Wild Bill's and The Jobs of Premium Soda
Applying Jobs to be DOne to early-stage investing
Some of the best investments are in businesses where other investors underestimate potential. Brands that come to mind are Lululemon, Restoration Hardware, and Starbucks. These are ubiquitous now, but it was not obvious that these companies would turn into incredible long-term compounders at their early stages. This piece explores how Jobs to be Done can help you be more predictive of success at early stages.
The key to being predictive before a market is proven is understanding why customers switch from one product to another. For example, in 2007 why were women firing Nike and hiring Lulu lemon? Using the Jobs to be Done framework and interviews, we can understand this causality.
Recently, Laser Ventures was hired by an early-stage soda company that, on the surface, seem to have limited potential but, after interviewing customers we were shocked by what we found. Settle in, partner, and let me tell you about Wild Bill's Soda.
Wild Bill's is a veteran-run and operated high-end soda company with Old West branding. Their legacy channels include conventions and their website, https://drinkwildbills.com/, and they are in the early stages of adding wholesale channels.
Here is their setup at a convention:
And this was their packaging before our project:
Even though they were my client, I have to admit that my initial thought was that Wild Bill's was a niche soda company in a very competitive industry with costly distribution. That said, my intuition has been wrong many times and I always wait until after the Jobs to be Done project to make recommendations. The CEO came from McKinsey and the Chairman had built and sold a large healthcare company. Both served in the military, and I genuinely liked them.
After recruiting a completely random and diverse set of customers, we began the Jobs to be Done interviews. As I talked to the Wild Bill's customers, I quickly went from merely curious about what Job a soda might do in a niche market to being excited that Wild Bill's soda might have shocking potential.
It's usually impossible to intuit Jobs to be Done before a project
We found that Wild Bill's soda did three jobs, and I could never have guessed them. Before reading further, take a moment to see if you can guess the Jobs to be Done of this western-themed premium soda.
I'll add a
Wild Bill's might be a soda, but it doesn’t compete with Coke or Pepsi. It competes with a good movie, a glass of wine, and weight watchers. Those are NOT niche markets. In those markets, Wild Bill's IS differentiated.
As we do Jobs interviews, we contrast the situations where people might reach for a product. Wild Bill's customers were reaching for this product in three very distinct situations. In each of those situations, customers were looking for three very different types of progress. Here is a summary of the jobs we found:
Job 1: Destress
When I'm stressed out, when I've tried other things that weren't distracting enough, help me comfort myself, help me take my mind off things for a while, help me feel better afterward.
Job 2: Enhance a meal
When I'm having a good meal, when I don't drink or I want to drink less, when I have money, help me enhance the experience, help me make the food taste even better, help me feel ok afterward.
Job 3: Lose Weight
When I’m trying to lose weight, when I have tried other things, when I have a sugar addiction, help me satisfy my fix and still lose weight, help me enjoy it for a while, help me feel ok mentally and physically afterward.
Job 1 Market Breakdown
Job 1 is a massive job with a very large market. Everyone needs to destress at the end of the day and not everyone wants a beer. Wild Bill's is especially good at helping people who are stressed out relax because of the high-quality flavor profile and the old-world branding. A commercially made soda will have more watered-down and muddled flavors but with Wild Bill's, the customer gets a flavor punch and can pull apart the flavors.
When they sip the Root Beer, the customer can taste the Vanilla, Yucca, and Licorice. Each of the individual flavors is distinct and picking apart those flavors is a great distraction and it’s fun. You simply can’t do this with Coke.
Further, the old-world branding reminded customers of older and simpler times, often bringing up hangouts with grandparents. This was comforting and perfect imagery for destressing.
A generous amount of flavor syrup helps the soda keep its flavor when paired with melting ice. People typically destress after a long day so designing a soda that has no caffeine and low carbonation to make sleep easier is essential. Wild Bill's is an outstanding option to help people relax at the end of a tough day. Its competition is a beer, a good movie, and a run.
Job 2 Market Breakdown
In Job 2, Wild Bill’s Soda is used to enhance a meal and make a good meal special. This is exactly why we might hire a bottle of wine at dinner. None of the customers reached for a Wild Bill's when they ate a salad for lunch. In that case, they reached for a Coke or water. Although, as people become more health conscious, they are less likely to reach for Coke at lunch while Wild Bill's is still in play to enhance a special evening meal.
When the customer orders some good meatballs for dinner, a can of Wild Bill's Soda will round out that meal and make it extra special for just a few bucks. In Job 2 the expensive price for a Soda is a feature, representing that this soda is a treat! In Job 2, the competition is a nice bottle of wine, an equally caloric indulgence.
Job 3 Market Breakdown
Job 3 was especially counterintuitive – we love these. We found that there was one group of consumers who were on and off dieters. They were typically sweet-toothed, so their indulgences were cookies and candy. These treats were consumed at the end of a day of dieting as a prize for a successful diet day. But after limiting calories all day, cookies and candy were consumed in minutes. Three Oreos are 150 calories. How long does it take to eat three Oreos? A five-minute treat was not a sufficient reward for starving all day so they would often over-indulge. A better solution for customers is a fixed-calorie reward that would last much longer.
The dieter tried sipping commercial sodas like Coke but there were a lot of issues. High carbonation and caffeine made sleep difficult, and a muddled flavor profile wasn’t a sufficient reward. Wild Bill's, however, is caffeine-free, low carbonation, high-quality flavor syrup with real sugar. This means the sipper can receive sweet flavor punches for a full hour. It’s also much more expensive than Coke, making it more expensive to indulge in. Just like Job 2, the higher price is a feature. This diet reward worked, and they shed pounds! Wild Bill's is a weight loss supplement.
Holy cowboy, Wild Bill's has real potential!
While I went in thinking Wild Bill’s was a niche brand, I came out believing that Wild Bill's is a brand with real upside. I don’t see other carbonated soft drinks in the market with the same brand positioning and product. I expect fast growth in sales as Wild Bill’s leans into their marketing, branding, and distribution based on the Jobs they do for their customer.
With the Jobs to be Done project, complete we worked with the company and made changes to product and marketing based on the insights. They started by upgrading the packaging and presentation. The original packaging was very feature-and-benefit-focused. It presented the flavor (Root Beer), the ingredients and the can size. Instead, the company now focuses on telling the customer what job the soda will do for them. For Job 1, destress, we added the slogan: “Snap – Pour – Sip – Escape” and the tasting notes. We added copy around simpler times and good memories to drive the relaxing point home. For Job 2, we added recommended pairings. While I’m personally fascinated with Job 3, it made sense to focus on Jobs 1 & 2 first. I think the new version looks great!
As Wild Bill's scales distribution, I believe that more and more people will look to Wild Bill's to help them relax, to enhance a meal, and, even as a dieter's treat. This is the perfect soda to be consumed at the end of the day. Sometimes just telling the customer what your product will do for them makes all the difference and can make or break a growth plan or an investment thesis.
While I went in skeptical about Wild Bill's, I am now a believer. Wild Bill's is a great example of a company that appears on the surface to have limited potential but could turn into a valuable business. A lot of people will hire Will Bill's to help them make progress in these areas, once they can get access to it. These are my favorite investment opportunities.
At Laser Ventures we vehemently believe that Jobs to be Done can give us a massive advantage in spotting opportunities like Wild Bill's. We think others might pass on businesses like this because they don’t understand what is really happening with the customer – what is actually causing the customer to buy. Jobs to be Done allows us to completely reframe markets in non-obvious ways, giving us and those we work with a huge advantage.
If you haven’t tried this soda, you can order it here: https://drinkwildbills.com/.
If you're a little curious to know if this type of work could help your company innovate or invest, let's talk about it: email@example.com