Founded in Beijing in October 2019, the brand ffit8 has spent a total of 150 million yuan on marketing in recent years. It is reported that the company's operating gross profit margin is "very stable". E-commerce drainage private domain gameplay, innovative product forms, small molecule black technology, and efforts at the joint level have made the Chinese market have a clear recognition of protein functional foods, but at the same time they retain a skeptical attitude towards the "pseudo rigid demand" of meal replacements. What kind of marketing system did the meal replacement protein bar recommended by Lao Luo become popular, and what hidden dangers did it have? Dong Hongbo, co-founder and COO of ffit8, and Jie Zhao, co-founder and CMO of ffit8, jointly accepted an exclusive interview with WARC on the above issues.
WARC: We see that the professionalism of ffit8 in terms of nutrition and health is a fast-growing dark horse in the domestic meal replacement market, especially in the post-epidemic era when consumers’ attitudes towards healthy eating are changing. The two also mentioned that this track has not yet reached the ceiling. How does ffit8 view the intensity of the meal replacement market in the future? How to find growth opportunities in this narrow track?
Dong Hongbo: In this track, the epidemic has actually helped us a lot, because the epidemic has taught people to pay attention to their health, including daily nutritional supplements. First of all, in the early days, protein bars belonged to a relatively small segment, which originated from Western culture. Later, people's demand for time management and food convenience reached a higher level. Therefore, protein bars cater to the fast, convenient and fashionable eating habits of young people today.
Second, the epidemic has accelerated people's awareness of protein supplementation. Improving your own immunity is the key to "being healthy without asking others". Therefore, protein is a subdivision field that is easily accepted by the public and does not require too much education. It has a long history in foreign markets, and product forms have emerged in endlessly. In China, the acceptance of this imported product is constantly increasing, but it does not have the memory form of vertical brands in other subdivisions, allowing users to say the brand name immediately. So from this dimension, we have a pretty big chance.
After ffit8 entered this track, foreign brands also responded, and started to do some market education and expansion in China, which accelerated the progress of this track. This track has been growing continuously and rapidly, so we are confident about future market opportunities.
Zhao Jie: In fact, I think health awareness has always existed, but the epidemic has shortened the maturity period from 10 years to 2-3 years, awakening some unfamiliar health awareness. For example, our parents born in the 50s or 60s are very unfamiliar with the nutritional basis of protein. They think that grains are the main thing, because they did not have this awareness because of the growth environment of their parents at that time. With the change of time and the expansion of the epidemic, everyone realized that protein is a very important nutrient for the human body. Of course, not only protein, but also some popular health concepts, such as superfoods.
The strategy of ffit8 is to use technological innovation to make Chinese people eat healthily, but this is what we say internally. In fact, what we do has two dimensions: one is to "delicious" healthy foods, such as protein bars, which are not a food that the public finds delicious, unless they are used to exercise and fitness people. The variety of flavors of the ffit8 protein bar comes from our careful study of ingredients. Traditional protein bars are just a combination of protein raw materials and substances, and they are not authentic in taste. The ffit8 protein bar has actually done a lot of work in terms of "deliciousness". The second is the action of ffit8 to expand its categories in the past two years, including our protein wafer biscuits category. This is an action to 'healthy' convenience food. Many familiar convenience foods are generally high in calories and sugar, and are called high-energy foods or junk foods. However, ffit8's protein biscuits have the same taste as traditional convenience foods, and they are also low in calories.
We internally use three words as our work guidelines, that is, "technology, convenience, and fashion". Of course, this is also the brand meaning of ffit8. There are two "f" in the name of ffit8, because future food (future food) is a combination of fast food (fast food) and fashion food (trend food). And we make technological, convenient, and fashionable food because today’s post-80s, post-90s, and even post-00s user groups have far more demand for products than the product itself, and have upgraded to product design and the spiritual comfort brought by the product or resonance level.
WARC: Many high-protein healthy foods dissuade a large number of people because of taste problems. Why are few companies willing to work hard on taste to win opportunities in this industry? At the same time, protein bars are purely functional foods, which always feel very high-end. To turn them into convenience foods, is it necessary to strike a balance between "deliciousness" and core functions in order to have a breakthrough way to quickly occupy the market?
