Interview by Evan Faber

Brands with Moxie Sozo
003 Diestel Family Ranch

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Heidi Diestel is a fourth-generation family farmer of Diestel Family Ranch. Since 1949, they have been raising turkeys the right way. She hired Moxie Sozo to shake things up for the brand and for the category, adding a little sass to what could be a "dry" category. As we're about to talk about, there's one word that comes to mind...

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Evan Faber
Hello, I’m Evan Faber, host of Brands with Moxie Sozo. Moxie Sozo translates into the bold application of intelligence and creativity. We are a global branding agency based in Boulder, Colorado. Today we have Heidi Diestel with us, so get ready. She is a fourth-generation family farmer of Diestel Family Ranch. Since 1949, they have been raising turkeys the right way, for more than seventy years. They’re located in Sonora, California, and she is the fourth generation. She grew up working on the ranch, working in every department from customer service, getting meat lovers excited about turkey. So when they came to Moxie, she wanted to shake things up for the brand and for the category. So Moxie Sozo laid out a daring new strategy for the brand and articulated it through a new positioning as well as campaigns that bring a little sass to a sometimes dry category. But as we’re about to talk about, there’s one word that comes to mind, that we want to come to mind, when you think about turkey in the future, and we’ll get to that shortly. So without further ado, Heidi Diestel.

Thank you for joining Brands with Moxie Sozo. Today, we have a special guest, Heidi Diestel is with us. Heidi is a fourth generation family farmer. She tackles pretty much anything front-facing for Diestel family ranch, from sales to marketing. her passions beyond turkey farming, are healthful eating healthy lifestyle. She’s a certified personal trainer. And so watching people make smart nutrition decisions is deeply ingrained with her. So Heidi, thank you so much for joining us.

Heidi Diestel
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Evan, excited to chat with you today.

Evan Faber
I’m excited as well. So if you would give us a brief overview of Diestel family ranch.

Heidi Diestel
Yeah, totally. So fourth generation. Last year, we celebrated our 70th year in business and we’re just downhome turkey farmers we grow process, make most of all of our products. And we distribute direct to the consumer and customers. So all-natural and organic offerings, anything from starting in at the no-antibiotics-ever going all the way up to the creme de la creme of turkeys or pasture raised gap below partnerships that five-rated birds where were one of the few producers in the country to produce such quality poultry. We cover the perimeter of the grocery store, if you will. So raw, frozen fresh meat, prepared foods and charcuterie and then all the way to kind of your peggable pre-packaged goods as well.

Evan Faber
Amazing. And the quality pays off in terms of taste. At least that’s been my experience with Diestel.

Heidi Diestel
Yeah, definitely.

Evan Faber
The topic we’re going to explore today is disrupting a category. And a lot of brands talk about wanting to disrupt a category they feel like they have a product to disrupt a category but Heide has worked over the course of her career to really do it. So to hear an inside perspective of disrupting a category takes more than just the product to evolve the category. It means taking risks in branding, and tackling entrenched relationships in an industry. And so we’re going to look at all facets of how we, and how you as a brand owner can potentially disrupt an industry. So to kick things off, Heidi, what is Diestel looking to disrupt in either the turkey category or the meat category? Or maybe even culturally?

Heidi Diestel
Yeah, yes. Well, we’re turkey farmers. So in a sense, when’s the last time you thought about your turkey? Right? We’ve gone through this but for the benefit of everyone watching today, you think about your turkey for Thanksgiving, you think about turkey if you want to be fit and healthy, like ground turkey, or you think about eating a sandwich. None of these things are really ever thinking about turkey. So for turkey farmers, our disruption is really getting the consumers to think about their protein. Think about turkey as an alternative, the “other white meat” getting stale, right? And, reaching out on a limb to say, Hey, aren’t we tired of chicken? Let’s talk some turkey. So for us, we really want to get this protein that has been around for so long, but is totally undervalued, to be valued. And, and on top of that, in the meat culture, just culture in general, we also have quite an agenda to progress, be more progressive in farming, and really bring that art and science together and really bring forward the future of farming. What does it look like? Most people probably wouldn’t say that I’m a turkey farmer, right? They wouldn’t necessarily associate me with agriculture in general, because there really are not a lot of young kids getting into ag. You said over the course of my career, I was raised in it, but like, my career is very short. So far, we’re just getting started. But we really want to have this farm-to-table concept, regenerative concept, hyper-localized concept, and, but just people knowing where their food comes from, and having such high quality food and access to that food. You may not find it in your grocery stores, but in the next, you know, 10 to 15 years, I think that we’re going to make quite an impact in the way that people approach turkey and access to that bird.

