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Kellogg’s “silent” branding: smart or cynical?

The Economic Times (India), in “When not to use the parent brand,” (16 November 2007) discusses Kellogg’s decision to minimize its connection with a new U.K. brand called FruitaBu.
FruitaBu is a healthy snack brand “comprising apple crisps and dried fruit.” The product is aimed at people who want to comply with the Department of Health recommendation to eat more fruit, and to get that fruit in a quick, convenient way. (The Department of Health “five-a-day” logo is displayed on the product packaging.)

FruitaBu brand manager Paul Humphries says that Kellogg decided not to put its logo on the packaging (the Kellogg name is on the back of the box in small print) because the Kellogg brand is associated with “cereal and cereal-based snacks” and “we thought that if we put Kellogg on FruitaBu, people would assume it was a cereal product.”

Branding experts disagree on whether Kellogg’s move is smart or cynical. Interbrand chairman Rita Clifton says: “Kellogg has terrific brand equity, but what makes it strong can also be a weakness because it is associated with brightness, morning-time and sweet cereals.”

Landor Associates managing director Cheryl Giovannoni says the strategy is “cynical,” a way to sneak into the healthy snacking market. “It should try to be more honest with consumers — that would give it a lot more credit as a brand.”

For my part, I think Kellogg is wasting its time worrying about whether people associate FruitaBu with it or not. Dried fruit is related to cereal. In fact I might be more likely to buy FruitaBu if I knew that Kellogg was connected to it—I’d know the fruit would taste good and be of high quality.

In general, though, I think mainstream snack companies should stick to their knitting and not get into the healthy food market—people want authentic health food and not slickly packaged, fast moving consumer goods that parade themselves as authentic.

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