Zhao Jie: Not only balance, but strictly speaking, I think we should have made a big compromise. This compromise is not our compromise on the business dimension, but on capturing more users.
To put it bluntly, the traditional food industry has its original sins, such as potato chips, which currently do not have many nutrients. Although potato chips are also becoming healthier, and there are non-fried products, they actually contain very little protein. Its original sin is that it makes you unable to stop eating and puts a burden on your body. The protein bar of ffit8 is called a protein with black technology. It is made of a formula jointly developed by us and a company in North America (Editor's note: in cooperation with MSG company in the United States, through low-temperature cross-flow membrane filtration and low-temperature Spray drying technology, custom developed WPI isolate whey protein). In short, its black technology lies in the fact that the molecular particles are very small, and the benefit is that it can melt quickly when it is melted into saliva, and it has a very good taste. Traditional protein bars will have some disadvantages, such as sticky, hard to chew, unpleasant taste, etc.; we will not bring you the sticky taste, but the taste of delicate protein ingredients.
Going back to the compromise I was talking about. The cost of raw materials for this kind of black technology is very high. Frankly speaking, we also want to keep the price of protein bars very low, which can bring a larger user radiation surface from the business dimension; but at present we have no way to make it a common people. The well-known product line, because there is no way to significantly reduce the cost of raw materials, although we are already working hard to do these things. I think it is a compromise not to choose a cheaper protein in order to get more users.
We insist on using top-quality protein, so during the 3-year entrepreneurship period of the ffit8 protein bar, we did not see any products with the same taste as ours on the market. This became a barrier for us. In fact, even if the style of play is slower, it is still valuable to do this. Of course, this is also what many investors questioned about us, saying that we are too slow.
But we think that when you use price to acquire users, you actually only acquire the user's first purchase, and the second, third, fourth or even tenth purchase of the user can be obtained by competitors in the same way. It is not called real customer acquisition. Among the sub-categories of protein bars on Tmall and JD.com, fit8 sold the most, with a cumulative sales of 35 million sticks on the entire network. At the same time, our customer unit price is also the highest. This incident proves that our persistence is valuable, and users have senses. Our team hopes to let users form their minds about the brand and products of ffit8.
WARC: The price is also what we are more concerned about, because this is what everyone has been struggling with since the economic crisis. It is certainly not a scientific way to blindly fight price wars. After reaching consumers at one time at a low price, what hurts is the possible subsequent repurchase rate. Then the next question involved is how to deploy online ffit8, how to apply different platforms and public and private domains, so as to help itself do a good job in consumer operations and increase repurchase?
Dong Hongbo: First of all, the main sites of Tmall and JD.com are the banner positions that serve as benchmarks for any brand. Secondly, other types of online channels actually endorse the quality of our brand and products, such as some platforms with very demanding product selection. Finally, many of the remaining sales channels aim to reach target users with the lowest customer acquisition cost and the shortest path. In addition, with regard to live streaming, after we initially tried it, we verified it step by step, and finally found that our young users with relatively good living habits are concentrated on Douyin, so we will focus on Douyin in the next few years. Marketing and sales actions.
From 2020 to 2021, there were a lot of "Douyin brands", and it was at that time that ffit8 really came out of Douyin. But whether it is marketing, or online and offline sales operations, we all focus on users. After all, the time, energy and "bullets" of our entrepreneurial team in the early days are limited. After doing a lot of detailed operation analysis and going through many testing stages step by step, we have identified the sales channel and communication positioning, regenerated, replicated and enlarged, which is basically a process like this.
WARC: What is the specific testing process and method?
Dong Hongbo: After the launch of ffit8, we verified our crowd, customer unit price and conversion rate through 2~3 live broadcasts of Mr. Luo Yonghao in the early stage (Editor's note: 45,000 boxes of protein bars were sold for the first time). is relatively high. After verifying the judgment of these three indicators, we further enlarged it, signed a strategic cooperation with Mr. Luo for three consecutive years, used his portrait, and then started to introduce our products in the live broadcast room, and broadcast many live broadcasts. Fragments become material.
