip: [00:03:35] Is that coincidental? Is that when they showed up in Target? Or in Costco?

Brian: [00:03:40] Costco.

Phillip: [00:03:40] Is that when they showed up? If they showed up at Costco...

Brian: [00:03:42] Probably.

Calvin: [00:03:43] They showed up in Costco during that time.

Phillip: [00:03:43] Probably that's how they got on Brian's radar.

Brian: [00:03:45] That's how I do all my product discovery. Just Costco. Yeah. That's not even a lie. No, actually, that's kind of a lie.

Calvin: [00:03:52] But it's true. You aren't alone. That's for sure.

Phillip: [00:03:54] Yeah. How would you contrast those experiences there, Calvin?

Calvin: [00:03:58] Yeah. So I think that's right. That's where I loved being in that kind of like early stage and just helping them get that foundational right for scaling digital and getting in early to get in right before that kind of growth curve, The experiences were very different just because the channels and landscape even between Kind and Spindrift, only a difference of we'll call it three years, but the landscape had changed tremendously. When I first started at Kind, Amazon Ads was in its infancy, so there wasn't really much ad inventory to choose from or a strategy to choose from. You had a little bit of sponsored search and that was about it. And when I was at Spindrift, it was a whole different capability with the platform. So I think that's where each time I've joined a brand, I actually have a great track record and playbook, but you have to constantly be evolving that, tweaking that both with kind of how the platforms have changed, but then also how the industry has changed in terms of adoption and competitiveness. So I think that's where it's kind of been relearning or evolving that at each brand. I think Spindrift was the most interesting one from building as when I joined there was no eCommerce business so it built out from the get-go how we're shipping into FBA, how we're building out, and the whole marketplace strategy, how we're building out our DTC strategy. And so that's where I was able to get my hands on and build out a kind of five-year vision for the channel, whereas Kind leaned in early and then was able to get in and help them continue to scale it and build out kind of that roadmap after that early great start.

Phillip: [00:05:44] It's funny, just in this short period of time that you're really kind of covering, how much the truisms and best practices and sort of the things that we say in the industry as being the right way to do something has changed dramatically in just that intervening time in the length of your recent career. We didn't have an eCommerce practice for a beverage brand. Then we went through you launch beverage with DTC, that's how you do it. And now we're to a place where Mike Cicero from Liquid Death is saying, why would we ever ship water in the mail? Right? And it's funny watching how I don't even know if it's cyclical, it's to some degree maybe parabolic in the way that we make decisions based on early growth curves, assumptions, the time in which you launch your brand into the market, the truisms that don't necessarily hold true for very long. And they're all a factor of things that really are where the consumers are. And if the consumers are in a given channel, you play to that. And so where are consumers right now based on your most recent experience? Where are people shopping and how is that affecting how people are launching brands today?

Calvin: [00:07:01] Yeah, and I think like you were saying, that's evolved tremendously over my career, however relatively short that is, but now it's no longer, "All right, I'm going to launch in DTC, or I'm going to launch on Amazon." Brands are now having to say, "I have to have a full omnichannel kind of launch strategy." That's how you build a brand. You can't just launch on one platform anymore. You have to essentially be everywhere because the shopping behavior is so, I don't want to say fragmented because it is connected, but you have so many touchpoints or discovery points that you've got to be everywhere. So I think that's where it is a little bit more all-encompassing than it used to be, where you could set up your brand as DTC, load your budget into Facebook, let it go, and if you had a good product, you were probably going to see success. That's no longer the case. So I think there are so many more touchpoints involved with it. So as you're starting out, you've kind of seen the move away from those DTC brands not wanting to be on Amazon to now saying, "Well, we have to be on Amazon because that's where the eyeballs are. That's where the shoppers are. That's how customers discover new brands or research brands." So I think that's been an improvement. But along with that, obviously, it's made it more competitive and costly for those advertisers on Amazon. So it doesn't come without its own unique challenges. But then obviously it's been talked about extensively, but retail media and how you're leveraging and activating digital components for your retail partners is kind of table stakes now where you need to figure out how you're launching Walmart Connect, how you're learning on Instacart to support any of your retailer velocity. So those are moved up much earlier, I think than a brand's growth and it maybe was previously for a lot of emerging brands.

