Investing resources and energy into building a brand allow brands to scale. Having a strong brand leads to customer loyalties. Customer loyalties lead to repeat customers. Repeat customers provide free marketing — they often like to introduce brands to their friends. Once customers trust your brand, they are more open to try other products from the brand.
I had the pleasure to interview Willie Tsang. Willie is a special variety of entrepreneur who sees his ideas come to fruition and continually seeks to bring new ideas to life. Unafraid of calculated risks, Willie has dreamed of and grown several successful businesses, while staying true to his core interests. Willie’s newest enterprise, Way of Will, an essential oil-based body care system for people with active lifestyles, was inspired by something even closer to home. As Willie’s father’s health began to fail, Willie — along with his mother and sister — sat by his bedside to take care of him day and night. When cancer cells began to spread through his father’s body, his memory started to fail, and he grew confused by his surroundings. It was during this difficult time spent with his father that Willie started to notice that the only time he would react and show happiness was when he smelled food or other familiar scents around him. It was then that Willie came to understand how powerful scent could be. As a tribute to his father and to honor their close relationship and his lifelong mentorship, Willie began a journey through scent and aromatherapy that lead to the line of essential oil blends that currently make up Way of Will’s line of whole-body care products. With nearly a decade of product development experience in hand, Willie began to develop blends with a close friend who is a certified aromatherapist and started to learn more about the benefits of natural essential oils. Combined with Willie’s enthusiasm for fitness, he saw a niche in the market for high quality, plant-based essential oil care products geared towards those, like him, with active lifestyles. Not a bodybuilder by any means, Willie has a passion for training and considers himself very knowledgeable in this area. Developing a line of functional products based on natural ingredients, the power of essential oils and aromatherapy for people who work out is Willie’s more personal endeavor yet, because it is infused with his personal experiences and interests. It seemed appropriate to name the brand Way of Will; not only is it his namesake, it also represents willpower, which working out and pursuing your passion both require!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The idea for this brand was inspired by my dad when he was very ill and stayed in the hospital for eight months. Cancerous cells spread to his brain, which caused him to be confused and unable to recognize a lot of things around him. Although he couldn’t express himself well; my sister, mom and I took care of him day and night; trying to stimulate his mind in every way. I started to notice that the only time he would react and show happiness was when he smelled food or other familiar scents around him. It was then that I started to realize how powerful scent could be and started to investigate the benefits of scent stimulation.
Based on my product development experience, and with the help of a certified aromatherapist, I started to learn more about the benefits of natural essential oils. I have been working out and going to the gym for more than 10 years. While I’m not a bodybuilder by any means, I am very passionate and consider myself very knowledgeable in this area. Based on my experience, I discovered a lot of behaviors and needs from people who go to the gym. I thought, “How great would it be to have natural products that could enhance the experience of working out?”
In the end, developing a line of functional products based on natural ingredients and the power of essential oils and aromatherapy for people who work out made the most sense to me. This is a very personal line for me because it is infused with my personal experiences and interests. It seemed appropriate to name the brand WAY OF WILL; not only Will is my name; it also represents willpower, which working out and pursuing your passion both require!
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Many entrepreneurs might underestimate the power of product packaging when it comes to determining success, but it is a crucial eye into the soul of a business. Some would argue that the quality and usefulness of the product itself are what draws consumers in, but packaging plays an enormous role in determining consumer decisions, or so we’ve learned here at Way of Will.
As a natural skin care and essential oils brand for active lifestyles, we were in the initial stages of launching our newest Brightening Face Serum in the popular beauty and wellness subscription box, FabFitFun, when we experienced printing issues on the packaging. The packaging color turned out to be a very bright yellow, making it almost impossible to read the white print. Color is such a small difference with a potentially huge impact that we just didn’t realize.
We decided to roll with it and sent 300,000 units of product to FabFitFun, where 1 million of their subscribers would receive it as the mystery item in their Winter 2018 box. An unexpected packaging mishap turned into a marketing miracle. Traffic to the Way of Will website nearly tripled. We began receiving hundreds of positive emails, comments, and product reviews just on the Brightening Serum alone. Overall customer consensus gave the serum a huge thumbs up, but it was the packaging that piqued their curiosity further.
