Niroo Kamdar | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Niroo Kamdar

Background:  

Headquartered in Orlando with an operations base in Boca Raton, Kitchen Crafted is a gourmet maker of signature blends of herbs and spices. Products include an all-natural and gluten-free spread and a new line of 100 percent natural and gluten-free seasonings. Niroo Kamdar is an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist and president of Summitry Global, a software company working with major food brands including PepsiCo, Nestle and Pillsbury.

The Mistake:

I forgot the difference between product awareness and product engagement.

I was the head of forecasting at Kraft Foods, which was General Foods, and then I launched Summitry Worldwide. We designed strategy for a lot of corporations based on analytics. So before I started Kitchen Crafted, I had already worked with Kraft, Nabisco, Pillsbury, ConAgra, Pepsi, Nestle, everybody. I helped them [position] their products.

But Kitchen Crafted was a totally new experience. When you work for a corporation, there’s a very different feel. In the case of Kitchen Crafted, I was very passionate about the food and the benefit of the spices. One would think that, with my experience, I would know exactly the do’s and don’ts of launching a new company. And I quickly found out that you never know it until you do it, make mistakes and learn from it.

Because of my background, I really understood the value of communication, of advertising, and especially social and digital media. We worked with a high-caliber creative agency to have a perfect brand architecture. We worked with a digital agency, PR agency, for social media to promote the brand. And we do have a product that is really a premium, gourmet product for mindful eaters. We found the right target market. Our label is highly differentiated. The social media content probably rivals the best of the best. We have a significant media presence.

In short, we thought we did everything right. And our brand awareness really grew. We were getting a lot of likes, good feedback on social media. So we are spending a lot of money, a lot of effort, creating content that is superb – except it’s not turning into people trying the product and it’s not turning into sales.

There is a huge gap between people liking your brand on social media and actually trying your product.

The Lesson:

We all get a blind spot sometimes, you know? And we are all focused on communication. I really discovered that there is a huge gap between people being aware of your brand, and liking your brand on social media, and actually trying your product.

So we just got distribution in Lucky’s Market. They’re very progressive, innovative and fun to work with. So in the last month and a half, we said we need to do the in-store demo in [all the stores]. We decided to make sure that we were there at every single demo, actually talking about our product. The idea was that we wanted to see how people react to the product, what happens when people taste the product.

It’s an expensive proposition in terms of consumer acquisition. But at the same time, it’s great fun. And most importantly, it’s the best learning experience. You learn so much more about the consumers that you can never learn from all the research.

So I learned we can pile up all the likes on social media, but people need to hold the product in their hand, see it with his or her eyes and, most importantly, taste it. That’s when he or she buys the product. Until that time, you’re just feeling good about all your social media.

It is not glamorous, standing on the [store] floor and making a sandwich, obviously. But it is the most effective. Most stores have brand ambassadors who can do your demo.

But the second thing I learned is that the presence of the founder greatly impacts the effectiveness of the in-store demo – because people want to know about the product and the person who created the product.

Follow Kitchen Crafted on Twitter at @Kitchen_Crafted.

Photo courtesy of Niroo Kamdar

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