Brian: [00:08:57] Interesting. So that is a huge opportunity.

Phillip: [00:09:00] Well, a huge opportunity, but also let's layer on what we just talked about as being true. What truisms are true right now? Retail media is extremely sexy. Everybody's talking about it. That is extremely new. I think when we first talked about retail media on this show, I believe the first time we started talking about was 2019 when you started to see this proliferation of retailers. Now, I think the retail media tracker that I follow is like 21 brands and owned eCom channels are driving retail media in mass. And it's not going to stop every single screen. I'll give this to you, Calvin, Lammers Law will be every real estate of pixel will eventually contain an ad unit. And that's what you see from Lyft and Uber... It's not just retail media anymore.

Calvin: [00:10:08] It's a great point.

Phillip: [00:10:10] It's digital media.

Calvin: [00:10:13] Right.

Phillip: [00:10:13] So, yeah, let's maybe think a little bit into the future. What are the brands that you're working with these days? What are the challenges are facing and how are you helping them to solve them?

Calvin: [00:10:23] Yeah, I think the challenge is kind of to my earlier point in that [00:10:28] both launching and scaling a brand on Amazon never was easy, we'll say, but it's become much more difficult because of the competition, because of the cost involved, and it is now a true platform in that it was much easier to get a vendor central invite back in the day. Now there's a chance that you could build an eight-figure business and never hear a peep from an Amazon vendor manager. [00:10:54] So I think it's definitely become more difficult. It's helping them kind of figure out where that opportunity is within the category opportunity. What are the strategies from a full-funnel perspective that you're building with Amazon? Because I think that is the other thing that when you launch on Amazon, I think you also need to launch with a full-funnel strategy, no longer just launching and maybe running some sponsored products to start. So again setting out that holistic strategy and thinking through from an assortment perspective, a pricing perspective, all of these things that are unique to Amazon, but it's also kind of watching out, getting the things right early on so that you don't have to, I guess, run into issues or kind of roadblocks in the future, such as third party resellers. So that's one thing that I've seen with a lot of brands where you might start up small, you have limited distribution, but as soon as you're in 30,000 doors, you're just shared with your unified... You'll see all of the gray market resellers pop up. So how can you differentiate your products and put kind of that moat around yourself early on so that you don't have to worry about that long-term? So I think things like that that maybe can be pitfalls or roadblocks that I've seen at scaled brands that I try to help early brands.

Brian: [00:12:11] Looking out even maybe a little further here, well, where Amazon's going, I've heard a lot of noise recently about how people are essentially shopping less on Amazon. It's become kind of a product hellhole. You go on Amazon to buy something...

Phillip: [00:12:30] The death of Amazon. You heard it here first.

Brian: [00:12:33] Maybe. Maybe. Maybe it's not dying.

Phillip: [00:12:35] I've been calling that since 2019.

Brian: [00:12:37] You have. You have absolutely. No, it's not happening yet. It's not happening yet. But I look at my own Amazon purchasing habits, and I feel like they've tapered off. What I find myself doing is using Amazon as a check, an opportunity to go verify something or check a price just to see what's up, and buying directly out of a brand's channel more because oftentimes there are rewards that come along with that, whether that's samples or other types of benefits or just feeling confident that it's real and also usually a lot of brands have really caught up in terms of how quickly they can get things to you or you just don't care about it getting to you quickly. There's a lot of that too.

Calvin: [00:13:30] Yeah, I think that's changed. Yeah, completely.

Brian: [00:13:31] And then there was recently a tweet I think I saw, Phillip, someone was responding to you about something. I don't know what it was, but it was like, "I bought more on Walmart+ this year than I have on Amazon."

Calvin: [00:13:46] Right.

Brian: [00:13:47] And Phillip just signed up for Walmart+ and apparently a quarter of Americans are on Walmart+ now or something like that. How many was it, Phillip?

Phillip: [00:13:57] There was a press release that they put out, and it's like one-third of US households have Walmart+.

