Branding Soup

soups - comparative packaging of Dole and O-Organics

I discovered a lesson in brand management at the local supermarket.

soups - comparative packaging of Dole and O-OrganicsWhile cruising an aisle I spotted two boxes of the same style of soup and was instantly and viscerally struck by how appetizing one was and the other wasn’t. Also immediately noticeable was a brand conflict that detracted from the weaker packaging in a rather astounding way. Combined, some rapid education in brand management was presented to everyone buying groceries that day.

First, allow me to repeat Silicon Strategies Marketing’s [heavily copyrighted] definition of branding. It is the process of “making the market think and feel what you want them to think and feel about your product or company”. A soup maker would primarily want to make customers think their soup is tasty, and perhaps secondarily that it is wholesome and healthy. There may be subsidiary brand elements, but these two are pretty essential.

Here we have soups by Organics and Dole. The Organics packaging emphasize the soup itself, while with Dole the core product is marginalized in a lower corner, shoved there by raw vegetables. The Organics soup appears to be cooked and fluid (like soup looks in real life) and brimming with boulders of chunky goodness. The Dole soup looks like paste. Organics’ packaging showed action, with the soup bowl in back and spoonful of dinner rising to your face. The Dole package looked flatter than road kill.

Foremost, in managing a brand you are looking to set the expectations of the buyer. Organics is most definitely setting an expectation about how good their product will taste at dinner time. They drive the product, its texture, its color, its assumed flavor very directly. Dole’s packaging design doesn’t see a brand based on food and flavor, but perhaps on spackle. This is somewhat amazing because within the retail food business, Dole has incredible brand image and strength in terms of quality. They market pineapples, bananas and blueberries as if they were essential to basic health and were selling you Olympian ambrosia. Yet on soup they suck.

dole-home-pageAside from core product brand management, we see brand agreement with Organics and brand conflict with Dole. Dole is known for fruit, not soup. Their brand is so solidly on the raw fruit side that four images of their home page are photos of fruit. Entering the soup business then sets up a brand conflict that requires Dole to brand a bit differently – the Dole name and logo conflict with the soup product (the one already being poorly packaged). Organics, to the contrary, is well branded on a broad array of foods with their brand reputation anchored on healthful quality. Their logo and colors add to the core packaging design, completing a brand promise about the contents.

The first marketing lesson is that brand management goes from concept to delivery. Every interaction a customer has with the brand – from advertising, to customer service, to packaging – must set the right think/feel combination that does not conflict with any parent brand. Dole struck out and Organics stuck to their guns.

Second, there can be no brand conflicts. When you present one brand to a customer, any conflict with that brand at best brings confusion, and at worst brings doubt. Fruit wizard Dole caused their brands to conflict, not agree. Organics retained total brand agreements.

Thirdly, branding cannot be left to chance. I would hazard a guess that the people in charge of Dole’s soup division did not have tight hold of the reins when they assembled their branding team. No product-level brand definition appears to predominate, so they relied on their corporate brand, perhaps believing that it would carry the sale. But the Dole logo – replete with its fruit like colors, its bold yellows and reds – conflicted with an allegedly savory soup.

For all the brand managers reading this: don’t dole out brand effort on the cheap. Be completely involved in delivering your brand(s) at every customer touchpoint.


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