Freddy Ward: Episode 8

Freddy Ward on creating a new ecommerce category at HelloFresh and Wild

Freddy Ward is the co-founder and CEO of Wild and before that he was the Marketing Director of HelloFresh. In both roles he was responsible not just for launching a new ecommerce brand but for creating a whole new category.

He explains the steps in category creation from explanation to the customer through to building a brand once competition emerges.

He tells us how a cancelled media booking led to them accidentally finding their most successful recruitment channel.

He also covers the importance of selling face-to-face for learning, on and offline channels, building brand loyalty, creating a moat and finally we talk about recruiting a growth team once it becomes too much for one person.

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Andrew Veitch: Welcome to The Joy of Marketing. This week, we’re joined by Freddy Ward. Freddy is the CEO and co-founder of We Are Wild who make sustainable natural deodorants. I was going to do a deodorant joke, but I thought better of it. And previously, he was director of marketing at HelloFresh. Thank you for joining us.

Freddy Ward: Thank you very much for having me, Andrew.

AV: So maybe we could just kick off with launching a new brand? Because obviously, this is something you’ve done twice so far, once at HelloFresh and once at We Are Wild.

FW: Yeah, sure, so it’s a bit different second time around. So seven years later than when we started trying it at HelloFresh. I mean, I think in my HelloFresh days, Facebook was still very early on. And so a lot of the channels were still relatively relatively kind of old school. And actually, a lot of my job, when I started there was was kind of going to events across the country, trying to flog this concept called recipe boxes that no one had ever heard of. So, so pretty manual, hard, hard labor round, round on that but I think one of the kind of learnings from, from that experience is that when you’re launching a new category, people don’t understand what it is you’re doing. So you have to really try and find the mediums where you’ve got a bit of time to explain that narrative. And, and kind of bring them on a bit of a journey. And what kind of face-to-face helps us do in in that stage is really talk them through the benefits and kind of really explain in kind of detail. And I think one of the challenges you see as a kind of brand now launching in the digital space is you, you’ve got someone’s attention for three seconds, or five seconds, and you’re trying to explain this. And that’s, and that’s, that can be incredibly, incredibly challenging. The other thing I see, you know, a lot of founders do is they outsource marketing, you know, to an agency, straight off the bat. And, and and sometimes don’t don’t take the time to kind of learn, and you know, who their customers are and what kind of works and, you know, from our side, you know, to start with what we’re really focused on in Wild is trying lots of different things, lots of different messages, lots of different creatives, lots of different channels, and just seeing, you know, small budgets, but just seeing what happened, what resonated, and then starting to build from there, and it was a bit slower to start with. But we learnt a lot, we really started to understand our customer who they were, where they were. And that’s helped us kind of build Wild from there.

AV: Yeah, I agree very much that you can outsource something until you’ve worked it out yourself. And I think that particular problem with marketing is you may need to make changes that are beyond what the agency can actually change. Because, you know, as you take the product to market, it may well be the case, there’s some changes to the actual product and proposition that you need to make. It’s very hard to ask an outsourced agency to change the fundamentals of your business.

FW: Yeah, absolutely. And you can you can end up just sort of blaming the agency without, you know, reflecting on what might be wrong with your product. And, or what might be wrong across your, your kind of funnel. And often, you know, you’ll find it’s your website that’s not working and doesn’t matter how good your Facebook ads are, until you get your site working properly. You’re not you’re not going to drive it so so it kind of, I think, you know, we really try and simplify marketing down and look at it as a series of leavers and and kind of pull one lever, see what happens and start to understand, you know, what the key dynamics are in your business. And once you know that, then great, go and find some agencies and get them to kind of share their knowledge and turbocharge it. But I really like that kind of scrappy, you know, figuring stuff out and learning stuff about your customers your product. And I think marketing is just the best way to kind of do that.