Brian: [00:14:03] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:14:04] For whatever that's worth.

Calvin: [00:14:08] That's unreal.

Phillip: [00:14:09] Do you see a lot of that, Calvin?

Brian: [00:14:10] Yeah, where are things headed for launching brands here?

Calvin: [00:14:16] Yeah. Yeah. So that's and that's where it's interesting is that's where Walmart, candidly I think it has still been tough for new brands to make work or succeed on Walmart just with the overall algorithm. There's still a preference placed over kind of in-store products, legacy kind of entrenched brands. So in terms of emerging brands, I have yet to see firsthand or kind of come across in my conversations in the space, a ton of success on Walmart, specifically with delivery for emerging brands. Obviously for grocery, again, just given that's been my space and what I focused on, the majority of sales are still pick up. It's just how the consumer typically is shopping Walmart for those types of products. So that's where if that's in mind, that's where you need an in-store presence to really have that be the opportunity for Walmart unless you're in a category outside of grocery. I just haven't seen the scale or the revenue opportunity there quite yet, although obviously, that's a work in progress. I think that's where in Instacart I have seen really get out ahead in terms of being kind of that true kind of emerging brand partner where they've developed their roadmap, they've done a great amount of work in terms of like outreach with emerging brands, launching programs and how they can connect potentially with other retailers and help be that kind of launchpad vehicle, I guess, for emerging brands to get a shot in retail or on the shelf. So that is invaluable I think for emerging brands. And I think ultimately that's where some of these other channels are maybe standing out compared to Amazon, Brian, to your point where it has become such a product hell hole so that you do need some partnership from whether it's a platform or retailer to help kind of cut through the clutter or kind of noise, so to speak. So I think Instacart's done a great job and then both from a data partnership perspective and then same thing with Kroger. I think they've done a really good job, and Walmart on this on the data side, but that closed loop attribution that you're getting from advertising is that's been asked for obviously on the advertiser side and brand side for a long time. But being that's one of their kind of focal points for data sharing and showing in-store kind of attribution as well, I think that's hugely valuable from a marketer's perspective is that that helps a lot of conversation and media mix planning by having access to that data that you aren't getting from some other platforms, I guess.

Phillip: [00:16:52] There's a pluralization of the roles and responsibilities and certainly, the areas where you're allocating capital to drive brand awareness and success in the market. Like it used to be in the eCommerce space you needed a developer and potentially an ad buyer and in eCommerce, you could sort of glue it together and sort of make it all work. And there were some challenges for sure, but with the right 3pl, you could have some sort of success. With omnichannel and in particular with all of these various channels that you had... Omnichannel really does mean omni now. It just used to be... It meant two things before. There is a pluralized multitude of channels to be able to launch into now and they all require specialization and I don't believe that anyone can do any of them perfectly. So what are the alternatives? Do you just wind up hiring a bajillion specialist agencies and you become a glorified project manager? What is the ultimate structure for a CPG brand who's trying to balance it all right now?

Calvin: [00:18:32] Yeah, no, that's a great question. And I think that's where having been through kind of multiple stages and kind of growth occurs with these brands have been able to kind of see a few different structures or kind of build out what I typically recommend. Obviously, this is kind of maybe peanut butter-ing it a little bit, but generally speaking, the benefit is or the recommendation should be hiring out to a number of different specialist agencies early on. They're going to have a much quicker ramp-up time. Obviously, how the expertise needed to get things, for the most part, set up and rolling in the right direction and helping you get an early start. And the growth curve or learning curve obviously is much shorter if you do that, as opposed to looking to build out a team. Obviously from a headcount salary standpoint, that might be tough getting the talent needed to have expertise and knowledge. So I think from an efficiency standpoint, you're better off hiring out agency-wise, especially early on. As you kind of scale those channels out, though, I think that's where you see could possibly gain efficiencies internally. So if you have a sizable DTC business and you're having all of your growth, and all of your retention managed by an agency, it might make sense to bring in a retention manager for $75,000. That can be more cost-efficient than having an agency manage all of your email and SMS campaigns. Or on the Amazon side, maybe you are bringing in some of the ads buying and using a tool and that's going to be more efficient than paying an ad management fee from an agency. So it's kind of looking at those things at scale where there might be a financial benefit to bringing it in-house. But also maybe you finally reach a point when you have the scale and the revenue and the PnL to actually afford the headcount internally as well versus outsourcing it all. So I think that's how I've kind of seen it. And where you're bringing that internally versus remaining outsourced just depends on the brand or the scale at which you're at, I think.

