Five Things Big Companies Can Learn From Wellness Startups

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Lisa Mann
Lisa Mann Credit: Nathan Skid/Crain Communcations Inc.

Lisa Mann, who has helped sell snacks from Oreo cookies to Kind bars, scoffs at the idea that health and wellness is just a trend. "This is here to stay," she said. "I want to be a part of the solution to making better food available in a mass way."

So, after more than a year as the exec VP-marketing at Kind, Ms. Mann left the company and founded her own firm, Think Marketing Advisors. "I left Kind because I really wanted to have the opportunity to effect greater change in food and health and wellness," she said.

The advisory business she began in April works with emerging and high-growth startups in the food, digital media, and health and wellness categories. She's coaching a small group of firms on marketing tactics such as how to work with an agency on a social media plan. She also helps them navigate other business needs, such as how to speak with larger consumer packaged goods companies as entrepreneurs try to grow their businesses.

Ms. Mann's resume includes breaking Kind's first big integrated marketing plan; she also oversaw Mondelez's North American cookie business when Oreo tweeted about dunking in the dark during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout.

Today, her clients are a lot smaller and include Greatist, a health and wellness-themed website aimed at millennials; Spoon University, a food site with contributions from college students; and Phin & Phebes, an ice cream brand started by a couple in Brooklyn that stays away from processed ingredients. In some cases, she is investing in the privately held ventures.

We asked Ms. Mann for some takeaways that can help major marketers be as nimble as startups:

Be obsessed. Live your brand 24/7/365. You, your packaging and your employees are your working media plan.

Believe you are changing the world. It's never "just business."

Have a challenger mentality with relentless focus on top-line growth.

Seek out advisers.

Consider hyperlocal trial and awareness-building programs.

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