Daniel Nicholson of NadaMoo!: “Does the messaging have staying power?”

Does the messaging have staying power? How well does it resonate with the core of the brand? Does it do the job of differentiating the brand from the competitive options in the marketplace? In our opinion, these are some of the questions that if answered positively are signs of a very successful brand building campaign. […]

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Does the messaging have staying power? How well does it resonate with the core of the brand? Does it do the job of differentiating the brand from the competitive options in the marketplace? In our opinion, these are some of the questions that if answered positively are signs of a very successful brand building campaign. If the campaign succeeds at creating a lasting impression on the consumer in the marketplace, your team and the campaign has done its job.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Daniel Nicholson.

Daniel Nicholson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Soon after, Daniel left for Madrid, Spain, as he was accepted into the Fundacion Consejo Espana-Estados Unidos program. The program landed him with a 9-month job with Iberdrola Renovables, where he enjoyed working in the sustainable energy sector, as he had a desire to be a part of the industries of the future. When the program was completed, he moved back to Austin and began reconnecting with his friends and his Austin network. It was at this time that he was introduced to a product that would change the trajectory of his life. Daniel discovered NadaMoo!, for himself, in 2008 after an introduction he received to the founder and her CFO business partner. Since immediately falling in love with the product and brand, NadaMoo! has become his sole focus for the past 13+ years. He started as the Controller, and after 3 years of this accounting, operations related work, the founder of the company was ready to step out to pursue other opportunities. In that moment, after much thought and reflection, Daniel decided to step into the role of President & CEO, and he never looked back. Since 2011, the company has grown its revenue over 50x, from being distributed in just a few hundred stores to now when it is in over 10,000 stores nationwide, and it is beginning to be distributed more widely in Canada. NadaMoo! has been the driving force, for Daniel, to help build awareness around health, wellness, and sustainability. These are the problems he and the NadaMoo! team want to continue to solve.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Quite simply, being present and open-minded and living my life with intention has brought me to this place. After graduating with a Mechanical engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin, I moved to Madrid, Spain as part of an international program that would allow me to work in the renewable energy industry for a company called Iberdrola Renovables (Renewables). My time living and working abroad was extremely enlightening. I’m a firm believer that gaining perspective in life is critical to us all beginning to better understand who we are and where we want to be and how we want to spend our time on this vast and incredible planet. While in Europe, I became absolutely fascinated by the concept of sustainability not only from the perspective of energy, in my work, but more importantly, the health and sustainability of the human which is in constant interaction with the larger environment we are a part of. During this time, it became very clear to me that in America, in particular, we had moved in the wrong direction with our diets and our lifestyles. I was dumbfounded to learn that although my Spanish friends and co-workers were smoking cigarettes and drinking and consuming similar animal based, focused diets, they were outliving and outlasting us on average with respect to life expectancy. They were living life more actively and vibrantly and in a more balanced manner, and it became clear after some research that their food system had not been industrialized and had not strayed from much more natural farming practices as had happened in America. The obesity and diabetes epidemic did not seem to be an issue in their culture while it was very much a part of the narrative in our country and within our culture. All of this time and all of these thoughts brought me to a place in my life where when I moved back to Austin, Texas and was introduced to the founder of NadaMoo!, I was captivated at the opportunity to do such positive work through a food product format, especially one as fun and indulgent as ice cream, of the dairy-free kind, of course. The founder and I were very much passionate about the same work, and we believed NadaMoo! was a great platform to begin to undue a lot of the damage that had been done in our country to the health of our society and our planet and all of it’s inhabitants. Although I was interviewing for a lot of positions that I didn’t really want as we mutually courted the opportunity to join forces, it became clear to me that this was something I was ready and willing to jump into full force with no true expectations for where things could lead. All I saw was opportunity and upside and an opportunity to fully apply myself. I was all in. Almost 13 years later, here I still am.

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?

