Strategy-Led, Design-Driven Branding with Steve Redmond of Rival Brands

Strategy-Led, Design-Driven Branding with Steve Redmond of Rival Brands

All Good Food brands are made up of two integral parts: a mission and a vision.

Your mission as a Good Food brand is what sets you apart from the big players in the food industry. It’s what makes you unique. Your vision is how you see yourself as a brand and a player in the food industry in the future.

The challenge is this: how do we close the gap towards the vision while staying true to your mission as a Good Food brand? The answer should be easy—strategy. You create a company, create your product offering, sell it to as many people as possible—that feels like a strategy. But is it a sustainable tactic to grow your company?

Steve Redmond of Rival Brands believes that everything should be rooted in a fleshed-out strategy that is true to the core and message of the brand. His origin as a graphic designer makes him confident in saying that good branding doesn’t come from the design, packaging, logos, and all that—they all make a whole, and they’re all founded in a good strategy.

Virginia Foodie Essentials:

  • I operate in the idea that a brand is simply an idea. And you create a product as the primary way to share that idea. - Steve Redmond
  • That's the gist: there's a whole bunch of ideas that generally need to exist inside and outside of your business. And as the leader, you are likely the one that has to be t in command of what those ideas are. They all have to be in sync. - Steve Redmond
  • Having a strategy in place means that a lot of the decisions that go into the packaging are no longer subjective. They're based on specific things that you're trying to communicate. - Steve Redmond
  • Strategy sets the standard, the priorities, the messages, and it gives you the script. There are still a lot of ways it can manifest graphically, but at least, it allows you to come up with solutions that all meet the same criteria. - Steve Redmond
  • We learn through articulation, so the more we talk about it, the more we all come up with new ideas. We try them on like shoes, but we have to walk around in them for a while before we really can decide. - Steve Redmond
  • Jasper Hill Farms is a brand that is trying to demonstrate that tiny local farms can produce such incredibly value-added products while maintaining the structure of a very close and small community of farmers and give them each the ability to thrive and make an incredible living. - Steve Redmond
  • One of the things I think about craft food and local food is that you don't have to limit your reach to just your immediate neighbors if you are thoughtful about how you will expand. - Georgiana Dearing

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Steve Redmond started as a graphic designer and evolved to an art and creative director and then to launching his own business. Currently, he owns Rival Brands, and he’s been serving the food community for about two decades.
  • He likes working and connecting with food brands that have a clear mission and are defying the trends and the structure already established in the food industry.
  • More than leading a design-driven branding and packaging studio, the solutions that his company, Rival Brands, offers are not only through visuals but are founded and focused on strategy.
  • In his speaking engagement at the Winter Fancy Food Show, “Your Revolution Needs to be Synchronized,” Steve talked about how a brand is just an “idea.”
  • He believes that businesses in the Good Food industry are starting a revolution—but these ideas of the Good Food brands need to align and be synchronized for the revolution to work together.
  • Design is not just about looking good. Packaging performs best if it's design is founded on brand strategy.
  • His secret in devising a brand strategy true to the heart of the company is through one-on-one interactions with his clients.
  • He recently launched four brand strategy workbooks to help people in marketing departments, producers, business owners, or anyone who wants to develop brand strategies on their own.

More About the Guest:

Rival Brands is the culmination of the 25+ year career of Design Director and Designer, Steve Redmond. Steve is an award-winning designer and has had his work selected for publication in various design annuals such as Communication Arts, Print Regional Design Annual, and Graphic Design USA's Packaging Annual. He has worked for a variety of Vermont's specialty food producers as well as producers spanning the U.S.

Connect with Steve Redmond:

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Full Transcript:

Note: We use AI transcription so there may be some inaccuracies

[00:00:00] Steve Redmond: You're all doing something really special, especially when you think as a group, you're all changing the way we eat. You're all changing the way people make a living, and there's a lot of things that you're trying to change collectively within the food industry. So when I talk about the revolution needs to be synchronized, part of it was as the leader of your revolution.

[00:00:15] Steve Redmond: All the ideas that support your brand, they all have to work together.

[00:00:22] Georgiana Dearing: Welcome to the Virginia Foodie Podcast where we lift a lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered how did they do that? How did they turn that recipe into a successful business?

[00:00:42] Georgiana Dearing: Then we've got some stories for you.

[00:00:47] Georgiana Dearing: Hello and welcome back to the podcast. Thank you for joining me today. I'm George Steering and I provide marketing strategy and coaching for good food brands. I have to say that I absolutely love what I do. I love working with emerging brands and helping them realize their full. And I love the collaborative nature of coaching because inevitably there's the aha moment.

[00:01:13] Georgiana Dearing: That point in every engagement, when the brand or the brand team settles on a clear vision for their marketing, they find a solution that is suddenly so obvious. There clearly can't be any other way to go to market. Now we don't get there because I'm the smartest person in the. We get there because we're working together on your business.

[00:01:35] Georgiana Dearing: Crafting the best solution for your vision. I share this today because the other part of what I love about this current iteration of my career is that I'm a curious person. I'm a seeker, always learning and looking out for the next best thing so that I can share it with you. My podcast interviews are part of that continuous.

[00:02:00] Georgiana Dearing: And today's guest is someone I've been following around for a while watching his work with other good food companies. Steve Redman, the owner of Rival Brands, is a creator whose work echoes my thoughts about strategic marketing. A lot of what I share here is practical, the nuts and bolts of running an effective marketing program because really you need a system of consistent actions to keep your brand moving towards your sales goals.

[00:02:29] Georgiana Dearing: But all of these practical tactical tips are based on an underpinning of strategy. And developing a solid strategy takes time. Strategic thinking and developing a solid strategy takes time. Strategic thinking often gets a quick pass. When you envision your company, I'm gonna take this recipe, scale it up, and get it to as many people as.

