Landon Eckles of Clean Juice: “Define how your brand is different”

First, define how your brand is different. Second, be authentic and find a way to communicate that authenticity. Third, stay consistent, because a reputation can be ruined in seconds. Fourth, find effective, efficient ways to blast your message to as many people as possible. Last, make sure you stand for something essential and weave that […]

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First, define how your brand is different. Second, be authentic and find a way to communicate that authenticity. Third, stay consistent, because a reputation can be ruined in seconds. Fourth, find effective, efficient ways to blast your message to as many people as possible. Last, make sure you stand for something essential and weave that into all of your messaging.


As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Landon Eckles, founder and chief executive officer of Clean Juice.

Clean Juice is the first and most prolific USDA-certified organic juice bar in the United States. Since 2015, Clean Juice has opened more than 100 locations and has 40 more in development. As CEO, Eckles oversees the growth, direction, and vision of the organization.


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

All of that credit goes to my wife, our co-founder. She would make these juices and smoothies at home for me and our kids, and we loved them. She had this vision to open a business that offered people a selection of the cleanest, healthiest, organic juices that could possibly be offered. I had an international business background, and it just made sense for us, so we decided to journey down that path. We sold our home in Pennsylvania, moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and opened the first Clean Juice store.

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?

The funniest marketing mistake we made when we got started was a 4th of July campaign called, “Free on the 4th.” The idea was to give every guest who came into our store on July 4th a free smoothie. We wanted to create a huge buzz while also gaining a ton of new foot traffic. I still think it was a great marketing idea. Execution was a different story though. All of our smoothies are 100% organic and made fresh, so I’ll bet you can imagine how backed up we were when we had 100 guests asking for smoothies at once. It definitely wasn’t funny at the time, but now I can laugh about it.

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

One of Clean Juice’s key differentiators is our USDA organic certification. This means that every ingredient we source to make our product is certified USDA organic. We do not add sugar, preservatives, or other additives to our products. And all of those things are important, but it’s not just our product that sets us apart. I think it has a lot to do with how we treat people. I always tell my team that you can sell the best product, but if you don’t serve it with love and kindness every single time, customers won’t come back. People remember how you make them feel, so I want to make sure all our guests feel something deeply, intrinsically special when they walk into a Clean Juice.

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

One of the most exciting programs we have launched is a cause marketing program called “Quarters for Kids.” This campaign gives guests the ability to donate an additional 25 cents from their order to support a variety of programs for children, specifically those that are underserved and don’t have access to organic food. We might use those funds to build a playground in Huntersville, North Carolina like we did this past October, or we might help organize a coat drive in Grand Rapids, Michigan, or we could buy backpacks for a school in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Any of our Franchise Partners can apply to have a certain amount of funds allocated to a community project that benefits kids in their community. We’re humbled and excited about the chance to impact neighborhoods all over the country with this program.

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 it?

Brand marketing is about who you are, and product marketing is about what you do. Brand marketing is the more holistic of the two views, I’d say. It’s marketing to establish a relationship or collective feeling toward your brand. I believe if you market your brand well, your product should sell along with it. With that said, product marketing can help define and support the larger brand, so the two go hand in hand.

Can you explain to our readers why it is essential to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Gary Vaynerchuk said it best, “Brand is everything.” People come to Clean Juice because of the reputation of the brand. We hear it all the time from our guests. Even if you have just one store, you have a brand, and you are nurturing and building that brand constantly. It’s your greatest asset if you grow it right.

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

First, define how your brand is different. Second, be authentic and find a way to communicate that authenticity. Third, stay consistent, because a reputation can be ruined in seconds. Fourth, find effective, efficient ways to blast your message to as many people as possible. Last, make sure you stand for something essential and weave that into all of your messaging.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand? What impresses you explicitly? What can one do to replicate that?

Clean Juice is in the QSR (quick serve restaurant) industry and I look at many other brands in the same space. One that has done an incredible job is Chick-fil-A. When you talk about fast food or QSR, Chick-fil-A is held at a very high standard, not just with the industry but with consumers as well. What impresses me is not only do they generate the most sales per square foot in the category but every time you visit a Chick-fil-A store, you encounter the same experience, the same smiles, and the same “my pleasure” replies from the staff. They have instilled their company culture throughout each store, and that is something we do as well at Clean Juice. We don’t just want to serve a great product, but we want to serve our product with a memorable and welcoming experience. The key is to be consistent.

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 think a brand-building campaign’s success is both similar and different when measuring success. Sometimes you launch a brand-building campaign to drive traffic to stores. Other times you might establish a brand campaign to simply let people be aware of your existence. Brand campaigns can also be used to educate the community about a product or service. For Clean Juice, we use brand campaigns for several reasons, one of which is to inform people about the health benefits of consuming fresh, organic products and how it can boost immunity. If you build your brand well, sales should always be tied to your value proposition.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

If you do business in 2020, your guests are on social media, all of them, and they’re on it a lot. Social media is your frontline of communication with them. We have nearly 200K followers on Instagram. In addition, each of our locations has its own social media accounts. We also use social media platforms such as LinkedIn for franchise lead generation and to communicate the success we are experiencing. Social media gives us another opportunity to be consistent in our messaging and inform and educate about the health benefits associated with eating organic.

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

Burnout happens when you lose sight of what you’re working toward. To avoid burnout, you must have a plan. You can’t just get up in the morning and hope for the best. Work the plan and trust the process. Understand that the plan may change, and you might have to pivot a bit, but trusting your processes and not being afraid to make mistakes is a big part of the success and can mitigate the burnout feeling.

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. 🙂

I believe in clean, healthy eating and this year has been an awakening with the number of people getting sick from Coronavirus and other diseases. I want to inspire a movement of clean, healthy eating habits. I genuinely believe you are what you eat, and food can be your medicine or contribute to sickness. I pray and hope people understand that. Clean Juice, in many ways, is that movement and is why we take time, effort, and responsibility to educate and inform people on the benefits of healthy eating.

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

Warren Buffet said of the market, “When the market is greedy, be fearful and when the market is fearful, be greedy.” That means you pay attention to what others are doing, but you never become a copycat. Don’t do what everybody else is doing. When most people turn left, you turn right. Explore your options and take calculated risks.

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 lunch or breakfast? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to have lunch with Elon Musk. He’s a true full-stack entrepreneur. Many business leaders have the vision but lack the expertise to build the business. Elon is one of the most innovative entrepreneurs of our time, and he has been successful at creating several multi-billion-dollar companies that are for the betterment of humanity. I have a lot of respect for him and think his brain is wired differently than most. I know a private breakfast or lunch would be a fascinating experience.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on the following social media channels:

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/landoneckles/

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/cleanjuice

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/cleanjuice/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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