It’s really difficult to think of any marketing mistakes as funny even in hindsight because of the importance of every single detail and their ability to impact your brand and your market presence for any given moment in time. A very early iteration of our packaging was so busy, and it translated this very tropical coconut palm vibe. The way the word NadaMoo! was written all together on a single line made it a lot harder to read and make sense of, NadaMoo! simply meaning No-Dairy. It was out there on the market for years as we built up a lot of our backend systems and early sampling initiatives. Nobody ever really gave us very constructive feedback on the packaging, but in hindsight, it is now very clear that the packaging was not working as hard for us at it could have been. We are very proud of our packaging evolution from those early days that has allowed our brand to resonate more deeply with our team and in turn our consumers. Our packaging does a much better job of portraying who we are in the marketplace which naturally resonates to much greater success and effectiveness on the grocery store shelves with our like-minded consumers. In the consumer-packaged goods space, packaging design is so incredibly important and valuable. You can’t always be there alongside the customer in that shopping experience, so your packaging has to lead the way.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

First and foremost, the answer is always taste and texture and product experience. We have put so much time and energy and emphasis into sourcing such incredible organic, sustainable raw materials that it’s hard to imagine the outcome of that experience as anything less than delightful. Almost more importantly, it’s our customers and our people. Because we have remained so true and authentic to our rise from the humblest of beginnings, as a pioneer in the dairy free ice cream category, we have been able to create something undeniably special, a movement of like-minded and mindful humans. As a recollection to support these thoughts, I recall having just hired a new, very experienced Head of Sales very shortly after taking the reins of the company around 2011. As he was being onboarded, we had a massive issue on our hands because we had begun to purchase a new organic coconut milk from a new supplier. We incorrectly believed that because the spec sheets aligned perfectly with that of our previous supplier, we would not have any product issues by making the change. Very quickly, it became evident that our product was not the same, but it was too late. We had to produce the rest of the product before we could go back to the old supplier. Our new Head of Sales was so concerned about the issue, so he decided to test our internal systems at the time by writing an email as an anonymous consumer to our webpage expressing discontent about the product changes. At the time, we were a team of only a few, so I was actually the one fielding the inflowing emails from consumers. To the best of my ability, I addressed the anonymous consumer’s email and concerns by being transparent about the unfortunate predicament we had found ourselves in. Our Head of Sales was blown away by the fact that he was being tended to by the head of the company. It reaffirmed his decision to be a part of something very special where we were willing to be honest and to work hard through any and all challenges that came our way. Even at that point, early on in our history, we had an incredible base of consumers who helped us get through that batch even though they knew something was not right. They purchased up all that product, so we could get back to business as usual. I’ll never forget that moment in our history that we were so fortunate to have survived.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Our team is currently working on so many exciting new projects, several that I’m not privy to be able to touch on just yet. It really is our focus to ramp up our product development efforts. This year in 2021, it’s the beginning of this exciting new future for the company with the launch of our No Sugar Added dairy free ice cream line. Our core product line already is significantly lower in calories and sugar and fat than most of our competitors, and it’s sweetened with agave nectar to ensure it’s a diabetic friendly option for consumers; however, we realize that one of the other massive issues in our country is with respect to the general overconsumption of sugar. We know that as a brand that prides itself in mindful indulgence that we have an incredible opportunity to do more great work to begin to reduce the amount of sugar intake by the general consumer that does not want to live a life completely free from indulgence. We want to continue to be that mindful solution.

In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing and product marketing?

I’m definitely not a marketing guru by any stretch of the imagination; however, in my opinion brand marketing is the way your company communicates to the market and therefore is how it ends up being perceived while product marketing is how your company tactically engages with consumers to aid in pulling your product off the shelf by communicating specific, key product attributes that are desired in the marketplace.

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?

General marketing and advertising efforts are extremely tactical in producing results and generating sales when done well. If you spend the time and energy and resources on building a brand though, you have the potential to further insulate the business from general market conditions that can much more easily impact your more general marketing and advertising tactics. At the end of the day, the brand is the most valuable and untouchable asset you have the opportunity to build.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us an example for each.

