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How Mid Day Squares is shaking up an $8BN category
I am going to teach you how to build a $35M brand in just four years. Yet that’s not the best bit. I am going to show you how to do it by breaking a bunch of rules along the way, building a cult following and spending little to nothing on performance marketing. Sounds good right?
Let’s breakdown down the success behind Mid Day Squares.
#1 PICK A FIGHT
Many of you will be aware of the ‘challenger brand’. The one who leverages the ‘David Vs Goliath’ narrative to their advantage. The little guy taking on a far greater foe. Yet whilst this story can be captivating too often it translates into nothing more than tactics. Too often it translates to creative executions over something more meaningful.
Ref 1: Whilst ‘No Bollocks’ is a fantastic challenger brand creative campaign yet it didn’t really move beyond communications.
Mid Day Squares' (MDS) approach is refreshingly different. MDS challenger spirit isn’t tactical. Its challenger spirit is born directly from its founders & lives through everything they do.
“Some of the best words of advice I have received along my journey have been to solve your own problems, make decisions that feel unaverage and to be okay with being misunderstood.” Lezlie Karls, co-founder Mid Day Squares
Everything MDS does is disruptive & different. Whether that be their product, how they take on the competition or how they communicate. Their product doesn’t seek to copy or imitate legacy brands. Instead, their product exploits a lucrative gap in the market, combining the best of a chocolate bar & protein snack. The founders themself describe their product as ‘everything a chocolate bar isn’t & everything a protein bar wishes it was’.
Ref 2: MDS product disrupts the category by finding the perfect sweet spot between protein bars & chocolate bars.
When it comes to taking on the competition they have also moved far beyond traditional communications in a number of ways. They have built an incredibly loyal fan base that advocates strongly for the brand. A fanbase that has helped to showcase the very real demand for MDS. A demand that in turn has helped the brand secure far greater distribution & shelf space. In fact, 65% of their total sales now comes from retail stores such as Whole Foods and a wide variety of independent outlets.
Ref 3: MDS loyal fan base has helped the brand to secure fantastic distribution with 65% of sales now coming from in-store purchases (source: MDS).
They also grab attention by poking fun at other brands in incredibly creative ways. Probably the best example of this was the ‘diss track’ they created to poke fun at Hershey's chocolate after the bigger brand attempted to sue them.
Ref 4:MDS ‘diss track’ is a great example of how the brand moves beyond traditional comms to unleash its challenger spirit.
This approach is an important reminder to any of us working on a scale-up or challenger brand. That a challenger spirit should move beyond creative communications & live through everything the brand does.
#2 MEDIA COMPANY
There is a lot of evidence to show that broadcast media is one of the most effective ways to grow a brand. Yet when you are a startup, scaleup or challenger brand the budgets required are often out of reach.
Ref 5: There has been a lot of evidence to show that traditional broadcast media is one the of most effective ways to grow a brand (source: ThinkBox).
Despite this disadvantage there is still hope for smaller brands today. Because today any individual (or brand) with enough commitment, talent & creativity can achieve organic reach via social media platforms. And this is exactly what MDS do so well. How do they do this? Well, like all great disrupters, they looked beyond their category for inspiration. They didn’t look to mimic the likes of Hershey’s or Kraft's advertising. Instead, they looked at the likes of Shark Tank & Kardashians. And what did they realise? They realized that entertainment is an incredibly powerful force when it comes to building a fan base and brand.
“We are going to make a reality show on entrepreneurship. We’re going to be authentic and loud and transparent and show what’s actually happening on the shop floor: the good, the bad and the ugly of how we’re building our business. And we’re going to create fans, not customers.” Lezlie Karls, co-founder Mid Day Squares
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Ref 6: MDS organic channels feel more like a reality show than a brand channel.
Any smaller brand can learn from this approach. They can learn that if you cannot outspend, you need to outsmart. That if you cannot stretch to big broadcast budgets, leverage what you do have as an unfair advantage. Whether that be the fact that you have a smaller, more relatable founding team or simply getting people to route for your company as “the little guy”.
#3 STORY TELL DON’T OVERSELL
In truth building a media company is pretty pointless without good content. This is where MDS excels. Why? because they are master storytellers. A skill that so many brands fail to get right. Most brands are too scared to tell the most powerful authentic & real stories. They are too scared to reveal the lows as well as the highs of building a brand. They worry that showing weakness will be bad for business.
In contrast, MDS is fully transparent and authentic. They put their hearts on the line & are quite frank about their lowest moments. In fact, they have openly talked about their own struggles with mental health & the sacrifices they had to make.
Ref 7: MDS greatest talent is its ability to tell honest and powerful stories.
Any smaller brand can learn from this. They can learn that you should embrace authentic storytelling. Why? Because people relate more to people than corporations. And if you can convey this in your marketing you will likely reap the rewards.
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Any startup, scaleup or challenger brand can learn three important things from MDS. First, they should ‘pick a fight’ & ensure a challenger spirit lives through all they do (from product to comms). Second, if you are outspent you need to outsmart and think about using your media in different ways. And third, you should look to tell powerful & authentic stories. Stories that make people care about you and the brand you are building.
Expect big thinking & small typ0s. I'm #MadeByDyslexia
Co-Founder | Strategy PartnerMany thanks,