AV: Yeah, and I guess the other thing about doing some face-to-face marketing is you get immediate feedback, because I guess the problem with a lot of both digital and offline marketing is that if people buy, that’s great, but if they don’t buy, you maybe don’t get quite the same level of feedback from them as to why they’re not interested.

FW: Yeah, it’s just it’s so that’s so powerful early, early on. And we actually, we really wanted to do offline events when we launch wild but unfortunately, COVID got got in the way of that. So we haven’t been able to go out and meet people and chat about the product. We’ve had to sort of find ways in the digital arena that we we can do that. But certainly, you know, back back at HelloFresh we we learn so much about talking to people and and seeing trends and that really helped to start to kind of adapt and develop the concept and the pitch and, and, you know, eventually that translated into how we did digital marketing and what helped me, you know, grow with the company is that I knew who that customer was physically. So like, you know, I met so many of them that I just had a really good feeling, instinct for, for who it was and who we were talking to. And I think that can be, you know, that that then resonates across all your channels.

AV: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So if you can work out the pitch selling face-to-face, you then understand the pitch that you can use in your marketing as you as you scale it up. So then, as you as you moved away from face-to-face, for scale, was it more offline channels that we that you were using, or online for that next stage.

FW: So one of the one of the things that we were most proud of at HelloFresh was, was our flyering operation. And so, you know, actually started completely by accident, where we had some inserts that we were doing with some partners and the partner let us down. And so we had, I think about 10,000 inserts that were delivered to the office. And we were, we’re kind of struggling to get traction and under a lot of pressure at this stage. And so we said, okay, well, we’ve got nothing much better to do with our time, let’s go and flyer outside the tube station, which was Holborn at the time. And so we went down to open and we handed out these flyers, a couple of 1000, flyers, the whole office, you know, whole team, kind of a couple of hours of team bonding, we thought thought nothing of it. And we came in the next day and went hold on a minute, there’s actually some redemptions on these codes. And we started to kind of look at the numbers. And we’re like, and you know, what, this, this might just just work as a channel. And if you think about the, at that time, the HelloFresh customer, it was affluent, busy people, and there is no more concentrated place in the UK, of affluent, busy people looking for solutions than the London Underground. And what you find is advertising on the London Underground is not feasible. Or it can be it’s a vanity play if you’re, if you’re a startup because it’s very hard to track and very hard to kind of scale to begin with. And so we said, okay, right, let’s, let’s try this again, and see, see, what happens is send out a few few people and try a few other stations. And I think in the end, became our biggest channel, within three months. And we we handed out something like 10 million inserts over a year and a half period, across the kind of London Underground network with with some of the most competitive CPAs you’d see across any any kind of media channel. And we we’ve sort of built an offline version of Facebook Ads Manager. So I could tell you the conversion rate and the leaflets per hour ratio of any London Underground Station, at any time of the day for the whole of the whole of that network. And again, it was quite rudimentary and, and a lot of work. But it was something that none of our competitors were doing or kind of understood. And once we understood the dynamics, and we understood how scalable it was, it was, yeah, really, you know, really important growth lever to start driving that and driving that and getting cut through and finding, you know, an area where other people weren’t spending or competing. So, you know, we could we could do it really cost effectively. And that’s one of the challenges you’ll find nowadays is that a lot of people can grow quite easily in the first couple of months on Facebook. And and they sort of think, well, they just put more money into Facebook, and it will and it’ll just carry on, you know, self fulfilling prophecy. But I think what you’re going to find over time is that Facebook begins to get hard at some point.

AV: I’ve always found that I think Facebook gives you a great audience, you show them the ads, they buy. But then obviously, if you keep showing the same audience, the ads over and over and over again, you know, the response just begins to really drop off. But you’re just stepping back, I’m a huge fan of inserts, and I’ve used them in magazines, and I’ve used them in product dispatch. But I have to admit that, until this conversation, it had never even entered my mind to that you might actually just hand inserts out.

