Fine Line Between Evolution and Deviation
I started this blog post intent on writing about the value I place on creating and presenting a polished product. Good God, I don't think I could have written anything more boring. So as has happened so many times in this company's short life, I poured two fingers of my bottle of the moment and put on some music in order to get the creative juices flowing. Now, I can write about this theme that has been playing out in my mind recently: is growth a function of evolution, or deviation?
Metallica (one of my favorite bands) grappled with this exact question in the early 90's. In making the famous Black Album, the band tried to evolve their sound to appeal more broadly while staying true to their head-banging roots. Ultimately, this became their best selling album, having gone platinum 16 times! They did really, really well despite losing what many consider to be their edge. (Stretch here, get ready) Like Metallica, I'm trying to evolve out of my roots at the farmers' market level by 'going retail' in order to grow the company. I'm trying to balance product evolution with legitimacy, but if ever there was a fine line, this is it: people want indulgence, but they also want authenticity. I'm really worried that I'll lose the authenticity that helped me launch Bald Baker by wrapping my products up in a polished and professional way in order to make them available on a mass scale.
This may be ambitious, but I think success is balancing the two properly which can be accomplished as long as you stay true to your raison d'etre. In fact, creating a widely-available/accepted, healthy treat isn't a contradiction in terms. Weston Foods believes you can have both (I have to say it - have your cake and eat it too). They cite the clear trend towards healthy and conscientious eating as the reason to invest millions in the very market that Bald Baker is operating in. Rather than get scared off, I interpret this as validation that I'm on the right path. My reason for being is to reconnect you with life's simple joys; to create a happy, worry-free indulgent experience for you. As long as I don't vear too far away from that, than I can justify evolving our products.
I'm writing on the eve of my great conundrum and the company's next major step forward: we're about to invest significantly in printed, coated wrapping materials for our treats that will save us valuable time and money, dramatically extend shelf life and lend a degree of credibility to our retail growth strategy. However, a funny thing happens when you take the same brownie and put it inside a wrapper: the expectations of the consumer change radically: cost elasticity, shelf-life expectations, quality judgments, consistency, etc, are all things that start to weigh on the purchase decision in a store relative to a market.
Here's how I'm justifying this: our overall look will be much more polished: one (of four) of the core pillars that I believe characterizes Bald Baker (the other three being Relevance, Authenticity & Gourmet). They all point to the same thing: the satisfaction you get when you indulge in a Bald Baker treat. Our company exists as the antithesis to what's on the market right now: low quality desserts that make you feel like you're settling; like you're second class. That feeling is unacceptable to us and so before you even take one bite, you should see a product that evokes certain images, feelings and physical responses, like salivation or the need to instagram what you're about to do. A polished product is a catalyst to a consumer experiencing two key, pivotal feelings: anticipation and excitement both for how it's going to taste and how you're going to feel.
At least that's my hypothesis and I could be way off, but as an entrepreneur, if you can't follow your gut, why bother? A little polish goes a long way, so I started refining our image at the beginning of the year with a new booth experience:
Next, we're further refining the company's image with updated individual packaging. We're also going to spruce up our instagram community in the next few months to be more engaging. It's not an overhaul. It's evolution. It's us acting our age and preparing for the next stage.