- Players: Jethro Braun and Brett Horwitz
- Company: Zang Chocolate
- Launched: 2015
- Visit: www.zangchocolate.com
1. Find the right product
Friends and part-time entrepreneurs since varsity, chocolate wasn’t the initial grand plan for Brett and Jethro. “We started a printing business together while we were still at UCT,” says Brett. “We even had a few good clients, including Truworths and Hello Kitty, but it was a saturated market, and we realised we didn’t have a passion for it.”
Neither of them was a chocoholic either, so how did the idea for Zang develop? “We were exposed to an international caffeinated chocolate brand,” explains Jethro. “We really took to the idea. We didn’t look at it as a new chocolate that we wanted to bring to the market, but as an exciting new energy product. We’re a caffeine and energy company, delivered in a chocolate and not a drink.”
In fact, in chocolate form the caffeine has a slow release, and the cocoa fat means it’s a consistent release. “One small chocolate has the equivalent of half a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine,” adds Jethro.
“We’d found something that we were excited about, and that we really believed the market would get behind as well.” It was time to find partners.
2. Find a great partner
Zang’s success is based on a number of important partnerships that Brett and Jethro have developed. First, the entrepreneurs needed a chocolatier to help them produce the product.
“We spent eight months searching for the right chocolatier,” says Jethro. “We kept reaching out to companies and they’d say, ‘no, we can’t do what you want’.” Eventually, they found Cocoa Fair, an entrepreneurial chocolatier in Cape Town.
“They were interested in the idea and willing to work with us to develop it,” explains Brett. “We spent months working on the right recipe and developing the process of combining chocolate and caffeine.
“We went there after hours, working together and mixing batch after batch of chocolate.”
Work together to create something new
Today, Cocoa Fair is the sole supplier of Zang, and the successful partnership is based on the fact that two entrepreneurial businesses were willing to work together to create something new and exciting.
Product in hand, Jethro and Brett now needed to find an investor.
“FMCG products are extremely expensive to launch; you can’t bootstrap this kind of business if you want to target mainstream retail.”
Armed with research and a great pitch, the partners attracted the attention of Ian and Garth Solomon from Evolve Capital, but they wouldn’t commit to an investment until they’d run the idea past a friend, Grant Rushmere, the founder of Bos Ice Tea. “Ian wanted to hear whether Grant thought the product would find a market in South Africa,” explains Brett.
In fact, not only would Grant love the idea, but he wanted to partner with the start-up as well. “Grant had been working on a brand for a relaxation drink. He had the concept design, branding and name developed, but he thought our chocolate was a better fit for it than the relaxation drink he had been working on.”
The young entrepreneurs jumped on the idea. Not only were they receiving capital from Evolve, but an industry expert whose advice would be invaluable, not to mention the brand that he had developed. And so Zang caffeinated chocolate was born.
Partner for success
Finally, the partners contacted Pick n Pay’s incubation programme, which supports entrepreneurial businesses, and were placed on the national retailer’s listings for head office and family-owned stores.
“Without these partners our business wouldn’t be where it is today,” says Jethro.
“Developing good relationships is key to success, but you need to find the right people with whom you can work and share a vision.”
3. Get noticed
Zang had a soft launch at the end of 2014, with Jethro securing shelf and counter space in a few coffee shops, delis and forecourts in Cape Town. “We were looking specifically for places where we would be the only product on the counter or at the till, so that we’d get noticed,” says Jethro.
“You want people to feel like they’re seeing you everywhere. Bold packaging helps this, and so does placement.”
By April 2015, the business was ready for its official launch. “We needed to make a splash,” says Jethro. “Something that would get people talking.”
The activation was staged on First Thursday, and was based on massive nacho libre wrestlers giving people ‘pick me ups’ as the world’s first human taxi service. “We videoed it and put it on YouTube, but we received incredible local and international media coverage as well. It was fun, different and people wanted to talk about it and share it — the fact that we’d managed to come up with a concept that was a ‘world first’ meant we received international attention as well.”
At the final tally, R100 000 was spent on the activation, resulting in R300 000 worth of earned media. “Because it was editorial coverage, the earned media can be doubled as well,” says Brett. “That activation was worth R600 000.”
Keep convincing stores to stock you
And it did its job. People started talking about Zang. “Consumers wanted to try us, but more importantly, store buyers had heard of us,” says Jethro. “Even though we had a Pick n Pay listing, you still have to convince individual stores to stock you. For garage forecourts that can buy outside of head office listings, this makes even more of a difference.”
