Thursday, July 17, 2008


So if a brand is something that a rancher puts on his cattle so that other ranchers or rustlers don't steal them why do CPG companies brand their products? So competitors or brand rustlers won't steal them. Yet in many ways products (cattle) in most categories (pastures) are the same - commodities - and like cattle heavily price driven categories at that, ground roast coffees, disposable diapers, edible oils, etc.) So if the rancher (cattle owner) wants to sell more of his cattle (brand) at auction (chain grocery and drug stores for example) what must he or she do? Make a better product? A steer is a steer. Meat on the hoof is meat on the hoof. And a better product would screw up the margins. I believe that legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had it right when he said, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." These ranchers (marketers) have been raising cattle (brands) the same way year after year. The feed (gathered and measured data) comes from the same vendors year after year. It seems to me that the only thing that would make a difference would be to create new knowledge - knowledge that has never previously existed to be gathered and measured. After all, most gathered and measured (cattle/brand feed) data comes from consumer survey panelists who answer questions for points and prizes - they don't even get cash anymore. And if it's done online, you can't even look the panelist in the eye to see if he or she is telling the truth (suspect data). That feed could be anything! I believe creating new knowledge, that which is yet to exist to gather and measure would sire an uber brand. (It made Folgers worth $1.6 billion when auctioned to a brand rancher in Orrville, Ohio. Then everyone else could once again rush to converge on the same position (pasture) saying the same things about themselves (branding) their own way. The symbol (brand) might look different, but the meat inside is pretty much the same (commoditization). To continue doing things the same way would be illogical because no matter how much you study the past (entrenched or shifting consumer habits and practices or beliefs) it will never give you everything you need for the present. Does anyone actually believe that closing a thousand stores, recipe dissemination, a few novelty fro-you drinks and user generated input from MyStarbucksIdea.Com is going to turn Starbucks around? No. It's just trimming the fat to get ready for an auction where Starbucks is the cattle and rancher Schultz can cash out. “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do.” That way the auctioneer (Costco) can't tell the rancher (P&G) how to breed the cattle (Tide). It's called differentiation, which today, can only come from new knowledge. Jeez, I think I've been hanging around CPG companies too long. Starting to sound cynical.

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