If you can't actually just buy something at the point when you are minded to buy that, then you've lost. It doesn't matter how familiar someone is with your brand. Um, so actual physical availability is the most crucial thing in the world, and that's why multi-brand retailers exist.
Hey, retail fans, welcome back to retail oriented. I am your host Mike Fowler. I am the Vice President of retail sales here at the Sales Factory. And today I am really excited cuz we have got a very special guest, Mr. John Lyons from Latin England is here. He has had a storied, career and helped some really beloved brands kind of grow their footprint both in retail and grow the footprint of their brand. So we are super excited to have him. John, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining us.
Oh, thanks for having me, Mike. Delighted to be here.
Yeah. So tell us a little bit about your background. Can you kind of fill us in on how did we get to today and walk us through a little bit of your background and, uh, tell the folks at home who we're talking to.
Yeah. So I'll cut out the, the early part other than to say I started life as an architect, but, I I found my way into marketing, through digital to start with. So, back in the early days of digital, kind of mid to late nineties, I founded a pretty successful digital agency. We worked with some great brands there, did a lot of stuff in entertainment, did a lot of stuff with, promotional marketing. About 10 years in we agreed an acquisition with a US partner that we'd been working with for some time and launched the, the first global office of the US Agency brand Movers, over here in London focusing on the Europe market. So come the late ninties, I was kind of, in Europe, uh, brand Movers, spent a good 10 years there specializing in promotional marketing.
So it was digital promotions, globally. Obviously my role was to grow the Europe business, but also also support the US office, and also support the growing of other offices elsewhere in including India. So, it was a fascinating time cause we got to see lots of, different brands, lots of different marketplaces and, lots of really interesting and kind of fascinating differences in the retail landscape and the brand landscape in those places. So yeah, I stayed doing that for 10 years and then, I kind of figured, yeah, it was more or less 20 years in, in the same kind of structure. It was time to, to jump with it and, go alone. So I did a bit of, consultancy, working primarily with, kind of agencies actually on their kind of, marketing brand and business plans, before rocking up a fantastic promotional agency over here in the UK, who I'd got to meet to discuss some consultancy work, and the CEO just wouldn't let me go.
So, he designed a role for me, which is wonderful, and opened me up to even more brands kind of, globally, and work based. So kind of through much of that, what I was doing was coming up with the kind of the concepts and the mechanics for how brands could activate whether or not in retail or online, but ultimately how brands can connect with their consumers in a meaningful and profit way. I stayed there for a couple of years. I loved it there. And, as you know, Mike, I kind of, my eyes sparkled, I saw a role at the Lego group. We were just briefly chatting before coming onto the recording. You and your son love playing with Lego. Me and my son love playing with Lego, loved it as a brand, as a kid and actually worked with them, at a previous agency and, went in-house at Lego for a period working on the loyalty program.
So, I did that for a little while and, it was kind of interesting because a lot of my US promotional experience came into play, but ultimately, you know, kind of, it didn't quite work out for me. So, really I guess now I am doing a little bit of freelance work, again, kind of working with brands, working with agencies to kind of set them straight. So it is, it's a 20 plus year, marketing career. I've kind of gone from entrepreneur to kind of marketing specialist to marketing generalist, but always had a fascination with, to me, where everything plays out. You know, the, the real arena of brand and marketing is the retail is store footprint. So yeah. Great to talk to you about that today.
Yeah, well, that's exciting for us. Because, we love retail and we love how those decisions are made in the brick and mortar stores. We love how decisions are made online. We love understanding how different types of consumers are interacting with brands. So that's like to talk about quite a bit. And so you've got such an interesting, background with a lot of different brands, a lot of different types of consumers, a lot of different decisions in different retailers. So I'm just gonna kind of start really big picture and, and describe for us a little bit, what is it that you love and that you're drawn to specifically at retail? What is fascinating about how those decisions are made to you?
So really retail is where brands come to life and it's where consumers, it's where they pick their brands and it's where we actually see how people genuinely deal with brands and products. You know, quite often we get, as marketers, uh, particularly brand side marketers, we get caught up in our love for the brand and our obsession with the brand and all it takes is a few seconds in the aisles of a retailer to see just how little attention consumers generally kind of pay to stuff that we've give blood, sweat, and tears over. But, that I actually see as the key role to, to marketing and brand. It's, you know, we need to work really, really hard to make sure that the consumer doesn't have to think hard when they pick up our product from the shelf.
