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Earlier this year, Lindsay McCormick had the kind of problem that most entrepreneurs would love to have, but it was a challenge just the same. She’d built a multimillion-dollar company, Bite, with products that disrupted the sleepy tooth care industry and a great brand story. Bite was now expanding into other areas of personal care. McCormick and her team had to figure out how to rebrand.
McCormick launched Bite in 2018 with $6,000 in savings and a first-of-its-kind product–toothpaste tablets–designed to help keep used toothpaste tubes out of landfills. The direct-to-consumer company has grown steadily, adding more products including mouthwash, toothbrushes, and a whitening gel. An appearance on Shark Tank, when she turned down a deal with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, didn’t hurt.
Last month, Bite launched another innovative product: the first 100% plastic-free deodorant with compostable refills. Thanks to how she and her team had created a compelling brand story, the solution to how to market their new product was right in front of them.
Telling a Great Brand Story
McCormick had the idea for Bite when she was traveling a lot for her job as a TV producer. At home, she was using as many natural products as possible and trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, but while she was on the road she noticed how many toothpaste tubes she was tossing out. She decided to find a more sustainable solution.
She began talking to dentists, learning about chemistry, and mixing up the natural ingredients she bought at Whole Foods and online to make toothpaste tablets in her kitchen. McCormick began selling them on Etsy and on a Shopify site. Her boyfriend–now her business partner–designed labels and a website. Once a video they’d made went viral on Facebook, sales skyrocketed. McCormick went from a few thousand dollars in revenues overall to $200,000 in sales the week after the video went live.
Beyond developing a great new product, McCormick also created a brand story that has lessons for other consumer brands, especially mission-driven ones. Here are four key lessons from Bite’s branding.
Capture Your Brand’s Vision in its Name
Attracting buyers in a crowded marketplace is tough. Coming up with a name that is easy-to-remember, catchy, and captures your brand’s identity is a challenge that many brands fail. Bite’s name hits all those buttons. It also centered the brand in its industry. And while that presents the brand with a challenge as it expands, it is still worth reaching for a name that does the same for your company.
Explain Your Mission in Simple Terms
Even the most environmentally conscious consumers don’t want to be given a lecture on climate change while they’re shopping. They do want to know your brand’s mission and values, however. Find easy-to-understand but compelling ways to showcase your mission on your home page or packaging, and leave the deeper dives for other pages on your site, blog posts or videos. Bite encapsulated the need for its first product with a single statistic on its website, reporting that about one billion toothpaste tubes wind up in landfills every year. Having a clear metric or comparison can be a great way to signal right away what matters to your company. Just don’t make the mistake of selling your mission so much that consumers don’t know what’s great about your products. That can work for companies who are first with a mission-driven idea, such as the Buy One Give One model that Tom’s Shoes popularized, but those cases are exceptions.
Design to Sell
Eco-friendly brands often settle for somber colors or uninspired design. That’s a mistake. “You can have the most sustainable product in the world, but if no one buys it, it is not going to help anything,” said McCormick. Whether its photography that captures the spirit of adventure for a brand like Patagonia or the color and playfulness that characterizes sock company Bombas’ marketing, design is a crucial element of your brand story. Design should subtly reflect your company’s values as well as attract your target consumers. Bite’s site and packaging has a crisp, modern and millennial-pleasing design that is right in line with its mission of a cleaner planet in the future.
Be Transparent with Your Customers
McCormick said another key to Bite’s brand story was how the company communicated with its customers from the beginning. When customers had a question on social media, McCormick and her team made sure to provide detailed answers. “When you’re an eco-friendly company you get customers who want to know everything,” she said. “If someone’s asking why it costs more, we break down the costs of raw materials for a traditional toothpaste versus ours: we use glass instead of plastic, and we are made in the U.S. where we pay living wages as opposed to overseas. Through education and transparency we’ve been able to keep the story digestible for people.”
Rebranding for the Next Chapter
When faced with rebranding Bite to signal its moving into deodorant–and more areas of personal care in the future–McCormick and her team stuck to their brand value of transparency with customers through the process. “A rebrand is always risky, it’s a lot of work internally and I wanted to be sure our customers felt like they were part of our journey,” she said.
Bite’s product line might be growing, but its core mission of sustainability wasn’t changing at all. McCormick built on that foundation–without giving up the company’s name–to rebrand Bite as “Because It’s the Earth.”
“Re-branding Bite as an acronym for ‘Because It’s The Earth’ was really important to reflect our company going from oral care into personal care,” said McCormick. “Our first product outside of oral care is our deodorant which is the first to be both plastic-free and have compostable refills. Back in 2018, our toothpaste tablets helped push the oral care industry in a more sustainable direction and we want to do the same in personal care.”
Just as Bite marketed its original toothpaste tablets with a number that made its purpose clear, the new deodorant, the company said, will help fight the 15 million pounds of plastic deodorant packaging that ends up in our landfills and oceans every year.