In today’s latest branding news, Stephen Nolan of BBC Radio 5 Live asked Sammy Blindell, branding and marketing expert with How to Build a Brand, this question:
Is Mars Food Killing its Brand With its Latest Brand Strategy?
Critics have pounced on this statement, largely maintaining that the Big Food producer does not have the best interest of consumers in mind. Some say the products should be altered to meet guidelines; others claim that health initiatives will not work without across-the-board observance of new rules for salt, sugar and fat content.
So what does our own Sammy Blindell think of this branding move?
Without hesitation, Sammy says, “From a brand building perspective, this is a great move for Mars.”
Many companies have gone on an all-out mission to change their recipes so they ‘fit in,’ creating a totally different taste to their original products, just so they can claim they are healthier—replacing sugar with sweeteners, which are more dangerous than sugar in many ways.
Take Tesco’s classic green pesto for example: a serving contains as much fat as a Big Mac burger. Weightwatchers’ sauces have at least a teaspoon of sugar per 100g, which is in the same league as Dolmio. Neither Tesco nor Weightwatchers is reducing that sugar content in preparation for the Sugar Tax enforcement; however, Mars Food has taken this seriously and made a very bold move as a big brand, two years before they even need to.
Not only has Mars Food gotten a jump on the competition, they have managed to send the message that they are staying true to one of their brand values—authentic taste.
Other brands (including those being critical of this move by Mars Food) have made their brands look more healthful by replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners, which is probably more carcinogenic than the sugar that’s already in there. The branding of these products is massively important because they need the products to look so appealing that people don’t even think to look at the label. People trust what they see on the packaging. Even when they do look at the labels, they don’t really understand what they’re looking at—and the majority of Big Food manufacturers would like it to remain that way.
Mars Food is taking a different approach by sidestepping this trend of healthful-looking foods and instead going for authentic taste and honesty about their products.
Some see the Mars move as a branding disaster waiting to happen. Sammy, on the other hand, sees the alternative approach as the disaster-in-waiting. These other businesses are ‘messing with’ their core products—and are, by default, ‘messing with’ their core values (i.e. the reasons people showed loyalty to them in the first place). They are affecting the tastes people fell in love with and are turning their biggest brand fans into their biggest brand critics. It’s a sort of brand vandalism…known around How to Build a Brand as BRANDALISM.
Mars Food isn’t likely to suffer this fate. Their loyal customers will notice no change in the tastes they’ve come to love, and may even experience deeper feelings of loyalty following the release of this statement.
Consider some of the greatest brands of all time, and you’ll see that they have built strong reputations that were made to STAND OUT. They stayed strong because they stuck by their values. For Mars to stand their ground, stick to their core values and say, Hey, we’re not going to change our recipes. They are the best they can be and we have a strong brand for a reason. Yes, 5% of our product portfolio is higher in fat to maintain their authentic taste, but 95% of our products sit beautifully within the healthful daily allowance. We’re simply encouraging you to be responsible about how often you eat the higher fat versions, is a great brand message.
It means that Mars Food gets to keep the integrity of their company, the integrity of their product and the integrity of their relationships with their brand fans. Many brands of all shapes and sizes could do with learning from them.
Mars have created an extremely positive brand message, if loyalty and brand advocacy are what they’re looking for.
Listen to the full interview here, too: http://bit.ly/Radio5LiveInterview-SammyBlindellMars.
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