Entrepreneurship | Marketing and Brand Strategy | User Reserach | Packaging

Addressing refugee malnutrition and dental healthcare as a co-founder and CMO at VitaGum, an award-winning start-up in Oxford.

innovation pitch prizes

£ in seed funding

target users surveyed

1-on-1 user interviews

global partnerships

Challenge: Building a brand and marketing strategy for a brand new start-up targeting two contrasting target markets

VitaGum is an Oxford-based startup with an innovative product aiming to address refugee malnutrition and dental healthcare challenges. Being a co-founder and CMO, I’ve had a broad role in strategy, design, and marketing – but most cannot be shared yet. So in this case study, I’ll focus on the brand. The product is to be launched at-cost to humanitarian organisations and B2C as a buy-one-give-one product. The core challenge has been to build a business model and a marketing strategy that appeals to both target groups.

Solution: Employing user research, design principles, and storytelling to build  a brand identity and a marketing strategy.

With two vastly different target markets, my process begun with months of primary and secondary research with both target markets. Crossed with our core ethos and value proposition, this allowed me to construct a set of core messages and a visual identity that works to meet both needs.

User Research

I strongly believe that user research is relevant to pretty much any strategic choice. I have a lead role in leading primary and secondary research on the key target groups, which we have used extensively – not just to create our marketing strategy, but shaping the business model itself. I’m an enthusiast of co-creation to enhance impact – inviting key stakeholders to take an active role in shaping the direction of the initiative. Many we interview have come to take active roles as volunteers, ambassadors, and advisors. I’ve lead a survey for over 200 consumers, 15  in-depth interviews, and two focus groups. For secondary research, I use market reports and databases to make general market predictions. Finally, I also use a number of design-thinking and marketing tools to map and make sense of the landscape. We’ve created detailed target group personas, chain of awareness flowcharts, user journey mapping, the 4Ps planning, and market trend probing – amongst other things. While I cannot yet share the insights gained for confidentiality reasons – its played a key role in shaping our business model and brand strategy, and played an important part of winning us 4 Oxford innovation prizes so far.

Design and visual presence

 Once the research was done, it was time to turn towards building a brand and marketing strategy. Our key value-drivers across our prioritized target markets were placed at the heart of designing the logo and visual profile.

Storytelling and brand assets to share our vision

In all of the innovation competitions we have won, our most prominent feedback has been our ability to use storytelling alongside clear hard evidence to bring people in. VitaGum, like many social ventures, was started with a clear vision of impact at heart – this is not unique to our start-up. Being able to tell these stories meaningfully is a crucial part of marketing. I’ve created a range of pitching decks and business plans for the start-up, and believe strongly in the way stories connects people. We start with sharing our own first-hand experiences with the humanitarian issues surrounding refugees. In the second stage, once the listener is connected and affectively drawn in, we turn to the evidence  – using simple and clear slides with easily understandeable graphics, to show that we can back up our claims, our solution, and all the details. Each deck is custom-made to the audience, but the story to kick it off remains the same.

To be continued: Strategy and platform development

We are not yet ready to share the full extend of our work, but eventually I look forward to doing so. VitaGum has been an incredible learning opportunity, and has connected me with industry experts and mentors from some of the world’s largest brands – helping shape our idea and our approach. With four Oxford innovation competitions in the bag, we’ve also gained a lot of traction and partnerships that we are integrating into our marketing strategy. 

Andrea is an exceptional artist, storyteller, and designer with a head for strategy. Her work on VitaGum  has been paramount in conveying the message of our brand and vision. She has played a central role in our business, most crucially in our marketing strategy, our brand, packaging, and partnerships. She is incredibly skilled at research, and has done a tremendous job at collecting and making sense of insights from partners, target groups, and secondary research. She is passionate, creative, and an absolute delight to work with.
Harriet Lester

Founder and CEO, VitaGum