Marketing Genius is a series created by BuzzFarmers to give virtual high fives to anyone who develops a unique (and brilliant) marketing idea worth talking about.

A few months back, we all arrived early at the BuzzFarmers office – a cosmic occurrence in and of itself – to find a mysterious package sitting at our door.

We wondered what it was, of course, but we also wondered where it was from and who had sent it. Usually, we have the privilege of exchanging pleasantries with the UPS and FedEx folks bearing new books from industry iconoclasts, an exotic floral bouquet from yet another thrilled client, and paper bags of cash providing some cushion for a previously scheduled deposit of gold bullion, but this delivery was different.

For starters, it seemed to be humming. And not like your typical miniaturized-barbershop-quartet-singing-telegram-in-a-box type of humming, either. 

Each of us looked up and down the hallway. Each of us offered up a theory. Each of us was afraid to touch it. Each of us realized that we couldn’t enter our workplace without doing so.

So, Amanda, being our leader and the adventurous soul that she is, directed Napa the Dog to flip the parcel over onto its side, which he did without hesitation. The humming swelled, becoming an incessant chirp.

Everyone’s gasps of terror soon turned to shrieks of delight, as we saw the great mark of Quarterly. It could mean only one thing: Our Tim Ferriss Quarterly box had arrived, right on schedule. Napa demurely stepped back as the rest of us ripped into it with Bacchanalian zeal.

We lifted our heads, holding bars between our teeth.

The bars were made out of cricket flour by a startup called Exo and sent with Ferriss’s seal of approval.

Ferriss is a smart guy who will try anything, and we love that. More to the point, we trust him. So, when we came to our senses and realized that the bars in our mouths were made of ground-up insects, we didn’t give it a second thought. In fact, we barely even gave it a first thought. The only thing I remember is someone shouting out PB&Jaaaaayyyyy before we started feasting.

[Tweet “.@exo_protein bars: So sustainably tasty, @elonmusk should load up #Dragon ships with them.”]

Future Food for Thought

One thing you have to know about the BuzzFarmers crew is that we love ingesting things. Each day represents another cornucopia. At any given moment, you’ll see us slurping phô, ordering everything off of the menu at the newest food truck, experimenting with supplements, grabbing our weekly Farm Fresh Rhode Island CSA,  sampling bourbons after deadline, or visiting our new neighbors at the catering company Nosh to see what they’ve got cooking for takeout. We’ve got keto dieters, organic snobs, and fast-food aficionados here.

But one thing we had never tried until that fateful day was cricket flour. For this, we apologize. To ourselves.

Exo bars are righteously toothsome. They’re ethical. They’re complete protein. They’re possibly kosher. Elon Musk should start loading up Dragon cargo ships with them, and put SpaceX candidauts on an Exo-clusive diet. Or President Obama should just sign an executive order making anybody who has even a passing interest in space at least try cricket flour. Exo bars should be future food for all humans.


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I say that with a heavy Western bias, since many cultures across the planet already consume crickets and other insects as a daily protein. Luckily, it looks like we’ll be joining them soon.

“This capital will help us take insect protein from novelty to daily conversation on a national scale,” Exo co-founder Gabi Lewis, a Brown University graduate, told the Providence Journal upon raising more than $1 million in another round of investing, just one year after a successful Kickstarter campaign. “We’ve only scratched the surface of insects as food.”

His partner, fellow Brown alumnus Greg Sewitz, added this: “Cricket protein bars are just the tip of the iceberg for Exo. Edible insects are exceptionally nutritious and leave a tiny environmental footprint. They are the future.”

And the future is brought to us by two guys in a dorm room who wanted a healthier, purer, better-tasting protein bar. They picked little exoskeletal creatures with wings and antennae, which means a tough sell on the back end to begin with. But to their credit, they’ve forged ahead. So, how have they chosen to play the marketing angles?

First, there’s a burgeoning national cricket flour conversation, and Lewis and Sewitz’s Brooklyn-by-way-of-Brown operation has leapt to the forefront, becoming an authoritative leading voice in the process.

They started with some bait in a Vitamix and are now establishing their brand as the name in arthropodic nutrition, like the Kleenex of crickets.

Second, Sewitz’s iceberg analogy is fitting, since environmental consciousness and sustainability make up a big part of Exo’s mission.

The New York Times reported in a January story titled “Energy Bars That Put a Chirp in Your Step” that “According to the two men’s research, the insects are 69% protein by dry weight as compared with 31% for chicken breast and 29% for sirloin steak; they provide more iron than beef does and nearly as much calcium as milk. They produce one-eightieth the amount of methane that cattle do, and need one-twelfth their feed, based on 100-gram portions of each. And they can reproduce quickly and don’t require acres of grassland to graze.”

Put another way:


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We live in the age of infographics, and Exo do it up proper with this little beauty, don’t they? It’s not only available on the company’s website, but was also included in our Ferriss box. Why does this matter? Because the flawless, reader-friendly execution of this infographic goes a long way in communicating the key points in the startup’s evidence-based pitch. Convincing people to eat bugs isn’t easy in this neck of the woods, but the graphic makes it a little easier. Also, as we’ve said before, consumers love rewarding companies who do the right thing.

One sure sign of Exo’s marketing genius is that they’re skillfully spreading the word about their positive business practices. When you’re making authentic contributions to humankind, ya gotta tell us about your good deeds. Especially if you’re asking consumers to try something new.

After all, a growing number of people want to know exactly what we’re putting in our bodies. Exo is up front about the fact that we’re talking about ground-up critters here, and they don’t try to bury their main ingredient with fillers like excessive sweeteners and additives. They did, however, hire world-class chef Kyle Connaughton to perfect the recipe. Connaughton describes how many “natural” bars construct their flavor with unpronounceable ingredients, while Exo takes a “taste-first” approach.

As Sewitz told the Times, “At the end of the day, it’s a protein bar. If it’s sustainable, that’s great, but it’s going in your body and you want to know that it’s good for you and tastes delicious.”

Well, I’ve got good news for you: It’s all of the above. Plus, two of Exo’s varieties are Paleo-compliant: the Cacao Nut and Cashew Ginger recipes. In fact, Paleo dieters comprised a strong segment of the startup’s initial grassroots financial support, while early testers of the bars – which debuted in March – included CrossFit enthusiasts.

This was another another stroke of marketing genius on Exo’s part: piggybacking current trends and building alliances with other niches to generate forward momentum and get their own story going.

That story has just begun. We’re big believers in Exo – in their product and in the way they’re shaping their brand – so we can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Does the idea of eating cricket flour have you jumping, whether for joy or out of fright? Showing no response whatsoever? Let us know in the comments!

Published On: September 29th, 2014 / Categories: Marketing Genius / Tags: , , /