And you can really see that in play. And, um, yeah, I'll be honest, I'm a bit of a retail nerd, so, slight differences between the US and the UK. So, you know, what we have here is a small number of very large grosses, kind of much like Kroger, I guess, in the US but they, at their larger end, they tend to move into a fuller suite of things, kind of knocking on the door maybe, of the Walmarts and, Targets of the world. But there's nothing I like more than walking around a supermarket or a huge store and just looking down the aisles, just looking what's on the shelves and looking how people behave. And so, uh, you know, this morning I went out to buy two things from my local supermarket.
I came back with about six. But you know, it's not until you see a product on shelf with a hundred other products all offering exactly the same outcome in effect that you start to realize the value of brand and the value of promotions and actually how you can win and lose in the retail space. And, um, you know, my last trips to the US kind of visiting family down at Atlanta, Georgia, I drove them absolutely crazy because I kept disappearing in stores once we went to a Kroger just, to pick up some stuff for dinner. They couldn't find me for an hour and a half cuz it was all new to me as well. And so, you know, I'm walking down an aisle that's packed with so many biscuit brands. We don't have what you guys call biscuits here in the UK we use the term biscuits to describe what you would call cookies. So the whole concept of biscuits is fascinating to me. And to see just the sheer range there and you kind of see the differences in locations and types of store in terms of, you know, what people are buying this of course the, particularly the bigger retailers, they know what their audience needs, they've got the data they're stacking up on stuff that they know will come off the shelf. So it's a real insight into kind of how people live their lives.
Yeah, yeah, that's really interesting. And so you're hitting on some things that are really close to home for me and for our company, store walks, you know, that's not different internationally. We love to be in the store and understand, you know, what are people picking up? How are they interacting with products and brands at the store level? Cuz you can learn so much about how people are making decisions by just going to walk a store, right? So we love to do that also. And it's so insightful. You kind of talked about, just being passionate about retail and retailers. Talk a little bit about what retailers are expecting of brands, in terms of promotional efforts and how to grow businesses together from the the big retailers. You mentioned Walmart and Target all the way down to kind of smaller retailers and even direct to consumer type of efforts for brands. Can you talk through what are some of the differences and kind of what's, what's expected?
Yeah, sure. So I mean it's, um, as you describe, it's, a kind of multi-layered and and quite complicated arena. Um, the reality is that volume and power. So if you are a small brand going to a large retailer, you are going to have to work particularly hard to get any chance of getting on shelf. And quite often that's where promotions will come into play. So in many cases, running sales promotions in with retail partners is kind of, I guess you could consider it almost the tax to being on shelf. And it differs depending on the size of your brand because obviously as you can imagine being the Lego group for example, there's much more leverage because hey, people are buying this already. But likewise also if you target everyone's coming here already. And, and, um, interestingly, one of the last things I worked on at the Lego group was, I worked in the loyalty program, which the point that I joined was only connected to, owned retail store.
So Lego brand retail stores and lego.com. We launched an integration with Target, whilst I was there, because we saw that for the program there was an opportunity to grow because lots of people are buying their Lego sets from Target who aren't even aware of the program. And from Target's point of view, getting the support of Lego and being the first people on board with the program was a big hit. So actually those two kind of huge players in the game, it came together really quickly and really nicely. It can be a lot more difficult if you are a new product coming to market to find space on shelf. Cuz we as well as kind of having the established brands on there, the established brands have also got the money to spend on on the campaigns, promotional campaigns they can afford to discount, particularly if they've got a kind of house of brands they can kind of discount on some of the brands. Um, and but also kind of, there's the leverage of pulling out and we have seen that over the years as well. So to be a new brand trying to get on shelf, you really have to go a lot further. You have to offer a lot more. And that can be really difficult because ultimately what the retailers want is to get people in store buying things and buying more things. And one of the easiest mechanics for them is discounting whether or not that's kind of two for the price of one or just kind of 25% off. And that's great for the retailer, but it's not so great for the brand. So, you know, brands trying to find the balance between being seen as a price player as opposed to building brand equity, it's a difficult playoff and it's not always easy to get.
