The Packaging Pitch: What’s your brand strategy?

September 01 , 2017

By Fresh Produce Marketing founder Lisa Cork

Fresh produce is in the throes of a revolution. From a ‘commodity’ on the shelf, I am now seeing the rise of the produce brand and shopper interest in a product’s brand story. It’s heady and exciting times in the fresh produce industry but the troubling fact is…most fresh produce companies are not prepared for the rise of the brand.

I often write about how branding requires a deliberate strategy to be effective. It starts with knowing who you are as a company and what your vision, values and goals are. It requires knowing your product/s, what makes them unique.

It requires thinking about your brand story and identifying your unique selling points. Are you about heritage, innovation, unique IP or a provenance advantage? It requires you to think about the future and where you want the business to be. It is important to build a brand and a brand strategy that is not just for now…but is future-proofed for the business as well.

I run workshops on a regular basis to help companies answer these questions, but I have to acknowledge this is only the start of the process. The next step is to put the information into a brand strategy framework. Let me give you an example.

I recently ran a brand strategy workshop for a grower client. They were exploring launching several new products and questions existed around whether they should launch the products in their farm brand or create a new consumer-centric brand.

This led to a discussion about brand strategy and the three strategy types: Branded House, House of Brands or Hybrid. As they had not heard of these strategies before, it was a good chance to explain how brand decisions always need to be guided by strategy.

Consider the following examples:

Can you name the company behind the following sub-brands: Mac, iPhone, iTunes? Of course. Everyone knows the company behind these brands is Apple. Apple is a great example of a Branded House strategy.

In this model, the company IS the brand. And if you think about it, while the above product names have been shortened, their proper names are Apple Mac, Apple iPhone and Apple iTunes. Since the brand is all about Apple, every product or sub brand that comes underneath bears the Apple name.

Can you name some produce companies that follow a Branded House strategy? The ones that come quickly to mind for me are: Zespri, Driscoll, Dole and Sunkist. Look at their website and their product brand strategy and it is all about the Master brand.

Let’s look at a House of Brands strategy. How many of you have ever used a Sharpie marker or an Expo whiteboard pen? How about a Sunbeam appliance or a Rubbermaid food storage container? Most of you would be familiar with these products, but I can guarantee very few of you have heard of the company Newell.

Newell is a global marketer of leading household brands…and yet they are mostly unknown. In a House of Brands strategy, it is not about the company, it is all about the sub-brands. Marketing and brand spend is put into each individual brand and not the parent company.

Thinking about fresh produce, can you name companies using a House of Brands strategy? Two companies come to mind for me. CMI Orchards in Washington has several exclusive varieties – Kiku, Ambrosia, Kanzi and Daisy Girl Organics. A high percent of the marketing and promotion you see for CMI is all about their brands – and CMI as a company brand sits more in the background.

The other example is T&G out of New Zealand. On their global website, there is a drop down menu that says, “Our Brands” and their brand collection includes a range of apple + other brands including: Jazz, Envy, ENZA, Beekist and their new Lotatoes, low carb potato. Given their suite of brands, this is another example of a House of Brands strategy.

The final strategy is a Hybrid strategy that combines a bit of both Branded House and House of Brands. In fresh produce, the company that comes to mind for this is Bolthouse Farms. While predominantly a Branded House with their drinks, dressings and carrot range, their recently launched 1915 Organic juice is a whole new brand concept that does not follow the normal Bolthouse Farms brand look.

So now you know brand strategy basics, which brand strategy does your company follow?

In my experience, brand strategy debates arise when companies are at a crossroads of change. As in my client example above, I led them through a brand strategy discussion because they were considering launching new products…and it was important to be clear about the company’s brand strategy now and in the future in order to determine the best brand strategy for the new range.

Often I see fresh companies with older farm brands that have not been reinvigorated in a decade. For these brands looking to evolve or even for corporate brands who want to become more consumer-centric, it is important to seek expert advice. Working through your brand strategy in advance can save you time, money and expensive strategy change costs down the road.

Want to talk brand strategy, then give me a call. A workshop with your team will not only shed light on your brand strategy, but normally brings an array of new marketing and communication ideas to the business as well. Head on over to www.freshproducemarketing.com.

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