Evan Faber
Amazing. So there’s all different kinds of disruption and you hit upon some of the more general challenging ones. And that is changing the way consumers perceive a category and what their current perceptions are and only so for example, only thinking about turkey around Thanksgiving and trying to change that so that people think about turkey as the leanest, healthiest protein that they can have on a consistent basis and think of it as a go-to. So what what are some ways at the consumer level that you’ve begun to try and get them to think differently about that, about your category?

Heidi Diestel
Well, so I mean, it’s it’s quite I mean, we’re gonna have to break this down, it’s going to take us a little bit but we’ll get there so to kind of go to the top level, if we want people to eat turkey then we have to offer turkey, and the grocery stores are our mode as a farmer and as a brand to access our consumers of recent, not maybe any more, but of recent. That’s been In the history of our business, we have to go through a brick-and-mortar grocery store to get to our consumer. So whatever that buyer or grocery is going to put on their shelf dictates our ability to get folks associated with turkey right? But that’s changing, and it’s changing because we have social media. We have a direct connection to the consumers, it’s changing because online grocery is very popular amongst some of the younger generation and will continue to be into the future. And so we have this entirely new platform to bring forward the ways in which to use turkey, its ease, the taste, the texture that far surpasses chicken any day of the week. Is leaner and cleaner than your pork or your beef, and really could be a bigger part of people’s everyday lives. So through that social network will be able to do that. To-date we really haven’t been because the grocers those brick-and-mortars have have held the keys, a bit to the success, because they need to have so much chicken on the shelf. Chickens great and you know, it’s got its benefits it’s smaller, what have you, but finding alternatives in turkey that’s got better taste and better texture on is really what it’s all about. And at the end of the day, I think that taste is the winner, quality is the winner. Unprocessed, unadulterated, not-lab-grown meat is the winner. And as we get back to basics, this is where we’re going to shine. So for us, it’s really getting in front of and connecting with those consumers in a way in which farms really haven’t to date. And you have maybe some very hyper local farms that have had some following and CSA boxes. But then there’s economies of scale that come into play, right. So really have to had a bona-fide program and be able to reach a lot of consumers. There’s a lot of barriers to entry when you look at poultry and having the assets to process all of this meat creates all of this really tasty meat and get it to all of these consumers. And so we’re kind of right in the middle. Our scope in the poultry industry is like a pepper flake, we’re not that significant within our industry, if you looked at total pounds sold, but we are significant when you look at the ability to serve, turkey all year round to folks pretty much across the country, because now we can reach these folks. And we’re finding that we have a whole kind of underground of consumers that are asking the important questions that are looking for unadulterated meat whatever was wrong with boneless skinless breast meat or thigh meat that you can make in a crock pot or an instapot that that has more flavor and texture and got some soul to it something that actually tastes good.

Evan Faber
You brought up a bunch of great points and one of them I want to circle back to and that is the opportunity that exists right now as brands are having to figure out new ways to reach their audiences where discovery of new products is happening online versus in retail. And what is happening, is the breakdown of a wall that existed between a brand and the consumer where the brand would have to sort of lob messages over the wall and then hope to hear if something landed on the other side. But in a multi-platform digital world. You can have more of a real-time conversation so that your consumers grow with the brand and they walk alongside of you rather than just sort of on the other side of you, and so to capitalize it, that is a big deal. So how to use a multi platform to have ongoing relationships with your consumers, being accessible. So that’s on the consumer side, weaving in new stories, looking at consumer trends and tying the product to it. On the industry side, you’ve once said that disruption is just making a damn good turkey. So explain that a little bit.