Phillip: [00:20:40] Follow-up question on that. So I think you gave us the framework of sort of at the high level of how to grow into some sort of scale where you're proving the capability, you're finding product market fit, once you've found it, and once you have some sort of you built a business, you get to a certain tipping point where it makes more sense for you to bring those capabilities in-house. And then maybe you have a brand. You had products before, maybe now you have a brand.

Calvin: [00:21:08] Right.

Phillip: [00:21:08] If you have to launch omnichannel and you're extraordinarily small, is this just setting the bar now so high that we'll see this, we said pluralization before... We just went through probably the golden age of brands and it's never been easier to create a product. It's been never been easier to get it out into the market. Thank you, Facebook. Thank you, Instagram. But it's one of those things where, hey, if, it's not so easy to create and launch brands anymore and it requires all of this outside help and effort, I don't know if the world's poorer for it, but we certainly aren't going to see as many brands as we have.

Brian: [00:21:46] Or are we?

Calvin: [00:21:46] {laughter} It's a good question. I really do think that it's going to be maybe that we will see the same amount of brands, but it's about the success rate or the failure rate is going to increase dramatically because it's gotten so much tougher. So I think there might be a slowdown in the number of brand launches, but you're going to see a lot of brands, I guess, fail much quicker early on, I guess is how I would say it. And I think there is some consolidation. Two factors where you have speaking of Amazon aggregators, where you had a lot of aggregators like Thrasio that had massive growth over the last few years where they had success in buying up all of these products and helping them scale. That obviously proved difficult. I think there's still an opportunity for that kind of approach where you have a portfolio and you can share the learnings and the infrastructure and your connections across a multitude of brands. And [00:22:52] there still is opportunity and I think that's maybe the path forward where you have a lot of brands that sell early and then maybe succeed moving forward by going to an aggregator or portfolio or something like that. [00:23:04]

Brian: [00:23:05] I feel the same way. There's so much out there that we don't see because there are so many niche audiences or brands that probably could have a wider audience. They just don't have the capability to go broader and they're really profitable. And that was sort of the idea behind Thrasio and some of these others to go find those. And you look at OpenStore who we're collaborating with right now. Similar idea. Find brands that clearly have a financial path and acquire them. I feel like the path of brands is diversity.

Calvin: [00:23:46] Right.

Brian: [00:23:46]  [00:23:46]It's not necessarily that we're not going to see lots of brands. It's just they're not going to scale kind of how Venture wanted them to scale. And there won't be Facebook and Instagram allowing us to see these brands and a lot of people could see them all at one time and it wasn't that competitive. It's going to get more and more specific and targeted. [00:24:09] Speaking of specific and targeted...

Phillip: [00:24:12] You switched. I was going to say that was a spicy take. Let's talk about spicy hot sauce.

Brian: [00:24:16] Okay. Oh, okay. {laughter} That's also a really good transition. And actually, I'm going to get there. I'm bringing it around to TRUFF.

Calvin: [00:24:24] Bring it around.

Brian: [00:24:24] We do want to get to TRUFF. You spent five and a half years in beverage and then you went to food. We always talk about Food and Bev, like it's this one category.

Phillip: [00:24:38] Monolithic.

Brian: [00:24:39] Food and Bev. That's specific enough for most people, but really they're very, very different. And in fact, within Food in Bev, there's a lot of difference, a lot of diversity in how you go to market and what your audience looks like and how you sell, etc., etc... So I'd love to hear a little bit about the transition back into food, specifically condiments, and how different that was from the three years prior or three companies prior across five and a half years you'd spent in Bev.

