Product perfection at Gu Puds – Marketing Society Conference 4

Screen shot 2010-11-29 at 12.06.59 This is my 4th and last post on the Marketing Society Conference. This one is on the talk by James Averdieck, founder of one of our fave brands, Gü puds. James started the business in 2003 and grew it to a £30million business. This year he sold the business to Noble Foods.

Loads to learn from James' story.

1. Be open to inspiration from all around you

James started his talk by telling us how the inspiration for Gü came not from consumer research or market analysis, but rather from hanging out in pattiseries whilst working in Belgium. He loved the smell and tastes of these places, and dream of "wrapping them up" in a product you could buy in the UK. This led to the idea for a range of to-die-for chocolate soufflés.

2. Prototype early. Very early

Couple of great stories about the wonder of prototyping.

First, how the pack and name were born. James had brief Perry, the design genius at Big Fish, to come up with a pack design. Perry arrived and told James there was bad news. A company in Scandinavia had already launched a range of top-notch chocolate soufflés and was coming to the UK. He showed the pack, with a funky and memorable name, Gü. And a gorgeous, distinctive black design. James was understandably down and depressed by the news. Only for Perry to say, "Its OK James. Its all yours!". Pack sold.

Second, James used this mocked-up pack to do some extensive research 😉 . He put the empty box on the shelf of an upmarket shop and waited. A lady walked in. Looked at the shelf. And picked up the Gü box. This was the little bit of learning James needed to have the confidence to sell his idea to Sainsbury's, the first retailer to stock Gü.

Screen shot 2010-11-29 at 12.02.28
3. Product power

A huge amount of work was put into perfecting the Gü puds. A special design using an "edible widget" helps keep the air in the soufflés. Only the best type of chocolate is used. Time was taken to get the recipe just right. And boy, they taste good.

The other interesting angle on the product has to do with protection versus own label. I asked a question about this, half expecting the answer to be "emotional brand values". But James said his best protection versus retailer brands was his expertise and scale in chocolate pud production: Gü make 1,000,000 soufflés using an automated process. Gü is a leader brand in its chosen sector, giving a cost and quality advantage that is hard to copy.

I also like how product passion is alive in the company. For example, everyone joining Gü starts by learning how to make a chocolate soufflé. This is a far more effective way of showing new employees how important the product is than pages of powerpoint on "our culture and values."

4. Design in distinctiveness

The name and design of Gu have helped the brand stand out on the crowded supermarket shelf. Coupled with the fab products, this has created buzz and PR for the brand, so it has never needed advertising to grow. Even the brand's sampling is smartly designed, with 2 million puds a year being sampled on board with Virgin Atlantic.

In conclusion, don't rely on research for ideas, also look for inspiration all around you. Bring your life to ideas fast. And then pour your passion into producing a superb product and package that sells itself.