.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Making Sense: e-Digest of Brand Thinking

Monday, May 22, 2006

Branding beef the modern way

In the old days, when you went prospecting for gold, all you needed was a shallow metal pan and a riverbed. Today gold mining is unbelievably complex. The law of diminishing returns has set in. All the easy-to-find gold ore has been mined. But opportunities are still out there. Using new technologies, for example, mining companies are now squeezing nanosized particles of gold ore from long ignored places, like deep within mineral deposits.

That same strategy can apply to brands. Just find a commodity that’s never been branded before or lacks a dominant brand leader. A case in point: meat. To be sure, most supermarkets offer their own brand of meat. But what we’re talking about here is a brand that transcends the grocery store. And the restaurant menu.

Two premium meat brands come to mind:
Niman Ranch and Certified Angus Beef®. The latter puts intense emphasis on consistent quality and brand integrity. It promises and delivers “exceptional taste with every mouthwatering bite.” You’ll find the Certified Angus Beef® brand in discerning restaurants and grocery stores worldwide—at a premium price.

Niman Ranch takes a more New Age, organic approach to raising beef. According to their Web site, Niman’s ranchers, butchers, office staff, and drivers help fulfill its founding vision—to bring the best possible meat to customers while practicing the highest standards of husbandry and environmental stewardship. Its list of “where to eat (Niman Beef)” reads like a who’s who of the nation’s trendy and expensive restaurants.

Another commodity now being branded is bedding plants. You buy pots and trays of them every spring at garden centers, hardware stores, discount stores—and you could care less who grew them. The folks at
VIVA! are changing that. Their brand difference is their pot. It features colorful images of flowers, along with planting instructions and growing tips. In a sense, each pot becomes its own POS display. It seems to be working. (Of course having an exclusive distribution arrangement with Home Depot doesn’t hurt sales either.)

Another grower stepping up to the brand plate is
Bonnie Plant Farm. A wholesale grower of vegetable and flower plants since 1918, they were virtually invisible to consumers. Now that’s beginning to change. In a pull-through campaign, Bonnie is running TV spots on the quality and easy plantability of their flowers and vegetables.

Funny thing though, while we are taking about branding, there isn’t a TM, SM or ® to be found anywhere on the Niman’s Ranch Web site. Not even next to their logo. Likewise for the Bonnie Plant Farm Web site and the VIVA! Web site (except for an occasional ® that appeared in a few of their press releases). Only the Certified Angus Beef® maintained anything close to brand integrity.

So what’s the next commodity to be branded? Look around, there are opportunities everywhere. Try this one: Organically grown dried beans. Think great packaging. Think Whole Foods for distribution. Now you’re getting it.

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