Heidi Diestel
Yeah, I mean, it is. It’s infuriating in a way to watch on the industry be dominated by laboratory-grown meat or have the genetics of the birds pushed for harder, faster, quicker, you know, in the scope of $1 or of a conversion rate, right? How much feed does the turkey eat per pound? The industry is obsessed with throughput, just straight up throughput, how many pounds can we get through? And that’s where we’re such an anomaly. We probably shouldn’t exist, but we do. Because when you’re hyper focused on throughput and pounds, you lose sight of what you’re doing, you lose sight of farming of the Earth, of the bird, and honoring that bird, and creating really good quality meat. And it’s just keeping it simple, getting back to basics. We don’t have to, I don’t think, as a culture, create laboratory meat. Is this going to make us healthier? No. Is it gonna make us happier? Absolutely not. What the hell is wrong with some ground turkey? Nothing. What’s wrong with a really delicious holiday bird? Absolutely nothing. We’re the most technologically advanced we’ve ever been. And we’re the sickest, and we’re the most unhealthy and we’re the most unhappy we’ve ever been. We eat all day, every day, everybody has to, you have to survive. And we’re going to choose these highly convenient yet totally processed foods that provide absolutely no nutrient density whatsoever. Sure, in the sake of disruption, you can go hire scientists and really wide and deep R&D teams, and really cool marketing firms to come up with something that will disrupt the industry because it’s just so different. It’s never been done. The sake of disruption for disruptions sake, is where I think we’ve gone wrong. And I really think you’ve got to get back to basics and just produce super good quality meat. Give people the tools and the access to that meat so that they can make their dishes. And it enhances them to be healthier and happier, it fuels them to their success, right? This this idea of forging elite fitness. Part of it, yeah, you’re gonna have to work out. The other part is what are you putting in your body? These are the two concepts. For us, disruption is just producing a damn good turkey, and we’re just going to keep doing it until our customers tell us that they don’t want to eat it, which I don’t think will be anytime soon.

Evan Faber
Yes. Oftentimes people come to these episodes for marketing and branding advice, and then they leave with parenting advice or entrepreneurial advice, but today, it might be nutritional advice, because we’re not taught nutrition in schools…we’re just like “good luck, figure it out!” and and it doesn’t lead to a happy, healthy life. The true power of food is incredible and you’re doing things for example, I’d love to hear a little bit more about the composting or the probiotics or the you know, what you’re doing to produce a quality, nutritious bird and then we’re going to circle back to well, then we’ll circle back to some of the challenges of being functionally differentiated and the consumers not understanding or really caring about, or they say they care. But then they show up at shelf and it becomes a different story. But let’s start just so people get an idea of some of the more unique things that you’re doing in terms of maybe regenerative or environmental sustainability to put the bird first.

Heidi Diestel
Totally. So to understand our approach to farming, you’ve got to understand that our family has been farming for four generations. So you think of a farm and you think of a guy with a pitchfork, and he’s going to come out and he’s going to be some old croggy, who doesn’t want to talk about innovation or anything interesting, right? My tantrum on disruption is not to say that innovation can’t happen, it should and it will. If you’re not innovating, you’re going to die. That’s just the way that it works. Okay? But at the end of the day, you’ve got to respect where you’ve come from in order to know how to progress forward. You have to respect the tried and true farming aspects in order to innovate into something better. We’re taking our old fashioned values and we’re innovating them for tomorrow’s farmers. So is there innovation? Yes. Are we concerned with being economically-viable when our product gets to shelf? Of course we are, right? These are all things that we have to consider. But when we look at farming, we look at it through a very simple lens. What is best for the land. What is best for the animal. And what is best for the quality of the product. Are chemicals? No. Are regenerative practices? No, right? We have to find ways to innovate there. And in order to be regenerative or sustainable, in order to not use chemicals, we have to understand biology. We have to understand how our birds are impacting, are they going to be healthy. They grow up in a flock, right? You know, birds of a feather flock together. The saying. They’re all together. All right, these turkeys they love to be together. It’s just the sea of white or the sea of brown depending upon the breeze. And so we have to keep these turkeys healthy. Jason, my brother, is like this mad scientist, and we just put out (actually today) a really cool blog on our composting program, which is super long and in-depth. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of composting, but he also created our practices around probiotics. And so for us, getting rid of chemicals, what chemicals do (they erase any bacteria on a surface). Well there’s good bacteria and bad bacteria. I’m highly summarizing this. Just like the layman’s terms, my own layman’s terms. So, when we use probiotics, we use an active live probiotic. We use them in the misters if it’s really hot during our summers to cool our turkeys down, we put it in the drinkers so that there’s probiotic running through the water, keeping the gut flora really healthy. We’re giving our turkeys great beneficial bacteria that basically creates competitive exclusion. It is removing the bad bacteria by competitive exclusion, overstimulating them with good bacteria. This is nature. This is how this works. works. If you’re growing a plant and it’s healthy, it’s going to be vibrant because you’re you’re giving it everything it needs to fight off all the bad bugs. Chemicals, they’re just erasing it. There’s just this chemical compound back to the lab, put it out there annilhilate any bacteria and somehow that’s better. It’s not. You look at our composting program, we create hundreds of thousands of pounds of organic waste every single year. We have fresh pine wood shavings that we line our barns with so that when the little baby turkeys that are all fuzzy and super cute, come to the farm, they have this nice soft fluffy bedding. They can hang out under their heaters, they can eat their food and drink their water and be super happy little, little tiny poults. Then as they grow up, they’re using that litter, it’s retaining more moisture. Well after a flock is out, you’re going to need to clean that out. All the manure needs to come out of the barn. Everything’s got to get cleaned up. So what do you do? It’s all organic material. For a lot of folks, they take it to a landfill, nothing necessarily wrong with that, it will degrade. But again, Jason created this idea that, hey, we could take all of our feathers all of our waste or cardboard, our slash. We are in a very woody area. So we use a lot of our cleanup kind of from the roads and what have you and we make we have a bonafide composting program and we make really high quality compost that has ended up and over a dozen school gardens we’ve started. It’s on the top of the Academy of Sciences Building in San Francisco. It is with our CSA farmers, and it’s really contributing to the soil quality, to the nutrient density, to those vegetables and to the structure of the soil of Mother Earth, like out of turkey shit. This is what we’re doing with it. It’s phenomenal. It’s awesome. So, we have all of these details throughout our business that are super important to us. The breed of the turkey. That’s different for Diestel. Proprietary breeds, we pay attention to the breed to the size of that turkeys going to be depending upon what will ultimately end up: deli meat, a whole turkey, ground turkey, what have you. We pay attention to the feed quality. We care about what we eat, we care about what our turkeys eat. We give them the time. We’re not going to skimp out on time. You can never replace time. Once time has gone by, you don’t get it back. So we give our turkeys the time to develop their flavor and their texture naturally. These are all things that cost more money. You don’t necessarily have to do there isn’t a certification bug you get to stick on the turkey. And it’s just things that we do because this is the way that we approach farming. For four generations, this is what it means to be a farmer. To pay back the land, to care for the animals. And when you care for the animals, the animals are going to care for you. And it’s the same thing with food. A laboratory can’t can’t give that to you.

