Always provide great customer service. When other companies are scaling back and “automating” the customer experience, we’ve found that nothing can replace supporting our customers with the human touch.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Tom Lutz, Ph.D.
With a doctorate in chemistry and a career in product development, Tom is no stranger to innovation and bringing new products to market. His experience extends across a variety of consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industries — from laundry detergents to aquarium and pet products.
After pouring yet another bottle of oxidized wine down the drain five years ago, he knew there had to be a better way of preserving wine. So, he got to work. Eighteen months later, the result is Repour — the first wine preservation product on the market using oxygen absorption to eliminate all the oxygen in a bottle of wine, completely stopping the degradation process. With Repour’s patented technology, keeping an open bottle of wine fresh is as easy as putting a stopper in a bottle.
Since Repour’s launch in late 2017, wine professionals and consumers around the world have adopted Repour as their wine-saving tool of choice.
Outside of developing innovative new products, Tom’s passions are his family and triathlons — he’s completed fourteen Ironman competitions since 2003!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always enjoyed problem solving. More specifically, I love using science to address real world problems with real world solutions. Six years ago, I was keeping an eye on our two-week-old newborn son in the middle of the night while my wife was sleeping. On the couch at 2:00 a.m., I started thinking about that leftover half bottle of wine we had just poured down the drain. My wife was starting to enjoy wine again after our son’s birth, but we didn’t have the chance to finish that bottle before it became oxidized and undrinkable.
As someone who has always enjoyed wine, I knew that oxygen causes wine to go bad. I also knew that the only way to keep an opened bottle of wine fresh was to get rid of all of the oxygen in the bottle. At the time, there was no solution currently on the market that effectively accomplished this.
As a chemist and problem solver, that’s when I had my aha moment. I realized I could use an oxygen scavenging technology that had never been applied to wine preservation before. Using my professional experience bringing consumer products to market and business skills developed through the years, I set off on my journey into wine preservation and entrepreneurship.
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?
We ran a Kickstarter campaign as part of our launch. In the campaign, we called our product the “Repour Smart Stopper.” The campaign was going well, but we kept getting questions around the “smart stopper” name. We (and the branding agency we partnered with) thought it was a clever way of calling out how easy to use and effective our product was.
In reality, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone was looking for the electronics (of which there are none) and how that was supposed to save their wine. In the end, this made us realize that clarity over being clever is the way to go for our brand, which is now the Repour Wine Saver.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Before Repour, two thoughts came to mind regarding wine preservation: gimmick or expensive. Previous products either didn’t work at all and were perceived as gimmicks OR to be effective they had to be expensive and often hard to use.
Nearly every day we hear a story of a customer that looks at Repour and says, “How can that little stopper keep my wine fresh?” Then, they come back after a week or two of using Repour in awe of how well it works and that it’s really as easy as putting a stopper in a bottle.
Repour stands out because it truly under promises and over delivers in wine preservation.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Sparkling wines, such as Champagne, go bad just like regular (still) wine. Repour’s unique and patented technology will actually preserve sparkling wine from going bad, which no other technology on the market can do. We’re working on fixture that will hold Repour on a bottle of sparkling wine. Without this fixture, the pressure in these wines will pop off the stopper. Soon, Repour will be able to save all wines regardless of whether they are red, white, rosé or sparkling!
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?
To me, brand marketing is the identity of who and what we are as a product and company. Product marketing is how we make others aware of that identity.
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?
As a scientist, this is the hardest thing for me in our business because the direct and linear correlation between the money we spend and the immediate outcome (i.e. sales) is so hard to quantify. However, the long-term benefit is so obvious.
Now that we’re a few years in, the lasting impressions we’ve left with people two to three years ago are compounding and snowballing into success. We’ve always stayed consistent in our messaging and brand identity. Today, when we meet someone for the first time that hasn’t tried Repour, they say, “I’ve heard great things about your product, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.”
Our approach to general marketing and advertising focuses on building a long-term foundation and lasting impressions over immediate sales and return. It’s taken me many years to realize where this benefit rests, as I always used to think of it in a quantified/direct ROI perspective. Marketing and advertising truly do take patience, especially for the anxious entrepreneur.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Under promise and over deliver, or at minimum deliver on what you promise. In a day of shock and awe, its hard to be patient with this approach when others are making claims and promises they don’t fulfill. Yet in the end, honesty and integrity in what you offer wins.
- Be authentic. Be who you are as a brand and company. Don’t “buy likes” or get paid for endorsements.
- Accept your faults and limitations as a brand. Focus on doing what you do and doing it well.
- Build a userbase that loves you and wants to tell others about you. The best endorsement we can get is someone, somewhere talking about us positively when we aren’t around.
- Always provide great customer service. When other companies are scaling back and “automating” the customer experience, we’ve found that nothing can replace supporting our customers with the human touch.
I’d say Apple built a believable and beloved brand above the rest. They tell you exactly who they are as a company, they deliver on the hype that they create and very rarely under deliver on what they promise.
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?
ROI on ad spend has been my general philosophy, too. However, I’m finding that as a completely new brand, this metric doesn’t tell the whole story. In an age where ten to twelve impressions are often required to convert to purchase, and sales via Amazon are so difficult to track and quantify, I find website traffic tends to show the most direct correlation to effectiveness of ad spend and brand building campaigns. As a person driven by quantified metrics, this is hard to let be. Yet patience and time have proven website traffic to be a very effective metric where direct ROI is not possible.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media plays a large and growing role in our branding efforts. As not only a new brand, but a new technology, awareness is key. Social media and, more notably, authentic reviews by trusted wine authorities play a huge role in the awareness of Repour and its effectiveness in saving wine. We leave a good impression when we show up in an ad, but to hear or see Repour via a trusted person someone already follows has such a great impact.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
There is always going to be more to do than time in the day. Make sure to take time for yourself and your family. It’s the hardest thing to do and something of which I personally need to keep reminding myself.
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. 🙂
The world around us is such an amazing thing. Through the world of wine, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and meet incredible people. It’s an industry of passion, food and beauty. I’d inspire a movement that would help others see the beauty of nature, from around the world to our own back door. A movement that would make us pause from our crazy day to day and take a minute to just enjoy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well.”
-John D. Rockefeller Jr.
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. 🙂
Arne Sorenson, CEO Marriott International
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.