Insight
May 14, 2018
The mistake entrepreneurs need to avoid

Your business DNA is your brand

Business decisions make sense when brand fundamentals drive them. Entrepreneurs, listen carefully.

Entrepreneurs. We praise them, and especially the way some food lovers have become true trailblazers in the food industry’s exciting developments. John Foraker is one of them, who I saw on stage at the last Expo West. He’s probably best known for his role as Chairman of the Board and then CEO at Annie’s, who sold to General Mills in 2014 for $820MM.

His latest food startup, Once Upon a Farm, develops fresh baby food products, introducing a whole new category to the market, while providing kids from low-income backgrounds with access to fresh organic food. While being interviewed at Expo along with co-founder Jennifer Garner regarding the brand’s launch, the interviewer brought up a crucial question: “Are there any mistakes from your experience at Annie’s that came as lessons for Once Upon a Farm?” This was his answer :

  • "I made a million (mistakes), but the one that I made and want to talk about today is that while had a great brand DNA at Annie's, we were clear on what the brand stood for, I resisted having a mission statement, a vision and core values for years. I was finally slapped on the back of my head by our VP Marketing, and we did it. Once we did that, every business decision became clear, because we had a roadmap, and the business just took off. If you're an entrepreneur, do that. When you hit curbs on the road in the future, it will make it so much easier for you to succeed going through those"

The four co-founders of Once Upon a Farm: (left to right) John Foraker, Jennifer Garner, Cassandra Curtis, and Ari Raz. Source: onceuponafarmorganics.com

Brand drives business

We could say today that this ‘Brand First’ approach makes common sense. With John’s example, the development of the brand was a forced afterthought that thankfully gave the company clarity and license to grow. But very often, many entrepreneurs are operationally led and are not adopting this mindset as early as they should. What is certain today is the ‘Brand First’ approach is more important than ever. The rise of social media has accelerated the number of products entering the market, which means more competition and more competition means that differentiation is the key.


I do believe that it’s the brand that drives the business and not the other way around, which is why John Foraker’s advice resonated so strongly with me. Last year I wrote about start-ups that were looking to design a logo before anything else and how that approach won’t get you far today. Rather than developing the shiny new visual identity first, time and energy should be dedicated to building a proper brand platform . A marathon runner starts with a first step and this should be yours.




Authored by CBA North America CEO, Jean-Marc Rinaldi.

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