From Concept to Creation: A Lesson in Branding from Post

10 Nov

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Believe it or not, today I was inspired by the back of a cereal box. Well, adult cereals actually have some good information on the back; none of the games or toys, but still good stuff. This particular one told the history — and the branding — of Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats cereal.

According to Apple’s dictionary, a brand is defined “as an identifying mark burned on livestock…with a branding iron” and “a piece of burning or smoldering wood.” So it’s not a coincidence that this term is also used to define the identity of a product line or service. A brand should  leave an indelible impression in the mind of its consumers. If done correctly, it will be a positive perception, will give rise to a “smoldering” desire to use the product. The branding process is paramount to the success of any concept. Michael Levine, in his book, A branded WORLD, says that “[b]randing, when it’s done right, creates an institution.” Wow. What are you doing today to create an institution?

What’s in A Name?
In the case of Honey Bunches of Oats, what started as a mere concept from a facility manager in Battle Creek, Michigan turned into one of the company’s — and the market’s — most successful products. With the help of his daughter, Vernon J. Herzing came up with the idea of a new cereal by combining a variety of other Post cereals with just the right blend. He proposed his creation to Post and they loved it. After concept, they needed to create a title. A successful product name should resonate with consumers; evoke positive memories or suggest favorable images or emotions. Taking time before launching a product to research the effects of a name by way of a focus group or consumer surveys, can determine the its ultimate success or failure. For example, Post originally called their cereal “Battle Creek Cereal.” While that seemed appropriate, “research showed that many consumers didn’t like the name, although the product itself earned top marks.” Instead, the company chose a name that reflected the contents of the cereal, something that wasn’t on the market already, but was interesting and enticing.

New Opportunities
“The way you build a brand is by creating a new category you can be first in.” — Al Ries, marketing strategist and coauthor of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
Because there was nothing on the market like Honey Bunches of Oats, that offered such a mix of textures and tastes, it created a whole new niche in the cereal market. Being first in a new category is always preferable — you earn that recognition, have an advantage in publicity and set the stage for all new entrants to the category —  however, it’s difficult to do. Post started with a specific product, but one it knew could be expanded easily once the brand had been successfully established. According to Levine, it is easiest to enter “a market between two established niches”…”to carve out a portion of the market for a new brand.”

First Impressions…and Second Impressions…and Third Impressions
“Ninety percent of a brand is the experience you get once you get where you’re going.” — Charlie Koones, publisher of Daily Variety
So whether you are the first in a category or entering into one that is established, you have to make the best first impression possible. Your first goal is name recognition on which Post thoroughly concentrated. They then focused on making Honey Bunches of Oats a cereal for the whole family, enticing even children by adding their sugary flakes to provide some sweetness. No other “adult cereals” (i.e. ones without cartoony mascots) had that particular draw for everyone in the family. Make a conscious promise to the consumer and throughout the establishment and life of the brand, do everything possible to fulfill, and even exceed, that promise. The promise should be part of the identity of the brand. The life-force behind it. Don’t forget the importance of public relations in creating your first impression. Make sure consumers know that you are fulfilling that promise “every minute of every hour of every day that [the] brand is on the market.” (Levine)

Brand Expansion
Once a brand is established in the market and has name recognition which has never been questioned, you might consider product expansion. Post capitalized on the prosperity of its product and chose a product expansion as the next step. From Honey Bunches of Oats was born Honey Bunches of Oats with Vanilla Bunches, with Cinnamon Bunches, with Pecan Bunches, with Chocolate Bunches, with Strawberries, and varieties of Just Bunches. When considering an expansion, “[n]ever, ever lose sight of your brand identity. And your brand identity is merely the promise you make to the consumer.” (Levine)

Coming Full Circle
Following three years of development, Honey Bunches of Oats hit the market in 1989. Since then through branding efforts and product expansions, it has grown to be one of the top-selling cereals in America today. Branding is a simple concept, but is not always easy to complete. It’s not something that is done just once, but continually over the life of a product. Honey Bunches of Oats works hard to constantly fulfill their promise of a quality, family cereal. What are you doing to fulfill your promise to your customers? How have you fallen short?

_ _ _ _ _

If you have questions about branding or any other aspects of your product’s development or expansion, I would love to talk to you. To schedule a free consultation, please contact me at 610.393.4430 or LRDConsulting@gmail.com.

~Laura~


Advertisements

Your Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: