CMO of the Week: Kind's Kelly Solomon

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Kelly Solomon joined Kind North America as global chief marketing officer, about six months ago and has spent a lot of time working closely with the company’s founder Daniel Lubetzky to learn Kind’s history, dynamics and values.

Kelly Solomon joined Kind North America as global chief marketing officer, about six months ago and has spent a lot of time working closely with the company’s founder Daniel Lubetzky to learn Kind’s history, dynamics and values.  

The CPG company was founded by Lubetzky in 2004. “The company is born from his vision with purpose and values,” says Solomon. “I'm so grateful that he spent time with me, it's really an amazing opportunity to be onboarded by the founder of the brand. The people here are more passionate than any other workforce I have ever met. Everybody is here because they believe in the values of the brand and what the brand stands for, so there's an immense amount of energy and passion and dedication and commitment. I came in to really help harness all of that energy and turn it into a marketing strategy.” 

When Kind launched, the company focused on an earned media approach even before social dominated consumers’ daily lives. “Dan literally used word of mouth, which, of course, is offline social media,” says Solomon. “It was all about referral and tasting the products, which are super delicious, healthy and tasty. Once you get bars in people's mouths, they want to eat it again.”

Solomon has channeled this early strategy through the lens of digital transformation. “Now we are operating as a digital and omnichannel earned media engine and the fuel for the engine is first taste, because our products are delicious,” says Solomon. “It's also ingredients you can see and pronounce. It's very easy to understand the taste of the product.”

Purpose is also a key value to the brand, which aims “to create a healthier and kinder world one act and one snack at a time.” Additionally, Kind is focused on cultural relevance and “being a part and leading the conversations that are happening in this world.”

Solomon joined Kind America after spending more than 20 years of marketing experience focused on digital marketing and omnichannel retail in the beauty, electronics and luxury chocolate verticals. She most recently served as senior vice president of consumer marketing at MAC Cosmetics, where she led the brand’s global marketing strategy. Brand Innovators caught up with Solomon from the company’s New York office to talk about kindness, bees and a pop-up winter farmers market in Grand Central Station. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Can you talk about Kind’s brand purpose?

We are so fortunate that our products were born from a need for a healthy and tasty snack. If you dial it back to 2004, there weren't a lot of healthy snack options that you can grab and go. It was largely chips and candy. Daniel saw a need. But he didn't want to just fill a need for snacking, he wanted to fill a need for people for humans that live in and share this Earth. What I love about it is that our values are represented in the name of the brand and it comes from a very organic place, to be kind. 

Kindness is truly at the core of what we do. It’s important that we are kind to each other and kind to our community. At the center of our brand is our mission, which is to create a kinder and healthier world, one act and one snack at a time. The act part is really, really important. We believe that kindness, acts of kindness, require courage and effort. If you think about some of the negativity in the world, when you look at the news, it's very easy to go to a negative space of anger or hatred. It takes courage to be conscious. The great news is that all of us are capable of being kind and everybody has an opportunity to be kind every day. We believe that one small act of kindness can create a ripple effect around the world. It doesn't need to be a monumental or a headline worthy act of kindness. It can be a small act of kindness that you do on your way to work or when you pick up your kids from school, wherever you have that opportunity to be kind. We believe in every step of the consumer journey is the opportunity to be kind. 

You can be kind to yourself, when you choose a healthy snack, you're trying to yourself because you're consciously making that decision to nourish your body in a kind of way. We all know that when you're kind to your body, you're kind to your mind. When you have something healthy, you feel great. And you're more apt to walk down the street with a positive attitude and do something kind. When there's unhealthy options in your body, you don't feel great. 

How does this purpose show up in your creative executions?

We believe in whole foods that grow out of the ground. And we have a lot of very interesting things going on around that. Where do you find whole foods? You find them at farmers markets. It's an activity. It's also being kind to yourself and getting cool, fresh, gorgeous food. So we did the opposite of whatever one would expect. We took the opportunity to create a secret farmers market in New York in February and we made it a secret. Everyone loves a good secret, right? The secret part of New York is so much fun when you walk down these alleys and find the secret restaurants or the secrets of Grand Central Station, so we played off of that. We had a fake vending machine filled with Kind bars that you actually could swing open and walk through. It was our brand coming to life. It was about being kind to your body through whole foods. We gave away 30,000 pieces of fresh produce again in the middle of New York in the winter. We had 8000 people come through in two days, which was 10 times what we anticipated. It just felt great to remind people how important it is to eat healthy foods and be kind to your body. 