The business is being strategic about its messaging though. “Successful branding offers a simple but powerful message, and then builds on it,” explains Jethro. “First, we wanted to develop the idea that we were a Cape Town-based company, and the new kids on the block.
Develop a key differentiator
“Next was our key differentiator: We’re caffeinated chocolate. Once that message is entrenched, we can start working on the health benefits that we offer. We’re made from 100% cocoa butter, and therefore contain no palm oil.
“You need to build that brand message slowly; there’s no rush. You want people to understand and embrace your brand and message, and for that, you can’t bombard them with too much information at once.”
4. Focus on cash flow
Cash flow is essential for both start-ups and established businesses. “It’s a balancing act,” explains Brett.
“Too much cash sitting in stock is dangerous. You need cash flow, and you want to maintain shelf life and freshness.”
As a result, the business works on an inventory system that makes more frequent orders to avoid sitting on stock. “Cocoa Fair is also an entrepreneurial business that needs cash flow, so they want COD terms, but they’ve given us a favourable rate in exchange.”
5. Build your market
Even though Zang is on Pick n Pay’s main listing for head office and family-owned stores through the retailer’s incubator programme, Brett and Jethro don’t want to grow too quickly. “We don’t want to move too fast,” explains Brett.
“We need to learn the ‘Pick n Pay’ way and build a strong foundation before we grow further. Currently we’re on 600 listings. The system puts you on SAP, orders come through and you need to be able to deliver on them. If you don’t, you get a negative strike rating. That’s how products disappear off shelves and don’t get ordered again.”
“You need to be ready,” adds Jethro. “They opened us up to a large amount of stores. We listed with Pick n Pay and 300 orders for 300 stores came through. You need to make sure you’re ready for that kind of volume.”
“You can really damage your business and your brand if you get a listing, and orders come through, and you aren’t ready for it, either from a cash flow perspective, or because you can’t fill the order,” says Brett.
“The most important thing right now isn’t to grow our listings, but focus on the ones that we have. We need to saturate those listings, and then grow. We need to get our merchandising correct, and grow our base so that we can produce more to fill bigger orders — without damaging our cash flow. We’re in this for the long haul, and that takes strong foundations.”
Brush Up On Your Personal Branding To Cement Your Success As An Entrepreneur
Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge.
When you run your own business, you are the brand champion and the brand ambassador – in fact, you are the brand. That is why in all the turmoil of start-up or getting a new product launched, you need to spare a moment to step back.
Think about how you are presenting to the world the brand that is so precious to you and that means so much for your future. Your clients certainly want to know and even see evidence that you are deeply committed to your brand. But there is a fine line between living the brand and letting the brand take you over and cloud your better judgement.
This is where personal branding becomes as important as your innovative product solutions or your customer service excellence. Edgy entrepreneur is one thing – but clients might shy away if they think that you have stepped over the edge and are more involved in process than delivery.
Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge:
- Time management: Despite traffic problems or transport schedules, getting this right is vital. If you do not make it on time to an initial meeting with a client, this will raise alarm bells. The client’s immediate thought is, “Can I trust this person’s word about delivering on time?” Time is money and not being on time could ultimately cost you money.
- Look the part: If you look tired, dishevelled or have poor hygiene, instead of giving you a high five for pulling an all-nighter trying to troubleshoot a new product, clients might simply think that you do not fit with their corporate culture. Ask yourself if you even fit with your own corporate culture? Is this the way you want to present your brand and your business to the world?
- Clear the decks: You might just get away with your office or workshop looking like a tip where only you know where to find something. But do not let that attitude spill over into the world outside.
That apparently friendly and innocent courtesy of being escorted to your car by your host when you leave the meeting could cover them checking you out. Many business people judge potential service providers or partners by their car – not the brand but what it looks like.
Is it covered in dust and badly in need of a wash? Is it full of the rubbish of several lunches on the road and a muddle of paperwork? It is likely that they will deduce that this is how you run your business and how you would run your business relationship with them. In other words, the state of your car might get you the thumbs up or put an end to what had been a promising negotiation.
You can be how you like, do what you want when you are off duty. But when you are on your own business’s time, you are your own brand and you need to live up to it if you want to make your mark.
5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand
Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?
Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.
In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.
To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.
Show off your funny bone
One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.
Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.
Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.
Put your team members in the spotlight
Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.
Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.
Share user-generated content
Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.
Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.
If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.
Tell authentic stories
Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.
So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.
Show appreciation for your customers
Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.
Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.
Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.
Over to you
Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business
Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.
It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.
Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.
Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.
Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.
What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.
There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.
Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.
A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.
Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.
Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.
A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.