Then, we judge which platform's traffic port will become an opportunity point for future traffic dividends. In fact, there is a relatively big opportunity in 2020, which is the one-stop marketing tool "Luban" for second-class e-commerce tailored for advertisers by using the huge engine. We combined the verified pallets with high-conversion rate materials and endorsed IP, and conducted a new attempt on Luban, which verified that our conversion rate is still strong. Next, we will continue to amplify and de-multiplex the verification results of a single platform to form a complete set of links.
WARC: You talked about the channels that can directly reach consumers, so what are the channels that are suitable for brand communication?
Zhao Jie: In the past two years, all we made were things that conformed to the so-called concept of combining product and effect. At present, everyone is discussing the gray scale between marketing and sales is getting bigger and bigger. Currently, this is caused by the evolution of the state of the medium. In the past, every link was relatively clear, activated through advertising, and then harvested through channels; but today, the attention is relatively concentrated on platforms such as Douyin. I have observed that Douyin is based on an "octopus" The form exists, integrating e-commerce, content and so on.
Dong Hongbo: Regarding traditional brand communication, we will put it on some communication-oriented new media platforms that everyone traditionally recognizes, such as Zhihu, Douban, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, Kuaishou, and Bilibili. In addition, there is another one to bring brand communication function to ffit8 in the early stage. Yiyi is actually quite famous among the relatively young, a little bourgeoisie, and quality people, and there are many selected stores offline. In addition, there are platforms in the field of sports and fitness, such as SUPERMONKEY, with which we have also co-branded IP and a lot of content to help us spread the entire brand, and at the same time empower the final sales results.
WARC: Coincidentally, Zhang Guangming, the founder of ffit8, also mentioned that the opinion leaders of healthy food and lifestyle are the "super users" of the brand, so this involves the "inclination to please oneself and the rise of interest marketing", so we can't help but ask "mass marketing Is it over?" Facing a diverse community, how does ffit8 delineate its own interest circle through content and creativity?
Zhao Jie: Content marketing must be an indispensable part of any company. Whether it’s celebrity endorsements, Luo Yonghao’s live streaming, or even our Xiaomi crowdfunding (Editor’s note: 14 days created a crowdfunding record for Xiaomi Youpin’s category, crowdfunding sales exceeded 10 million, and the completion rate was 10341%), etc. , all influence users through tools, and what impresses users is content.
Of course, what I’m talking about is not just copywriting, an official account, or the presentation of products, but an overall state, which is very important. The amount of information that users are exposed to is very explosive. How can brands stand out? I think it depends on the sense of conflict or the value of creativity.
The various joint names of ffit8 are not just putting some logos together, but everyone has made the same packaging. For example, for SUPERMONKEY's banana-flavored limited edition protein bar, we have done a lot of research on sports people to find out what they usually like to eat and what food they are more familiar with; then combine the IP of Supermonkey with our own products to see What kind of content is more appropriate and reasonable.
For this product, first of all, bananas are no strangers to fitness users. It is a substitute for energy, but it is very inconvenient to carry; secondly, for the IP of SUPERMONKEY, bananas are very related to orangutans. , elements that do not violate harmony; finally, for ffit8, in a sense, a protein bar is more like a "technical banana", which is convenient, efficient, and has a very high protein content, and at the same time can be regarded as "in fashion "Trend food. This state will bring very big splashes and repercussions in the super gorilla field, and users will find this incredible.
At the same time, we and some other IPs have adopted the same method to create a whole set of new "cells", and then hit users to gain favorability, thereby strengthening the mind.
WARC: It is easy to understand the IP cooperation with fitness brands, but for cultural IPs like the Forbidden City, ffit8 is also cooperating, so how do you find the intermediary point?
Zhao Jie: At that time, we thought, what kind of flavor should we launch if we cooperate with the Forbidden City? Back to our original point, users are basically young white-collar workers and senior middle-class people in first-tier cities. What they have in common is that they are all very busy. They are often too busy to eat within the radius of their lives. They are sometimes very serious about work, and working overtime is the norm.
