Dear Colleagues:
No matter the economic conditions, it is always wise to prod your company to develop cost effective marketing strategies, as well as approaches that creatively express your brand's value propsition.

If you are building a new business or marketing with financial constraints, then leveraging all resources at your disposal becomes essential. That starts with ideas that come from your employees, vendors, and customers. It is also about mobilizing these and other potential partners and stakeholders to promote your products and services.

In this issue of Marketing Coach, we feature two success stories -- Sweet Riot and Stoneyfield Farm -- that may inspire you to take stock of your product benefits and company assets and grow from there.



Rioting on a Shoestring


"Sweet Riot" started out as a boot-strap operation. Its founder, Sarah Endline, was fascinated by consumer product companies that had social values like Ben and Jerry's and The Body Shop. She dreamed of creating such a company. After finishing business school and then working at Yahoo, she set out to create a candy company with strong social values. "I loved candy and started looking at the candy category and was led to dark chocolate because of the great health benefits and the history and story behind it," said Endline.

According to Endline, marketing starts with a unique product and concept. "You need to have the right product message, name and logo first." The first step was to choose a great name that people could repeat and remember. They were successful getting their "natural" product into the leading stores they sought, such as Zabar's and Baldacci's in New York, by offering sampling programs to stimulate consumer interest in the product.

The Internet was an important way to build a community and sell; Sweet Riot had an online store from the beginning -- even a blog at launch. This proved to be a great way to build the brand culture and attract customer feedback online.

For 2009 their marketing strategy will continue to be grassroots driven and build on 2008 successes. In summary, the formula is finding great stores to carry the product, sample at them, use the Internet to generate buzz, and see that other mediagenic product stories are publicized in the media.

Sweet Riot also uses trade shows to find new customers and grow existing ones. They expect to continue to participate in about four of the most focused specialty, organic and food trade shows. Much of their press coverage has come from being "found" at trade shows and from being out in the community.


Marketing on a tight budget makes everything you do important. Sweet Riot engaged with the media to get their story told and heavily utilizes Internet marketing tools like Twitter, blogs, and emails. Building a list of followers is important.

Sarah Endline, Sweet Riot 


Interactive and online marketing has been central to their lean and savvy strategy. This year's plan includes a monthly newsletter, direct email promotions and blogging. Their Featured Artist campaign is a unique initiative whereby Sweet Riot changes its packaging periodically to showcase winning art selected by consumers based on community artists' submissions to

"Grassroots marketing is central to this brand," Endline explained. "'Riot' is about bringing people together to make a statement. I believe in a different generation of consumer products. This is a product that has a 2-way relationship. It is much more transparent and consumers can learn about the company and influence how it operates."


Stonyfield Farm Yogurt Grows from the Grassroots


Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm attributes his company's success to "never compromising on our mission or product." The business model celebrates sustainability to produce delicious organic yogurt "superior to the market" that supports local farms. Stonyfield's big break came with Whole Foods in New Hampshire when Hirshberg sold his first order to that local store, then known as Bread and Circus. He then got 15 friends to make a rush on the store and buy out all of the yogurt over a single weekend, which resulted in a large reorder.

As a start-up, Hirshberg invested all of his personal assets in this business and it took a number of years before he had the revenue stream to invest money in marketing. Yet, each grocery chain required an advertising commitment in their market. How did he do meet their expectations?

  • The first store requiring Stoneyfield's marketing commitment was in New Hampshire. Cash poor, Hirshberg figured that the only assets he had were 19 cows and his yogurt. So, the company offered COW ADOPTION to customers in exchange for five yogurt container tops. Participating customers received an adoption certificate and a quarterly letter from their cow (later email).
  • Chicago retailers expected immediate advertising for using their shelf space. So Hirshberg went to the Chicago Department of Transportation and asked if Stonyfield Farms could stage a weeklong event handing out free yogurt to commuters to thank them for their commitment to public transportation. Notifying the media of the collaboration with the local DOT to promote public transportation generated substantial publicity.
  • Entering Texas was a tall order. Without marketing dollars to roll out in Dallas and San Antonio, the Stonyfield team set up a highway roadside promotion with signage saying "We Support Inflation". They inflated people's tires and gave them a free yogurt. When tires are properly inflated, emissions are decreased. The strategic brand tie and uniqueness of the event generated much publicity.

With each promotion, Hirshberg understood that he had to leverage his assets and the brand's connection to environmental causes. In fact, from the time the business moved into the black, 40% of profits were directed to environmental causes and to support family farmers.

Though 25 years in business, Stonyfield Farm perpetuates its brand affinity for grassroots marketing and is always looking for ways to break through with shoppers - always promoting good health, active sustainability and pro-community engagement.

  • This past December, a slow time for yogurt sales, Stoneyfield's employees jumped into action to spark interest through the 150 cities and towns in which they live and work. They conducted sampling to encourage consumers to "eat healthy" during the holiday season. They handed out squeezers, smoothies and yogurt cups. Their director of public relations personally distributed Yobaby at her kids' recreation league's sports center on a busy Saturday.
  • The grass roots energy powered forward into the presidential inauguration. Stonyfield partnered with Dancing Deer Baking Co. to "Serve up a Recipe for Good Government". Together the companies conducted a sampling program in Washington, DC and Boston to encourage a trial of vanilla yogurt and Dancing Deer's new "Molasses Clove Inaugural Cookie" - an attempt to simulate cookies and milk. In Washington pedi-cabs with Stonyfield logos cruised the streets for 5 days including Inauguration Day handing out cookies and smoothies to their fares.