‘Running’ Away from Recognition

1/24/2010

I came across PlumSmart the other day. My career as a marketing and advertising consultant (www.cameronknowles.com) gives me a different take on how products get their word out. Boil away all of the marketing, and you find Prune Juice. You know prune juice. Found it in Grandma and Grandpa’s fridge. It had its heyday before we started stirring fiber into our beverages, before we started adding ‘helpful bacteria’ to our yoghurt. Prune Juice was there, doing its thing.

I can remember taking a sip of prune juice when I was a little boy in my grandparents’ kitchen. It was one of those things ‘little boys don’t like’, I was told. Like coffee, or cigarettes, or beer. (I grew up around those things too.)

Somewhere along the way, prune juice got a bad name. Someone decided it needed a makeover. We’ve heard the story before and not too long ago, in some cases. The Ford Taurus was getting old, give it a new name. Nevermind that it was one of the most successful American brands of the past 25 years. Coca Cola getting a little long in the tooth? How about New Coke?

I read two lessons into the PlumSmart story. One is that if you have a strong brand that’s getting a little shopworn, you don’t have to blow up the brand name to revitalize it. Consumer education could improve the product’s performance. Maybe prune juice could have taken on the competition ‘head on’ by promote it’s stability, reliability and natural qualities. Why take the chance that people will follow the product through the re-branding, when the product itself is practically unchanged?

The second lesson is that as some consumer brands enter their 2nd century, heritage itself can be a selling point. In an era of instant, and in many cases, disposable, communication, consumers can be attracted to something that’s stable, constant, and dare I say, regular. Bring back the prunes and leave the plums for the fruit bowl