[00:02:54] Georgiana Dearing: That means selling it to grocery stores because selling one-on-one only gets my food into so many mouths. That feels like a strategy, but it's not fleshed out. It doesn't solve the why, who where Questions that you need to understand in order to know your best practices for marketing your product. It doesn't help you decide what to put on the front of the package that will sit on those store shelves, and your packaging isn't just about a pretty face for your brand.

[00:03:23] Georgiana Dearing: Packaging is part of your marketing strategy. Now, Steve runs Rival Brands as a strategy led, design-driven branding and packaging studio. He's been providing smart, creative solutions for C P G and food brands for a few decades now, and he recently launched a series of strategy workbooks. He's broken down the process of creating a brand strategy into four DIY workbook.

[00:03:51] Georgiana Dearing: Plus he's just returned from presenting his ideas about brand strategy and design as part of the 2023 Winner Fancy Foods show. Our conversation spans his theories about branding and design his experience at the Fancy Foods Show. And what he'll be bringing to good food brands like yours in the future,

[00:04:18] Georgiana Dearing: while I'm doing a follow up to a little spying that I've been doing for the last two years, I have been following. Today's guest on Instagram, I kind of went down a wormhole and ended up on his feed, and I've just always enjoyed the work that he has been sharing and his comments about the industry. And I thought we had kind of like minds.

[00:04:41] Georgiana Dearing: And so I want to introduce to you all Steve Redmond of Rival Brands. Steve, could you say hello and tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? 

[00:04:52] Steve Redmond: Yeah, sure. Well, Jona, thank you so much for asking me to join you today. Yeah. My name is Steve Redmond. My company is Rival Brands and. More often than not, when I talk to people, my mind goes to how do I communicate the quickest about what I do?

[00:05:05] Steve Redmond: So I will generically say I'm a graphic designer, . And that's, yeah. Yeah. But I was a graphic designer when I graduated college over 30 years ago. So my career has just gone through the whole evolution and trajectory that a lot of designers go through up through art director and creative gr. Launching my own business a couple of times.

[00:05:22] Steve Redmond: I've probably worked over half of my career for myself, Ronald Brands is just my latest iteration. I just celebrated six years this past October. Oh, congratulations. And I've been serving, thank you. I'll still call myself an agency sometimes, but it's sort of a mixed bag when you use that word. But I've been serving the food and beverage and specialty food community for probably two decades here in.

[00:05:44] Steve Redmond: We do a really good job of producing a lot of really unique specialty food products. And we've been in a bit of a hayday since about 2012 with I think per capita, more beer producers, more cheese producers, more, you name it. So as a tiny little state, we actually produce a lot of different specialty foods and value added products from an ag sector.

[00:06:06] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. . And so I primarily work on brand strategy and graphic design, creative direction, things like that, pulling together. Teams of other service providers just to expand what I can do in ways that I can serve people. But the majority of my work is outside the state and sometimes there's a silver lining there.

[00:06:24] Steve Redmond: The con to that is that I miss a little bit of the connection to my own backyard, but I kind of vacillate and go between having moments where I have more clients in the state versus out and vice versa. But it's all good. It's always just keeps it interesting. Mm-hmm. . So 

[00:06:37] Georgiana Dearing: for these six years, then you're pretty much.

[00:06:40] Georgiana Dearing: Solo entity with contractors that you use for projects, is that the size of your firm? 

[00:06:46] Steve Redmond: That's the size. It is just me. 

[00:06:49] Georgiana Dearing: Much easier to do now actually, than it was 

[00:06:53] Steve Redmond: in the nineties. It's a lot easier. Mm-hmm. . Yeah, for sure. Yeah. 

[00:06:56] Georgiana Dearing: I've always expanded my roster with subject matter experts because I find that there's certain things you don't need to have on staff, but as a solopreneur, there's plenty of ways now to find good resources for the brands you're serving.

[00:07:11] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, absolutely. So with that in mind, you talked about Vermont and then being outta state, like who is your best customer right now? Who is like the right size for what you 

[00:07:21] Steve Redmond: are doing? Well, I would say it's a client that I have been doing work for for the past six months, and it's actually in-state and it's a company called Jasper Hill Farms.

[00:07:32] Steve Redmond: Okay. And they are a dairy, they make some amazing, amazing cheese. Ironically. They are fairly small. I used the term they're small but very mighty, and they created, I think it's about, I don't know how many hundreds or thousands of square feet, but they essentially have six underground caves where they aged their cheese, which is a pretty monumental feat for such a small dairy.

[00:07:58] Steve Redmond: and what makes 'em really special and what makes 'em really a great client is not only just the nature of the work that we do mm-hmm. , um, to be honest, the budget that they have to try to accomplish the work that they want to accomplish. I mean, there's a strictly business side to that assessment, but the personal side of the assessment in terms of what makes 'em great is that they're really trying to accomplish some pretty great things.

[00:08:18] Steve Redmond: They are trying to demonstrate that really small local farm. can produce such incredibly value added products that they can maintain the structure of a very close and small community of farmers and give them each the ability to thrive and make an incredible living. And that's kind of where they're at.

[00:08:38] Steve Redmond: They're trying to be a model for anywhere and everywhere to sort of demonstrate that not every small manufacturer needs to be swallowed up by some giant monolithic corporation that then economizes and starts producing mass-produced. 

[00:08:53] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, I love that. A sensibility about that. One of the things I talk about all the time with my clients is being right sized.

[00:08:59] Georgiana Dearing: Mm-hmm. , like what is the right size for what you want to achieve with your brand? Mm-hmm. . And it sounds like they have some pretty clear gay posts around what they wanna do. 

[00:09:10] Steve Redmond: Yeah. And the beauty of it is they're fairly world renowned. I, I mean, they're up there competing internationally, and so they're really kind of defying odds.

