CASE STUDY: Natural Foods Merchandiser (NFM)

Like Dian Fossey, we helped avert extinction.


The client:
Natural Foods Merchandiser (NFM) is the B2B magazine for retailers in the exponentially growing natural and organic products industry. It’s also the official publication of the Natural Products Expo trade shows, which host over 58,000 industry members and over 3,000 exhibits, showcasing products in the categories of natural and specialty foods, organic goods, supplements, health and beauty care items, natural living and pet products.

The challenge:
NFM had lost its clout. In fact, it had bred negative impressions. One quote culled during our research:  “On a good day, you are not in the way of doing business.” Ouch—from the very people they were supposed to be supporting. The sentiment was widespread, challenging the usefulness of NFM’s existence.

The strategy:
It was time to change sentiment regarding NFM and Expo shows, and build bridges between the trade industry and the people in the industry. NFM magazine was identified as the most impactful initial point of contact for a new approach since it was sent out to all of the key stakeholders in the industry.  In 2011, Dave began to rebrand and redesign NFM magazine for a January 2012 launch, to be in mailboxes three months before the larger of the two trade shows.

With the sentiment of dislike running strong through people’s opinion, we focused on rebranding by making connections more personal. We dove into finding honest, authentic value for the people of the industry and allowed them to share their stories, their products, their businesses, their successes and their failures, genuinely. The redesign visually supported the people-centric focus. Content, organization, typography, photography and design reinforced the defining difference for the audience. For example, putting real people—industry people—on the cover was a complete 180-degree shift from the previous use of stock imagery.

Constrained by a small photography budget and limited location availability of industry people, we solved the challenges by scheduling a one-day photoshoot and inviting industry members to participate at a location they would already be attending: The trade show. Dave art directed and shot a year’s worth of covers in one day, plus commissioned custom illustrations and all photography under budget. Within a month of the the newly designed magazines being mailed out, the approach’s success was apparent, as previously reluctant industry members were contacting editors to participate in the next photo shoot at Expo.

The tactic returned NFM to its place as the trusted industry resource, with industry members wanting to engage with it. The magazine redesign’s success was a first, big step at building the marketing bridges between the industry members who now felt that NFM was an ally invested in their success. The approach was extended to other media and avenues, inviting the personalities and stories of the industry into the business of the industry. The industry trade organization and the industry’s people continue to thrive—together. 

“Dave is an extremely talented, highly effective designer who can bring clarity to and deliver on high-profile and even amorphous projects, creating an end result that surpasses the original vision. I highly recommend him.”

Carlotta Mast
Director of Content New Hope Natural Media and Naturally Boulder Board Member