By Elin Roberts, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Better Nature
Early on in my journey with Better Nature, I was constantly preoccupied by what other brands were doing - particularly with what I felt they were doing better than we were. I always felt like we were falling behind and was frustrated by the lack of time, experience, money and resources we had to catch up. A familiar story for all founders of early-stage start-ups, I’m sure!
Stop thinking about the competition
I then came across a really fascinating TedX talk by Alex Smith of Basic Arts. It totally re-framed how I saw Better Nature and its role in the market. I would highly recommend giving it a watch yourself, but if you don’t get the chance, here’s a quick summary: we, as business leaders, should spend less time worrying about what other brands are doing and spend more time focusing on nailing our unique proposition in the market.
This seems somewhat counterintuitive, right? Surely we need to be aware of what others are doing to make sure we’re always remaining relevant and unique? This is true to an extent: it is important to know what competitors are doing when mapping out where we can add value in the market. There’s no point doubling up, especially if the competitor in question is far more established than we are. But once we’re clear on where we sit in the market, it’s a much better use of our time to focus on how we can really own that space, rather than on what others in the market are doing in their space. This is not to say we shouldn’t learn what’s best practice in the industry, but this can be done in a much more time-effective and productive way that doesn’t involve monitoring every small change your competitor makes (hey, we’ve all done it!).
But make sure others care about what we’re doing
As most of us know, a niche in the market doesn’t always signify a worthwhile opportunity. It’s vital to make sure there’s demand, either now or in the near future, for what we’re doing. As founders it’s tempting to create a product/service catered perfectly to us and assume others will also be interested in it, but we all know this is often not the case. It’s important that we run our own research, from reading papers and articles to speaking to our target audience (or a range of people until we figure out who that is), especially those outside our own bubbles - and make sure that what we’re offering is adding real value to people’s lives.
This value can be offered in multiple ways: it could be through creating a whole new product the market’s never seen before, or it could be re-framing a product in the market already in terms of the product itself, how it’s being marketed or its target audience. It’s really important to remember that we don’t need to create something totally new to create value. As long as we’re able to find some white space, whatever that looks like, and then be distinctive and attention-grabbing within it, we’re giving ourselves the best chance to stand out and reap the rewards.
For us at Better Nature, this came from the realisation that meat-free brands typically sat in two camps: one was hyper realistic meat alternatives which were more processed and indulgent, and another was natural, simple meat alternatives which didn’t quite have the juicy, meaty bite people were craving. We could also see from our research that most people were choosing to reduce their meat intake for health reasons. So, the white space for us became really clear: we needed to create all-natural meat alternatives that balanced nutrition and taste.
Luckily for us, we had the ingredient to do just that: tempeh. An all-natural plant-based protein from Indonesia with a delicious meaty bite and an incredible nutritional profile, we knew our tempeh-based products could really own the white space we had in mind. From this we built our brand strategy “Protein without compromise” (expanded to “Delicious, all-natural meat alternatives that don’t compromise on people, the planet or animals”) and pairing this with an engaging, innovative brand, set out to become a distinctive all-natural meat-free brand.
Once that niche is chosen, totally commit to it
Once the position in the market is identified, it’s vital to commit to it in every aspect of the business. From marketing to operations to product development - in order to be impactful and authentic, every element of the business needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. And there’s nothing wrong with having some fun with it - the more attention-grabbing brands are, the more likely we are to engage with and remember them.
At Better Nature, “Protein without compromise” sits at the core of everything we do as a business, from our marketing activities to our HR practices to our customer service to our food science and product development. Creating delicious, nutritious and sustainable protein products and not compromising on people, the planet and animals in doing so is what drives us forward and this should (hopefully) be apparent in every touchpoint of our brand (please do let me know if not!).
Some examples of brands doing this well are Brewdog and Tony’s Chocolonely. Both of them started out as small challenger brands in huge, established markets. Markets that were filled with hyper successful brands that they could have easily tried to emulate. Instead, they focused on finding their niches: for Brewdog, it was a love for craft beers and for Tony’s Chocolonely, it was slave-free chocolate. Both niches that the market probably didn’t even know it wanted at the time and no one else was even considering. They then built their businesses and brands around these niches, from their products to their messaging to their operations. To this day, they live and breathe their niche and that’s the main reason, in my view, why they are the successful businesses they are.
Have confidence in ourselves and our mission
To summarise, we could all spend our days looking at what others are doing and picking and choosing what we could use for our own businesses. But where does that leave us? Put simply, trying to compete with bigger brands (with deeper pockets) at their own game. And who wants that?
So, why not change the game up instead? Why not create our own vision for our business, letting our unique proposition shine through? We’ll be all the more distinctive, successful and fulfilled for it, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Learn more about Better Nature:
Instagram & Twitter: @betternature_
Elin is a marketing strategist-turned-entrepreneur who is passionate about making the world a happier, fairer and more sustainable place.