[00:09:19] Steve Redmond: They're defy. The trends. So many other cheese makers that you probably don't even know are actually owned by giant Swiss conglomerates, but no one really knows that. Most consumers don't know that, so they're trying to get the word out that it doesn't have to be that way. That small farms can still contribute and do really amazing things.

[00:09:35] Steve Redmond: So in its entirety, Jasper Hill just represents so many different check boxes for me in terms of what I love to connect with and what I love to do, at least at this point in my. 

[00:09:45] Georgiana Dearing: So they're world renowned and they compete. How far do their products really reach practically? Like in the world of cheese, there are people who are very like connoisseur,

[00:09:56] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. And there's more of a general market. 

[00:09:59] Steve Redmond: Yeah, so that's a good question. I don't know that I can answer that entirely accurately. I mean, I know they have distribution across the country. I don't know about international markets, to be honest with you. I'm not quite sure, but they're sizeable. They were included when the Prime Minister of France was invited to have dinner with Barack Obama in Washington.

[00:10:17] Steve Redmond: Their cheese was debuted at the. Oh, so they have some really interesting claim def fame. Yeah. I don't know that I can speak exactly to how big their business is, but I know that they, with the caves that they have, they age many, many, many different producers of cheese from Cabot to other significantly larger companies.

[00:10:36] Steve Redmond: So they're just very industrial. They know how to create products, again, based on uhhuh, not so mass scale and procedures. 

[00:10:45] Georgiana Dearing: Well, I've certainly tried Cabo before. Cabot is everywhere. Mm-hmm. . And so, yeah, though you answered my questions. So they are local and responsible food brand, but they have national distribution and I guess that is one of the things that I think about with craft food and local food, that if we bring it back to regional terah, if you would, I'm gonna say that wrong, but the regional flavors of which you're going to get out of the particular agricultural growing condit.

[00:11:17] Georgiana Dearing: There's your uniqueness and you don't have to limit your reach to just your immediate neighbors if you are thoughtful about how you expand. Mm-hmm. . Sure. No, that sounds okay. That's great. And we're talking to the same people. I think so. When you engage with the brand, like what can they expect from you in particular?

[00:11:38] Georgiana Dearing: Mm-hmm. , you started out by saying you're a graphic designer, but I know that your solutions are more than just 

[00:11:43] Steve Redmond: visual. Yeah, so probably one of the things that I started when I began rival is I knew that I didn't want to just solely focus on design, and I love that part of the process. But I also have always known that both kind of halves of my brain operate pretty strongly in that I am fairly analytical.

[00:12:02] Steve Redmond: I'm not an engineer by any stretch, but I, I call myself an engineer slash artist in that I love connecting dots. I like gathering data. I love kind of connecting it. And then I like the conversion of all that data and ones and zeros and things like that. Consumer data and market data. And then I love the process of assimilating all of that.

[00:12:21] Steve Redmond: The visual and verbal expressions. So anybody that I work with right now, I don't generally take on strictly design projects unless it's just an amazing opportunity. Mm-hmm. , um, most of my projects, there's a great analogy, there's an author named David C. Baker. 

[00:12:35] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, David Baker . I've worked with him. Go ahead,

[00:12:38] Steve Redmond: Yeah. He has this gra, I believe it was in his book, he had a great analogy that if you take your metaphor or a studio and it. Doors. And you can either let people in the design door and then try to get them to walk through the strategy door, or you can have a strategy door and a design door and try to convince 'em to go through the strategy one.

[00:12:55] Steve Redmond: Or you only have one door and that's the strategy door. And the only way that they get through the design door is if they come in through the strategy door first. Yes. So when I read that, I just felt like that is exactly how I need to be working because it's. Not only is it just really what I want to do more and more of to the point where there are certain clients that I, I'm only delivering strategy.

[00:13:16] Steve Redmond: I'm actually not doing design at all, which is fine. So it's always going to be very strategy driven. And again, I have people that I work with, like marketing researchers and consumer researchers that help me fill out the gaps that I don't necessarily have the strengths. We put together some pretty significant dossiers for clients that I put together one, I call it a brand Bible.

[00:13:39] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. . They can go by a lot of different things, not just here's your logo and here's the colors and fonts and things like that. It was really more the Bible about this is what your brand is about and this is its positioning and so on. One of the very first ones that I did when I started Rival wound up being about 60 pages and yeah, they really, it was intense.

[00:13:59] Steve Redmond: It was really cutting my. But it was so thorough and it really acted like a true owner's manual. And part of the rationale for going so deep and exploring such minutiae of detail about the expression and the meaning behind the brand was they really wanted to grow fast enough that when they hired a VP of marketing, they wanted to be able to slide this across the table and say, this is who we are.

[00:14:20] Steve Redmond: Right. So these are the things that you need to know about us. This is how you talk about us. This is how you talk about what we do, and this is how we speak about the emotions that we elicit when we do it right. It was everything. Wow. Um, so, and I always go back to that and just, I'll even just reread it , because, because I was so enamored with the final product and I just said, yes, this is exactly what I love doing.

[00:14:43] Steve Redmond: It's just like I said, The artist engineer, the the figuring it out and then expressing it. That's just the tandem ask. That's 

[00:14:50] Georgiana Dearing: it. Yeah. How big was that company when you wrote the brand Bible? 

[00:14:54] Steve Redmond: Like in revenue, roughly? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Similarly, let's see, I wanna say they were at, I think one and a half to 2 million Uhhuh , and their goal as quickly as possible was to get up to 10, to maybe.

[00:15:06] Steve Redmond: What they were also doing is they were also going through a structural change. So they were selling a series of products and had realized that there was one product in particular of everything that they sold that was really just flying off the shelf. Like they couldn't do enough of it. And so they said, we want to just do this one.

