Nick Robinson on Building a Billion Dollar Brand

Nick Robinson on Building a Billion Dollar Brand

How do you incorporate the idea of fun in building your brand?

Nick Robinson, Quest Nutrition’s Chief Marketing Officer talked about Building a Billion Dollar Brand: The Strategy of Fun at SydStart 2015. Discover how the Quest team unleashed the power of YouTube and other approaches they’ve done to establish their brand.

Quest Nutrition

In 2014, Quest was named as the second fastest growing company in North America by INC Magazine with 57,000% growth in their first three years. Although Quest is a food company, the team approached it as a tech startup both in the way they developed their product and launched the company. Nick shared that Quest was completely bootstrapped with “just a few guys sitting on buckets with an idea and a dream”.

Today, they’re valued at over $1 billion for these two reasons:
1. The products are better - low in carbs, low in sugar, high in protein, and they taste amazing
2. The way they created the community around the product with a cult-like feeling to it

Quest products are available in 77 countries. The brand has over two million social fans to date.

The Marketing Goal

“Quest is a brand built on fun,” said Nick.

Quest’s marketing goal is to make healthy eating fun. To market the Quest products, instead of using photos of men with ripped abs and chains around their neck, the team use this:

...and this

To engage their community, Nick and the rest of the team are finding ways to show people how to embrace healthy eating without sacrificing the fun.

The Challenge

According to Nick, sports nutrition is a highly competitive space. If you go to a grocery store, you’ll see that protein bars look exactly the same, and that’s where the challenge for Quest is. “Quest bars are different and better but in the sea of sameness, if you’re not standing out, if you’re not building a brand, then no one’s gonna know who you are. So you have to cut through the clutter,” said Nick.

Trends in Branded Content

There’s a huge opportunity today for every single brand to be a publisher. Leverage your social platforms for publishing content. If you know your audience and you know where to find them, you have the obligation to create compelling content for them.

If you want branded content, the opportunity is on YouTube.

But brands are being traditional. They are launching their 15 or 30 seconds ads, which people skip and block. Instead, what brands must do is harness the power or merging content, community, and talent, to fully utilize the value of YouTube.

Here’s what the Quest team did to build their brand, which you can also do for your own.

1. They launched a studio to create their original content. They have a team of over 20 people (directors, editors, producers) who create content that makes fans want to watch and share. Their content is consistent with their brand ethos of making healthy eating fun. No one in their field is doing this. Nick said it’s important for them to do what is unexpected.

For their first show, Cooking Clean With Quest, they worked with Cassey Ho, a social media fitness entrepreneur and YouTube star whose fanbase is similar to Quest’s -- female millennials. They were able to utilize the two-way engagement because fans submitted recipes to them that they reinvented with Quest products. Through this content, they were able to extend the use of their products and spread the brand mission of fun.

2. They build authentic relationships with YouTube stars. Aside from Cassey, they also worked with Matt Santoro for the Food For Thought. Nick suggested partnering with talents who truly understand who you are as a brand.

What Nick thought is most interesting about Food For Thought is that they were able to leverage Matt’s existing format. The YouTube star with four million subscribers is best known for making top 10 lists. They took the existing format and added in the animation and backgrounds to amplify it. This created a mutual win. Quest fans discovered Matt and Matt’s fans discovered Quest. Matt’s fans entered into the Quest ecosystem and saw their content. Some of them eventually purchased.

nick 7.png

3. They interact with niche communities and find ways to add value. When they approach a new community, there’s only one question they’re asking: How can Quest help?

To expand Quest’s audience, they did a targeted approach -- they immersed into a community of e-gamers. E-gamers practice 14 to 16 hours a day. They train like high performing athletes but they don’t eat like one. They eat junk food and drink soda. What Quest did was they sponsored one of the largest League of Legends teams in the world and looked for ways to help. Quest gave them food and hired a chef to prepare their meals. But what’s important is that they’ve understood the culture of e-gaming and formed a true relationship with the community.


1. They have over 20M views and incredibly high engagement with hundred thousands of comments and millions of likes.

2. They’ve doubled their YouTube subscribers in two months just for Food For Thought, which shows how engaged Matt Santoro’s audience are and how much they like the content that Quest creates because they subscribe and say they want more.

3. They’ve been selected as a Google brand partner because of the team’s deep commitment to the sports nutrition space.

4. They created an offline franchise with Cooking Clean With Quest, which they turned into a hardcover book. It’s a full 360 experience, bringing people from YouTube to the local grocery store.

Final thoughts

1. Unlink the content between the fans and the distribution platform of choice. When you authentically engage and learn about these people, you’ll learn with their consuming content. You’ll discover how to reach them and what content you should create for them.

2. Develop an in-house team. The pain and suffering of getting your own content team will pay dividends in the long term. All that you need first is a guy with a camera and a laptop to edit on.

3. They all don’t go viral. What you’re after is that intimacy and high engagement. If you stay consistent, some of your content will go viral. Those that didn’t are still great content that will help you build your identity and further engage your community.