Is your brand going bananas? It absolutely is. The critical question is this – What are you doing about it? Here’s what I mean.
Think of your brand as a banana. It’s a fact of nature that bananas continue to ripen – with nothing that can be done to control the process. There are factors which will cause your brand to also ‘go bananas’. That has to be accepted – but the good news is, that does not mean that nothing can be done.
In the case of Chiquita® – bananas are their business – their core product. Beginning in 1963 Chiquita® began applying branded stickers to their product which has created incredible brand awareness and strong consumer loyalty. This could have been risky with a branded product that ripens – and eventually spoils – so they created and executed a plan to manage the situation. They began a process of educating both consumers and their retailers alike about various uses for fruit ‘past it’s prime’. Suggestions included using the more ripe fruit to make banana pudding, banana bread and the like. Retailers were encouraged to cross-merchandise ingredients for those products in the produce section.
Some time ago, I met a client in a restaurant which offered breakfast and lunch with all orders being placed at the counter. While in line to order a cup of coffee, I noticed the signs touting the food as ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ – certainly a great branding message. When I got to the counter, there was a display of bananas – clearly over-ripe and totally unappealing. Any positive message I had received from the decor and signs was compromised by the brown bananas in front of me when it was time to order. That retailer decided to continue to offer the bananas rather than sacrifice the few cents it would have cost to pull them and it had a lasting impact on my assessment of that restaurants’ commitment to quality.
In the first example, Chiquita® proactively managed what they could in a situation in which they had no control. They delighted customers with recipes, baking ideas and the like. They befriended retailers by encouraging incremental sales through cross-selling.
On the other hand, the restaurant did nothing. The result was negative branding. Not only did they lose a sale – I opted not to buy a baked good to complement my coffee – I am certain the bananas were ultimately thrown out. Whereas Chiquita® continues to be quite successful, that restaurant is now out of business. They weren’t forced to close because of brown bananas. No, the fruit was just indicative of a business which didn’t manage the things they could have – and should have.
There is a basic tenet of branding: If you don’t manage your own brand – someone else will. Control is the first of my Seven C’s of Branding® for that exact reason. There will always be factors which cannot be controlled. Likewise, there are many things which can. Your brand will always be ‘going bananas’ in some regard. The key is to know the difference – to accept the uncontrollable and to do what you can with the rest.