Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chobani: A First-hand Lesson In Brand Culture

Social media is a beautiful thing. It gives lunks like me a platform to express our views, even if we are not fully informed. Another beautiful aspect is it allows entities to monitor comments and references about their company or organization in real time and respond.

In my last two blog posts I cited what I believed to be good and bad ads during the Olympics. Nike was praised, Chevrolet and Chobani got brick bats. To my complete amazement, someone other than the usual small circle of my friends, clients and associates read the post. To my greater amazement, Amy Keefe, Community Coordinator for Chobani took the time to write me a very nice note inviting me to chat with her, provided her cell number, and most importantly, shared a link: http://chobani.com/community/blog/2012/08/a-cholympic-celebration/ to demonstrate that the company did indeed host an outdoor community viewing party similar to the one depicted in the ad I criticized as inauthentic. In the spirit of fairness, I felt it was important to post a new blog correcting an injustice before I have a chance to speak with Ms. Keefe, which I look forward to doing soon.

For the record, I still think the ad was off the mark relative to how I interpret the brand positioning, but my purpose here is not to rehash or defend my point of view. The most important thing here is to apologize. Chobani, please accept my most sincere public apology for attacking your authenticity.

In the original post I tried to make it clear I am a huge fan of Chobani Greek-style Yogurt. Equal to my passion for branding is my passion for food. What I put in my mouth matters. My disappointment in the messaging, when on such an enormous stage, seemed like such a tremendous lost opportunity and got the better of me. In hindsight, what I perceive as one misguided ad does not define a brand.  See, I was one of those guys who only bought yogurt when my local market offered volume discounts like "20 for $10!" The first time I tasted Chobani peach flavored yogurt I was hooked and decided I had to see if other flavors were as good. I have no idea what price I pay for a container. That's the point of branding! Loyalty that exists in the face of lower priced options while not the only measure, is certainly the first hurdle of true brand loyalty.

After receiving Ms. Keefe's email, my admiration for the company grew exponentially. The speed, manner and tone in which the company responded shows not only that it protects it's brand but that the people involved truly understand what it means to be a brand. Trolling the Internet for mentions of your brand and reviews of Olympic advertising shows a real commitment to listening to the marketplace and a brand savvy not to be denied.

Anyone who reads my blog, visits my web site or has ever sat in on a workshop or speech of mine has heard me say, "A brand exists only in the mind of the audience. It is their property. No company owns a brand; it can only hope to influence the impression the audience holds." I've also stated repeatedly that branding is more about actions and behaviors than image management. Through Ms. Keefe's actions and behaviors, Chobani reinforced my positive impressions of the brand and helped erase both the misconceptions and disappointment I held about the brand. This experience is exactly the type that makes a brand great.

I said I would maintain a self-imposed boycott on Chobani products until I got over my disappointment. The ban is officially lifted! Tomorrow I will stop at my neighborhood market and grab a few containers of my favorite flavors. If you see me there, please try to understand the sheepish expression on my face. Yes, I'm passionate about what I put in my mouth, but I am also equally concerned about what comes out of it.