FW: Yeah, well, I think we used to do a lot in Amazon as well. So I think Amazon used to do, you know, offer 20 million inserts a year again, it was a wonderful channel back in the day, and you could do a lot of creative testing and get really good statistical numbers because you had so much much volume going through that and then one day, they just, you know, wasn’t making enough money for them. So they just turned it off and suddenly again, you have, you know, what you learn as you grow, it doesn’t really matter, whatever channel like they all come across their problems at certain stages. And, and it’s not good for, you know, even as a young man I aged pretty quickly in that in that kind of role as, you know, thought I was on top of the world and you know, knew everything and then the next week I’d be scrambling impossibly hard to find a new new place or new, where we could continue to scale and invest in marketing spend.

AV: I’m a big fan of product inserts. And there’s the old the old joke that the one thing with 100% open rate is the box that the order’s in, and I think we’ve had a few guests, though, on this show, who have mourned the day that Amazon stopped accepting inserts. But to sort of change the subject a bit, I think something we’ve again, both have had some experience of was creating a new category, versus building market share within a category because obviously, when HelloFresh launched in the UK, it really wasn’t a category, it really was something just totally new that people weren’t familiar with at all.

FW: Yeah, I mean, I just remember a lot of my friends and family going, ingredients in a box with recipes, like, what the hell is that? And like that, like, this is a stupid idea, like you should never like, do not join that company. It’s like, why would you ever buy that? And, you know, and so you’re like, this is gonna be this is gonna be kind of tricky. And, and, you know, took took a bit of time to kind of get that product market fit, and you have to work really hard at the product and, and the understanding, and then, you know, the other thing I see, from a marketing perspective is, everyone’s told, like, you’ve got to go and spend all this money on a branding agency, and you’ve got to have a brilliant brand. And it’s got to tell everyone about, you know, what, what your, you know, long term vision is and what you believe in and, and that is just the worst possible advice, in my view, when you’re creating a category, no one cares about the brand, because they don’t understand what you do. So, you know, it doesn’t matter that they know who HelloFresh is, because, you know, it’s no point knowing a brand, if they don’t understand the category. So a lot of what we started to realize in the early days, there was that, you know, we had to be very, very basic with our marketing, and really just try and explain, you know, step one, order the box, step two, it’s delivered to your door, step three, and all the marketing we had was based around explanation, rather than, you know, rather than this more kind of lifestyle stuff of like, change your life or revolutionize your cooking or, which which you now see, you know, and, and we went on that journey, right. So to cut, four or five years in, the market became more competitive. And it wasn’t just about the initial question to consumers, which was like, why should I buy a recipe box? And it started to become four or five years in, you know, which recipe box should I buy? And, and that’s where you need to move more to, to that kind of brand play, and that that kind of USP and start to think a bit more long term. And you have the budgets and money to do that as well at that stage.

AV: Yeah, you know, I went through a similar thing with Diet Chef, when we launched, launched Diet Chef in the UK, delivered diet was a concept that didn’t exist. So we had something like about 80% of the market. So my problem was growing the market. And my experience actually was, as a big competitor, in my case, Nestle came into the market and started spending heavily. It was actually good for us, because all of this spend increased the size of the total market. So although our market share went down as a percentage, our sales went up. Yeah, would you think it’s easier that first day when you’re creating a category, or the stage when you’re grabbing market share? What do you think is the?

FW: So we’ve been really, we’ve been really lucky at Wild where, you know, again, we’ve been the first mover for the for the last 12 months, and we’re the only people in the category, you know, we’re creating a category again, and you know, no one’s heard of refillable deodorants. Very few people buy natural deodorant. So and, and that’s just been, you know, I’ve really loved that because you can just focus on your customers and your product and making that better and learning and and you’re not constantly looking over your, over your kind of shoulder or thinking what what is everyone else up to next and that will come in our in our industry and, you know, as something starts to grow and become successful, you know, big guys and small guys will all want to, to come in. But I do think, you know, it’s easy to operate, easier to operate in that environment where you’re just really, really focused on you and what you’re doing. And I think sometimes you’re trying to double guess what your competitors are up to or you know, the team get distracted, or they’re doing this or they’re working with that person or, and I think in, you know, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t, you can’t get too worried about that. And as you say, if there’s money going into a category, generally what you’ll find is the categories growing. And, you know, if you really listen to your customers, and you keep refining your product, you’ll, you’ll end up taking a big, big part of that category, and there’ll be more than one winner. And so, yeah, that that’s my kind of overall perspective, although I think, you know, a little bit of competition every now and again, isn’t doesn’t do you any harm, and does keep you on your toes. So it is a it is a balance.

