Tag Archives: positioning

Hooray for Kashi

There is a lot to admire about Kashi, both the company and the individual products. 

I was in the grocery store recently, and was impressed to see that Kashi is starting to have some real shelf impact. The cereal variety has expanded and I saw their pilaf in the rice section for the first time. And their products taste good, too.

That’s not unique, of course. Many companies can make the same claim. What is brilliant is the clarity and consistency of their positioning and message: “7 Whole Grains on a Mission”. In a world when companies want to be all things to all people, and wordsmith their messages to death, Kashi is refreshing by comparison. 

Their packaging is attractive and clean, but far from generic. They are obviously focused on healthy eating, but not as lecturers and finger-waggers. Instead, they reflect health infused with fun. The website is simple, easy to navigate, focused on people, community and environment. The tone of voice is modern, straightforward, human, young. They are quite transparent in terms of ingredients and nutritional analysis. So it’s a nice balance of style and substance.

Here’s where the going may get tough, though. How successful can–or should–Kashi become? How many product extensions are in the works? Here is the boilerplate that they use in their press releases:

As a pioneering health food brand, Kashi is dedicated to providing great

tasting, healthy and innovative foods that enable people to achieve optimal health and

wellness. Its products are natural, minimally processed, and free of highly refined sugars,

artificial additives and preservatives.

 

So far, so good. Yet, they are moving into frozen foods, like pizza, which may be pushing the envelope a bit when it comes to the ingredient list. 

 

But compared to what else I see in the supermarket these days, Kashi has a big leg up. They are more expensive than the usual highly processed, sugary cereals that dominate, so it will be interesting to see if their message outweighs the current trend to pinch pennies. My bet is that Kashi will continue to grow. My hope is that they don’t grow too much.


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The Dowser

The act of dowsing is a useful metaphor for the work of a brand strategist. 

A quick aside, in case you aren’t familiar with this term: Dowsing is a practice related to the location of underground water sources, and, less frequently, metals, ores, gemstones, or radiation fields. Dowsing is generally done with a simple tool–an L- or Y-shaped tree branch, or a similarly shaped metal rod. A Dowser

Skeptics of this practice abound, of course. I would be skeptical too, except that when I was a small child, my father successfully dowsed a new well when our old one began to deliver more sand than water. I still remember his amazement when he told us that he felt a strong and unmistakeable force, pulling the rod to the ground. He drilled at that point, and water has flowed from it ever since.

So it is when a brand strategist seeks the essential truth of a corporate brand. It is our task to wander across a wide territory of information, data, opinion, emotion, and identify the force that reflects the brand.

Clients can be skeptical of us, too. At this point in my career, I have written hundreds of proposals, and always when I reach the point of explaining how we come to the positioning, I lack the words, the “steps”, the “processes” that so easily describe the rest of our work. It is impossible to estimate in advance. The proper brand idea can bubble up in the first few days of our work, or it can only be wrestled to the ground after months of agony. There is no telling in advance.

But when it is right, there is no mistaking the power that draws us to the ultimate brand idea.

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The Mouse that Roared: Kodak’s Printer Campaign

A little over a year ago, I heard the CMO of Kodak, Jeffrey Hayzlett, speak at a conference. He is a great speaker, with an even greater story to tell. I went back to work and called one of my tech clients and said, “watch out–Kodak is going to come after you in a big way!”

Remember Kodak? They used to be known for cameras and film, and were basically given up for dead not too long ago. Well, they have reinvented what a “picture” is all about.

Then I forgot about it until last night. I confess, I was watching Dancing with the Stars when I realized the the printer division of Kodak had broken a new campaign. And this morning, a Kodak printer ad was on the back page of The New York Times. Themed “Print and Prosper”, it goes after the printer industry’s jugular: the fact that although printer prices are low, the cost of ink cartridges can choke a horse.  

 

Print and Prosper Campaign

Print and Prosper Campaign

Pretty direct, isn’t it? (I believe the agency is Deutsch.)

What I like about this is that Kodak’s marketing team has adopted a totally classic challenger brand positioning. So many companies are too timid to really go for it in the way the Kodak has. Being a challenger brand requires that you take off the kid gloves. So what exactly is Kodak challenging here?

Just like a narcotics pusher, printer companies currently offer (nearly) free samples (i.e., printers) in order to hook you on their ink cartridges, which can be very very pricey. Kodak directly assaults this way of doing business by saying that Kodak charges a fair price for printers AND ink cartridges. Kodak is bucking the widely held belief among printer manufacturers that most printer profit margins are virtually non-existent, and the only way to make money is on the ink. They are actually charging more than average for their printers, while promising a much lower lifetime cost for ink.

In so doing, Kodak is tapping into the consumer demand for transparency. Consumers know that printers from HP, Canon, Lexmark, et.al, are sold at an artificially low price in order to hold them hostage for the ink. The list of offerings is also very simple. Kodak sells 7 printers, and 3 types of ink cartridges. HP has 7 sub-branded printer categories (DeskJet, PhotoSmart, etc.)  and 100!!!! separate models that are suitable for home or small business use. I tried to count how many kinds of ink cartridges they sold, but I gave up at 160. Does the world really need that many kinds of printers and accessories? To be fair, a great deal of the ink cartridges may be for specialty graphics arts related printers, but really!

So Bravo to Kodak for looking at the business in a different way. There is always a risk in trying to claim “low price”. They could set off a pricing war in the inks category. They could also provide permission for the larger competitors to raise the cost of printers. Either reaction might push Kodak back into an “also-ran” position. 

I’ll be interested to see what’s next.

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