[00:15:23] Steve Redmond: Okay, but how do we pivot? Like our name doesn't make sense anymore. Our positioning doesn't make sense anymore. We're not even sure of the model. Like if we want to. That means that we're up against a whole new other group of competitors. So how do we assess that market and position us, tell us who we need to be in this new market to be successful to, and to really, 

[00:15:42] Georgiana Dearing: to support this one thing that, 

[00:15:43] Steve Redmond: yeah, yeah.

[00:15:44] Steve Redmond: To define this one thing, like what's the way that we can do it, that no one else, because they knew when they were onto something. , but like so many owners, they're so boots on the ground, they're so in the daily. Mm. That for them to step back and then take this broad global picture of everything, that's the paradigm that I faced with more than anything else.

[00:16:02] Steve Redmond: Oh, that is, people are just looking down the hood of their cars metaphorically, and the ability to step back and then just figure out where should we even go. 

[00:16:10] Georgiana Dearing: It's just too hard. No, that's the absolute thing that they face. There's so much in the day-to-day operations that they can't get into what the marketing should be doing.

[00:16:20] Georgiana Dearing: Right. Well, I'm just curious, I wanna ask you, do you know, how big are they now, six years later when you handed them that Bible? Yeah, 

[00:16:27] Steve Redmond: that's a good question. So I don't know the exact scale. I continue to get their emails, , so I'm, I've a customer of theirs since that time. I know that they've hired a VP of product development to kind of help continue to expand their product line.

[00:16:40] Steve Redmond: I know they have probably six or seven more people in sales, different regional sales managers. Oh, so they grew, things like that. Yeah. So I definitely think that they've grown and there's always a point in time, well, I'll kind of circle back around and say, so how is everything going? And I did that maybe with them six months to a year after working for them.

[00:16:55] Steve Redmond: But after a bit more time just to circle back and say, we made some. Details, assumptions at that point. How are things floating? Is everything still doing what we thought it was gonna do? And is the traction there that we thought would be there? Yeah. 

[00:17:08] Georgiana Dearing: I'm laughing a little bit because your company name is Rival Brands and I'm like, you and I have worked in the same space and Ways

[00:17:17] Georgiana Dearing: I was like, I don't feel very at all. . . 

[00:17:21] Steve Redmond: Well, there's some, I'm going into a lot of detail, but I always loved the name Sterling. And then I just felt like, well, when they say their name, they're actually, this is our name. But there was so much on Condra with that, right? We, we turn brands into Sterling brands and everything, and then there were some other background personal issues going on, and I just felt like the name rival suited me at the time.

[00:17:40] Steve Redmond: Now, every once in a while, every once in a while I hear, I feel like it sounds so aggressive, , but at the end of the day it's, yeah, it's just put out there as well. Everyone's gotta be different. And at the end of the. We all are rivals, whether it's just within ourselves or mm-hmm. . Yes, of course with competitors out there, but it's not so cutthroat as it may sound

[00:17:58] Georgiana Dearing: No, don't seem entirely cutthroat. I am not . Well, the reason that I asked you on was because of your topic when you spoke at the Winter Fancy Food Show. So I've just kinda been watching you and then when I saw you, your topic that you were speaking at specialty food, it made me wanna bring you 

[00:18:17] Steve Redmond: on, so, oh, great.

[00:18:19] Steve Redmond: That was a nice opportunity for me. I enjoyed it. 

[00:18:21] Georgiana Dearing: How did that come about? How did you get to do that? Did you pitch to 

[00:18:24] Steve Redmond: them? No, it's just a confluence of knowing different people and they happen to speak to each other and mention my name, and I had gone to the summer Fancy Food Show last year. It was the first show I had been to in a while, just through Covid and everything.

[00:18:39] Steve Redmond: I went there personally and happened to be walking around. I have a client here in Vermont Tortilla Company and was working with them and they had joined a group called Slack, c p. I don't know if you've, if you've heard, or I'm sorry, startup, cpg and they have a Slack channel. Yeah, I'm in there. Startup cpg.

[00:18:57] Steve Redmond: Yeah. So they had contacted somebody, a woman named Victoria Ho, who's on the west coast, out in California to help with some other aspects of their preparation for growth. And so she and I happened to get an opportunity to work together in working with Vermont Tortilla. And I really, really enjoyed her input.

[00:19:18] Steve Redmond: She aligns similar to the tested services that I provide, but a little bit more on the, so acquiring ingredients and how to sort of manufacture in the right way and packaging processes and things like that. So some overlap, but certainly some, a lot of complimentary skillset. And I just really enjoyed working with her.

[00:19:35] Steve Redmond: And we just kept in touch without really any indication of when we could ever work together again, but with an eye on the possib. She's on the board of the National Specialty Food Association, and I think had mentioned my name to them. I happened to go to, and I was unaware of this, but I had gone to one of the sessions at the Summer Fancy Food Show, and I guess when they saw that I had gone to that a few days after I got home.

[00:19:59] Steve Redmond: I just got a call and said, Hey, we've saw that you sign up for one of our sessions and we know that, you know Victoria Ho, and as things happen so many times in business, whether it's referrals and things like that, people kind of call you seemingly out of the blue. But there was a path Yeah, that had connected me to them, and they just said, we would love to talk to you about the idea of presenting.

[00:20:18] Steve Redmond: Would you be interested? And it was a bit of a bucket list thing. I mean, I do a lot of speaking engagements, but I guess I've been serving this crew, this population of people. Food producers and founders for a long time now. So I was pretty excited about the opportunity just to go back and head out to Vegas for the show, which I had planned on doing anyways, but now is even doubly exciting.