Evan Faber
Yep. Amazing. And really two points here that I want to highlight. The first one goes back to the what, where you first started. The takeaway I got was, it’s the motivation before the innovation. So asking yourself what’s motivating me to disrupt, to create something new and making sure that that is as sound as what you think you want to innovate first, which is, I think, really wise to revisit, especially for companies that are looking to broaden their portfolio and so going back to why not just what I have this product idea, okay, but, but the why. And the second piece was how you innovate is important and how disrupt is important and for you, and Diestel, it was listening to nature, we’re going to use nature to teach us, we’re going to use nature to inform our decisions, to use nature to grow. Instead of, you know, the labs and the science, it’s using a natural process. And then the last is the innovation, the what you innovate. So the why you innovate, how you innovate and what you innovate, kind of in that order, was a thing. The second thing and I can imagine people listening to in-depth probiotic composting program. There’s so much differentiation between how you bring a turkey to market and how other people bring a turkey to market. And people have two different types of mindsets. They have the consumer mindset, we’re listening to you right now. Everyone on a one-to-one basis would be blown away by the depth and the care and I know you’ve just summarized it, you haven’t even begun to tell us the full differentiation, but then we show up at shelf and we’re ready to shop. And we’re in that moment of truth or we’re online. And we switch from consumer mindset to shopper mindset. And the shopper isn’t always thinking those things in the moment and you show up and you see Diestel turkey here and you see a private label turkey here. And they both say organic. It’s the classic dilemma for brands: we’re functionally different. How and when do you communicate that? Have you felt that frustration?