Then in terms of insights and refinement, we thought about what slogan the emperor used to cheer himself up, because you will find that young users now like to use some palace elements to flaunt themselves and express themselves with the context of court drama stories. So we had an idea: I am great. In English, we translate it into "I am great", which means cheering for yourself. If I work late into the night, I look up and it's late, but I can cheer myself up with a protein bar.
When choosing a flavor, we consulted a lot of ancient books and found a very representative point of agreement - lychee is a royal fruit that the emperor liked very much, especially Emperor Qianlong. So we chose Litchi, which has a homophonic stalk "inspirational" behind its name, so there are many small burdens buried in it.
The design of the joint model of ffit8 and the Forbidden City Tang Dynasty is also quite bold: the emperor in the dragon robe faces you with his back, and raises a bicep to cheer himself up. This is a very interesting national trend.
WARC: It’s very interesting, especially in the aspect of exploring the connotation of the national trend. In recent years, whether it is a domestic or an international brand, it is easy to accidentally step on some red lines of the national trend. So when your team digs out the historical points, will there be any special requirements to dig out the information strictly and accurately to ensure the quality of the final content?
Zhao Jie: Some red lines must not be touched. Based on this quality, we have an internal "thigh-pat theory" for the transmission of ideas. When our friends finished talking about their ideas, they would check to see if the surrounding team subconsciously patted themselves on the thigh and said, "It's so cool, this is it." If there are some physiological reactions like this, the later dissemination of this idea must be guaranteed. If we are not moved by ourselves, it is very difficult to move users with a high probability. So, we use ourselves as a testing mechanism, because physiology doesn't fool people. Such a mechanism guarantees a creative idea, an inner loop process from imagination to implementation to verification.
WARC: In terms of offline channels, ffit8 has settled in retail stores, supermarkets, gyms and other scenes where young people often go, and we have also seen that the income of ffit8 online and offline channels has been flat in the first quarter of this year, so the refined offline operation is How do you do it? How does it work with online channels?
Dong Hongbo: We have a very clear idea of the development logic of ffit8 products, including channels and communication content, which must be based on target users. So the logic of finding offline channels is the same: where the concentration of users is the highest.
First of all, our convenience store system covers the whole country, but we focus on first- and second-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and focus on operating in places where more young people gather. Secondly, our relatively large offline module is the membership store system. For example, in Sam's Club, we choose suitable items for this channel and do refined and customized actions. We have redesigned the packaging and content for Sam's members for probiotic protein powder. There will be KOLs arriving at Sam's store, but they are not simply talking about how good ffit8 is, which is a bit self-contained. We will use Xiaohongshu and Weibo to see what things users must buy from Sam, when to buy, how to buy, how to make decisions, what kind of customer price or flavor combination, packaging form, etc., and when to use it. Using interesting content plus the customized packaging, stacking, display, materials, etc. we made for the channel can only be combined to slowly increase the sales rate and offline repurchase rate.
Many brands are actually not very good at doing offline. One important reason is that they directly reuse online product materials offline. This will cause great problems, because offline goods and content are essentially different from online in terms of the entire display logic. We have returned to the matter of refined operation again, and ultimately it is to give users a better consumption and interaction experience and achieve sales tasks.
Ffit8 has also gone through many small detours, but as long as all things such as channel analysis, product selection design, and content dissemination are centered on the origin of the user core, it can be done relatively accurately.
Regarding online and offline collaboration, let’s first talk about the essence of consumer goods, which is actually “what you see is what you get”. That is to say, no matter how good the online advertising or marketing content is, offline users also need to be able to quickly resolve user purchases. For example, everyone may be very busy at noon, often have meetings or visit customers, and cannot eat well. At this time, there is a convenience store downstairs, and you can buy meal replacement products at your fingertips, which is far more convenient than express delivery. Therefore, the diversity of our offline channels (Hebox, Sam, 7-11, Bianlifeng, Wal-Mart and other mainstream supermarkets and convenience stores) is based on the needs of the original population. With the role of communication and reach online, offline is to serve users faster and more conveniently, which may be within a range of three kilometers. In order to avoid "fighting" between online and offline, ffit8 will make differences in taste and specifications according to some sales channels. It must be online plus offline, combined with all channels, so that the sales ratio can reach a relatively benign state.