Again, I’m not super comfortable giving strong strategic advice because our company is very iterative in nature. We are unafraid to try things and learn from them before we refine them and/or scrap them altogether based on initial outcomes. I do, however, believe that our team has done an incredible job thus far of building a trusted and believable brand in the marketplace simply because we have been focused on some of the following key items. In my opinion, these are not strategies. This is us putting our best foot forward in the marketplace and the world as humans who care immensely about our brand and how we want to positively impact the world that we engage within: Be real. Be honest. Conduct yourself with integrity. Do what’s right when nobody is looking. Put people and purpose above profits. We are a company that is a certified minority business enterprise and a B-Corp. We want to be a changemaker in this world by doing things the right way for the greater good.

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?

Patagonia is always the first company that comes to my mind. Yvon Chouinard and his team have set the bar high on corporate social responsibility, specifically focused on sustainability. You know when you put their products on that you can wear their label with pride whether you’re out there on the trail or more leisurely wearing their products as you walk urban streets. Their impact and creation of general awareness of the sustainability of our planet is commendable and evident in everything they do. In my opinion, there is no replicating something so real and undeniable. It is how they have been able to set themselves apart from the many other brands that compete within the same product space. When you live your life in lock step with nature, you understand the importance of taking care of it. Our connection with everything on the planet is sacred, and those values and ideals are at the root of the Patagonia brand since it’s inception. There is no faking or replicating what is real and core, in my opinion.

How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Does the messaging have staying power? How well does it resonate with the core of the brand? Does it do the job of differentiating the brand from the competitive options in the marketplace? In our opinion, these are some of the questions that if answered positively are signs of a very successful brand building campaign. If the campaign succeeds at creating a lasting impression on the consumer in the marketplace, your team and the campaign has done its job.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Our company was founded in 2005. We were one of the early users and adopters of social media for business purposes at NadaMoo! I can honestly say that for a solid majority of 15 years, social media represented one of the only marketing activities in our company’s evolution. Social media, in-store sampling, and large-scale tasting events were the only marketing tools we utilized until just recently in 2020. We are firm believers that a great tasting, great quality food product should sell itself without having to spend too much money on advertising, but we recognize the heightened competitive environment in our industry that forces our hand to become more active. It has been very important for us to evolve further in our branding efforts. Social media though has allowed us to very authentically present ourselves and engage with our consumer throughout the years, so we do owe a lot of our success to the value that social media has allowed us to create over time on a shoestring marketing budget.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

I’m a massive proponent of being as aggressive in your pursuit of rest and balance as you are in pursuit of the success of your business. Being an entrepreneur is all consuming, and if you are not careful, you quickly will not have much more to give. You must put back into yourself incredible nutrition and rest and exercise and quality relationships and overall balance in order to continue to have enough to sustain yourself over time. Being grounded and centered is ultimately what will allow you to have the greatest level of clarity and effectiveness to achieve your greatest possible results. You must care for yourself greatly.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

It is my belief that NadaMoo! is that movement. It inspires a selflessness and a mindfulness that I believe has the ability to transcend the category that we began building the brand within. NadaMoo! is a brand that aspires to change the world for the better, and we plan to continue marching along with a loyal and growing group of like-minded changemakers.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is one that reminds us of the importance of humility. “Be humble or be humbled.” Whenever I feel myself potentially getting a little too high on myself or my and my team’s accomplishments, I’m quickly reminded of the importance of humility in life. I have an incredible family and an incredible circle of friends who hold me accountable to just being me. Simple, small town South Texas me. It always helps to have them by my side and behind me to keep me grounded and humbled by the journey that I’ve traveled thus far.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with?

I tend to live my life in a way where I gain and gather inspiration from all types of people and places and events; most importantly, I try to continue inspiring myself each day because the greatest motivation comes from within and from a desire to continue evolving into a better version of yourself. If you really want to nail me down on the kind of person I’d like to have lunch or breakfast with, I’d say a super inspirational figure for me is someone like David Goggins or potentially Yvon Chouinard as I touched on already here. These are some incredibly inspiring humans, in my opinion, and there are definitely a lot more that drive me to continue pushing for that ever-better version of myself.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Most importantly, readers should follow our brand NadaMoo! on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram at our handle @nadamoo. Additionally, I can personally be followed on Twitter and/or Instagram at my handle @nadamoodan. We always love to engage with our customers, existing and new, so we look forward to hearing from you.

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