I think kind of, obviously if you're going to the bigger retailers, you've got volume, you've got spread, if you're going to the smaller retailers, you're having to spend more time negotiating each of those. So it's a real stretch on the resources, although you might actually get a more mutually beneficial partnership going with retailers. And quite often it's a good way to tested what, what you're doing out there. So, um, you know, I know kind of, again, the marketplace is quite different in the US to the UK, but working with specialist retailers rather than the big box retailers is going to be an easy way to, to get on shelf, to prove intent from consumers that you can then use further down the line to take to the big box.
Um, D to C is much more easy because you're ultimately managing the store yourself. So, that we had with the Lego loyalty program where, you know, it operated within our, our own channels. So we could make choices there. You know, we, we, we are instantly seeing the feedback, the response we can tweak and turn things on and off. Um, but obviously with D t tc, you've got to build your own audience from nothing. So the, there's, there's all these differences defined in terms of, you know, ultimately what everybody wants is to have as many people as possible that are going to be in market for a product, being able to buy that product, to have the physical availability. Uh, but in order to get there, you've got to, you've got to play the game a little bit and that, that's where promotions quite often come in.
Do you find it's helpful for brands to partner with third parties, with agencies, with groups that have expertise in different retailers to kind of help them navigate those channels from time to time? Because one of the things that, correct me if I'm misunderstanding you, but one of the things that I'm understanding is there's a lot of different size brands, there's a lot of different size retailers, there's e-commerce and direct to consumer. There's a lot of different ways that you can get your product out in the market and finding the right fit, no matter your size of brand or your size of retailer. It possible, but sometimes you need a little help kind of navigating that. Do you see that or have you seen that often in your career?
Yeah, yeah. I mean certainly in terms of the execution, absolutely. So, um, you know, quite often if you've got a good marketing team and you've got a good kind of brand manager at the product level or the brand level and, you know, looking at what the opportunities are and establishing where there's mo more likely to be bang for the buck is, is something that quite often can be done in-house. But then how to deliver that in a way that offers value to the brand without devaluing the products and offers value to the retailer. Quite often it comes into play that you'll be working for specialist agency and for probably about 12 years or so across two different agencies, I was very much in that world of, okay, you've got a brand, you're going to be doing something here, what can we do that is gonna attract the consumer and what are we gonna do that's gonna add benefit to the brand and also to the retailer?
Um, and again, one of the things that I've always kind of tried to push towards, and you can't always do this and sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and go with discounting because that's the only way to get on shelf. And if you're not on shelf, you're not visible or available really. Um, but if you can come up with a promotional mechanic that doesn't devalue the product or doesn't set a price point in the mind of the consumer that you then want to move up from, then you've got a much better chance of being able to retain that brand and retain that value. So a lot of my time in promotions was around price promotions, so looking at the kind of prizes that will appeal to the segments that we're targeting that will play to the particular retailers.
Um, and also what, what kind of add-ons might be in there because if we are for some reason doing a discount, how can we tie that in with a mechanic where let's say we can build an email database or we can create a bit more of a buzz socially, a word of mouth. So it's always about trying to work out where we can find the value. Cuz otherwise, I mean the, the easiest thing for retailers is give us some money off, we'll put it on the shelf, we'll try it, we'll see how it goes. I think one of the other interesting things, um, which been a lot more of lately is it's not just a battle now with, um, the established brands or established product should we say, but a lot of the smart brands out there are doing extended lines and new product development.
So, and you see a lot of this in the drink category where, you know, Bailey's is a great example. You know, Bailey's Irish cream has been around forever. Yeah, it's a fabulous Christmas drink, but now they're having different seasonal variations and they, they've got vegan versions and suddenly what used to be one product taking up maybe three spaces on the shelf is now six products taking up 12 spaces on the shelf, which leaves a lot less space for the little guy. Um, so trying to get into those spaces and prove that there's value in you stay in there is probably more difficult than it's been for a long time.
