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In recent months I’ve become very interested in all things branding. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to build a brand’s reputation and even more to maintain it. I’ve recently noticed the amount of people who choose to use popular brand names synonymously with the common nouns or verbs. For example Kleenex: tissue. Google: look up. Levi’s: blue jeans. Dockers: khaki’s. Now, I’m saving the legality and pros and cons on this for a later post, but what I want to know is what happens when a brand’s name is used negatively, like Crisco.
What comes to mind when you hear the word Crisco? I think of lard, baking, cupcakes, or anything that is delicious and disastrous to your body. Apparently so does dictionary.com. If you search “crisco” on dictionary.com you would find the following definition in their slang dictionary: “a fat person. (Cruel. Also a rude term of address. The brand name of a baking shortening.): Some crisco came in and ordered ten large fries.”
Now I’ll play fair and say I never once heard or used the term Crisco to describe an overweight individual. At the same time, when I think of Crisco it’s not associated with anything good for my health.
This type of unintentional branding can be very harmful to a company, especially when they want to spread their wings, change gears, and produce new product lines. Crisco recently released its new line of olive oil. In the commercial for it, they demonstrate which types of olive oil should be used when baking a turkey or a vegetable pizza. My immediate reaction to the commercial was an ironic chuckle. A brand that I associate in a negative light is now providing and promoting healthier alternatives.
When searching their site, I learned of Crisco’s other products. Who knew they had more to offer than vegetable oil and shortening? It could be my lack of food shopping, or even cooking, that causes my ignorance but I place the blame with branding.
How can a company bounce back from negative brand identity? Will their loyal consumers choose their olive oil over another well known brand? Can they successfully reverse the branding and promote their new product?
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