We were shocked at first, but realized that sometimes, unexpected situations lead to positive outcomes and memorability in the eyes of the consumer. We turned this packaging “mistake” into an effective and light-hearted way of connecting to people who use our products and those who will potentially become loyal customers. We also took the opportunity to analyze and evaluate the situation from a business standpoint and implement it into our future packaging design strategy.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Way of Will stand out is that it’s a true wellness company with a wide range of products that cater to everyone. Most of the companies in the market are very specific with their product categories. They often categorize as beauty companies or companies that sell supplements. All Way of Will products are made with 100% pure essential oils.
The most important factor is our vision. We want to eventually be a company that can offer more than just selling products. We want to provide experiences and other services down the road. That will help us complete our vision of being a true wellness company.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are very excited to launch our CBD collection. CBD is a very hot topic at the moment, and I believe it can truly help people managing their everyday stress life. I personally experience numerous anxiety attacks daily and personally see improvement by using CBD products.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
I think they go hand in hand especially for brands that are selling products. For example, now a days most people shop and learn about products online. A lot of them don’t even recognize (or care) about the brand. Customers care more about specific products than a specific brand. Because of that, we have decided to invest into designing packaging that are recognizable. Not saying that we don’t invest into branding, but the amount of money that we invest into package is equally important.
We want customers to recognize our packaging first then our brand. I think this is one of our most successful tactics to stand out in this crowded digital space.
This is especially important to us because our customers cannot smell or feel our products through the internet. First impression of the product (in our case — packaging) is very important.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Investing resources and energy into building a brand allow brands to scale. Having a strong brand leads to customer loyalties. Customer loyalties lead to repeat customers. Repeat customers provide free marketing — they often like to introduce brands to their friends.
Once customers trust your brand, they are more open to try other products from the brand.
Can you share 5 strategies that a small company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
1) Think big — It is important have a vision and goal for each company and work backwards. My overall vision for Way of Will is to see it as a true wellness company. That way, we can focus on more than one category when developing products. This set the tone of what the company is about on the get go.
2) Build strong online and offline sales channels — It is very important to have presence in both brick and motor and the digital world. Customers are getting smarter and they like to compare prices and products and do a lot of research before making purchasing decision. It’s important for them to see your brand in trusted physical retailers as well as remarket them via digital marketing.
3) You don’t always have to be the first — I learned this from a buyer at Wegman’s. She mentioned that the CEO always told them they don’t always have to be the first, but it must be done well when you decide to do it. It is important to build something with substance and not to jump into something based on fads and trends that don’t last. That’s the only way to build a brand with longevity.
4) Be authentic — being real is important. Don’t try to cover up and make up stories because customers are getting smarter and smarter. They often see through marketing scam.
5) Believe in your own brand — I think it is very important to believe in what you do. If you don’t trust your brand and products, you won’t be able to convince other to. It sounds obvious but I have seen business owners started business just for the sake of making money.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Burts Bee. I’m very impressed by how they promoted one product — their lip balm — and slowly started to introduce new products to their customers. They started out with one product. This entry level product — the lip balm — every customer began to know and trust. They built this foundation of trust with their customers and from that, slowly started introducing a wider range of products. I believe that was a very smart move. Now, they are everywhere. You can see them in high- and low-end stores.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
I would say to look at the repeat rate and look at the average time spent on the web site. It’s a good way to see how engaged customers are.
Another good way to measure success is to look at engagement rates on social media accounts.
Building a successful awareness campaign not necessary about bringing in sales. It’s more of a long-term strategy approach.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
It is one of the most important channels for us to advertise our brand.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
It is important to understand and study your customer’s needs.
It is also very important to pivot and don’t fixate on something that’s not working.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Be humble. It’s funny but I found that many people are afraid to be humble nowadays as if being humble makes them look weak.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “No flower can bloom for a hundred days”- It’s a Chinese idiom. It basically means good times do not last long. To me it is important to understand that the world is changing every second. One day you are in and if you don’t keep up, the next day you are out. It is very important to catch the right timing and maximize any opportunities that appear. This concept allows me to understand that sometimes it’s out of our control when the industry changes. It also reminds me to have a well-planned exist strategy on every business I start.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
My dad. Unfortunately, he won’t be seeing this because he has already passed away.
How can our readers follow you on social media? @wayofwillshop
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.