Calvin: [00:25:12] Yeah, Yeah. And to that point, it is fascinating. Even within the beverage brands that I've been at, the differences, just in terms of your product setup, makeup specs, and the audiences and also the opportunity with that and cost involved. So even between Bai and Spindrift, for example, one was in PET plastic bottles, the other one in aluminum cans without thinking about it, wouldn't assume that there's much difference between them. So yeah aluminum cans... Difficult on Amazon. Denting, damages, leakage, and then you also have the sortable/non-sortable concern as well on top of that which going into it never would have thought about. Let me tell you that just plastic bottles, PET bottles, are much easier product container to work with on Amazon. So from an operational product standpoint is even difficult. But then going from them to like a HealthAde kombucha cold chain glass bottles, can't ship it with FBA at all. Entirely had to be for FBM third-party fulfilled, which places some downward pressure in terms of the conversion rates obviously that you're facing. So yeah, it's simple just from even a product setup and fulfillment standpoint, but that also creates opportunity and that's why there is such opportunity on Amazon and Kombucha because nobody was able to really make it work well. And so we were able to find a path to make it work, the unit economics work, and we're able to scale out that eCom channel pretty extensively for HealthAde. So much of that was about 10% of company revenue, starting from zero in a matter of two years.

Brian: [00:26:55] Wow.

Calvin: [00:26:55] It's finding those opportunities because [00:26:59] if it's hard, that means not everybody's doing it and there's a reason why. But that also means there's an opportunity to succeed [00:27:06] or there's opportunity within there. But I guess the difference between beverage and then food, like a TRUFF, it's beverages people are consuming on a daily basis. You look at the repeat rate, the usage occasion through the roof for beverages. So a lot of the repeat revenue rates where a lot of the beverage brands where 50-55% of revenue was coming from repeat or Subscribe and Save customers on a monthly basis because of the usage patterns of behaviors. Whether it's like a condiment like TRUFF or sauce, obviously those are a little bit longer usage times, longer usage occasions. So it really was more focused on new customer acquisition, while obviously retention as well within those customers. But just the timing or cadence in between purchases is much longer than you would see in beverages. So that's where beverage, a lot of times we would have kind of quick pulses for new customers, then retention, retention, retention, getting customers to Subscribe and Save. If you're looking at a condiment food brand, it's largely more around consistent new customer growth. And then on the right cadence or the six or 12 months afterward, then you're kind of pulsing in some retention or maybe cross-selling opportunities. So yeah, just even between the two very different approaches and how you're kind of expanding or increasing your kind of top line.

Brian: [00:28:30] Saw the cross-sell. The cross-sell, you did a lot of cross-sell. I feel like that was...

Calvin: [00:28:36] Get them into the portfolio and then go wide.

Phillip: [00:28:42] If you ever want to come help run merch for a budding content property at Future Commerce, come let me know. You can't consume any of it just yet, but we'll get there eventually.

Calvin: [00:29:52] {laughter} Just yet.

Brian: [00:29:53] Just yet. Foreshadowing.

Phillip: [00:29:55] I know that you spent some time at TRUFF and TRUFF, certainly, at least amongst the DTC Twitter crowd and the echo chamber that I live in consistently really beloved in sort of the way that that brand has come seemingly out of nowhere. There is no such thing as an overnight success. And I think, you know, sort of architecting your way through brand partnerships to grocery store shelves and sort of having the notoriety there seems very calculated and intentional. But I know, having been behind the scenes working for a brand, it doesn't always actually feel that way when you're in the midst of the work. So congrats on having been part of what I guess I would call a rocket ship because to come from a category innovator, especially at the price point, and then to a Taco Bell partnership is certainly playing a high-low strategy that's very, very culturally relevant right now. I'd love for you to tell us a little bit about some of your learnings there and some things that potentially may hold true or may not hold true as we move into a new season in 2023.

