Many serial entrepreneurs dramatically speak of the moment they realized their first business wasn't working. It's a tough call to know when to shut down a business venture and move on to the next opportunity after so much hard work and creative effort. I've heard this decision referred to as "killing your darlings", or "killing your baby". (A bit morbid if you think about it too deeply, but that's how the saying goes).
But something that's just as bold, and I can assume difficult, is knowing when to deviate from your original vision and "re-brand your baby".
I started as Tru's Director of Marketing just 4 weeks ago, and came into the brand after 7 years of hard work by founders Jack McNamara and Yashwardhan (Yash) Banthia. What I saw immediately was fun, modern packaging and social presence that was already pretty built out in the Boston area, complete with influencer attention & events like sponsored workout classes. My mission now is to focus and scale the brand across the country, and bring the Future of Fizz to influential areas like NYC and LA. (The header pic is from a recent appearance Tru made at a New York Fashion Week event).
Coming into the business, the brand identity and target market were identified. It needs some up-leveling, focusing and some extra love, but the general vision was there. It wasn't until I started digging through the archived pictures of packaging and advertisements that I was like woahhh this brand has really come a long way.
No alt text provided for this image In 2016, Tru (then called TruEnergy) was referred to by Forbes as a "better-for-you sports drink". If you've seen any of our branding lately, you can probably tell that's not how we would describe ourselves now.
What is now a lifestyle and wellness brand with the majority of consumers being female, was originally conceived with a more athletic and masculine style. Our CEO Jack was a pro-hockey player, and came up with the idea for Tru from that experience. Like most founders, he built based on what he knew.
As a female who is objectively a member of Tru's target market-- I love the current identity of the brand. It's one I would've loved to have created myself. I've had a couple of my friends bluntly say to my face "it doesn't look like a dude created the brand. It's so trendy and aesthetic looking". (Hold on, that's actually a compliment, let me explain...)
Hearing that comment gives me so much confidence in our founders and their leadership because they listened to their consumers instead of their egos. They were agile enough to adapt their marketing to trends and data regarding category growth and the most attractive (& profitable) target market.
It can be tempting to want to stick to the exact plan and vision you had in your head, after all it was your vision of your business. But even being a creative person, I can agree that the data doesn't lie. And if your goal as a business owner is to grow your business and make some money... you should probably listen to it.
Rather than gripping onto the original vision of the company, Tru has taken its years of learnings, and feedback from the market to heart. Jack and the early team listened to what was working, and they ran with it. In my opinion, that's what makes an effective and selfless founder, staying focused on the proven desires of the consumers-- even if that means slightly pivoting from the vision they originally dreamt up.
Pulling this off successfully takes humility, agility, and always having one ear to the ground. It's a practice rather than an item on a checklist. Most importantly-- it's a skill that all founders and early members of a company need to master if they hope to take their startup idea and transform it into a billion dollar company.
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