[00:20:38] Steve Redmond: So 

[00:20:39] Georgiana Dearing: let's talk about the topic that you spoke about at the Fancy Foods Show. Could you name the title again and tell me sort of the premise behind 

[00:20:47] Steve Redmond: that? Yeah, yeah. It was, your revolution needs to be Synchron. Okay. . Yeah. . Is that what you remember? ? 

[00:20:55] Georgiana Dearing: No, I remember that your notice was you're gonna speak about brand and its impact on 

[00:21:00] Steve Redmond: packaging.

[00:21:02] Steve Redmond: Yeah, sure. I mean, that was the hook in the description. And actually, yeah, so there was an overall title to the session itself, and I'll be honest with you, I didn't come up with that title. They sort of presented, we want the topic to be. How do you feel about that? And then when I said, huh, well, how flexible they are?

[00:21:19] Steve Redmond: And they were like, not entirely . So I said, okay, well what if like, can I name my part of it? Sure, yes. You can name your part of it. And when you speak at a session like that, I'm not speaking on behalf of Rival, so it's not a presentation that's littered with my logo or Right. My brand colors or anything like it's, it's on behalf of the Specialty Food Association, so I still had to clear it, but the title of mine was specifically, your Revolution needs to be synchronized.

[00:21:46] Georgiana Dearing: Well, I'm intrigued. Tell me how I can synchronize my revolution. 

[00:21:50] Steve Redmond: So the premise was, is that for me, I operate in the idea that a brand is just simply an idea. That's all it is. It's just an. And you create a product as the primary way that you share that. . And when you have that idea about a new product, at the end of the day you are trying to get people to come on board.

[00:22:08] Steve Redmond: You're saying, I have this idea, and it's kind of counter to some of the ideas that exist right now. I'd like to share my idea with you and I'd love it if you join me in trying to change things. Mm-hmm. . So to me, I feel like I tend to choose words that hit above their weight. I said to the people in the group, I'm like, you are all leading a revolution.

[00:22:24] Steve Redmond: You may not think of it that way, but why not think of it that way. You're all doing something really special, especially when you think as a. , you're all changing the way we eat. You're all changing the way people make a living, and there's a lot of things that you're trying to change collectively within the food industry.

[00:22:38] Steve Redmond: So when I talk about the revolution needs to be synchronized, part of it was as the leader of your revolution, all the ideas that support your brand, they all have to work together. And many times that's the thing that isn't happening. Yes, go ahead. Right, and so the segue there was I have a way of talking about brand strategy that really it's a framework, like there are so many frameworks.

[00:23:01] Steve Redmond: Of course, I think mine's a little bit unique, not highly unique. I mean, again, if you talk to 10 strategists, we probably all talk fairly similarly. Mm-hmm. . But I think what I have found is that by talking about their. Not focusing on the product and not just focusing on what it is that they do, but just let's just focus on the idea, like how is that gonna be supported?

[00:23:20] Steve Redmond: I call it just a brand ecosystem of ideas. Sure. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. , so, so you have a brand idea and it needs to be supported by other ideas. Just like something that's alive and an ecosystem have to, has things around it that help it survive and remain healthy. Mm-hmm. , and a lot of those ideas in the framework, those ideas fall into three buckets.

[00:23:38] Steve Redmond: Ideas about your company, ideas about. Competitive set and ideas about the consumer that you want to talk to. Mm-hmm. and some of those ideas have names like values and purpose and positioning statements and things like that. And we can go by those names. Mm-hmm. or we don't have to, but that's sort of the common way that other people will understand what these ideas mean to you.

[00:23:59] Steve Redmond: Um, so that's the segue. That's the gist is that there's a whole bunch of ideas that generally need to exist inside and outside of your business. And as the leader, you are likely the one that has to be the one who's in command of what those ideas are. And they all have to be in sync. And the great thing is, is when they are synchronized, if one of those ideas changes, a new competitor comes along, or you wanna launch a new product, or you want to sell to a different customer, well great.

[00:24:25] Steve Redmond: What other ideas have to change to allow you to. You understand the ecosystem that you're in, and then if something changes in the ecosystem, you understand, well, how does all this need to change or does it in order to meet that new idea that we're 


[00:24:38] Georgiana Dearing: with? Oh, that's a good, yeah, it's a good organizing principle because like, I deal a lot with business owners.

[00:24:45] Georgiana Dearing: Entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas all the time. A lot of start, and sometimes it actually isn't a good one for your primary purpose, , right? Yeah, that was good. Your revolution should be synchronized. I appreciate that. I 

[00:24:59] Steve Redmond: think you probably got a few deer in the headlight moments, but I was okay with that.

[00:25:03] Georgiana Dearing: Well, I know that you started by describing yourself as a graphic designer, and then you talk about strategy. So where does that intersection of brand strategy and the visual like connect? Could you tell me how strategy is expressed in package design? I so often see people in some of the peer groups I'm in, put a label up and go, I just got this proof.

[00:25:27] Georgiana Dearing: Do you like it? Hmm. Yeah. 

[00:25:29] Steve Redmond: Right, right. And I was. 

[00:25:30] Georgiana Dearing: Well, that's really not how to evaluate package design. 

[00:25:35] Steve Redmond: Yeah. So let's see. I think your question is how does brand strategy affect something like packaging? Yes. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So that was sort of the, the full scope of what we talked about, the special food, but.

[00:25:46] Steve Redmond: really having a strategy in place means that a lot of the decisions that go into packaging are no longer subjective. Mm-hmm. , you know, they're based on specific things that you're trying to communicate. Yes. And I had gone through a few case studies of clients that I had done work for, or just other brands that I was familiar enough with that I could say, if we sort of assumed that their brand strategy is kind of focused on this right here, we can start to identify why their packaging looks the way that it.