Yeah, and it's interesting, a lot of those decisions, you know, when we're experiencing brands that are having line extensions and they're getting into new categories, when it's done well, they always start with the consumer, right? So they're understanding a need that's out there that they could potentially fulfill that aligns with who their brand is at the core, right? And so that's usually when we're seeing it done well, um, it's a natural extension of what they do, right. So I think that's really interesting. One of the things that you talked about was kind of this mutually beneficial relationship between brands and retailers. Uh, and I know you've talked a lot about kind of the concept of loyalty and brand loyalty, loyalty programs. How do brands approach that? Cuz you know, a lot of times our clients and the people that are listening to Retail Oriented, their brands, their manufacturers, they're trying to approach this and figure out that mutually beneficial relationship with whomever their retailer is. How do they approach the loyalty conundrum, uh, so to speak, whether it's brand loyalty or loyalty programs, where do they start?
So I think in all, obviously when it comes to loyalty, I think we need to start with trying to work out what it is we want to achieve before considering whether or not loyalty is the answer. Um, obviously I have worked in loyalty. Um, I've, worked in loyalty agency side and client side, um, and I've seen a lot of success come from it. And, I know there are a lot of people that will kind of say, oh, there's no such thing as brand loyalty. Uh, that it's, not the case. There is such a thing as brand loyalty. And um, you know, I actually quite often I find people quoting, ABA Institute and how brands grow saying, oh, that shows that there's no loyalty, uh, no, I'm sorry, you just haven't read the book properly. It says that there's loyalty.
That brand loyalty is the, the double jeopardy law applies equally to brand loyalty. It does anything else. The bigger brands will have more loyalty that that's just a fact of life. Um, I think when it comes to how brands deal with it and how brands of retailers deal with it, the question for me is what are we trying to achieve? And I think you need to step back sometimes to be really honest about what your product does and how people are using it. Um, cuz I'll say from, you know, as someone who works on the loyalty program, Lego is a brand that is genuinely loved Most are not are kind of preferred rather than loved, but Lego is genuinely loved. But even then everyone at Lego and everyone in the program knows that people aren't exclusively buying Lego, whatever category you consider Lego as whether or not it's a collectible or a toy.
And actually it's kind of both and that's part of its power. Um, but even the most dedicated Lego fans will still buy from rivals. So yeah, the idea of kind of unadulterated lot really doesn't exist, but is it a case that, um, we want people to, to just buy more of our stuff, in which case it becomes very transactional or is there something else that we want to get out of the consumer brand relationship? I use the word relationship very loosely, um, because it's not, none of this is comparable to human relationships. So loyalty with a brand is not the same as loyalty with, with, with, with a life partner and relationship with a brand is not the same as a relationship with a friend. Uh, it's just the terminology we use. Um, but, you know, having things like people signing up to an email or following on a social channel or coming to events, there's all these other benefits and bonuses to having more than just someone picking up your product and walking away with it.
Um, and one, one of the kind of early programs I worked on, which was in the US uh, and proved really successful for a period, we, worked on Nerf perks, um, at a previous agency for Hasboro. And, um, as a manufacturer, they sold exclusively third party through retailers. They had really no understanding of their consumer base because of that. There was no first party data. And what the loyalty program allowed them to do was to build that picture and get a much better understanding and actually challenged some of the assumptions that they'd made. So, you know, everyone went into it thinking 13 year old kids and frat boys and some of the heavier, heavier buyers were professionals, like middle-aged professionals. And it really opened up a different perspective. And yet Lego Group also are brilliant at using that data to see what is people buying into, what passion points they're buying into, who they're buying for, uh, where they're buying.
So all of this kind of stuff gives you a fuller picture, which I wouldn't say is invaluable, but it has a value that might make it worth the fact that you are spending money to run a program. Uh, maybe the program is or isn't profitable, not all are, some are the best ones are, um, but there needs to be a balance between it because ultimately it is a trade off. Um, but yeah, I think kind of, yeah, as I said I think, I don't think all categories and I don't think all brands are equal. So for example, um, so I mean I saw the Lego Vincent Van Gogh starry night set, and I wanted it, it wasn't a case of I want a toy or I want the collectible, I want that thing, and Lego is the brand that makes that kind of thing, which is very different from, um, I'm thirsty, I want something to drink.
