Thursday, January 7, 2016

Who the heck is the Quaker guy?

Thursday, January 07, 2016

In 1901 when the Quaker Oats Co. was founded in New Jersey they used the trademark that they had previously acquired for the innovative product of packaged cereal. Notably, the company was not run by Quakers or associated with Quakers. In fact the guy who trademarked the symbol had simply read about them. I suspect he knew that people thought of Quakers as principled and honest folk - the kind of people who would put out a high-quality box of oatmeal.

It’s fair to say that in the 114 years since Mr. Quaker appeared consumers have been trying to see through the hype and manufactured imagery that brand owners have been flinging at them. The consumer’s challenge to suss out authenticity is not new. It has, however, been amped up. The first
big change is brand proliferation. The shopper has many more choices available in most categories. The second obvious influence is the information fire hose online – manufacturer sites, social, experts, consolidated ratings and reviews etc.

Until recently, there was a well-established brand strategy approach that was applied by most disciplined marketers and is still in use today. Put simply: identify the consumer need, articulate how your brand fulfills that need as a benefit and provide one or two nuggets that support your benefit claim. These “nuggets” are often called “support points” or “reasons to believe” or “proof points”.  Mass media, especially TV, only has room for one support point. A critical decision has always been what the winning support point for that benefit should be. In a classic sense it is an ingredient (Trident with Dentec) or a formulation (11 herbs and spices) and so on.
The opportunity for brand owners now is to exploit the new found dialogue with consumers to expose them to multiple support points in whatever ways are appropriate. Marketers rarely concentrate intensely enough on discovering and polishing these potentially valuable gems. They don’t always know what they are looking for and they don’t necessarily know how to look. That is why I developed a collaborative approach to doing that called Build Belief™.

Build Belief starts from a model of four key areas to uncover Belief Assets: Recognition, Observation, Intention and Action and roughly 20 specific triggers among those areas. The approach is a series of workshops and quantitative research to determine the best array of support points for a brand’s desired benefit.

 I think the Build Belief method is rigorous and valuable but if you prefer not to hire help I think that you can still make gains “going it alone”.   Get a broad array of operations, R&D and sales people who are intimate with the brand into a room with some facilitation and, chances are, you will discover assets you didn’t know were there.

Pepsico acquired Quaker in 2001. It was really Gatorade that they wanted, not so much the oatmeal.
I buy my grains, including oatmeal, from Bob’s Red Mill. There is a Bob; he wears a bolo tie. There are a lot of reasons to believe that he sells high-quality grains. You can read about them here.

On one side is Quaker with longevity but not really “heritage”. It is completely contrived. On the other is Bob’s Red Mill: founded by Bob Moore - entrepreneur, passionate about milling and its craft, single-sourced in Oregon, philanthropic and employee-owned. Back in 2010 Bob gave the business to the employees. I am sure he had offers. Maybe even from Quaker. Bob just felt better handing it over to the people who had built it. Okay, I’ll buy your quinoa.

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Thursday, January 07, 2016


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