[00:26:11] Steve Redmond: and so I looked at a company like I held out the example of Toferi, and I don't know if it's their most recent packaging, but they had some packaging that certainly had their brand on it, and it said what the product was, which was plant-based hamburgers. Mm-hmm. . But the primary display panel was probably 90% messaging about how they're trying to save the planet, just generically speaking.

[00:26:31] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. . And so from a brand strategy, I said, so part of their why, which they clearly know because of a brand strategy, because that's what the role they're trying to play. They decided that it was so important that they wanted to make it the primary message almost at the cost of everything else. That typically is on a primary display panel.

[00:26:48] Steve Redmond: And that was a strategic decision. It probably wasn't something that just decided willy-nilly and said, yeah, let's just do that and see what happens. It was probably a very specific choice. To really put something out in front of themselves that was gonna blow a hole at retail, that was gonna communicate something incredibly potent and deliberate.

[00:27:07] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. . So when you have a brand strategy, you can take those measured risks or just if you're looking to just create more kind of alcohol, like standard packaging or take a a more standard approach to packaging, it just allows you to understand, well, if the consumer is gonna be a little confused about our product, it's probably pretty good that we need to have a picture.

[00:27:25] Steve Redmond: Yes. And if they aren't readily gonna understand what our product is because it's from some other country, then maybe we need to be really, really clear about what country has comes from. So that has to be fairly prominent on our package. Right? And if we have ingredients that people aren't gonna be familiar with, or they're not gonna understand how to prepare or something, you just ask those questions about who is it we're trying to sell this to?

[00:27:44] Steve Redmond: What do they already know? What don't they know? Mm-hmm. , how do we make sure that we stand out against all the other packages that will be in our proximity at. And you make the decisions based on what the strategy is telling you needs to be done to convey your brand most successfully in that moment.

[00:28:00] Steve Redmond: I've had some clients that without a strategy, everything seems important, , and so, and I'm sure we've been down there and there's sort of a joke video that's been on YouTube for a long time. What if Microsoft designed Apples packaging? Right? Yeah. Yeah. , but we've, you've probably been down the road where you have a fairly decent piece of packaging happening and then all of a sudden, what else is important?

[00:28:19] Steve Redmond: And the client says, we need to also say this. Where can that go? It's like, oh, well we can squeeze it here. It's too small though. It's pretty important. We should make it bigger. Yeah. make it bigger. And then they say, but you know what, now this doesn't show up so much. And that's important too. Yeah. Can we make that bigger?

[00:28:34] Steve Redmond: You know, I mean, so you can chase your tail where a strategy sets the standard and it sets the priorities and it sets the messages and it gives you the script. There's still a lot of ways it can manifest graphically, but at least it allows you to come up with solutions that all meet the same criteria.

[00:28:49] Georgiana Dearing: Well, definitely leading the strategy in your business kind of helps avoid those order taking assignments . Correct? Correct. For sure. They crop up all the time though. Mm-hmm. and I always try and say, is that an ask or a tell? Do I have to do it that way or are you asking me to solve a 

[00:29:07] Steve Redmond: problem ? Right. No, absolutely.

[00:29:09] Steve Redmond: For sure. Two different 

[00:29:11] Georgiana Dearing: things. So when you take on a new client, like, can you describe any of the things that you do that get you to the heart of a brand strategy? Like what is the give and take with you and a client once you work through this? 

[00:29:23] Steve Redmond: Yeah, yeah. So is is that as like if I'm gonna be doing a brand identity or something like that, or mm-hmm.

[00:29:30] Steve Redmond: yeah. So I do have the framework that I have, but I don't generally, we usually have what I call what's business for you? , and so that's where I really just sort of sit down and say like, let's just kind of talk, what has happened, what you'd like to see happen. Mm-hmm. , how are things going now? A whole laundry list of just.

[00:29:47] Steve Redmond: Conversation points, you could call it an interview, but it's really, it can be anywhere from an hour to a couple of hours of just getting down and just asking them a lot. So I really understand where they are and the place, mm-hmm. that they exist in and what they're trying to accomplish. Because I think even at this point, I think I have enough acumen in terms of how these businesses should be going, how they should be growing, what are the telltale signs that things are going right or things are going wrong.

[00:30:09] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. , then I can kind of identify maybe some of the things. Need to happen that they're not aware of. But we usually just have that big kickoff meeting. And then through that I can also just understand generally like the type of person that they are or, or what the vibe is of the group. And I understand, is this a group that really is gonna appreciate sticking very strictly to this framework and the workshops that deal with the framework?

[00:30:33] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. , are they gonna love checking off boxes and saying, good, we got that. , and are they gonna appreciate all the names and titles to all the different things that we're doing, or are they gonna be looser about it? Mm-hmm. , are they gonna be, you know, a little bit more shoot from the hip? Am I gonna have to sort of harness their energy a little bit more so that it gives me an idea of what's gonna be best and how to work with them?

[00:30:55] Steve Redmond: and then I'll usually just put together, I'm constantly putting together mini proposals during the process, just saying, okay, this is how I see the next few phases happening. Mm-hmm. , because I might put together a very broad proposal that just covers the broad brushstroke events and timeframes and scopes of work and things like that.

[00:31:12] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. . Um, but once we get involved, in order for them to really feel like I'm on top of it, that I have a clear plan. Mm-hmm. that I'm, listen. . Mm-hmm. . I put together what I just call mini proposals just to say, this is how I'm gonna project, or this is how I'm gonna suggest that we move forward. Mm-hmm. and the timing, can you all buy into it?

[00:31:29] Steve Redmond: Does it work? Does it fit? So it's just that constant process of gaining more traction and doing more work and then putting together a little mini proposal to explain how the next phase is gonna go. And I do that also partially because at the very onset it's kind of difficult to always know the exact minutiae of progress that you're gonna make.

