Uncle Dougie's Tim Condon on Getting a Broader Audience

Sometimes it can be frustrating being an entrepreneur, particularly when you know your product is probably the best in its category but your intended audience might not know it. In a way, that's partially the plight of Tim Condon. He's the CEO of Schafer Condon Carter, a mid-sized ad agency in Chicago and also CEO of Uncle Dougie's, manufacturers of zesty sauces. If you haven't heard of the 30-year-old brand, that's kinda one of the issues facing Uncle Dougie's at the moment: "Our research shows that people either haven’t heard of the brand, or think it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever tasted," Condon says in a press release his publicist sent me. Intrigued on what they're going to do about it, I gave Condon a call.

If you have a high-end product that's usually stocked at restaurants like this, how do you get penetration into the customer base that's never heard of it?

Tim Condon: What we're going to be doing this summer is we're going to be aggressively sampling. So we're going to be out there with the public at some of the street fairs. We're going to be introducing the product. It's going to be a little bit of hand-to-hand, man-to-man combat, if you will. We want to get people to try the products, because once they try them they tend to be converts almost immediately. That's how it worked for me. As soon as I tried the product I was like, "Jeez, how did I not know about this?" I'm a foodie and I appreciate quality, and this stuff is really just the best stuff you can get.

What mistakes do you see people make in reaching out to another sector of their potential audience?

Tim Condon: I think a lot of mistakes are made just relying on advertising. I'm the CEO of an ad agency, so that might sound a little strange, but our feeling is that there's a time and a place for every medium. Advertising just doesn't have the same power that, say, third-party advocacy does. So, if you go on our Facebook page is and you read what the postings are from our fans: These people are out there, basically, telling all their friends about our products. They go to somebody's house and they see them pull out -- so, for instance, Sweet Baby Ray's. I mean, it's a good tasting product, but the first ingredient on their label is high fructose corn syrup. Our users tend to be like, "Jeez, what are you doing with that stuff?" [Laughs.] "Don't you know about Uncle Dougie's? Don't you know about the good stuff?" So, the advocacy side of things is really where we want to be. You have to have products, though, that are able to earn media and earn people's attention. You can't just do it with anything. I think the first thing is you've got to have a quality product.

Are there any products that maybe don't warrant media attention?

Tim Condon: The public is becoming smarter and smarter about their food choices. This is a label-reading era. People want to know what is in the stuff that they're consuming. Now, certainly, when you look at the Whole Food shopper, that's really the epicenter of it. It's going to follow along, to a degree, the socioeconomic strata that people are coming from. But the foodie nation out there, which is what we consider ourselves to be catering to -- on the new labels we refer to it as "food for foodies."

How are you guys changing things up to get a broader audience?

Tim Condon: Just in general, I think the marketing side of Uncle Dougie's is going to be very inventive. When you see the new packaging, it's quite a change for the brand.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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