Tim York, Markon Cooperative
Tim York, Markon Cooperative

A diamond is forever. The ultimate driving machine. Just do it!

These are all examples of taglines that are associated with strong brand positioning platforms. Brand positioning is about the perception you want top of mind and heart when people hear your company name, brand name or slogan.

In foodservice, many operators seem to be struggling to find or have lost their brand position. The lessons are applicable not only foodservice, but also to growers and shippers who increasingly have opportunities to brand their products.

Consider McDonald’s.

Its golden arches have long been associated with a simple, kid-friendly menu. Burgers, fries, Cokes and shakes were staples. The menu today has more than 120 items — and the diverse menu is not faring well.

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stepped down last month, having held the position for less than three years. McDonald’s has seen declining sales, supplier issues, franchisee unrest, and consumer apathy. While the reasons for McDonald’s struggles are complex, Thompson was the fall guy.

Your brand must engage customers, consumersWhat does the McDonald’s brand stand for today? To re-familiarize consumers with its brand, McDonald’s has recently relaunched its “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign, which was in the spotlight during a recent Super Bowl ad.

And while a return to a familiar slogan may help the brand to reinforce a positioning strategy that has served it well, McDonald’s — and other brands — must continue to build on brand equity while also meeting the needs of today’s consumers.

“The brand needs to re-gain relevancy with a more picky and educated consumer,” said Sarah Lockyer, editor in chief of Nation’s Restaurant News.

Burger King has also had of slogans over the years including “Home of the Whopper,” “Broiling, Not Frying,” and “Have it Your Way.”

Last year the company changed to another slogan, “Be Your Way.”

When asked to explain the slogan, a Burger King representative told the Associated Press, it was intended to remind people that “they can and should live how they want anytime. It’s OK not to be perfect … self-expression is most important and it’s our differences that make us individuals instead of robots.”

Even the most novice of marketers can tell this slogan is only loosely relevant to the brand.

Today, there’s no evidence of the new slogan; the company appears to be back to “Have it Your Way.”

In produce, branding initiatives are increasing, driven in part by consumers’ interest in food. When I think Earthbound, I think organic. When I think Tanimura and Antle, I think high-quality products and innovation. When I think Grimmway, I think carrots. When I think Taylor Farms, I think quality, pre-cut produce. When I think of California Avocados, I think of fresh, hand-picked fruit.

Paramount Citrus built the Cuties brand for its mandarins, and later lost the trademark when dissolving a partnership with Sun Pacific.

The solution for Paramount was to build a rival brand, Halos.

“(The marketing team) transformed mandarins from a seasonal commodity into one of America’s most popular produce brands,” said David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus while introducing the Halos brand. “Our plan for Halos is no less ambitious. We will continue to be the market leaders as we commit significant resources to turn Halos into a household name.”

Citrus supplier Sunkist is more than 120 years old, and is also among the produce industry’s most recognized brands. Sunkist has extended its brand through licensing to citrus related products including citrus juices, sodas, and fruit gems.

Is their brand extension into apple slices, grapes, baby carrots, and pistachios a good move? The jury is out.

Some companies choose to have separate brands, each with unique consumer positioning platforms. When Chiquita Brands International purchased Fresh Express, for example, they wisely left the well-known Fresh Express brand intact, realizing that Fresh Express brand equity is strong.

How have you positioned your company? What comes to mind and heart when people hear your brand or company name? How do you stand out from the competition? Everything you do affects your brand, and everything from how you answer your phone to your packaging should reflect your brand positioning.

A solid positioning strategy could help the produce industry take customer and consumer relationships to the next level, building positive brand affinity and long-term success.

Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif., Markon Cooperative. Centerplate is a monthly column on “what’s now and next” for foodservice and the implications for produce.

timy@markon.com

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