01 July 2008

Only in Canada you say, pity.

It's Canada Day today. Happy birthday Canada.

My mother's side of the family has been in Calgary for 100 years, my father's for over 50. Canada has been good to my family and in a small way, my family has helped contribute to Canada's history, which is kind of cool; The very first live radio broadcast of curling was done by my grandfather (mom's side), my great grandmother was awarded the Governor General award for her work with the famous five, my grandfather (dad's side) lead the movement to legalize home wine making and sponsored numerous immigrants to Canada, providing them with jobs and a place to stay.

Each of these people have left their mark, a legacy if you will.

So, what does legacy have to do with marketing you say? Well, a lot if you count branding as part of your marketing. I know I do.

Your brand can create legacy. What you do with your brand today affects how customers perceive your brand in years to come. Protecting your brand image and what it stands for provides your brand with integrity and trust.

You can protect your brand a few different ways - by being consistent in your offering, by being consistent in your delivery and by being consistent in your approach.

Consistency is a big part of why people trust brands. People trust brands because there are no surprises, it's all familiar territory for them. People buy into the concept of your brand for a number of reasons most of these come down to what your brand stands for: Quality, Performance, Standards, Ethics, Taste and a handful of others including Personalization and Service. Being true to why your customers love your brand is as important as your product itself.

For instance, a customer that buys your product because of the way it tastes - let's say 'Ketchup Chips'- knows that every time they buy a bag of chips it will taste like ketchup and for the most part will not change. This consistency is what they rely on every time they purchase a bag.

What can I say, It's Canada day and Ketchup chips are a Canadian only item.

But, how do you stimulate sales in a category like this without affecting your brand's legacy or by losing profit? Many manufacturers play with product sizing (jumbo pack, mini pack etc.) and they include them with other products (buy a bag of relish or mustard flavour and get a free bag of ketchup) in hopes that trial of the product will stimulate more sales. Some manufacturers can't look outside of the bag when it comes to creating extra sales - they look at how their product is currently being used, not how it could be used. Most marketing is geared up to get people to eat more ketchup chips when they really need to get more people to eat ketchup chips.

The first thing they need to do is ask some questions in order to determine why people like the flavour in the first place.

Ketchup on it's own has some possibilities too, doesn't it? Isn't there already a leader in Ketchup flavour? How about integrating the leading Ketchup maker's flavour - Heinz Ketchup flavoured chips? (this goes the same for dill flavour (Bick's) - bbq flavour (bull's eye) - can you think of more?)

There are a lot of people that use ketchup but don't like or don't eat ketchup chips - so what about these people? Some people put plain potato chips into sandwiches and burgers - could ketchup chips not be promoted for this purpose? As an alternative to actual ketchup? I think it could - now there's a marketing campaign that could write itself. Do you think that would increase trial of the product and perhaps increase long term sales of that category? If successful, you can launch other flavours in the same manor - why put pickles in your sandwich - use Bick's Dill flavoured chips!

But, I digress - I don't know if this potato chip scenario has been played out in real life or not - I'm hoping that it hasn't. I am just trying to give you an example of how to change your product without affecting your brand.

If you are true to what the brand represents to consumers then you will succeed in launching new derivatives of the brand. If you break this trust, you are at risk of losing the brand's appeal to customers.

By changing the flavour of ketchup chips to Heinz ketchup flavour it offers the brand some leveraged credibility from the Heinz brand and therefore becomes appealing to new customers. The existing customers are still getting ketchup flavour, but it's now a premium flavour, not generic. Learning from the New Coke fiasco, keeping your original ketchup flavour available means not alienating customers that like the current flavour.

The bottom line is that you need now your brand, this means understanding your customers perception of the brand. What it means to them must be held in high regard and considered with every change you make.

Change is always good... as long as the customer thinks it's the same or better.

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