Calvin: [00:31:12] Yeah, and I think partnerships are key and I think that's TRUFF included. But even kind of across the board, you're seeing that a lot more with brands in that, what we were talking about earlier, it's the category, the landscape has gotten much more fragmented, diversified, competitive, and a lot of channels are much more costly. So everybody's trying to find the most efficient channels or way that you're broadening your reach. And if you're looking at partnerships, that's one of the most cost-effective and I would argue authentic ways that you're expanding it and tapping into a new audience. Obviously, along with that, it's got to be an authentic fit. And I think TRUFF had a great example of doing that with kind of the Taco Bell partnership or Hidden Valley Ranch limited time drop. It's got to feel authentic to the brand and not erode that brand equity. So that's the nuance part. There's not kind of like one line in the sand for every brand. That's going to be the decision made. But if you're doing it well and executing it well, it's super cost-efficient. It carries weight with the other partner's audience that you're tapping into so much more effectively than if you're showing up as a cold, potentially a cold lead generated ad or reach ad that everybody's getting blown up anyways on the platform. So I think it just helps kind of cut through the clutter and noise a little bit. And I think you build brand, expand your reach, and ultimately can drive trial or purchase at the end of the day. So you're getting a trifecta with a pretty efficient use of dollars. I think partnerships have been a key way for brands in this day and age to kind of help cut through the noise a little bit. And then outside of that, I would say brands and a lot of new brands are living and dying on their content strategy and social strategy along with that. So not only just paid content, but I think just how you're building out your organic content, your presence, your tone of voice on IG or especially TikTok now. You have a brand like Poppi that they built a great presence from their Founder story on TikTok as another way of kind of having a face and a voice to the audience and weigh in. So I think brands are going to take a different approach. And this is where I was saying that this really wasn't the playbook or these weren't necessarily at the forefront of brands' minds three years ago. But now some of the primary ways that they're looking to expand their brand presence and reach overall.

Phillip: [00:33:52] I just want to add one thing on the back of that, and this is my own perspective. I don't want to put any words in your mouth, Calvin. My sense is once you're talking about this kind of stuff, it's already over. It's too late now for you to try to piggyback on this strategy.

Calvin: [00:34:07] Right.

Phillip: [00:34:08] That's one of the challenges. Once something becomes a truism and I know we've said it a bunch now in this one episode, but it almost is it's no longer relevant. It's the moment is here. [00:34:21] If you're building for this moment, you're going to be late. So you have to sort of learn to anticipate what the next thing is going to be. And that's why we're called Future Commerce and not Today Commerce. [00:34:32] Brian, you were getting ready to jump in.

Brian: [00:34:34] Yeah, I do think we're still in the swing of partnerships as content though. And the reason I say that is because, like you said, Calvin, there's an authenticity to it. And it also plays into both distribution and in content. And so we saw so many collaborations over the past few years. The Hidden Valley collab wasn't even that long ago and it still had a huge...

Calvin: [00:35:04] With TRUFF.

Brian: [00:35:04] Yeah, The Hidden Valley and TRUFF collab. Yeah. Sorry. Yes. No, I thought we'd stated that earlier, but maybe we didn't. Yeah. With TRUFF, I thought it still hit all the notes. Something that I thought was super smart that you did is that the high-low strategy you mentioned, Phillip, makes a ton of sense for a brand like TRUFF in particular because one, hot sauce has a broad market application. But I also think the premium buy-up strategy for something that's purchased infrequently at a relatively low price point is the perfect spot to come in with a high-low strategy. Was that intentional? Someone buys hot sauce, maybe, I mean, it depends on how much you eat, I guess from once a month to maybe once every six months. And so to buy up you can actually go broad market with a premium product. And so yeah, it sounds like you were all over that. You're like, "Yeah, Brian."

Calvin: [00:36:04] Yeah, no, no, no. And there were obviously a few different objectives and benefits with it. But yeah, that's, I mean, especially if you think about a condiment or sauce, unlike a beverage, again, you can't necessarily, people aren't just getting a sample and chugging it there right on the spot. You need that perfect pairing with it. So yeah, it's a perfect kind of fit. And with that high-low market reach opportunity, it was massive. And yeah, that's I think that was successful and finding those ways to drive trial in reaching that new audience. It was a perfect fit for that.

