Despite the growing popularity of preventive medicine and wellness, purchasing vitamins can still be a confusing or even what Consumer Reports has called a ‘mind-bending’ experience. It is not always clear which vitamins or supplements are right for you, or which brands you can trust. Yet in 2015, consumers spent approximately $37 billion on vitamins, minerals and supplements.
Akash Shah and Craig Elbert, pic via Care/of
Given the combination of disappointing experience plus high consumer interest, Craig Elbert and his Co-Founder Akash Shah saw an opportunity. “In trying to live healthier in my 30s, I was at the vitamin store picking up some things for myself and prenatals for my wife. The experience was confusing and miserable. I was reliant on a teenage store-clerk who was clearly under-informed. At the time I was at Bonobos, where we focused on building great consumer experiences and it was clear that the vitamins experience was broken.”
Elbert led marketing at Bonobos, during which time the company grew from ten to two hundred and fifty employees.
This past November, Elbert and Shah launched nutrition and wellness company Care/of, together with Juxtapose, a holding company and fund dedicated to building high growth technology businesses in partnership with experienced entrepreneurs. “I started talking to the Juxtapose team and their thinking around supplements was dead on with what I had experienced and was in line for my vision of a more personalized and delightful consumer health experience,“ said Elbert. Care/of delivers personalized daily vitamin packs directly to customer doorsteps after receiving information on-site about goals, health and lifestyle. The platform then generates recommendations, which consumers can add or remove to their daily packs. Care/Of promises top quality ingredients with scientific advisors from Harvard School of Public Health and Tufts Human Nutrition Center on Aging.
When it came to the November launch, Elbert told me that Care/of’s goal was to reach thousands of customers by the end of the year. The company surpassed their early projection, which Elbert attributes to strong word of mouth awareness, influencer and media engagement. “While the numbers are definitely exciting, my own personal reward has been the customer conversations and feedback.”
What were some of the factors that contributed to Care/of’s successful launch?
- Know your narrative: For Elbert, he believes that founders have to be intimately involved in building out the narrative along with product, instead of assuming it will be delegated to a marketer. “We started with a concrete problem – the overwhelming and confusing nature of the vitamin aisle. And we connect that to our solution, which uses technology, research and transparency to provide a more delightful and effective experience. Along the way, we also pepper that story with concrete visuals, like the useless teenage clerk in many brick and mortar stores or the vitamin shelf everyone has in their kitchen with half-filled bottles they started taking and then forgot. These types of details help connect the story and make it real.”
- Brand storytelling and performance marketing must work together: “A lot of start-up marketing organizations silo out performance or quant marketing from brand marketing,”says Elbert. “They need to work closely together. A quant without an appreciation for strong creative will fail at telling a sustainable long-term brand narrative. A creative without an appreciation for numbers will struggle to scale a brand without understanding the feedback loops modern media.” For example, Elbert cited a successful email campaign that included a quick survey on the percentage of the population that takes vitamins, calling it fun and engaging, yet still trackable. “A bad example would be a luxury fashion brand that has beautiful imagery for a print ad nobody sees, but then has sale messaging in display ads, run by direct response marketers optimizing for clicks.”
- Be clever about getting attention: “A young brand will never have the resources to outspend heavyweight incumbents in the paid advertising world. But they can be more clever, more nimble, more daring and faster to test new media opportunities. Attention has it’s own economy and the start-up marketer has to be smart about spotting attention arbitrage opportunities and acting quickly.” Who has executed on clever well? “Dollar Shave Club’s video is legendary because it got so many views not via advertising, but because the content was so clever.”
While the launch exceeded expectations, did everything go exactly as expected throughout the beta? Not exactly, though Elbert notes that the company learned many valuable lessons leading up to and during the launch. For example, they found that consumers wanted to share far more than initially expected. “In our beta, we initially had a short, uber-efficient on-boarding quiz as that’s what U/X logic told us. But the more we tested, the more we learned that customers are willing to put in the time to get a truly personalized recommendation.” Personalization and customer control are two other areas where Care/of found their initial expectations needed to be modified. And what do you do with this feedback to ensure success at launch? Embrace it, says Elbert. “We’ve heard great things from our customers – and also things that we can improve on, which is possibly more exciting.”
This article was written by Cari Sommer from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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