[00:31:44] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. , you know, three months down the line. So I sort of limit the amount of detail of the work that's gonna be happening further down the road to when we get right at the precipice of it. Mm-hmm. and then I start to outline it in more. . But I think the reason why I remain as an individual, um, pulling together a team when I need to is because I do really like the one-on-one interaction.

[00:32:04] Steve Redmond: I do really enjoy the intimacy of working directly with these people. And I'll be honest with you in David c Baker's book, and I found this to be riveting, I really, of all the books that I read and I read a lot, it was called The Business of E. Yes, I have that. Mm-hmm. . Yeah, just that idea, that feeling that you have when people really are interested in what you have to say and what it feels to be in, I don't wanna say it's about ego, like it's not about me being in a leadership position.

[00:32:33] Steve Redmond: It's really, I look at it more as like mentorship because what I'm ultimately trying to do is take everything that I'm taking them through and have them become the teachers of it. Yes, learn about it. I can give you the answers and tell you all these things and just put it down in black and white and hand you this book, but it's a catch a fish kind of scenario.

[00:32:51] Steve Redmond: Oh, sure. I'd rather just take you through this and make you an intimate part of the process and really have you hear all the things that I'm think. To the point where we really are just orchestrating this conversation, this back and forth, that's just so fluid because ultimately the more you talk, the more you decide, the more it gets ingrained in them.

[00:33:11] Steve Redmond: What, well, they have 

[00:33:12] Georgiana Dearing: ownership because they should be doing contributed like you put something forward. And they reflect and give back. Mm-hmm. , you know, that is a good fit. That is not a good fit. Oh, you raised a point. Yeah. We're gonna go this direction and not that. Yeah. And so then they own the result.

[00:33:28] Georgiana Dearing: Mm-hmm. of the thing you're creating and with them, you're doing it for them, but 

[00:33:32] Steve Redmond: with them. Yeah. Yeah. And we learn through articulation, so the more that we can talk about it and just mm-hmm. , we all come up with new ideas and we try them on like shoes, but we have to say them and walk around in them for a while before we really can decide.

[00:33:45] Steve Redmond: Yeah. I think I agree with the idea that I just came up with. Yeah. Yeah. That fits. I like that one. So we have to have those moments where we try them on. So that's the style that I'm in, is that I just like to try to get them engaged and try on those ideas as we're going along and say, walk in them for a while, like how is that feeling?

[00:34:02] Steve Redmond: That's really where I'm at my best and I think it also feeds, at this point in my career, I have a little bit of a mentor built up inside of me, for sure. . So I definitely, yeah, I definitely like that process and that ability. Walk away and have them feel like they are better leaders of their business than they were before.

[00:34:20] Steve Redmond: Because that's really ultimately one of the things that has to happen or that should happen, is that they just become a better leader. 

[00:34:25] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. It's, uh, there's clarity. Mm-hmm. when you go through this process. So they have they have more clarity. Yeah. When you see something, the final end product of creative and it communicates precisely.

[00:34:38] Georgiana Dearing: what you're trying to do and then you, you can sort of get your arms around like, yes, these are the steps we should be taking. Mm-hmm. . 

[00:34:44] Steve Redmond: And then there's just one other thing that I'll sneak in cuz I know we've been talking about this for a while, but the other Sure. Part of that I love is there's a little bit of a cheerleader in there in that process as well.

[00:34:52] Steve Redmond: Oh yeah. Because oftentimes the ideas that you're bringing to the table are maybe things that they wouldn't have dared to think on their own, or that they wouldn't have really felt comfortable. Sometimes people don't. Enter a different phase of their business because they feel like, oh, that would be like bragging.

[00:35:07] Steve Redmond: It's just like, but you do this exceptionally well. Like you need to see that. You need to see this. You do this exceptionally well. You've gotta just lean on that hard and don't feel bad about it. You're amazing at it. Like you say, you know it, but you're not willing to lead with it. You're not looking, you're not willing to embrace it, and I'm.

[00:35:25] Steve Redmond: If you don't, who would so do it? Yeah. Because your 

[00:35:28] Georgiana Dearing: consumer's not going to infer, they think they're not gonna infer that point. Mm-hmm. , you don't have time for it. . 

[00:35:36] Steve Redmond: Yeah. Yeah. You've gotta beat your drum. The loudest. . Yeah. So it might sound deafening to you, but it'll carry. 

[00:35:43] Georgiana Dearing: Well, this was, I just feel like we've been geeking out a little bit about strategy and client relationships.

[00:35:49] Georgiana Dearing: I've enjoyed it so much. That can happen, . Yeah. But what is next for you, rival brands? What is 

[00:35:56] Steve Redmond: your next step? So, let's see. So I'm always just trying to evolve and hone in on the right client, balance the number and the scale and things like that. Mm-hmm. , if I could repeat the Jasper Hills out there, that would be fantastic.

[00:36:10] Steve Redmond: One of the latest things that I've done that I've been working on for two years, which is ridiculously a long time, cuz I shared it like two years ago, and. I got into a little bit of analysis paralysis and driving for perfection, but I just launched four brand strategy workbooks. Oh, okay. So a four volume series.

[00:36:28] Steve Redmond: and it's not meant to teach other designers how to become brand strategists. It's actually geared towards somebody that might be in a marketing department or a producer, a business owner that wants to attempt working on their own brand strategy, or somebody in marketing that wants to lead, sort of developing a brand strategy for her company.

[00:36:50] Steve Redmond: It's a four part series that takes 'em through. How to build out the ideas. Again, it's still based on that ecosystem idea, how to build out all of our internal ideas and our internal culture and values. How do we build those things out? and then it takes 'em through. This is how you go about doing a fairly productive competitive audit.