Phillip: [00:36:45] How do you replicate that today? Let's talk about how you are advising brands who are trying to do something similar. Do they just start cold-calling Popeye's chicken and say, "Let's do this fam?" {laughter}

Calvin: [00:36:59] It's tough. And that's it without doing all the background work going into it. Yeah, it's definitely not an overnight thing and it takes a long time. So I think it's really that's where you have to prove out the demand, the audience, the buzz worthiness of your product, like create a demand for it and create your voice and have a really great, I guess, fan base that if you're bringing the idea to another partner or potential partner, there needs to be clear value in your reasons why there would be a benefit to them partnering with you. I think so. I think that's a table stakes for that. But that's where I do think having those relationships from a sales perspective as well as a marketing perspective, that's where it kind of takes a tag team effort where if you are possibly in a food service channel and you have a good relationship with them on the sales side, can you leverage your marketing PR team to get in with them? Have you go a little bit deeper, all of those kind of take a while to come together. But it does take, I think, the full village or whole team to go about it. And there's no easy way to go about it or like simple way to go about it. I think there are some platforms that are trying to help enable that and make it a little bit more turnkey on the brand-to-brand partnership side. So you have some DTC kind of post-purchase partnership apps, whether that's a Disco or a few others out there that help enable some of those partnerships a little bit more easily. But that's obviously a little bit different from a full-fledged retail or food service-type partnership.

Phillip: [00:38:50] I think that's an interesting insight that it's become so commonplace that there is now specific software for matchmaking to enable this. So to Brian's point, you know, potentially there's more opportunity left yet, more gas left in that tank. I believe that it becomes less effective and it's less arbitrage the more commonplace something becomes where now it'll have to be an expected and required part of building. But unfortunately for everybody, it doesn't return the same multiple that it used to despite the amount of investment. And that's where I believe what we're actually talking about is finding new areas for creating unexpected opportunities for growth in a company. You can call that arbitrage if you like. I don't think that that comes necessarily by flipping on Amazon anymore and it doesn't necessarily come by we just need to partner with Travis Scott.

Brian: [00:39:53] {laughter} That's the last thing.

Phillip: [00:39:53] So that's kind of that's where we are. And I love to see what the next phase of that looks like for emerging brands because the emerging brand category is really the one that I think sets the tone for what the rest of the industry will be doing because that's what we're in the imitators game now.

Calvin: [00:40:14] Yeah. 100%.

Phillip: [00:40:16] Let's predict the future a little bit. Calvin, what are some of the things that you are taking notice of right now and who is building, who's innovating in a way that's really inspiring for you?

Calvin: [00:40:27] Yeah, I think it's really interesting...

Phillip: [00:40:30] This is where you rep your portfolio of people that you're working with. {laughter}

Calvin: [00:40:35] {laughter} I think there's there's a lot of really cool, interesting, innovative brands that have kind of come into the space, one of the obvious ones that we've talked about is Liquid Death. Obviously, I think enough has been said about them that they don't need to share more, but obviously, they've done a great job innovating on the marketing front and building a marketing-led brand. But it is funny how what's old is new again because I think it is a very similar playbook. Talking about Bai. That more or less is a similar playbook that has been used before. Obviously, it's updating it slightly to kind of the modern age so that there are some entrenched kind of strategies and just updating a little bit. So Liquid Death has done a great job, I think. I think the beauty space and the pet food space have really blown up in the last couple of years. So you look at there's a number of newer pet food brands that have disrupted the category because you talk about going niche. There are a lot of new pet owners during the pandemic, a lot more kind of high-quality, niche-specific kind of pet food categories, or that's better for you pet-wise. So I think that's been super interesting to see that there's been a lot of disruption in that space and you have a number of different brands out there that they're already pulling in 9 figures annually and having massive TB budgets. I mean, that's been pretty impressive to see. I think that's where TB has been interesting that that's come back onto the scene and all of the conversation around connected TB. I'm still kind of on the fence. I will say on the TB side. I've seen I think there's still value in linear in a lot of ways. If you're looking at efficiencies for CPMs versus the $20-$25 CPM that you're typically seeing on CTB potentially. So I think that's been interesting to see kind of that, I guess, back and forth on that on the TB side. But I guess going back to the point, a lot of pet food brands doing it. And then you look at Beauty, Hero, obviously being one that a lot of press around that talk about that that they built a brand on Amazon that everybody used to think that you couldn't do it and they did it and then sold to do it in Church & Dwight. So there are some brands that are doing some really interesting things and going a different route to markets than what used to be the case and in finding success like a Hero. So I think that that's super fascinating to me. There's no one way to do it, I guess, ultimately.