So I would consider myself, um, pretty loyal to Diet Coke. I've always preferred the taste of Diet Coke to full fat Coke. I've always preferred that to Pepsi. Um, I'm a diabetic, seeing the silver can with the red ribbon. I know that I can safely drink that. Um, but if, if I'm thirsty and they don't have it, I'll buy a diet Pepsi or I'll buy a water or, or I'm British, I might buy a tea. Um, so there's all sorts of alternatives there. Um, nobody's going to die because they can't find their preferred brand. So I think kind of being realistic about where we are between a preference and, um, yeah, a passion is quite important. So I think, yeah, brands need to be very realistic about that. But how you'd work with the retailer is also crucial because quite often it's the physical availability through the retailer that is the jump off point for the consumer.
So if you are able to kind of partner with the retailer that's got a strong loyalty program, or do, you know, a crossover, which actually is what we did with Nerf perks, uh, with Target, um, you know, several years ago and, um, and Amazon, various others, but we started with Target, um, because they saw the opportunity to kind of benefit from what the program was generating and add to it. And the program saw the benefit of feeding into what Target was doing and add to it. So you can get a kind of very mutual beneficial thing there.
So that's really interesting when we're talking about kind of loyalty, and how that relationship works with a retailer, and the ability to use the understanding of a consumer, the understanding of how a brand, is represented to that consumer and what that brand means to the consumer. You mentioned, is it a passion or is it a preference? I think that's very perfectly put right, because we can make decisions based on a number of different factors. And how I react with a shoe brand may be laissez fair, I may not really care about shoes, but how I react with a bicycle brand or something that's really important to me is very different, right? So understanding who you are to the consumer is so important and how that impacts the retailer and how that relationship with the retailer and the brand and the consumer kind of that triangulated relationship works well together, is how we can grow together.
Right. So I want to talk a little bit about, you know, growing businesses specifically as a brand and how that partnership with a retailer is so important in that growth, right? So the, the idea of using your marketing to kind of stand out in a retailer, you mentioned some specific partnerships with Lego and Target, things like that are really interesting to me in that they've been very thoughtful about, okay, what are some different things that we can do to provide a usable and interesting thing for a consumer that's gonna increase everybody's, preference and, grow their brands together. So can you talk about kind of, that mutual growth and how important that is and how marketing plays a role in that?
Yeah, sure. So I mean, at its most base level, and of course you know this, but I'll, start from here. And its most base level, products need retailers to find consumers and retailers need products to have something to supply to consumers. So we, start off with, with a kind of mutual need. It becomes imbalanced by, uh, success quite often. So, you know we know, I mean, certainly over here in the UK, uh, there's been an ongoing issue for a number of years now with.. we are a small nation. We're basically the size of a state, right? So we don't really have the kind of regional retailers, that they have in the US And I've done some work in the past with, uh, Southeastern grosses, so I'm quite familiar with, some of the setup.
We have a handful of nationwide powerhouse, supermarkets, basically grocers extended out. Um, and if the biggest or a couple of the biggest decide that they want to pay under cost value for milk, then suddenly farmers are in a position where they have to decide what they're gonna do about that. And we have had a period where the governments had to subsidize milk because the supermarkets weren't willing to pay the actual cost of milk, which is crazy. So, you know, it can go too far one way and it can go too far the other way. I mean, sometimes brands will try to, um, have an unrealistic view of, their, I guess their aspirational value, uh, and not like the way that they're being sold by the retailer, but the retailer knows the people that are buying and that's really crucial.
So e even if you are a very well educated, really smart, well trained brand marketer, don't forget that the retailers, whilst they've got their own agenda, they understand what makes consumers take stuff off the shelf because that's how they choose to stack their shelves. So, um, I think, it's really important therefore to kind of understand what is the dynamic. And the dynamic is usually that the retailer wants to find new ways to beat their competition. And that traditionally will be about exclusive products or it will be about promotions or price cuts. Um, and the retailer wants to get pushed forward. So what it normally comes down to is, yeah, there will be your kind of promotional Windows 52 P and, um, coming up with what you're going to do in each of those and making sure that it works for both sides quite often.
