Interviewing Finn was fun and insightful; full of tips and tricks for building a brand.
Before we jump into Finn's experiences developing Pasta Evangelists' marketing strategy, let's put that insight into context.
Finn is an incredibly creative and knowledgeable marketer. He started in a senior marketing role at Zipjet, Rocket Internet's laundry startup, where he conceived and executed the 'Laundry liberation day' stunt - driving a tank into Central London.
He then joined Amazon for a brief stint as a brand specialist before co-founding Pasta Evangelists in 2017 with two others.
Pasta Evangelists is a fresh pasta delivery company from the UK. The company has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and they recently passed a major milestone: they delivered 100,000 pasta dishes in April 2020. They've also raised multiple rounds of investment (+£5m) and partnered with the biggest names in British retail (e.g. Deliveroo, Ocado, Harrods, and Marks & Spencers).
They appeared on Dragon's Den 18 months after launching, getting rejected by the Dragon's because of a distaste (sorry) for the company valuation. They've since grown significantly - (3x overnight after the TV show was released, but much more since) and have expanded across DTC e-commerce, in-store concessions, and on-demand delivery. The Pasta Evangelists team has built a significant online presence through events, videos, social media, and other content.
Brand strategy insights from this interview:
A clear mission statement helps you focus
- One of the first things new businesses need to do is their 'mission' statement. Finn suggests asking yourself "what does success look like?" and making sure the answer is spiritual rather than financial.
- Having one sentence that evokes your brand strategy helps to keep your mind and actions focused.
What are the other benefits of a clear and compelling brand mission?
- Decision-making becomes easier: as a successful business, lots of commercially advantageous opportunities will arise. Clearly understanding your mission helps you to ask 'if I pursue this opportunity, will it contribute towards me achieving that goal?'. If you and your team can quickly understand and decline the distractions, you won't dilute yourself unnecessarily.
- On-boarding others to your mission: whether it's a new employee or a new investor, getting everyone clear on the macro-level goal keeps your activities aligned.
Once you have a mission, you can develop a strategy for achieving it.
Brand-building: What strategies does Finn use for brand development?
- Pasta Evangelists has some seriously well-ranked content. With written articles about pasta culture, dining experiences, how-to guides, and recipes, and Youtube videos showing how to make fresh pasta and more.
- Their content typically has both short-term and long-term goals. In the short-term, it's revenue growth. In the long-term, it's brand building. Versatile content can tick both of these boxes: drive sales in the short-term, while creating a pastalicious brand perception in the long-term.
Concessions: a fresh pasta stand in Harrods and M&S
- Pasta Evangelists works closely with Harrods, the most famous British department store. Why did they pursue this partnership? Finn told me that the aim was to display the 'theater of pasta'. They run classes, have pasta chefs to speak to, and have lots of available fresh pasta to buy.
- From a marketing perspective, the beauty of working with Harrods is evident. In the short-term, there are sales. But, the long-term we see the most impact through brand awareness. Not only does Harrods = instant credibility, trust and gravitas (especially important when they were just a small business), but the 'theater' directly contributes to the brand's story of being an artisanal quality pasta company.
- In the early days, Pasta Evangelists did PR in-house. They've now professionalized, outsourcing to a specialist hospitality PR agency (BackUs).
- Pasta Evangelists has been in all the big-name publications in the UK - so, of course, I had to ask how they achieved that.
- Finn mentioned that the product naturally sells itself; being food, it's an exciting topic. He also deployed the strategy of being persistent with journalists while offering them some fresh pasta for free - hard to turn down, right?
What should you do if your product doesn't naturally lend itself to a PR hook?
- Find a cheeky way to slot yourself into something bigger.
- Be creative and gutsy. As previously mentioned, Finn designed the 'liberate the city' campaign for Zipjet - a dry concept (cleaning your clothes) became 'driving a tank into Central London'. You've got to hand it to him, that's something about which journalists want to talk.
- Capture people's sense of humor or imagination. Finn told me a story of a publicity stunt he saw: someone tied a whiteboard to some railings in a busy street in London that called out a cheating spouse, including their Instagram handle (@). If you went to visit the handle it directed you to their app, with a cheeky piece of copy. Here's another example of Guerilla marketing in London.
Other brand-related interviews:
"How to build a brand: the four C's" with Iona Ratcliffe
"A £100k advertising campaign aimed at brand building" with Will Allen-Mersh
"Growing organic, high quality leads through content that creates brand awareness" with Chris Walker