[00:37:08] Steve Redmond: Here are the different types of forms that you can use, and this is where you can go for information and things like that. And then for the customer, it's similar. It's this is how you identify your different customers and mm-hmm , the demographics and psychographics and how you analyze them and how you start to create positionings for them.

[00:37:26] Steve Redmond: Value proposition. So they're somewhat fill in the blank, but I purchased so many different brand strategy books, , like, just to see what was out there, like my own research. So they're fill in the blank, but there's, in total, they're a little over a hundred pages total. So there's a lot of context. Oh, wow.

[00:37:41] Steve Redmond: And there's a lot of, before you dive into this exercise, do this one first and then do this one, and then. I think they're the most, and I've used them for a few years. We have a cohort here in Vermont called Launch vt. Mm-hmm. that looks to bring to market and to, uh, draw investors to Vermont startups.

[00:37:59] Steve Redmond: Mm-hmm. and for the past two years in their development, they were the brand strategy curriculum for that cohort. Mm-hmm. . So they've been kind of tested. By rounds of different cohorts and that's where I, as soon as they asked me if I wanted to do it, I was like, of course. So I could let them use it and get feedback and refine and upgrade and make better.

[00:38:18] Steve Redmond: But I just launched them on my website and I'm pretty proud of them. Yeah. Oh, that's, well, you 

[00:38:23] Georgiana Dearing: should be, that's a body of work for work is a 

[00:38:26] Steve Redmond: lot. It took a lot of time, , but it was all good. Like I said, it was a little bit of striving for perfection and somebody. Just launched them. All right, . I'm like, ok.

[00:38:35] Steve Redmond: Okay, I'll do it. Yeah. I was guilty of my own. I was guilty of the things that I've talked to other people about not doing. But when do we take our own advice? 

[00:38:43] Georgiana Dearing: So tell me where can people find these workbooks? What's the website have? 

[00:38:48] Steve Redmond: So, yeah, so they're at the rival and the rival 

[00:38:52] Georgiana Dearing: brands. In front of it, 

[00:38:55] Steve Redmond: the, because I won't get into this, but some guy owns Rival Bruns and he won't sell it to me.

[00:39:00] Steve Redmond: Oh, 

[00:39:00] Georgiana Dearing: I've been in that. I've been in that seat before. But go ahead, . Yeah, 

[00:39:04] Steve Redmond: so they'll be purchasable probably in a few weeks. We're just working out the bugs of the storefront for them, but they're there and you can at least sign up. I have a sample exercise and sort of a little mini deep dive into the content of all the.

[00:39:19] Steve Redmond: That people can download just to explore and see if it's right for them. I generally tell people that they're not easy. That's the feedback that I've gotten is that they're not easy and I've tried to make them easier. Like I've taken that feedback. I'm like, okay, well I don't want people to feel stumped.

[00:39:33] Steve Redmond: It's okay if they're hard to do because I think a lot of this soul searching can be difficult. Yes. But I don't want them to technically be difficult, like I can't figure them out or something like that. So, I mean, you know, brand strategy, it's sometimes it's asking questions that are just really, really hard to answer on your.

[00:39:49] Steve Redmond: So I, I would just say you're not gonna get 'em done on a weekend. Yeah. You're not gonna just sit down at the dinner table and just whip them out. I think they're hard, but I think what I was hoping to set people up for is put in the effort, and we all know that process can be pretty cathartic if you can really sit down and do it and mm-hmm.

[00:40:04] Steve Redmond: and I think just long and hard about some of these questions about what you're trying to do with your brand. So Yeah. So they can get an idea of, is this really right for me and do I really want this? And then they can come back in a few weeks and. Well, Steve, 

[00:40:16] Georgiana Dearing: I feel like I've eaten up a big chunk of your afternoon and I wanna say thank you, , for spending all this time with me.

[00:40:24] Georgiana Dearing: You, it really, I feel like I invited you on and then started fangirling a little bit about your work because everything you've described I agree with, so we're either both very, very smart or, or very 

[00:40:36] Steve Redmond: isolated in thinking, uh, well, I should have brought up something a little bit more controversial that way.

[00:40:40] Steve Redmond: It could have been a new conversation, but maybe for another, Yeah. 

[00:40:45] Georgiana Dearing: Well, I wanna say thank you for joining me. I really enjoyed it. And we have, your website is the rival, and I follow you on Instagram. What's your Instagram handle again? Oh yeah, 

[00:40:57] Steve Redmond: it's just at the At Rival Brands. At Rival Brands.

[00:41:00] Georgiana Dearing: Well, thank you. Thanks so, so 

[00:41:02] Steve Redmond: much. Yeah, yeah. Thank you so much. Yeah, I really appreciate it. Who doesn't like to talk a little bit about themselves? Every once in a while, but no, this has been a lot of fun and I've certainly, I first became aware of you specifically because Virginia and my sister lives in Virginia, so all of a sudden it's like, oh my gosh.

[00:41:16] Steve Redmond: The next time I go down there, I could see if we could meet . 

[00:41:18] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, oh, maybe we should try that sometime. And to all my listeners, I'll let you go too. Thank you so much for joining me, and if you like this episode, please. Hit that like or share button, pass us along. It always, it's the easiest and cheapest thing you can do to support a small business is to spread the word.

[00:41:40] Georgiana Dearing: And that's a wrap foodie. Friends, thanks for listening. And if you wanna learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at VA foody on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the. And tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.

[00:36:59] Steve Redmond: See if we can meet . 

[00:37:00] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, well maybe we should try that sometime.

[00:37:04] Georgiana Dearing: And to all my listeners, I'll let you go too. Thank you so much for joining me. And if you like this episode, please hit that like or share button. Pass us along. it always, it's the easiest and cheapest thing you can do to support a small business. It's to spread the word. And that's a wrap.

[00:37:22] Georgiana Dearing: Foodie, friends.