Heidi Diestel
Yeah, and I felt it, Evan, I’m living it. Oh, yes. Here’s the thing. I think there will always be this dilemma. Diestel is not going to feed the world. We’re not even going to feed the country, in a huge degree. We’re never going to be a huge conglomerate. The big guys, their revenue starts with a B, okay. 40 billion in business. There’s a time and a place for for the B’s of the world. But at the end of the day, the consumer has to value the shopper. They have to make the connection between the two. They have to intrinsically feel that buying brand names is important. There’s a lot of private label out in the world. And there’s a lot of people who can do private label really well. But these boxes behind me have my last name on them, and nothing’s going to go in that box that I wouldn’t want to put on my own table. There’s something to be said for a brand’s name. There’s something to be said as a shopper, to really honor that and to say, hey,, maybe that private label is just as good, but it is 50 cents cheaper. So how does it get 50 cents cheaper? How does it get $1 cheaper? It’s really difficult because there’s a lot of noise out there. And the meat industry has made it worse on themselves, because we’ve just gone and we’ve said, we’re just gonna slap all of these acronyms, all of these seals of approval on the bottom of our products, certified organic, where food comes from non-GMO, I don’t know, you name it. It’s on there, right? Trace-certified, global animal partnership. But at the end of the day, we have to as consumers and as shoppers decide what we want. I was chatting the other day with somebody and they said “cheap food isn’t.” Right. Cheap food isn’t. It just isn’t. You’re going to pay for it. You’re going to pay for it in the end. You’re going to pay for it every day that you eat it. You’re going to feel lethargic. Who’s winning in this rat race of choosing lower quality meat or lower quality items? The next diet that’s going to wow you and make you super thin and lean and super healthy and happy? They win, because we’re going to the grocery store and we’re in our shopper mode, we’re too busy to care. We’re going to get in there, we’re fighting the traffic, we’re doing whatever we have to do, we’re wearing our masks and a whole suit now to go grocery shopping. And we’re like, get in and get out. Right? Well, shouldn’t we know where our food comes from? It wasn’t more than a couple generations ago, my grandfather, who’s 94, there wasn’t a need for a grocery store. Right? You had the butcher who helped you butcher your your pigs or cows. You had the dairy where you went to get your milk. You had the bakery where you picked up your bread, and you probably had your own vegetable garden. And now just a couple, 100 years later, we’re buying all the flowers from overseas. When you go to buy flowers, 1-800 flowers, they’re not even grown anywhere near you. Because we value $2 to go spend on a Starbucks that costs $5 for 39 grams of sugar, in a 12 ounce portion. We have to get the shoppers to recognize that the value proposition is so much greater. How do we do that? We’ve got to take an ode, I think, from the influencers, from this whole blogging trend and the influencer trend. We’ve got to be our own influencer. People may not like it because maybe they don’t necessarily want to show everything about themselves, but in our culture, you want to get real people are going to get real with you. They’ll connect to you, to your brand. And they’ll become really loyal, I think. I think that they’ll follow you and they’ll say, hey, look at like, come hell or high water, I’m going to get my Diestel turkey. I think one benefit to our industry is that the meat is so poor that we find in our grocery stores, there are so many folks more willing to purchase online. So we have a leg up in that way that we’re building an offering of all of our products online, so that people can have access to them. Because if they move out of our area, somebody doesn’t offer it, and they really want to have access to it. And they can that way, where previously you haven’t been able to. I don’t think everyone will always convert, Evan. I don’t think our brand is for everybody. But that doesn’t really bother us that much because we’re not trying to be for everyone.

Evan Faber
Yes. I think doing your part to educate people on the difference between the price of something and the cost of something is very important. I like what you said about cheap food isn’t that yeah, it has a lower price, but actually the cost to you is much higher, and to see the cost beyond just dollar signs is important. So many mission driven brands are out trying to tell the same story. And so it’s a challenge because then you ask yourself, okay, who’s your competitor at that point? Your competitor at that point is not the competition as you would see it. The competitor at that point is complacency. The competitor at that point is people not wanting to change their behavior. Autopilot. So then the question becomes, how do you break the complacency? How do you break the autopilot? And there’s, there’s one way, we call it connecting emotionally. And basically, what it is is a pattern interrupt. Something that breaks what you expected to happen and changes what you expected to happen. And kind of flips the script a little bit and you think going one way and you enter into a different conversation. I can’t leave this on for another second. (removes hat)

Heidi Diestel
Oh, it’s so beautiful. I wish I knew you had a turkey hat Evan, because see we have turkey hats but we have turkey hats for babies. I don’t know if you can see this. But it is the most adorable little munchkin in a turkey hat right there.

Evan Faber
We need to figure out how to get that out there. When we share the episode, we’ll share that.

Heidi Diestel
I’ll get one.

Evan Faber
Good, because I want to talk about what you did with ooking to shake up and the own pattern interrupt that you guys had when you launched the “Moist” campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was and what you were feeling about it? And yeah, tell us a little bit about that.