Unless you're, if, if you're a super powerful brand, um you're kind of at the whim of the, the retailer. So again, as I mentioned before, kind of looking out for what additional value you can get from things as a brand. Cuz ultimately you are kind of paying for this to happen in order to earn your space on shelf in order to earn the, extra kind of shopper marketing, your Barkers and, and your wobbler and all these kind of things that are going to make you stand out on shelf. So making sure that you make the, use, the most of that opportunity, um, but always having him back in the mind what the consumer, what the retailer wants for it. So one example, um, might be able to see my whiskey back there, uh, we did a campaign for, uh, a whiskey brand called Famous Grouse.
Um, they're, owned by the Edge Degree here. Um, and they wanted to do a program, and again, it was about retaining shelf space at a key point. They, they had a sporting sponsorship. Uh, so, their kind of window was fairly closed and what the retailer wanted was footfall and what the brand wanted was purchase. So, um, we looked into whether or not we could actually tie in actual purchase, but the technology wasn't there for it. So what we actually came up with in the end, and this was the agency I was at, was, okay, well let, let's have a really visible, really visual kind of, um, shopper installation with a QR code. Um, and it's basically scanned for a chance to win. And because it was basically a big set piece, the, we knew that people could take a picture of the QR and bus friends, but yeah, it, it was the closest we could get to making sure that people were in store.
And again, whilst we couldn't drive people to actively purchase or prove that they purchased, we knew that they would've been standing in front of or landed on a branded destination. So it ticked lots of boxes along the way to the ultimate journey. And, um, yeah, we, it was very successful. It was tied into, um, an E E C R M system, so we were able to kind of get lots and lots of entries. We were able to look at where they were. We had a winner a day for, um, a couple of weeks I think it was. And there was a great spread around the country. And so both the retailer and the brand were super happy about it. And it was just kind of thinking about, right, okay, well these are our limitations. And sometimes as a creative, as an agency, the limitations are brilliant because they force you to be much clearer about what you can do and how to get there.
Yeah, , that's, that, it's really interesting talking about kind of limitations cuz I just wrote down authenticity on my notes here cuz I, I want to talk to you a little bit about that. You mentioned some of the massive brands have the ability to kind of dictate the way and the terms that they want to go to market, right? With retailers, but often it's, it's gotta be, uh, a partnership, right? And so how do you see, and and do you see it often where brands are very authentic and transparent with their retail partners and saying, Hey, these are the things that we can do well, these are the things that we can't do well. And, do you see that as a strategy, um, for kind of long-term success and partnership together and have you seen that play out well or have you seen that blow up , in people's faces ever <laugh>?
Um, I mean, where I've seen that work really well is, is with smaller, um, and niche retailers. Um, so, you know, kind of if it's a health brand, uh, you are workingwith a h ealth store, uh, a health food store. So over here we have Holland Barrett, um, you're going to get more support and, it's gonna be a more authentic partnership through that than it will be going to a big box retailer, um, unless you are a big box brand. So I, I think it really is about kind of, um, it's about the balance of power. It really is so much about the balance and power and, also the kind of the ethos of the brand. So, you know, if, you're looking at, um, well let's take a couple of a couple of examples.
You know, kind of the, the support and the kind of support that someone like, um, oh, Liquid Death might be able to get compared to Dasani. You know, it's a completely different playing field. One, you've got the slightly discredited, um, product from the major player and the other one, you've just got this thing that seems to come out of nowhere and, everyone gets in on the call. So, and again, you know, retailers know that this is gonna appeal to people, this is gonna appeal to some people. Are they our people? Yes, they are. We want to be part of this. How can we help you make the best thing it can be? Um, and you know, if you're super huge, maybe you get that maybe you're spending so much with a retailer and you're putting so much on shelf that they're gonna do anything for you anyway. But normally about working with the smaller retailers, because they'll understand where you come from, particularly if it's a kind of niche, as I say, they'll understand what your intentions are. They'll understand kind of what your ethos is. And um, it is far more authentic because it's not only looking at the, the the spreadsheets.
