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Vaughan Gordon

Marketing lessons from Dragons’ Den

By Vaughan Gordon

My marketing media spot this week was in the first of the latest series of Dragons’ Den. As a mum myself, I was bound to sympathise with Kirsty Henshaw, who filled up with tears at the thought of her four year old son during the panel questions after her impressive pitch. Don’t worry I’m not about to get all touchy-feely on this one. But even Theo Paphitis could see her sheer drive and passion a) for making a better life for her and her son and b) in her utmost belief in her self-made product.

Kirsty had produced a unique healthy frozen dessert, derived from the needs of her son who has several allergies including dairy and nuts. Realising she had made a tasty product which also captured a distinct corner of the market, Kirsty then pursued her aim to get the dessert onto retail shelves. The 24 year old single mum worked two day jobs and a night job to afford the £20,000 investment in developing her product and brand ‘Worthenshaws’. The name itself was thought through to give it an established feel. Thanks to her amazing hard work and commitment, Kirsty went to see Tesco ‘the Goliath of all supermarkets’ (quote from Theo P) who had expressed an interest to stock ‘Worthenshaws’ in nearly 400 of their stores.

Following a taste test, and some delving into impressive and substantiated forecast figures, the panel of Dragons were all hungry to start their offers. The combination of her great product and inspiring values earned Kirsty the joint investment of £65,000 from Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne, a rare Dragon partnership. But a great business pairing, Duncan has experience in the ice cream market and Peter Jones can open the retail doors.

After the agreement, the two Dragons explained that they felt compelled by her well positioned product and its opportunities, but also by her values as a person. Peter Jones likened Kirsty to Levi Roots from the now infamous Reggae Reggae Sauce. Peter identified Leroy’s warmth in character which conveyed into his product giving it its unique positioning. And just look at Reggae Reggae Sauce now, the best success story from the Den so far!

So there you go, it’s all about the full package. People don’t just buy a product; they buy into the values it represents. It’s then down to the marketing to communicate the product’s positioning so that its market can relate and identify with it, and hopefully make a purchasing decision in favour of the product. Heinz brand values scream of family, tradition and heritage. Consumers almost make a lifestyle choice when buying a Heinz product.

I’m not sure ‘Worthenshaws’ will reach the high status of Heinz and its 57 varieties, but with its unique positioning supported by great values and business acumen, I think it’s off to a pretty good start.

Nicola Peaty, Director – VG&A