WARC: The epidemic, global inflation, and the war between Russia and Ukraine have all brought great challenges to supply and delivery. But we learned that ffit8 has always attached importance to the optimization of the supply chain, as well as the insistence on investing in high-quality raw materials mentioned earlier. From the perspective of ffit8, in terms of consolidating the supply chain, especially for new consumer brands, what methods can we use to strengthen our own capabilities?
Dong Hongbo: The supply chain is divided into two ends, one is the front-end raw materials to production, and the other is the back-end warehousing and logistics. Ffit8 cooperates with factories and laboratories to do a lot of exclusive custom research and development work on front-end raw materials. During the three years of the epidemic, we have established our own raw material storage in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Beijing, with a deep inventory. We also experienced some fluctuations in overseas imports and air freight, but they quickly resolved the problem. We don't have the problem of slow incoming goods like traditional traders, because the raw materials are specially developed, and the transportation and customs clearance will be very fast. We also have some strategic cooperation in the production process. At present, there are more than 3 strategic cooperative factories in China, which have helped us solve manpower and technical problems in the long run.
We have achieved basic guarantees for front-end or back-end production capacity. Warehousing and logistics are currently under our overall control, without relying on third parties. Including mainline logistics and c-end logistics, our strategic cooperative factories have given us great support and minimized risks.
WARC: In the past two years, everyone's discussions on new consumer brands have focused on the dimension of investment sluggishness. At present, ffit8 has completed 0~1, followed by 1~10, 10~100. Then, during the economic downturn, a very important topic is how to reduce costs and increase efficiency, and how to adjust and allocate budgets. In terms of balancing short-term effects and long-term investment, what is the next plan of ffit8? Where will the money go and where will it be cut?
Dong Hongbo: Our marketing focus is always around the target users. Whether it is on Douyin or Xiaohongshu, our gameplay has actually passed staged verification. Now that we have entered a stage of refined operation, we have to start to settle accounts, that is, how much real economic value does brand marketing communication bring to us? It’s not that you don’t have a marketing budget in your pocket, but that you haven’t been able to really find out where the marketing budget should be spent. conversion point. Any entrepreneurial team or brand operator, no matter how much budget they have, must have the courage to go out. A good consumer goods brand can ultimately reduce customer acquisition costs and increase gross profit margins by increasing the repurchase rate. There are many factors that affect the repurchase rate, not only good product experience, good user interaction and good content. So we will spend money on how to polish products with more spiritual resonance next, and we will also invest funds in the supply chain. But it does not mean that the supply chain is taken out separately, as if it has nothing to do with the brand. In fact, the supply chain is the underlying logic behind the brand.
WARC: The changes in the world environment and consumer mentality this year have made sustainable development and environmental protection issues the focus of every brand. Both global and Chinese brands feel obliged to embed sustainability into their entire value chain. I believe that ffit8 is also doing some work to encourage sustainable development. What are some unique practices?
Zhao Jie: In China's urban catering industry, 17-18 million tons of table food is wasted alone, which is equivalent to the annual food consumption of 30-50 million people. ffit8 participates in the "Green Cooking Man" CD-ROM initiative initiated by the "Sustainable Youth Institute" to reduce food waste. We call on everyone to cherish food and invest in mass education on low-carbon consumption.
Back to ffit8 itself, our consideration of sustainable development is reflected in the deep thinking of raw materials. For example, the raw material of many protein bars now belongs to milk protein. Of course, there is nothing wrong with milk protein itself, but it may not be in line with the so-called sustainable development direction in the long run. Not littering and saving energy are all considered sustainable development, but we have also done a lot of research on the raw materials of protein bars to find out whether there are new types of protein that can replace milk protein, such as microalgae protein and soy protein , chickpea protein, oat protein peptides. With the change of users' cognition and the advancement of technology, we may unlock more possibilities, even the theory of air protein.