The second way we just brought our values to life was on May 20, which was World Bee Day. We launched our first ever purpose-driven campaign around being kind to the planet. Globally, we purchase about 2% of the world's almonds, so we have a responsibility to do that in a way that respects both the Earth, in terms of sustainable ingredients, and pollinators. Almonds grow on trees that require pollination. It's a super complicated and fragile ecosystem that we live in. We can either ignore the fact that it's fragile and just kind of keep our fingers crossed or we can do something about it. So we did a massive education and celebration event, because we harvest for almonds. We had a World Bee Day Bash on TikTok. We basically threw a party for the bees to say thank you for everything that you do. It was super fun and we educated people. We got all kinds of bee influencers. Believe it or not, there's a subculture on TikTok, it's called BeeTalk. It's all about bees as pollinators and bees the role that they play in our ecosystem. It was an amazing opportunity to educate and bring the purpose of the kind brands to life in a way that we've never done before. 

Can you talk about these in person and digital activations? 

Every channel is important. Honestly, one of my favorite channels is in real life, like let's hit the streets and stand together and do something. It's super important that our brand comes to life in the physical world so we can be together as a community and celebrate and educate so that we can actually eat right. Let’s put snack bars in our mouths, let's taste them, let's eat together.  And then of course, I'm a fan of all of the digital platforms that surround it. 

Part of our marketing strategy where possible is to execute in real life, and then use digital amplification to ripple it across the world. I'm a huge believer in social media platforms. I’m a huge believer in YouTube. We created bespoke long form content for YouTube, because that's the purpose of the channel. Of course, we also use Instagram and Facebook, TikTok and Snap. We're going to go where our consumers are. We build purposeful content by channel. I'm a big fan of doing the unexpected in any channel that feels authentic to the content that we're talking about.

Can you talk about how your background has shaped your perspective in this current role at Kind?

I've had the amazing fortune of being in digital marketing for my entire career. I graduated during the dot com boom, so I just had digital at the forefront of my entire career. It's been amazing, an amazing journey. I've spent the majority of my career in the beauty industry across L'Oreal and Estee Lauder. I feel so grateful and fortunate that I happen to grow up in the digital landscape of beauty. 

Beauty moves at lightspeed. If you think about it, beauty is a personalized algorithm depending on your skin tone, on your eye color, and your hair color, what your beauty routine might be and that's across skincare, across makeup and across haircare. When you translate that into data points, and you create value for the consumer, because you understand who they are, it's really a gorgeous and amazing thing. I feel so fortunate that I happened to be in that space during the digital transformation. I learned a ton about driving personalization through both implicit and explicit data collection. We would understand as you select things and journey across our owned properties, how we'd be able to better customize and personalize that digital journey for you. 

Now that I've come to a new category, it's amazing to actually see the echoes of a beauty category coming into food. Food is a bit later to adopt digital. Beauty was a very, very early adopter of digital transformation and now I get to bring some of that experience and expertise that I learned over there over here. 

Can  you talk about just what you're most excited about in the second half of 2022?  

There's a lot to be excited about. The first thing is back to school. We pulled together a lot of consumer insights around back to school, what it means for kids, what it means for parents. A lot of people are out of pocket during the summer, enjoying the sun and vacationing and it's awesome and then they come back and get ready for school and the social media landscape changes. There's different conversations going on to get ready for back to school. We created a super-focused,social-first creative platform that taps into that in a very light way. 

And then of course, there's our purpose. Our purpose will show up as we go back to school by supporting the community. Unfortunately, there are a lot of food deserts in the United States, there's a lot of people living below the poverty line that need help getting healthy food into their house. We'll focus on that. We have amazing partners that we're able to support. I'm really excited for our purpose to show up in that way for back to school, particularly because it's a super practical need. Everybody should have access to healthy food and sometimes it's just not possible. 

Then there's World Kindness Day on November 17. We will bring that to life in a global way and my hope is that we create a big gorgeous warm ripple of kindness.

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