Friday, May 30, 2008

Use another brand's colors at your peril

Quick! What company is promoting its breakfast fare?

If you thought the Golden Arches, it's understandable.

After all, McDonalds is associated probably more than any other brand with breakfast eaten out of the home or on-the-go. It's not come free: they've spent millions of dollars to establish themselves in pole position in this regard, in the minds of people who eat there as well as those who don't, such is the scale of McDonalds relentless promotion and ubiquitous retail presence.

The Red, Yellow and White colors are also a key part of the permanent repertoire of associations that are tied to the brand.

All of which makes it odd indeed that a relative minnow of a player - Jamba Juice - should use these colors in the branding of its own breakfast offering.

True, the white strip on the right-hand side promotes Jamba Juice as the owner of this message, but it occupyies only 1/4 of the entire advertising space. We believe that the large red block is so dominating that it is likely to be processed as a separate unit, and so mis-attributed as a McDonald's communication.

We're also left wondering why Jamba Juice doesn't sharpen the distinctiveness of its breakfast offering compared with the burger and biscuit behemoth. After all, this is a time when people are more aware of the health consequences of eating than ever before.

The climate is ripe for Jamba Juice to promote its unique take on breakfast, with fruit and a blender being key elements to 'brand' this healthier approach. Instead we get these items visually with nothing more than a perfunctory promotion that 'new breakfasts meals are here.'

A missed opportunity in our book. Or perhaps, a nervous David afraid to pick up a gauntlet against a category Goliath.

A strategy of direct contrast against a well-known entrenched competitor can be highly successful. It worked for Veryfine beverages back in the late 80s when they positioned their 100% juices against sodas (at a time before the explosion of Snapple, Sobe, Nantucket Nectars and Arizona Ice tea on to the market).

One simple yet memorable ad featured a Pepsi can next to a Veryfine bottle.

'Gas' it read under the Pepsi container, 'Guzzler' underneath Veryfine's.

The point was telegraphed. There's only such much soda you can sup without feeling full of gas. But a beverage without the carbonation? You can drink as much as you want to quench a thirst.

For litigious-fearful among you, the Veryfine brand - largely unheard of at the time - got tremendous credit for the boldness and courage it displayed in challenging a giant. Something that replacing the Pepsi can with an air-brushed generic soda can would not have inspired.

As a brand, if you are a David facing a Goliath, act like it. You have a legion of devotees waiting to believe in your cause if you authentically embrace it instead of hiding in the shadows.

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