We love chocolate. And not just any chocolate…fair trade, GMO-free dark chocolate that breaks into satisfyingly thin pieces and tastes incredible. We’re talking, of course, about barkTHINS, an emerging CPG brand that garners the same reaction from everyone who takes a bite: “Woah!”
When Switch first met barkTHINS, the snacking chocolate company was in its early stages of national distribution, first hitting the higher-end national food chains, such as Whole Foods Market and Target. We were impressed with the package design – the continuity of branding across product versions, the emphasis on quality, the use of sustainable ingredients, the tempting stack of perfectly thin chocolate, and the clear flavor distinction. BarkTHINS’ variations each look and sound decadent, and at an affordable price of $4-5, there’s no reason not to try each package. The brand includes high-quality, snacking ingredients like coconut, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and pretzels into the chocolate, ensuring salty-sweet combinations and pleasing texture.
We started the program in 2014 in just a few test markets, but have since expanded to over 10 markets nationwide. Unlike past field marketing programs that used the help of Brand Ambassadors to sample product and connect with consumers, this program hinges on a different role – the Area Brand Manager (ABM). These highly motivated individuals are hired to hustle within their territory – so they have the advantage of being super familiar with the neighborhoods and potential retail locations.
Much like the role of a Brand Ambassador, ABM candidates fit the barkTHINS lifestyle – someone who is conscious of the quality and integrity of their food, a naturally casual, yet polished vibe and of course, one who loves chocolate. When hiring for this role, we also searched for individuals who had a solid mix of marketing and sales experience, preferably in the CPG industry. We needed people who wouldn’t be afraid to sell, but who would also transcend the typical “sales” personality. We needed warm, inviting and knowledgeable – with a hint of aggression.
ABMs have been targeting small, independent grocers and natural food focused retailers that would benefit from featuring barkTHINS in their locations. Rather than sending our teams off with a backpack of barkTHINS and an encouraging nudge, we have empowered ABMs with the authority to negotiate with retailers when necessary. Back at headquarters, we keep track of our ABMs’ success through our Switch Mobile Reporting Tool (SMRT™). The dashboard gives a clear report of the number of accounts visited, demos performed, incremental retail sales and the overall sales journey for our ABMs.
In the end, everyone wins. The retail location can curb their customers’ sweet tooth with a high-quality, absolutely delicious product, effectively transforming them into “barkFANS.” ABMs build relationships with priority retail locations to help grow the brand. And finally, our client gains additional exposure and a sales boost in some of the largest, most health-conscious markets in the country. Sounds like a celebratory chocolate break is in order.