When studying successful businesses and entrepreneurs, it behooves the student to look at every sector. The food, beverage, health, and wellness space is hyper-competitive, and successful entrepreneurs in that area might have more to teach than most. One of the biggest disruptors in the space over the last decade has been KIND, and that’s the story the brand’s founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky, tells in Do the KIND Thing.
Daniel Lubetzky founded the brand as a “social enterprise,” where his goal was to get everyone to be kinder to one another. While these might sound like feel-good buzzwords, Do the KIND Thing goes over some of the ways Lubetzky’s brand has used this effort to forge a stronger relationship among its team members and with its customers. The result has been a more successful enterprise.
One of the ways in which Daniel Lubetzky tried to engage customers was with plastic cards that had the motto, “you’ve been kinded.” The idea was to encourage kind acts by giving these cards a code, having people pass them on after doing a kind act, and then letting them track the progress of their cards to see where they had been passed around.
In an outcome that probably won’t surprise you, the first version of the program that Daniel Lubetzky concocted didn’t scale far enough. The cards usually wouldn’t make it that far, because people were too busy to even care about tracking them most of the time. After some trial and error that involved charities, KIND came up with the appropriate solution:
These are cards we hand out to someone that we notice doing a kind act- for us or for someone else. Their purpose is to celebrate and recognize kindness. If I’m with my four children and a lady cedes her taxicab to us (which happens all the time) I hand her a #kindawesome card. If I’m on the subway and I notice that someone stands up to let an elderly lady or pregnant woman take a seat, I approach the person who stood up and hand him a card. I say, “That was kindawesome of you, and in appreciation of your kindawesomeness, you can go to this website and enter this code,” as I point to the information on the back of the card. If and when they go to the website and enter their code, we mail them a packet with a handful of KIND bars in appreciation of their kindness, along with another #kindawesome card for them to give to someone they spot Doing the Kind Thing. (pg. 217)
This version of the program that Daniel Lubetzky and his team eventually came up with not only incentivizes the generous acts the brand stands for, but rewards those who do them by giving them some free products. It makes business sense too, because the vast majority of people who try KIND products become repeat customers. In this way, both the business and the social causes are advanced.
This drives engagement and commitment with a brand. As you know – if you get someone to agree and act, that person is likely to continue agreeing.
You’ll find lessons like these throughout Do the KING Thing.
Product and Branding
Despite all the good that can be done with social causes, Daniel Lubetzky isn’t a starry-eyed hippy, at least when it comes to this. The product, he says, must be its own thing:
While a social mission can fill you and your team with purpose, and can generate loyalty from consumers and customers, it is no replacement for ensuring that your product or service wins on its core features. A social mission should never serve as a crutch to bypass quality, nor serve as the basis on which to try to attract consumers. Studies that indicate that consumers buy products because of its social mission, in my experience, are wrong. Consumers may want to think they do – and indeed, a company’s social mission may be a reason to buy once – but, in practice, they repeatedly buy what they truly need and feel fits their lifestyle best.
The mission does not sell the product; the product sells the product. (pg. 36)
One of the major reasons to read Do the KIND Thing is for the practical lessons it conveys on branding. The brand going from a startup to over a billion bars sold (and keep in mind, this came out three years ago), should tell you something. What’s even more impressive about Daniel Lubetzky and KIND’s success is that it comes in an ultra-competitive space that often comes with hassles. Shelf space has been the killer of many food items. When was the last time you looked at a thing on the bottom shelves in a grocery or convenience store?
Through strategic partnerships with a lot of retailers, Daniel Lubetzky and his company managed to explode in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, after many years of slow growth. While a lot of factors went into this success, including choosing the right people and trusting them to lead, branding and product selection were the most important things
Do the KIND Thing goes over the evolution of the product line. The unique selling proposition of KIND’s products is that they’re all made with real food. How can you tell a thing that’s made with real food? Simple – the more ingredients you can pronounce, the realer it is. There aren’t any soy lecithins or sorbitols in the products, which Daniel Lubetzky is keen to acknowledge throughout Do the KIND Thing.
Realizing that the wholesome ingredients were the key to the brand’s differentiation and success, Daniel Lubetzky and his team launched numerous products which disrupted a lot of categories in the snack food space. KIND innovated the fruit and nut bar, with other companies playing catch-up. In more recent years, KIND innovated the first-ever savory snack bar. The process to come up with a tagline for that product is an example of the company’s branding expertise:
Initially we were thinking of the brand name KIND Bold, but it sounded too generic. A lot of brands use “bold” as a descriptor. Among the hundreds of brand names we considered, we mulled over “Strong” because in addition to the bold flavors, the bar contained ten grams of protein. But “Strong” felt too aggressive and militaristic. We were trying to appeal to millennial males, but didn’t want to alienate female consumers. We were stuck.
We needed to invoke the AND philosophy. We literally incorporatated an ampersand – the universal symbol of AND – to craft our new brand: Strong & KIND, showing that you can be both things at once.
Kindness and strength are not normally thought of as going hand in hand, but it often takes strength to be kind when it matters – when someone is being bullied or when it may be embarrassing to stand up for those who are down. Strong & KIND evokes the courage to act with humanity when others may not.
The name also evokes the strength derived from the ingredients, including ten grams of all-natural protein (strength) from unprocessed almonds, seeds, and legumes, not from processed soy or whey or from any artificial compounds. In addition, the name suggests the experience of strong, bold flavors in a nutritional bar that is also kind to your taste buds. (pg. 270-1)
Thinking with AND
What of that “AND philosophy?” Daniel Lubetzky goes over that at the beginning of Do the KIND Thing. It’s a thing centered on solving seemingly irreconcilable contradictions which aren’t actually irreconcilable. Daniel Lubetzky showed that it was possible to make snacks that tasted healthy and came from nutritious ingredients. It’s about avoiding false compromises, challenging yourself to think imaginatively, and coming up with solutions that no one else came up with.
If this sounds like feel-good, cliched stuff, remember this – trying to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem is one of the best ways that you can get rich and free. If you can do so, or find a new take on an old solution with fewer negative trade-offs, you have the ingredients of a hugely successful enterprise. Daniel Lubetzky became as successful as he did because he found a newer, better answer to an old problem, the problem of snack bars that weren’t nutritionally valuable.
Can you think of a problem that has either no solution or a poor solution that could be improved on? If so, can you try to use the AND philosophy to come up with something that no one has seen before? Surely, you can. The problems that people have are endless. They range from having a want that can’t be adequately provided for (this was the path Daniel Lubetzky took to success) to problems they never even knew they had.
Do The KIND Thing invites its readers to start thinking about possible problems people have. Use the word AND to try to figure something new out. Daniel Lubetzky figured out that it was possible to have a great tasting snack bar AND make it with ingredients that weren’t horrible. Can you do the same for your potential problem?
Do The KING Thing is part memoir as well. Daniel Lubetzky has a family history that was rooted in the tragedy of the Holocaust which ultimately gave him the mindset that he has today. The book is mostly worth reading for its branding and business advice, but a thing like that doesn’t arise in a vacuum. If you don’t know the personal history of people, you won’t have a clear insight into their motivations. Do the KIND Thing provides all of that and then some.
To get a valuable lesson in branding and the mindset and work ethic of Daniel Lubetzky and a lot of other successful people, I recommend Do the KIND Thing.