AV: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess both of these businesses mean, food, and deodorants are both very much products that you use up fairly quickly. So I guess, building that brand loyalty is going to be very important.

FW: Yeah, I think brand loyalty is the kind of key to success in you know, in modern day ecommerce, because, you know, as you see, everyone can acquire customers through all these different channels and, and find ways to kind of build that initial base, but how you nurture and develop that customer base, and, and manage that becomes really important. So, for us, first of all, it starts with great customer service, and customer service, in my view, is an extension of your marketing. And, you know, if you don’t have, if you don’t really focus on your customer service, and make sure, you know, it’s one of the hardest teams to scale, as you grow really quickly. And one of the things that often gets kind of dropped, and I think, you know, you end up wasting, you have a leaky funnel, where you’re spending all this money in acquiring all these customers, and then you’re just giving them a bad customer experience. So we, you know, we work really, really hard to give an exceptional customer experience and, you know, get high reply times and, and really make them feel like we care, which you know, which the team genuinely do. And then, you know, we have a VIP community on Facebook, you know, a couple of thousand people now, and you know, that that’s been great for us, we we connect with them on almost on a daily basis, get feedback, make them feel part of the journey, you know, not I want them almost to feel like they’re in, you know, an extension of our brand. And, you know, building that, you know, you get brand ambassadors, you get people who really care and, and you have that honesty and transparency that I think is necessary for, for building kind of brand loyalty with your with your kind of core. And, and again, it’s like, you know, what’s being an early stage businesses is so great, because early adopters are just generally wonderful people that you know, that they’re willing to let brands off with, with mistakes, and they just want you to be successful, and they’re like backing your vision and, you know, generally tend to be lovely. And as you get older and more successful, when you grow faster, you move into that mid majority or late majority and the further you go that the more demanding those customers become, and the less willing they are to accept the kind of startup narrative. So, you know, it’s a pretty steep learning curve, and kind of moving through those gears and phases require require a different approach and brand loyalty just gets harder as you grow, I think.

AV: Sure. And then I guess, talking about that, so as we move from that early stage to the, you know, to the, to the business getting bigger, I guess you need to begin to think about building a growth team rather than just doing all the marketing work yourself.

FW: Yeah, yeah, I think it definitely helps. So I think, at HelloFresh, I was I was number one marketing employee. And as I said, it was it was kind of marketing was a rather grand title for a sales guy. And, and by the time I left, it was a team of 25 people in the kind of UK side of things, while still very, very hands on and scrappy. So I’m back to back to the early stage. And I doing nowhere near as good a job as the team used to do for, for me at HelloFresh. But, you know, I think, you know, again, there are different stages that you need. So at our sort of stage now, when when you’re still early, and you’re still learning stuff, you you need broad, broad, skilled marketeers, who, you know, ideally have a bit of analytical ability and a bit of creative ability, and then a lot of entrepreneurial spirit, and they just want to test things and make stuff happen and try stuff. And then as you start to kind of grow, you know, you start to need to bring in specialists. So, we split out our team into, you know, CRM, which which becomes, you know, email, DM, all through your life cycle from from first touch point through to the end and kind of owning that journey and and that becomes really, really, really important and, you know, we split out a specialist sales team, who had, you know, just just really good sales focus running it like a, like a sales organization, and that that really helped us grow and grow and scale. And then then a performance team, you know, your Facebook, Google, TikTok, you know, all those kind of channels where, you know, where you’re thinking about user journeys, and creative and really, they should be quite techie, in my view, because they, you know, the website, and that whole journey and experiences is just, it’s just so important. And then, you know, the final part is kind of that brand side. And, and, you know, one of the hardest things, I think, is getting that brand and performance to work together and to become a unified organization. So you’ve got clear, purposeful messaging, but you’re not sacrificing, you know, valuable conversion insights, and you’re developing like a really rigorous, well tested, funnel. And that certainly, you know, there’s always a bit of friction, you always want a bit of friction.

