Over the last year, Aloha has reinvented itself from a plant-based protein brand to a lifestyle brand. The small independent company markets, bars, powders and a new line of drinks containing coconut milk.
CMO Alexandra Stankiewicz, who has been with the brand for over a year, has taken the team on that journey. Armed with a tiny budget, she strategically plans and executes all brand initiatives across digital and product marketing, customer experience, partnerships, social media, creative, email and field marketing.
Competitors like Vega, Orgain and Olly are fended off with powerful field marketing and innovative brand activations. She arrived on the job well-equipped with marketing stints that included Chobani, Calvin Klein and Johnson & Johnson, as well as at the Mother agency where she worked on Anheuser-Busch and launched Stella Artois in the U.S. She also oversees all e-commerce activity, including online product sales on Aloha.com, as well as platforms such as Amazon, Jet and Thrive Market.
Stankiewicz spoke with Chief Marketer about moving Aloha to a lifestyle brand and how she plans to grow market share.
CHIEF MARKETER: What is your strategy for reinventing your brand?
ALEXANDRA STANKIEWICZ: We want to go beyond just product marketing and telling consumers that we make plant-based protein bars and powders we want to embody the lifestyle and mindset that is shared with our customers. Ninety-eight percent of our customers exercise daily and 86 percent are the kind of people that choose to take stairs instead of the elevator. We try to create products with them in mind because for them living healthfully and well is an every day priority.
CM: How do you express that to customers?
AS: As a small brand I have limited channels, but I try to maximize those channels, which include PR, social media, our website and field marketing events and customer experience. It’s at each of those different touch points that we try to have that personal connection with customers. We don’t talk just about the products, we try to make the connection about how these products fit into their lifestyles and really enable them to do the kinds of things they like to do every day, which is being really active people.
CM: How do you convey that message in your marketing materials?
AS: Some of it is a more literal sense that comes through in imagery and copy, not just including product shots, but going beyond that to include imagery of things that really inspire us and that capture and celebrate the kinds of activities that our customers, and we internally do, like hiking, running and cycling.
CM: What is the most important attribute of your marketing team?
AS: I really try to make sure that my marketing team are very much creative thinkers, but very much analytic, strategic thinkers as well.
CM: What is your channel mix?
AS: It’s definitely an interesting time in terms of things that we’ve been trying. For us it’s about finding that right channel mix that works for us and that is going to really drive resonance and connection with consumers. Right now that mix is the PR, social and field marketing because all of that helps build awareness and drive trial with customers.
CM: What tactics do you use to drive trial?
AS: Through social we use different codes and offers. We give influencers a custom limited-time offer code and use social and email to publicize those offers. We’ve seen great engagement rates. We just launched a program in April for our new protein drinks and we saw the highest number of redemptions that we’ve ever seen in the company history and that was done purely on just social and email.
CM: Do you use influencers?
AS: We have many organic relationships with influencers that we supplement with paid relationships. We’ve been experimenting, as so many brands have, with the different tiers of influencers. We’re seeing some great engagement and results from the micro- and nano-influencers right now.
CM: What is your strategy to grow market share?
AS: It’s a lot of using those kinds of tactics, but we’re trying to go above and beyond in terms of our marketing approach. In the category. I see some of the same kind of tactics across CPG. We try to be innovative in terms of our marketing approach. We’re looking to gain market share by doing some of the tried and true tactics, but then going above and beyond using things that we’ve learned from experiences in other categories. We’ve got some stuff in the works that I hope will make a splash for Aloha.
CM: Can you share an example of a recent campaign?
AS: We launched our new Aloha Protein Drink on April 8 on Aloha.com, The drinks are made with a creamy coconut milk base that transcends the protein drink category. Leading up to the campaign we teased it to our email subscribers, seeded it on social and then launched at Expo West for the first time at the end of March. We had a lot of pre-buzz and saw a fantastic spike at our website and in sales that lasted the whole month. We used a special limited-time code that delivered a record number of redemptions and we’re continuing to see good trial.
CM: How much testing do you do?
AS: We are testing and reviewing performance and results literally every day. So we are constantly learning. If we have something in market that’s just not working for us or isn’t compelling to consumers I rather know that right away and shift to put something in market that’s more compelling.
CM: What is your biggest challenge marketing in such a competitive space?
AS: Right now just building awareness. Being able to build awareness in a very cluttered category with brands that have bigger spend is definitely a challenge. But through creative measures and creative tactics and approaches I’m feeling excited about that challenge. As a small independent company I think we’re in a perfect position to do some brave things.
CM: Have you diverted budget dollars to any specific channels?
AS: I have a smaller share of voice then some of the larger competitors in the category—for me that’s where some of the excitement and the challenge lies, being able to make every dollar work like three or five dollars or more and really drive efficiencies and be really creative in terms of our tactics and approach. It’s [our budget] small, but it’s what we have to work with.
CM: How have your prior marketing roles in the lifestyle, fashion and food industries prepared you to for this job?
AS: I’ve so valued having cross category experience. It’s something I talk to younger folks about when they’re thinking about their careers. Having that exposure to other categories has broadened my thinking and my ability to create and troubleshoot and market in untraditional ways to a specific category. You also learn best practices from different categories and apply them to whichever category your in.
CM: What about consumer insights?
AS: I learn to understand the consumer in multi-dimensional ways. I’m obsessed with the consumer and understanding what makes them tick and what resonates for them. Getting to see and learn, about Millennials for example, through their purchasing behavior across food, fashion and different categories gives me a multi-dimensional view about who they are, the trends and what works for them and what doesn’t.