Heidi Diestel
Well, yeah, if you haven’t picked up already, we’re kind of a wildly bunch. We want to work hard, but we want to play hard. So when we connected and y’all talked up this, this moist campaign, it was a no brainer. We already have a category that most people don’t think about. We already know that chicken is king (at the moment) and that consumers are just like, I’m gonna make chicken, this chicken that, whatever. And so for us, we said, you know what, yeah, like we’re gonna throw this out here because it is time to be a bit bolder. And at the end of the day, the attributes matter, the quality matters, all those details matter. You’ve got to light it up a little bit. We have to have a little bit of fun. So we launched Moist, an entire campaign around the word moist, and it was phenomenal. I almost want to do it again because it was so much fun. People are either going to love it or they’re going to hate it. They were going to leave really crazy comments, or totally slip out that a company was using the word moist. But this is exactly what we need to do. We need to get in front of folks and say, hey, we’re kicking off Moist. Have you had a moist turkey? Just the terminology, everything that comes with it, and then after that, so the walls are kind of starting to break down. People are saying, wait, what is this, who in their right mind would go out and put moist associated with their brand? And I think it was brilliant. I mean, I think it was so much fun. I want to find another word just like moist. We come from all different shapes, sizes, personalities, orientations in life, especially in this year of 2020. To break down the barrier to have something just to laugh at, and then to say, okay, let’s figure out what this is all about. That’s winning in marketing, in my opinion.

Evan Faber
Excellent. Yep. And having a disruptive strategy of okay, if people think about turkey once a year, if they think it’s bland or if they think it’s dry. Well, how our strategy isn’t necessarily the result is we sell more turkeys. But the strategy is how do we ignite a love affair, you know, that was born. And so talking seductively with moist and you know, all those things, helps to do that. But I think that’s a good, you were uncomfortable with that there’s discomfort with that.

Heidi Diestel
There was!

Evan Faber
100% and brands and brand decisions are made in the boardroom. And the things that scream in the boardroom are barely heard in the wild where the brands are actually experienced. And so in order to disrupt, you probably have to feel uncomfortable, a little bit. And out of your comfort zone a little bit as you’re creating it, like, Oh, am I pushing an edge here, if it all just feels like really good and safe, it’s, it’s just not going to have that that same impact.

Heidi Diestel
Today everything is so viral, right? Are people going to take this the wrong way? Are they going to freak out on us that we’re throwing moist across everything that we do?Yeah, it was a risk. And I think that there was some uncomfort within the family. We decide most things around the dinner table. It was just something we had to go for. And it was like, if we get if we get so much backlash, we can always say look, our turkeys are moist, okay, and this is why you want to buy our product. Because it’s flavorful and it’s delicious. And yeah, we’re having some fun with the name. But if you’re not willing to take that risk, then I think you’re just going to kind of put a cap on the reach and on the development of your brand. I think brands evolve. I think that they morph over time into the personality that you inject in it, it never needs to stay the same. We all have guidelines, we all have our fonts and our colors and all of our all of our mainstays. But we’ve got to color outside the lines for us, at least here at Diestel, in a big way, to even make to move that inch to stay relevant in a category that’s very not relevant. And that’s the fun of it. That’s super fun. We absolutely love the opportunity to throw something out there and see what sticks. You can always change it if it doesn’t work.

Evan Faber
Yeah, that’s true. And you mentioned about going viral and you say the wrong thing, you do the wrong thing. And and you can be taken down really quickly, and I think that’s something that we could do a good job differentiating perfection from progress. We demand perfection at times and lose sight of the progress that’s being made, you know, and giving permission for ourselves to be imperfect for brands to be imperfect for the things that be perfect, but we ask ourselves, okay, I’m imperfect. But am I making progress? That brand isn’t perfect, but is it making progress? And if that brand shows up authentically and real, it can be a powerful, powerful thing. And I know, you know, even when it came time to picking an agency or making these decisions, a lot of family dynamics are in play. So, you know, you have a lot of different stakeholders from a lot of different perspectives. And so it might be nice to hear about how you sort of wrangle many different stakeholder opinions to try and you know, make decisions together.

