Situation: Lay’s potato chips are the leading national brand of potato chips. The brand continues to dominated the snack food aisle across America. Known for its high quality and consistency, Lay’s positioned itself around “irresistibility” in its enduring and successful tag-line “Betcha Can’ Eat Just One.” Tempting consumers to honor their craving and eat more when obesity headlined the news each day was increasingly hurting the brand and business. In addition, while successful with the general population, big, growing and influential multicultural consumer segments preferred local, community-based brands over Lay’s. The combination of these two opportunities offered an opportunity to better position Lay’s for long-term success.

Challenge: Position Lay’s brand to be a relevant and desired brand for the long-term.

What We Did: A traditional consumer packaged goods brand positioning project, we led a 4-step process to evolve the Lay’s brand positioning. The team began with a strategic opportunity workshop with the brand team, managers who knew the markets and stores, food experts and food cultural anthropologists. Bringing together insight on the target consumer, their lifestyle, their rich food cultures, their favorite brands, and their snacking and shopping behaviors, the team identified three high-potential “market opportunity spaces” for the brand. During first round focus groups in urban markets around the country,  a mix of consumers shared and discussed collages expressing the meaning of food for them, their food culture, favorite brands, snacking behaviors and lifestyle. They also shared their perspective of the Lay’s brand, surfacing deeper, emotional opportunities to enrich the brand from “avoiding a negative” to “embracing the positive.” With these insights, we held a second workshop, adding more creative horsepower from agencies and food experts, and brainstormed potential positioning and messaging platforms. Designers and copy-writers translated the platforms into consumer facing language and imagery to present and discuss in follow-up quali-quant focus groups. We shared and discussed four positioning boards, ranging from the close-in “irresistibility” to the more transformative “Take it to the Next Level.” Then let consumers complete quantitative surveys to evaluate each. While the experience of Lay’s was uplifting and positive, it was not a brand that was “transformative” or a catalyst that takes your day to the next level, a space owned by brands like Red Bull. However, Lay’s was positive experience that allowed you to take a moment to “taste the best of life,” and smile.        

Result: The new positioning unleashed new energy on the Lay’s brand. In the subsequent months, the team aired new advertising creative focused on multicultural consumers with Spike DDB, a creative agency with famed film director Spike Lee. The team established partnerships with AND1 and Mountain Dew, executed a national streetball tour showcasing and sampling Lay’s in 17 urban markets, refurbished 20 inner-city playgrounds, and activated key local accounts to drive visibility and sales of Lay’s new products. Sales in measured stores accelerated, proving out the power of the new, positive positioning and sparking a shift of Lay’s brand from “irresistibility” to “get your smile on.”

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“Stuart brings passion, energy and drive to everything. He has a unique mix of skills, blending an intuitive creativity with a strong understanding of how to grow a business, and a collaborative nature with being able to develop and drive a clear vision. I have been frequently inspired by his deep understanding of brand development, and how to weave consumer insights into successful brand strategy.”

Erika Canfield
Head of Marketing, Outdoor Research



Situation: Aladdin, one of America’s oldest consumer goods brands, was struggling for direction. Scattered product portfolio, marketing and sales efforts as well as a combative team reflected a lack of a clear positioning for the brand, let alone a well-articulated strategy for it.

Challenge: Align the Aladdin brand team and a broad-base of stakeholders on an evolved brand positioning that will help the team achieve a new focus and ignite new growth for the business.

What We Did: We rapidly gained a deep perspective of the market, diving into available consumer and competitive data, meeting with key customers and buyers, and interviewing partners and leaders throughout the company. Through a series of workshops with product, marketing, sales, designers, and agency partners, we employed traditional brand positioning frameworks and explored important questions around the target consumer, their needs, their shopping behavior, and how the brand uniquely served the consumer relative to the emerging competitive set. After mining our collective insight on the market, brand and business, and brainstorming multiple positioning opportunity spaces and messaging platforms, the team evolved the brand’s positioning from “specialty and exclusive” – an aspirational, luxury market space that remained elusive for the brand – to “special and inclusive.” This new positioning aimed to recapture its more simple, real origins while retaining its modern, higher design look and feel. Affordable, original and stylish, the brand refocused on women who are young at heart and seek and appreciate brands that offer affordable quality and everyday style. 

The Result: Previously resistant to driving sales in broader, mass market channels, the Aladdin team embraced the new positioning and rapidly unleashed a long pipeline of new, more mainstream products. The team wrapped its new product launches with its first integrated marketing campaign and key retail account programs. Surveys confirmed that younger, stylish women who were exposed to the brand and its new products perceived Aladdin as “cool,” “stylish” and “a brand for me.” Brand revenue and profit doubled, achieving the largest revenue and profit in the brand’s history.

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Situation: Newton Running, a running footwear start-up in Boulder, Colorado, was built on elite runners, adventure racers, and Ironman triathletes like Craig “Crowie” Alexander, Paula Newby-Frasier, Dr. Marc Cucazella, Ian Adamson and many others. “Newton-ites” loved the product and were highly loyal to the brand and the business had grown with this love and loyalty. However, like many fast-paced, passionate start-ups having success, Newton never stopped to more formally articulate the brand’s positioning as a foundation for its strategy and team alignment up, down and across the organization. Gradually, the team realized it needed to run with a map.

The Challenge: Build the positioning for the Newton brand and its brand strategy.   

What We Did:  As runners, we had solid intuition on the direction for Newton brand. However, we took a traditional approach to check our intuition.

After reviewing limited existing company and public research and talking with internal leaders, its specialty “product advisory board” (reputed retailers, elite athletes and scientists), visitors in the Newton Running Lab and running events, we confirmed that runners were deeply loyal to heritage running brands, price sensitive, relatively conservative in trying new brands and products, and pragmatic. Asics and New Balance were formidable competitors who successfully positioned themselves as the elite, essentially serious running brands, often showcasing their brand on elite runners like Ryan Hall, Des Linden and Jenny Simpson.

Attracting these pragmatic runners from the elite brands required a radical stance. Luckily, Newton was built on taking a radical stance. Beyond its spectacular aesthetic and functional design, Newton’s “Action-Reaction” technology inspired rare, emotional responses – often unexpected outbursts of laughter and smiles – and the passion of its tribe showed it. With its rare product experience, elite credentials, running science and a dedicated tribe behind them, Newton realized it had the opportunity to position itself as the performance brand for dedicated runners who seek and appreciate the “pure joy of a better run” on their own terms and regardless of their pace and distance. Newton would be joyful, inclusive and open, not intense, exclusive and elite.       

The Result: The positioning brought a renewed focus and energy to the Newton brand, business and team. The team refreshed and launched new integrated marketing and advertising building on the joy of a better run and enhancing its successful “Hello Better” campaign platform. The campaign increased Newton’s visibility and differentiated it in the crowded running market and media space. More than this, the campaign triggered new levels of engagement from consumers and specialty running retail associates. Short-term, Newton achieved aggressive sales plans. Long-term, the positioning set a broader stage to introduce new “gateway” products like the “Energia” platform, a less aggressive technology platform for a broader base of runners seeking an entry point to the Newton experience.

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