AV: Yes, tell me about it, I mean, I remember the brand manager at Diet Chef, objecting strongly to my crass advertising with high conversion rates. It is that balance between the two things, isn’t it?

FW: Yeah, I mean, I often want my head of performance to be, you know, going behind the brand managers back and testing something without them seeing, and, you know, they come to me and say, well, you know, the bad news is, it’s not on brand. The good news is, it’s doubled our conversion rate. And I go, well, let’s try and talk the brand team round that we can somehow find a way to explain that this, this might be the right, the right strategy. So I think it’s, it’s always good to have a bit of healthy tension there. But you’ve got to, you’ve got to balance that as you grow and, and try and find the right writer. And really, you need people who, who ideally get on with each other. And I think performance need to understand brand and brand needs to understand that you’re a commercial organization, if we could all just make lovely fluffy ads that that said, how wonderful we were, then, you know, that would be a much easier job. But it’s a it’s a hard balance, I’d say.

AV: I guess, would you say that brand, then is the main part of that sort of marketing moat, that protects you, as more competitors come into the market.

FW: I think it’s about two things, I’d say I do think brand is important. And I think a lot of that comes down to clarity and simplicity. And you just got to be really clear who you are, what you stand for, and who your customers, you know, which customers you want to go after. And how best to do that, you know, I do think sometimes it’s over complicated a bit, or you try and try and do too much. And it just becomes confusing, both internally and externally. And really, your team needs to be able to say what your brand is, and what they stand for in a couple of couple of sentences. That’s, that’s the key and be able to translate that across everything they’re doing. And then the second thing for me is data, I think, you know, being able to really use your data and understand, you know, lifetime value ratios. And, you know, you because you get some channels, right, where you look at a cost per acquisition, you’re like, wow, that’s an expensive, it’s an expensive channel. And, you know, a lot of marketers would say, well, we’re not doing that, again, it’s twice that the CAC of Facebook or whatever, but you actually begin to look at that group mature over a period of time, and you’re like, wow, that’s, that’s, that’s actually more than paying back and a much better LTV CAC ratio over six to nine month period. So I think kind of really, really being on top of that data and be able to see trends, both on your site and across your performance channels, and learning how to utilize that, maximize that, and, and drive that, I think is also a great way to build a moat, particularly if you’re, you know, if you’re creating a category, you know, you’re you’ve got, you’ve got more data and more insights, and you’re further ahead than anyone else. So that’s, that’s basically your head start. And in order to maximize your head start, it’s not about having that it’s about how you then use that a) to drive your product, and drive your bets and your product innovation and b) to drive your marketing and make sure it’s really really as efficient as it possibly can be. And you’re kind of grinding it out. So that that’s, that’s what we think about a lot. That’s that’s how we, you know, those two areas, you know, creating a strong, loyal brand following and then and then really data driven team who are constantly optimizing and and looking at things we can test and challenge and scale.

AV: Yeah, well, it sounds absolutely brilliant, and I think absolutely that mix of brand and data, I think is absolutely the key to success. So thank you very much. I loved hearing about the sweet smell of success. Please visit to support Freddie and helping the environment with natural diligence and smelling great too. If you have a Shopify store and are interested in finding out a bit more about your data and maybe doing some cohort analysis to get a view of your LTV, please do install Machine Labs from the App Store. Thanks again to Friday. And I will see you next time on The Joy of Marketing.

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