And look at the Fage packages. As you can see, you might think the
brand name was "Total."
The company calls its products "Fage Total Greek Yogurt,"
possibly because competitive products are not "total" Greek yogurt.
If so, what does Total 0% and Total 2% mean? (Fat content, of
course, but it's certainly an odd way to communicate a simple
The Fage approach violates what I call the law of the category.
If you want to be the category leader, you should forget about the
features of the product (thicker and creamier) and focus on your
"No.1 Greek yogurt in Greece," for example.
In a media-saturated world, consumers will ultimately figure out
the advantages of Greek yogurt and then have to make a brand
decision. And which brand are they likely to choose? The brand with
the better credentials.
The gold standard in exploiting
In 1999, three years after Barilla was introduced in the U.S.
market, the brand became the No. 1 pasta in America.
Traditional wisdom credits Barilla's success to its barrage of
30-second TV commercials. An American woman makes eye contact with
a mysterious Italian stranger who serves her Barilla pasta, all set
to vocals by tenor Andrea Bocelli.
Like many other commercials, the Barilla spots focused on
creating rapport with consumers in order to make them fall in love
with the brand. There's nothing wrong with a "falling in love"
approach, provided you add one additional ingredient:
What were Barilla's credentials? They were featured in the
commercials and on the package. "Italy's No. 1 pasta." (Since
changed to "Italy's No. 1 brand of pasta.")
Subtract the credentials from the commercials and you have
nothing but mush. Beautiful, enchanting, romantic mush.
Advertisers often confuse cause and effect. Sure, every
advertiser wants the consumer to fall in love with his or her
brand. That's the effect the advertiser wants to create. But what's
Invariably the cause is some variation of the brand's
credentials. "The brand must be good because it's Italy's No. 1
The dangers of "niche" thinking
One reason Fage might have hesitated in launching a full-scale
U.S. marketing attack is a belief in the power of a "niche"
Some clients of ours have objected to our suggestions because
they didn't want to alert potential competitors. "Let's keep the
brand under the radar. Let's use a niche approach," was their
Niche thinking is obsolete. There are no truly successful niche
products. There are either niche products that made it big (Greek
yogurt) or niche products that never went anywhere.
Who knows until the market decides? Therefore, a new brand in a
new category should think big and assume the category could become
a dominant one.
Marketing is like warfare in the sense that small victories are
meaningless. "Many assume that half efforts can be effective,"
wrote Carl von Clausewitz, "but no one wishing to cross a wide
ditch would cross half of it first."
Many companies have too many brands, too many markets, too many
marketing campaigns. In a sense, dozens of half efforts that
usually leave the brands in the middle of the ditch. Better to
concentrate all of your resources on a few campaigns that have the
And which campaigns have the most promise? Those that involve
brands that are first in their categories.
Next up: Muller by Quaker
The next yogurt brand to try the American market is "Muller by
Quaker," a joint venture between Muller, a large German yogurt
maker, and PepsiCo, which owns
the Quaker Oats family of brands. The verbal strategy: "European
The two companies are investing $206 million in a plant in
Batavia, New York, to produce some 5 billion cups of yogurt a
"Muller by PepsiCo" is an outlandish name, but is "Muller by
Quaker" much better? Wouldn't it suggest to consumers that Muller
has found a way to put oatmeal into yogurt? (As a general
principle, why use two names when one would do? Quaker adds nothing
to the Muller name except confusion.)
Then there's the category issue. According to the chief
executive of Muller Quaker Dairy, the joint venture will introduce
"mainstream premium" products that fill a gap between mass brands
like Dannon and Yoplait and niche brands like Chobani and Fage.
Brands live or die based on their positions in either existing
or new categories. A brand without a category is on its way out.
Will "mainstream premium" ever be a new yogurt category? I doubt
Michael Brandtner, our affiliate in Germany, once suggested to
Muller that they market the brand as "the breakfast yogurt."
Good idea. Look what a similar idea did for Folgers. "The best
part of waking up is Folgers in your cup."
And on second thought, maybe they could put oatmeal in the
yogurt and have a "two-in-one" breakfast brand.
Back to Fage
What built Fage into the leading brand of yogurt in Greece?
Silly question. You know what built the Fage brand in Greece. It
was the first branded yogurt in the country.
Fage was also the first Greek yogurt in America. That simple
idea could have built a powerful brand. Instead, the company buried
its brand name (Fage) and its brand new category (Greek yogurt)
under the name "Total" set in big, bold type. Is this the way they
practice marketing in the home country?
If so, no wonder Greece is in trouble.