Working for a company with a name such as Brand Packaging Services, I recently decided it would be a good idea to try and understand the nature of the brands that we work for so I packed up my bag for the day and headed off to the big smoke where I’d enrolled in a Lecture that was held at the Microsoft Offices in Victoria on the subject of Brand Management. The Lecturer for the day was the renowned Professor of Marketing Mark Ritson who took us through the case study of the well known Brand “Snapple”
Snapple, who had its Brand Heritage firmly entrenched in the East Coast of America, primarily in New York had started life as a business selling all-natural apple juice to health stores in Greenwich Village in 1972. The business grew slowly and steadily, in time moving into Pennsylvania and New Jersey until by 1984 turnover had hit $4 Million dollars and by 1986 had doubled to over $8 Million. Selling their brand at premium prices and using individual distributors, Snapple had set up a network that proved to be invaluable to the growth of the company and soon took the decision to hire an Industry expert from seven- up in the form of Carl Gilman.
Among the key decisions that Gilman took in his time at Snapple was to restrict the sale of the brand to the East Coast of America, and against ever increasing demand, avoided approaches to move into the West Coast, which ultimately turned out to be the USP of the business. By 1992, having built up sales to $674 million Snapple was bought by Quaker for a massive $1.7 billion! Unfortunately for Snapple the next 3 years proved to be disastrous for the brand and in 1997, with sales dropping to $422 million was sold to an investment company who over the course of several years managed to re-establish the brand and turn it back to the success that it is today.
Now I’m not a Brand Manager and can’t pretend that sitting in a Lecture for one afternoon qualifies me to speak as one but even I could tell that starting something from scratch and building it into a brand worth 1.7 billion in the space of 22 years is quite some achievement. One thing however that did strike me through the course of the day was the sense of fate that incorporates the early stages of a brands life and how the decisions that people make are often born out of external pressure and demand rather than as a result of any strategic planning. For instance Snapple grew its product lines, a lot of which failed, largely because the network of independent distributors they’d set up were demanding more product to keep their own businesses occupied and not, as I would have assumed, part of some grand scheme to dominate the beverage Industry and take over the World.
It seems to me that a brand’s equity grows over time as much by luck as judgement, not to take anything away from the founders of these companies who are the people brave enough to take the plunge in the first place, but it’s what we buy into, what it represents and how it makes us feel that place value on what would otherwise simply become another product on the shelf, and that’s the fascinating part of the whole process. The fact that brands can enhance the way people feel, and act is the reason that I love what they do for us. Granted they’re not the answer to every problem under the Sun but if they manage to bring a little bit of cheer into a person’s life then that’s all that really matters!
Tim Britt, Sales and Marketing Manager, Brand Packaging Services