Which are super important. Let's not put down spreadsheets,
<laugh> Yeah. We can't knock the spreadsheets. There's a lot of interesting decisions that could be made in, in a spreadsheet. Right. Um, John, thank you so much for joining us. I'm gonna go through some rapid fire questions with you, kind of like fire off a question first thing that comes to your mind. Um, and you actually gave me a great segue with, with Liquid Death, cuz the first question is have there, and you can't use Liquid Death cuz you've already used it, but <laugh>, are there any brands recently that have just kind of shocked you with their growth and how rapid, and robust their growth has been? Um, you mentioned a really good one, so I'm gonna take that one off the table.
Yeah. Um, so I mean there's a couple that I can think of over here. Um, and I know they're not just over here. Whether or not they're in the US I don't know. I mean, one of the most astonishing growths I've seen is, um, again, I'm going back to my stereotypical being a Brit, um, Yorkshire Tea So Yorkshire Tea it was nowhere, it, it was a nowhere brand. We had two major players in, in, in the black T category, um, in the UK. Um, and they'd been there for decades and decades and within a fairly short period of time, Yorkshire Tea has managed to take over and go to number one in that category, um, by being smart, by being authentic, by being funny, um, and also taking opportunity of just the laziness of the category leaders.
Yeah. So for me that, that is one of the most astonishing growth I've ever seen. Um, something else that I've really found interesting lately, and I dunno, maybe you could tell me, I dunno if it's in the US yet, it's, it's a Dutch brand, but it's a chocolate brand called, um, Tony's Chocolonely And, um, they're very much purpose-driven. In fact, they started out as a, um, as a campaign rather than a brand. Hmm. Um, and so their whole thing was that, they want to cut, um, bad practice in the chocolate trade, uh, slavery child labor. Um, and they just happened to have developed a really, really, really good product, um, which is super expensive. So when I first saw it over here, it was, um, you only saw it in two or three of the real luxury retailers, you know, the real high-end retailers. But it's such good stuff, it's now everywhere. And, um, yeah, that the message is getting across that they're able to kind of nudge, uh, not bully, but kind of show and tell and prove that it can be done to the bigger boys as well. So again, that, that they for me have, have been a, a really fascinating watch.
Yeah, that's interesting. Uh, you mentioned two kind of concepts. There are actually a lot of concepts, but two that stood out to me is one is research and development coming out with an outstanding product that just kind of brings you to the forefront. The other being smart and creative and kind of attacking, um, some of the, uh, some apathy in, bigger players in the market. And there's usually opportunity sometimes in those categories. Um, so that's really, really interesting stuff. Okay. Next question. When you feel kind of stuck with a business problem or something that, you're just kind of mired down or in a rut, what's your process for kind of getting the ideas flowing and getting out of a thought process rut?
Um, I think you're gonna like where I'm going with this and it also, it almost sounds like I'm making it up, but this is genuinely what I do. Um, I'll go to a store, I'll go to a store and I'll look things and I'll look at people and, um, yeah, I, it was one of the things that I enjoyed, I really enjoyed, uh, about kind of being at the Lego Group. Um, because A, the people who work in the stores are so wonderful. I mean the store associates are just impeccable. Um, but also the people that are going to the stores know that there's, it's more than just a retail Yeah. It's very on brand as you can imagine. So I'd quite often just go down there and walk around and look up the aisle, and, and people would just chat and, uh, I live in London, as you said, in London, people aren't allowed to speak to strangers.
It just doesn't happen. You get given very strange looks. So if we're on our underground on, on the tube, everyone's looking away from each other. It's a real standoffish kind of city. Um, but not in Lego stores. So, um, you know, every time I struggled with something there, I'd just go down to a store and, and I'd watch and I'd listen and I'd end up chatting with people and you just see more of what's actually going on. Because ultimately, however clever we want to be, our job as a marketer is to make sure that that person in the store likes, or that person in the store knows what is in the store for them. And that, that's all our job is, you know, to kind of, and people talk about persuasion and all sorts of other things and um, you know, I won't get into the semantics of it, but ultimately they need to know that something exists and they need to know they can get it. And so kind of, you know, looking at the different messaging and, and uh, stuff like that, that kind of, that always switches me back.
Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's great stuff. Uh, I think, um, the two things that I always go to and nobody asked me to share, but I'm going to anyways, were exactly what you said. Being in the store, understanding kind of a consumer's journey to making a decision and seeing you get so many ideas and so much inspiration from seeing how people interact. And then the other side of that, which I think is also really interesting is walking manufacturing facilities and understanding from a manufacturer what is it that you do well? What's at the core of who you are? Do you test better than everybody else? What sets you apart? And then helping to connect those two worlds, right? And, make a purpose for a consumer. I I think kind of getting out from behind the desk is so valuable. Um, it's really good. Good word. For our listeners, I switched the last question here cuz and we've talked a little bit about kind of marketing strategies in the UK versus the US but I want to ask you, if you had one thing to kind of share with brands out there, with manufacturers and with brands out there, what would you want, man, what would you want brands to know? If you could say one thing, like what would you want brands to know?
Ultimately the most important thing in growing business is to be available. And, um, yeah, Byron Sharp has talked about mental availability and physical availability and, you know, kind of mental availability is being aware of something, right? But if you can't actually just buy something at the point when you are minded to buy that, then you've lost, it doesn't matter how familiar someone is with your brand. Um, so actual physical availability is the most crucial thing in the world, and that's why, you know, multi-brand retailers exist because if I want a drink, um, I could wander around hoping that I might find a store that Coca-Cola own or I can go into the local supermarket or whatever and, and choose from a range of them. So understanding that what the retailers provide is the most important thing for any brand to grow.
And, and even with D two C brands, I mean we, we, we've seen a shift in D two C brands, uh, firstly going from purely digital offerings to, uh, you know, many of them are now ad advertising on TV out of home, et cetera. But also a lot of them are now moving into, um, availability through high street retailers and, and department stores and stuff. So yeah, it's possible to run at different speeds. Yeah, you can start up as a D to C and focus very much on the low hanging fruit, but if you're gonna grow from that, you need to be where consumers have the need for your product, whatever that is. And, you know, kind of, um, again, kind of gonna sound like a real Berg bass nerd now, but yeah, there's been a lot of talk about category entry points, which isn't what is the category and do they know your brand?
It's what is the need that takes me into a category. So if it's Diet Coke, well it's because I want a drink. I'm either thirsty or I'm hot. Um, or I just wanna relax that. Those are maybe different reasons. Uh, I'm never going to think I would like some fizzy brown water it wont work that way. So the more places you're available where people might want to do things, and again, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper have done brilliantly with this in terms of the bills that they've done with with quick service restaurants, um, with retailers large and small, you can get these things everywhere because, anywhere you are, you are gonna get thirsty. So I think it's understanding that it's part of the chain of getting to the consumer and what you need to focus on is once the consumer is there, how do you give yourself a better chance of being the choice from all of the other competitors that will be there and they will be there.
Yeah. Availability when the decision is being made. That's, it's so crucial to success. Right? And so, uh, I love that. John, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate you being on the podcast. Any, uh, things that you wanna plug or places people can find you, um, that you wanna shout out?
Um, so probably the best place to find me will be on Twitter at the moment whilst it's still there. So, uh, I'm Johnny Ego at Twitter. Um, and, I am a hat on Twitter, so, uh, Johnny Ego on Twitter's the best place to find me or John Lyons on LinkedIn, which I think we've got a better chance of, of knowing, is gonna be there soon.
<laugh>. Well John, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate you coming on the show.
No, it's been great. It's been great. You too,
Okeydoke. Take care. See ya. So there you have it. It was really interesting talking with John today. We learned a lot. I hope you guys learned a lot as well. If there's anything else that you want to hear from us, uh, other guests that you want to have on Retail Oriented or the specific topics that you want to hear about, let us know in the comment section. Go to our, uh, website and fill out at one of those little forms, salesfactory.com. Send that our way. You can email me directly at email@example.com. Let us know what you want to hear. We love talking with John. Really enjoyed that conversation. We hope you did too. And if you did, please hit the like button, the little thumbs up, maybe even subscribe, share it with some friends. Um, and make sure that you hit the little bell icon so that every time an episode of Retail Oriented comes out, you make sure you get that first and are notified when it comes out. Again. We really, appreiate you guys joining us today and I'm Mike Fowler. Remember when you're thinking about retail, it's all about selling in and selling through.