Evolution ….. The word is defined as a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.
Having covered consumer products for nearly two decades, I have witnessed and reveled in the evolution of many companies.
The common factor among those manufacturers who have made significant strides were those that embraced, no celebrated, the idea of evolving their brand to make it bigger, better and stronger than ever before.
Those who haven't aren't worth a hill of beans as they have struggled to keep up with the changing ways consumers interact with their brand.
Speaking of beans, Jelly Belly has cultivated a winning formula not only by creating buzz around the real and natural ingredients in its gourmet jelly beans, but focusing its efforts on unique and exciting inbound and outbound initiatives.
Its entry into the board game category via a deal with Mattel is a perfect example of the kind of out-of-the-box thinking companies need to do to keep their brand fresh.
Heading to shelves this holiday season are Jelly Belly UNO and Apples to Apples Special Edition games. Each features bean shaped cards, a mix of Jelly Belly beans and rules integrating the beans into the game.
"The idea behind our deal with Mattel was bringing what we do best with what they do best. We are in the gift business and fun business and this was a natural way to turn it up full blast," said nine-year company veteran Rob Swaigen, vp of marketing.
Recognizing its core attributes also led to new licensing deals and innovative product introductions with Snapple, Sunkist, Sanrio (Hello Kitty) and Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit) taking the brand from just an Easter must-have (accounting for 40% of its business) to a Christmas wanna have (a real growing segment) to a year-round obsession.
This obsession has continued with the addition of its Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips line. These chocolate covered gems (a personal favorite) provided entry into the chocolate category and created what Swaigen calls "a bridge that allows us to leverage our core competencies and make it relevant to those who love chocolate."
Distribution instantly broadened to include retailers who might not carry chocolate day in and day out, but are anxious to include a strong confection brand for impulse purchases. Its Sport Beans, popular among endurance athletes, were an entry into sporting goods and bicycle shops in 2005 and still today are a strong segment for the company.
On the outbound side, Jelly Belly branded merchandise is being marketed by 45 licensees with 600 skus ranging from air fresheners and soda to dessert toppings and bubbles.
"Despite all we have done with the brand so far, I am still faced with, and excited by, a white piece of paper that I look forward to filling with many more opportunities that lie ahead," said Swaigen.
Evolution doesn't stop here. Stay tuned for a series of articles on the exciting journey of other companies. If you have an interesting story to tell, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.