Phillip: [00:43:05] I think that's a really interesting set, like a basket of brands and specifically, maybe a mix of their strategies at present that I feel gives us a really good overview of where we are, and what's to come. Maybe if I were to even project a little bit, I would say, yeah, it wouldn't be so hard. If you look back 35 years and look at what people were doing back then, a lot of things have come back around even from like an advertising aesthetic perspective. There's an Apple ad that's running right now that uses fisheye lenses or the aesthetic of a fisheye lens where I remember MTV, Nickelodeon, Gushers, this aesthetic of like big hands, giant people, exaggerated caricatures, Delia's catalog... We're just replaying the greatest hits at this point. And so if you're looking for that right now, I think that's one way to maybe stay ahead is to look behind.

Brian: [00:44:05] Well in the age of AI and ChatGPT, the only real value is original IP. Calvin, what about what's next for you? Excited to see what you're up to. What are you doing?

Calvin: [00:44:18] Yeah, I'll have to keep cards close to the vest a little bit here, but I'm continuing kind of a strategic lens and as was mentioned earlier, helping with some brands to kind of reformulate their current digital strategy or helping them get going on eCommerce or digital. So I have my own consulting agency where I have been helping a few partners out, so continuing that. I think it's been awesome kind of in my own growth and knowledge and kind of what we were talking about earlier, that there are these nuances between categories. I think it's been exciting to have the opportunity to kind of dip my hands and a few different kinds of product verticals categories and see those nuances a little bit more, a better swath, I guess those differences in nuances. So continue to focus on that and see where that takes me because yeah, it's a very interesting point in time for commerce as a whole. I was just having a conversation with another brand, a digital brand leader, and a lot of conversation about there's a lot of nervousness around 2023. What does that mean for budgets for growth kind of targets? So it's a very interesting point or kind of inflection point, I think, for kind of the world right now for us from a commerce perspective. So going to see what that holds next year. I wish I had a magic eight ball because yeah it's going to be an interesting year but I think if you have kind of that omnichannel strategy, that's where that helps you alleviate any headwinds one place or the other. It diversifies your risk, I guess ultimately, if you have a comprehensive strategy so that you're able to kind of pivot as things come up, as they most certainly will.

Brian: [00:46:07] I like that as a piece of advice going into 2023. Be diversified in channel, make sure that you don't miss out on a channel that's seeing strength, and also don't be overinvested in any one channel too much because they might hit headwinds. I think that's really good advice.

Phillip: [00:46:27] What's the name of the consultancy that you operate? How can people find you?

Calvin: [00:46:33] Yeah, you can find us. I'm on LinkedIn. Or our website is

Phillip: [00:46:41] Man, I'm kicking myself 45 minutes hence that I should have made a Rare Eye for the CPG Guy joke, but I came right at the end.

Calvin: [00:46:52] {laughter} There was a tee-up. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:46:56] Calvin Lammers. Thank you.

Brian: [00:46:58] Thank you. Thank you.

Calvin: [00:47:00] Thank you both. It was great chatting with you.

Phillip: [00:47:03] Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to Future Commerce. The best way to build the future is to create it. And we're so glad that you spent 2022 with us. We have more coming. We do have an announcement which you probably heard about already. We have a pop-up adjacent to The NRF Big Show. So we'll be running Archetypes, and we'll be joining forces with Industry West. We will be at industry West Soho from January 15th to the 17th. We hope to see you there and we'll be keeping store hours, 11 to 4. Come drop by and see us, check out Archetypes, and enjoy the world that we're creating in bringing art and commerce closer together. Discover your Archetype, go to Thank you so much for listening to Future Commerce.

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