One of the most important questions in branding generally, and particularly so for the edible oils and fats business with its limited branding budget, is: how do I get the biggest impact for my marketing dollars?

The first, and most obvious, answer is to target your marketing strategy. In other words, don’t spend all your efforts on broad and general marketing projects. Instead, target your resources to where your message can have its most useful impact.

In many ways, the rise of targeted marketing in the world of communication parallels technology development in military circles. One example would be the development of gun technology over the past few centuries.

In the 1700s, guns and muskets were not very accurate, with the result being that many shots would be fired, with only a tiny number of bullets doing anything useful for the attacking force. Then came better technology in the later part of the 1800s, in the form of rifles such as the Springfield in the US and the Lee Enfield in the UK.

The latter had a training standard of hitting a 12-inch target at a distance of 300 yards with 15 rounds in the space of 60 seconds (a tactic that became known as ‘the mad minute’). And in post-World War II battles, snipers have achieved targeted kills in excess of 2,000 metres.

What has changed during that time? Human eyesight is the same. The steadiness of the hand of the shooter is the same. The observation ability of the shooter is the same. All that has changed is the technology.

It’s the same kind of story in branding, but swapping rifles for the printing press. A few centuries ago, a basic printing press could produce leaflets, but very few would get to the people who were really interested in their message.

Next came the advanced printing press that produced newspapers in mass quantities and with advertisements. This was an upgrade in terms of cheapness of production relative to the old printing press, but still most advertisements were not going to audiences that were motivated to read them.

One of the biggest factors in a successful branding campaign, whether we are talking about edible oils and fats or other products for the market, is motivation. As a marketer of many years, I’m still amazed at how organisations can so easily get caught up in ‘big picture’ concepts and ‘small stuff’ details, such as budget and pricing, without remaining focused on motivation.

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Now that we are well into the 21st century and enjoying many technological advances (particularly with communication options), branding experts are finding it increasingly difficult to know which channels to use. This is a problem particularly for the edible oils and fats industry, a business in which, relative to many other consumable products, the branding budget is rather small.

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A recurring theme with branding, especially for an industry as removed from mainstream branding as edible oils and fats, is to learn from other areas and then apply the lessons to your own.

Mostly this means looking at product- or industry-branding, but the US presidential election is no exception. The most recent one involved such a strange mixture of surprises that we can only think that there must be useful lessons to be learnt.

Branding and marketing have something in common with events in history in general: after they have happened, events take on an air of inevitability. It is as if, as human beings, we have a strong leaning to look at an event, after it has happened, to say: ‘Well, I guess it just had to be that way.’

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One of the most common mistakes some industries make in branding is to spend too much time working on what message to send out, and not enough time on selecting the right medium with which to send that message.

Habits also kick in as to what medium or media to use; the years roll by and the brand declines without anybody taking much notice. Markets and audiences change, but organisations stay with the same old promotion methods in the same old media. I have found that the oils and fats industry suffers with this more than many others.

In wanting to build their brand, few industries realise that a ‘half-okay’ message in a hot medium with a lot of traffic will have a lot more traction (as marketers say) than a super ‘bang on’ message in a tired old medium that nobody bothers with any more.

But many are stuck on the ‘what’ of a message and spend little time on the ‘how’, which is far more important for these reasons:

  • If something is scrappily written, we often won’t bother reading it, let alone pass an opinion as to whether it’s any good in the first place.
  • If something looks appealing, we are more likely to give it more of our attention. That can cover anything from what makes us want to read a book, to what makes us want to listen to a person.

When it comes to a person, the phenomenon is so common that psychologists have a term for it: ‘the halo effect’, where we are more likely to believe or generally give extra credibility to someone who is good looking.

When you talk to enough people on their preferences with media, the range is very broad. Also, there’s not a whole lot of logic in how preferences are arrived at. In many ways it parallels food preferences. Sometimes there’s a practical easy-to-understand reason for a preference, but often there isn’t. It can be a general impression of aesthetics or something even more whimsical.

If you think the answer is to focus on which new social media to use for communications – email, LinkedIn or Facebook, for example – it’s more complicated than that. Some people have stopped with social media altogether.

For most of human history, there has really been one technology for the media: the printed word. But a hundred years ago, that changed with more technologies: radio, TV, PCs, the Internet, smartphones and now tablets.

And the number keeps on growing – it’s not as if one medium falls into disuse because a new one comes along. It’s a pluralistic word.

When people think of managing a brand, they generally get excited about the dramatic and innovative steps of building a new one and knocking down an old one. It’s very much like building or knocking down a physical building. However, few focus on the numerous benefits of renovation, where an old building is modified or refurbished here and there.

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Probably the most common branding problem that people in the edible oils and fats business feel troubled about is the question of how to respond to attacks. This is especially so when the attacks seem unfair, whether levelled by governments or NGOs.

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In Part 1 of this topic, I talked about the importance of creativity in branding, and how sometimes all it takes is just one individual to come up with good ideas which help build a brand. In fact, a single idea can transform the success of an entire product range or commodity.

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When it comes to marketing and branding, most businesses tend to focus on the message – ‘What are we going to say?’ or ‘What are our key points?’ – rather than on picking the right person or group to deliver the message.
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Oftentimes, branding is about knowing when to change direction. Sometimes that change of direction needs to be a complete 180 degree about-face or as it is more commonly known: a U-turn.

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