Cool. Yeah, family businesses, you gotta be crazy to be in one, let’s just put that out there. Someone asked me the other day how that all works. And I just told them that my husband, Jared (he’s non-blood, obviously), we put him in the middle, we made him the president so that he has to keep us all in our corners because emotions will get the best of you. But I think if we look beyond turkey and beyond the meat category, and we look out on the horizon, it’s such a passion of our family to grow and foster independent family farming across our country. It’s just so neat to find other families that have been going through generational, true family farms owned and operated people that are in the family, that are working in it every day, right alongside their teams that keep that mission alive. For us, Jason has this very scientific, weird Mad Science farmer-like mind, and he comes up with the most random things that I just stare at him and I go, Well, I have no idea what you’re talking about, or how you’re going to do it, or what the value is right now. But hey, I’m going to lean in and I’m just going to put all that emotional baggage aside, and we’re going to see how it goes. If it’s a total failure, which we’ve had plenty of, in a few months, we all come to the table and say Yeah, that’s that didn’t really work. And in my space, since I’m kind of doing everything front-facing, that was Moist. I came to the table and I was like, Guys look at, I kinda want to take our brands that we really haven’t invested a ton of dollars into and the first like real thing out of the chute is going to be a Moist campaign. And everyone’s like, we’re conservative turkey farm. How are you going to do this? And I said, Well, that’s just it. We can’t be this conservative turkey farm. We aren’t a conservative turkey farm, we’re wild and crazy with the rest of them. So let’s unpackage this personality and let’s get out there. And let’s let people decide for themselves, let them do with it what they will. It’s funny, Evan because we have folks that have probably had our turkeys every Thanksgiving and they’ll say, it’s not a holiday without a Diestel turkey on the table, but they don’t realize that we do ground turkey or that we do deli meats or that we have all these other product lines. And so it was one of these things where we had to come to the table as a family and own up to our failures in marketing and say look, we are not doing what we think we’re doing. This brand that we think we have, while yes, it provides this really classy holiday experience every year. It, it has no bandwidth throughout the year, so we’ve got to get out there in a bigger way, be more connected in a less imperfect way. And really shake out, shake out these people who are searching for really good quality meats, and let them find us. And so those family dynamics are sometimes challenging because everybody has to get uncomfortable. But over the years we have really leaned in and understood our strengths and weaknesses. I can’t say it enough. Emotional intelligence is probably one of the stronger areas that I study and that my brother studies and we really encourage everyone in the family to really understand are we reacting because we’re nervous or because we think it’s not a good idea or because it wasn’t our idea. You can’t choose your family, you have all these dynamics, and you have to work through those dynamics, and then be a business and be a profitable business and one that can stay around. So it’s kind of wild, but we make it work. We haven’t totally failed yet.

It sounds like part of it is really being honest with where your strengths and weaknesses lie as an individual, and making sure that everybody around the table has done the same. And then getting a clear defined picture of who’s going to do what. Who are we empowering to do what so there’s not a lot of overlap. So two more questions, and we’ll wrap up and I appreciate your time. The first one being just general advice. We talked a lot about disruption, but what advice would you give to brands who are looking to disrupt a category.

I think you’ve got to understand the value proposition of of your disruption. Is it disruption for the sake of disruption? Is it because you just you want to be the viral brand? What is your goal? And really aligning with that. I think that disruption is awesome. I think that it’s necessary. I think innovation is awesome. But I would say that you really got to get down internally and figure out what your goals are. Because it’s one thing to talk about disruption and it’s a whole nother to actually succeed and do it.

Awesome. And then we end with a bold question. That is sort of a little bit out of left field (not so out of left field) but you have this beautiful daughter, Aurelia. And over dinner, you ask her to tell you about two goods, a bad, and a funny thing that happened from the day. And so, could you share with us? Let’s do it. Two goods. A bad and a funny that you’ve gotten from taking over the business so far.

Heidi Diestel
Oh, Mylanta! Oh, okay. Two goods a bad and a funny. We do play this game, we play it every night. We have two goods and only one bad because we need to overpower that negative energy. You always have to find something funny. You’ve got to find something to laugh at. So one good…I’m gonna swear this shit is humbling, okay? It’s humbling from the perspective that so many people celebrate around our food, and so many folks enjoy and it’s like an aspect of their holiday or their life and, and that to me is just like so cool. I’m really impressed every time when people have great stories to tell. And it’s just still so humbling everyday to hear people reach out and say, Hey, this was really good. And I really enjoyed it. I mean, it’s just, it’s phenomenal. So that’s a good. I’ll go to a bad next: it takes over your life and it’s very hard. Anything worth doing is hard. But having a family and being young and seeing all of these, you know, we’re in California. So you see all of these venture capitalists, crazy random, not-real startups blow up and become some crazy concept. It’s like, I’m over here slugging it out in a turkey barn. And I’m like, did I go the right direction? So it’s pretty challenging. But again, I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it is..yeah, it’s a female dog. That one, it’s tough. Another good, I would say, oh, my gosh, it is super rewarding to see our team. When we first got here, we had a changing of the guards. We had some some folks that had been around forever and some folks that were ready to retire. And so we really started building our own team. We have families within families. That’s super neat to watch. We’ve got folks that have been with us for 25 years, and then folks that have been with us for two or three or five years, but they’re one of the kids-of, so that’s super neat. The funny? We’ve had a lot of funnies over the year. We’ve had a lot of failures over the year. Oh gosh, I have to think of a funny story, Evan.

