Food brands under attack

Wednesday, 27 June, 2007

Many food and beverage manufacturers will only survive if they can move their brands from the first era of branding to at least the second and possibly the third era of branding, according to Professor David Thomson, speaking yesterday at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology Inc (AIFST) 40th Anniversary Convention in Melbourne.

"It is often said that brands have lost their ways these days. Rather than being power brands they have become meaningless commodities. A lot of the brands we know and love are struggling to actually survive because the retailers are marketing products that are equally liked and the retail branding is actually giving real meaning. People are wondering what the brands are delivering and why there would be a brand premium.

"The challenge is to give the brand more meaning again and add something extra that people will value and pay for," said Professor Thomson, chairman, mmr research worldwide, one of Europe's largest privately-owned market research companies.

Using Red Bull as an example

"This brand never set out to optimise the taste. It set out to have something different and something that fitted with the emotional and functional communication of the brand. Red Bull's first campaign - Red Bull gives you wings and vitalises body and mind - communicated something about Red Bull's functionality. Now the company's marketing is based on extreme sport. They sponsor Formula 1, motor bike grand prix racing and base jumping. The vehicles wear the Red Bull logo and the brand has become associated with the edgier side of life. And so the extreme sports become associated with the brand and the brand moves on."

Professor Thomson says that in the food industry, margin squeeze has resulted in food manufacturers reducing their budgets for brand development. "If you don't develop the brand you will never move on. That is why a lot of the big food and drink conglomerates are consolidating and forming mega brands so they can really put some power behind them."

Professor Thomson says there is a growing appreciation that sensory characteristics can play a powerful role in branding that extends well beyond sensory enjoyment. "Sensory characteristics of everyday products exert an emotional influence. This means that it is possible to reinforce or change the emotional aura of a brand by adjusting the sensory profile of the host products. A distinctive sensory profile makes the brand more unique.

"Previously, having a food or drink product that was not optimised for liking would have been unthinkable. Now the shift in thought is to a minimal acceptable score for liking. The trend is to help brands build greater emotionally equity and functionality into their products, and great functionality might actually be nutritious and better for you.

"What we are trying to do with the sensory characteristics is to propel food and drink products from the first era to the second era or even third era, by having the emotional communication of the brand reinforced by its sensory profile."

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