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Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Recipe for Product Differentiation

This is from a site dedicated to product differentiation through branding. It even does BrandSpeak:

Branding, The Myth of Authenticity, by Alicia Clegg, brandchannel.com (also in BusinessWeek Online): What do brands like Häagen Dazs, Baileys Original Irish Cream, Bombay Sapphire and Kerrygold all have in common? Each stretches the myth behind the brand to promote heritage and authenticity. Somewhere in my handbag there's a bar of chocolate with mysterious links to ancient Mayans. I'm going to eat it with a mug of coffee from the "volcanic slopes and Caribbean mountains of Guatemala." ... Working the link between place of origin and product quality is the oldest trick in the brand book. It milks our thirst for mythology and plays mercilessly on our superstitious hope that special places have the power to revitalise and transform. But just how deep does the connection have to be for the magic to cast its spell? ... delve a little deeper and it quickly becomes apparent that the cut-off that divides spoofs from the genuine article is far from precise. At one end of the spectrum are the tricksters; brands like Häagen Dazs ... which brazenly trades on the ice-cool sophistication implied, but never quite claimed, by its phony Scandinavian-sounding name. At the other extreme are genuine nobility, fine wines..., single estate teas and waters prized for their local mineral properties. Somewhere in the middle are brands that mingle fact and fiction in an imaginative fusion of make-believe and authenticity. Which approach suits the brand-savvy world of the post-modern consumer ... do brands that take poetic liberties with our fancy set themselves up for a fall?

Baileys Original Irish Cream is a classic example of a brand that climbs high on the back of a provenance blending fact with fiction. Launched in 1974, Baileys is the world's top selling liqueur brand. In each and every country, the idea that sells Baileys is its Irishness. "It's hugely important," says Baileys' external affairs director Peter O'Connor. ... But is Baileys Irish? So far as the ingredients go, Baileys is what it says: Irish. ... But the Celtic motifs on the label surely hint at a more ancient past than Baileys can legitimately lay claim to in its thirty-plus years of business. ... Its identity is a sham, a colorful invention cooked up by a multinational drinks group, in a London office overlooking the Bailey hotel. And the signature? "There's no Mr or Mrs Bailey," admits O'Connor. "... The R.A. Bailey was a way of ... getting across that the product comes from Ireland." ... Strong design and good judgment have helped Baileys make the most of its assumed identity. The packaging ... has strong Irish associations, but the allusions are made sparingly ... The bottle's retro look has been carefully managed too...

Beverage specialist Clipper is a master of imaginative suggestion. On its classic teas range, the company displays artworks loosely associated with the product's place of origin. The English breakfast blend shows a carved sandstone relief from sixth century Northern India; the Assam tea is represented by a jeweled turban pin from the Mughal dynasty. ... The links between modern classics and the cultures to which they lay claim are sometimes very loose indeed. Premium gin Bombay Sapphire is a good example of this. Launched in 1987, the brand is allegedly made from a long-lost recipe dating back to 1761. The brand's main pulling point ... is its design-led square blue bottle depicting Queen Victoria, Empress of India. But how many of ... its "heritage cues," have a basis in fact? Not many. ... the brand has no links with the famous jewel, nor with Victoria, beyond the hijacked allusions. ... Yet curiously, none of this takes away from Bombay's appeal. What counts is that the fusion of ideas works stylistically, elevating it into something more interesting than just another gin brand. ... Brands that aspire to be contemporary classics have to work on many levels. First and foremost, the product needs ... some special quality that sets it apart. But having a "story" to tell, something that fixes a brand's identity in people's imagination and gets across what it stands for is crucially important too. Whether the story is made up, or rooted in fact, is beside the point. Like a fable in folklore, what matters is that the brand's mythology has the power to intrigue and to draw people in.

    Posted by on Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 12:47 AM in Economics, Market Failure | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (2)

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