October 29, 2006
Nestlé Repeats a Branding Blunder of Another Iconic Brand
European sales of the candy fell dramatically from mid-August to mid-September this year after Nestlé hired French architect Jean Nouvel to redesign Cailler’s packaging, and a famous Spanish chef to offer some new pizzazz to the taste.
Unfortunately, Nouvel chose to use packaging containing a high content of non-recyclyable PET plastics and Nestlé raised prices, prompting some retailers to boycott the product outright.
I’m reminded of Coke's famous blunder of changing its own iconic brand with the ill-starred introduction of New Coke, one of the biggest branding disasters in modern history. Coke also has learned recently that it can't control what people do with its top selling product — consumers have been causing mini-Mentos explosions with it and, more recently, deep frying it. But they can control what they offer the public — a public that knows that it does not like its iconic brands messed with.
Nestlé seems to be learning the hard way, the lesson that Coke taught us years ago: do not tinker with well-loved iconic brands.
Additionally, the Wall Street Journal, this past summer, had a fascinating story on another Nestlé misstep of another of its iconic brands — the failed attempt at line extensions for its seventy-five year old KitKat candy bar brand — offering consumers everything from "strawberries and cream" to "passion fruit" flavored versions of the well-loved original.
KitKat sales in the UK came to a grinding halt: in April Nestlé came to its senses, scrapped the KitKat flavor extensions that cost the company a whopping 18% of sales ($252 mil), and got back to basics.
Lessons learned? Brands of iconic status that consumers love, and are emotionally attached to, are often brands that consumers do not want marketers to change.
Do so at your own peril and loss of market share.
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