You could tell us about the personality of turkey or you could talk about t-shirts that you might have made…

Yeah. Well, so I’ll give you a funny. We made up some swag before I was really working the business. For our 60th anniversary, we made up some swag and it said (on the front) “big breasts don’t just happen.” And on the back, “We’ve been perfecting ours for over 60 years.” We were handing these out to our grocery retailers. And this one retailer got a hold of us (and it was one of our bigger ones) and they were like, you cannot hand out that T-shirt. There’s no way that you can hand out that T-shirt. And so just here recently, we did another round of our 70th anniversary, and I don’t know if I have it here. I should. And we called up the same buyer and he said, hey, we have a box of goodies that we need to send you. And he’s like, okay, and so we send it to them and there’s a mug that says “Our birds are flocking incredible.” And there was a frisbee saying “When turkey’s on the table, there’s always a happy ending.” And this buyer just started dying. He was like, please tell me you’re not handing this out in stores. Well, maybe…!

Evan Faber
Amazing. I mean, that’s what it takes. Getting an emotional response like that is such a powerful branding tool. Well, Heidi, thank you so much for joining us. Last to thank you, shameless plug. So where can we find Diestel? Anything else you want to talk about Diestel that we haven’t covered?

Yeah, I mean, come on, folks. You gotta know your meat. Right? We don’t want bad meat. At the end of the day, here’s what I would say, if you liked what you heard, check us out online. We get to swear on our website and do things like give the other bird, the bird, this type of stuff. Thanks to you and the team at Moxie. keeping it real every single day, we would not have the brand that we have without you guys. But at the end of the day, I would just say this, bring it up at your dinner, at your dining room table tonight. Bring it up on a call with one of your coworkers and ask the questions like “Do you know where your food comes from?” Whether it’s your vegetables or your meats. Really challenge yourself in that way and get down to brass tacks because if you’re one of those people just you know, trading on the penny, cheap food isn’t

Nice. I like that and that that speaks volumes, like during the time that you could plug the brand instead you talked about health and helping other people and that speaks to the heart and soul of what you all are all about. So Heidi, thank you so much for joining us. Heidi Diestel from Diestel Family Ranch.

Heidi Diestel
Thank you.

Evan Faber
Great conversation with Heidi. She does not hold back. She doesn’t pull punches. She’s got a fiery passion. Let’s talk about the bold moves. She embodies disruption. So bold move number one is be disruptive in your marketing, not your farming ways. So best to have regenerative, sustainable, all of those great business practices. But when it comes to marketing, whether you’re a food brand or whether you’re a SAS brand or whatever, don’t just compete on attributes, don’t just compete on functional benefits. You’ve got to compete on a disruptive brand level because those are the things that the competition can’t take from you. The emotional connection you have with your audience. Heidi says disruption is making a damn good turkey and packaging it in a moist campaign is what really drives the point home. So bold move number one: be disruptive in your marketing. Bold move number two, educate, educate, educate. Pulling back the curtain. Heidi pulled back the curtain and showed the heart of the ranch. And Diestel is building a loyal customer base who values their ethics. Diestel’s blog really takes their message and proves it’s not just marketing speak. It really shows the depth of practices and how deep their mission goes. Now, it is important to educate, but if you lead with education, not all the time, but most times, the eyes will glaze over. So there is a place and a time to educate, educate, educate, it’s usually not going to be your first message out of the gate. Usually it’s about disruption. First, can I get your attention, and education is, can I keep you loyal? And the last one is let your passion shine through. Now, everyone has a I think, not everybody, but there’s a common notion that passion is about “I like something a lot.” You know, it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Passion comes from the word, it means to suffer. And, and when you suffer for something, when you love something enough to suffer through it. What happens on the other side, is confidence and strength and trust and reliability. When people see your passion, when they feel your passion, they trust you. They’re more likely to trust you. Especially when it’s authentic, you’re not just painting it on. So that is to say just when Heidi says they’re a self-proclaimed wildly bunch. She lives a passionate way of life. So don’t hold back on that. Great bold moves from Heidi and Diestel. Thank you for joining us, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Published

September 14, 2020

A Special Thanks To

Heidi Diestel