Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why These Brands Don't Taste Right

Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, lives an incredible story.  In the short span of 17 years, Cole ascended from her role as a waitress at a Jacksonville, Florida Hooters to the Chief Operating Officer of Cinnabon.  Last week, Duane Stanford of Businessweek profiled Cole and her Cinnabon brand.    

Cinnabon is an great brand; its name is synonymous with the delicious warm and gooey treat. But one sentence of Stanford's analysis should give marketers pause; "Licensing now accounts for more than half the chain’s revenue."  In fact, a Cinnabon-logo can be found on 72 different products found on grocery store shelves as well as on products served up in fast food restaurants like Burger King.

If you're looking beyond the next quarter's income statement, it's easy to understand why this is a red flag.  Cole admits that an "over-the-top, sensory experience" is the magic that makes the Cinnabon brand special.

Licensing can kill that magic.  It takes something special and remarkable and turns it into something more ordinary.  Starbucks and Krispy Kreme are two brands that have taken a similar path and learned this lesson hard way.  Slowly, they altered the special experience surrounding their products. 

Although Cole disagrees, I fear Cinnabon will also learn the hard way.   

Interestingly, one of Cinnabon's licensing partners, Burger King made headlines by announcing a healthier french fry.  Officially dubbed "Satisfries," the new option is said to pack on 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than what rival McDonald's is serving up.   

Burger King, unlike Cinnabon, is a brand that's lost its throne because it lost its focus.  Burger King's Satifries provide further evidence of a brand with an identity crisis.  If the company wants to be know as healthy, it cannot sit somewhere in the middle.  A brand cannot build a reputation for being healthy simply because it serves Diet Coke (especially when that no-cal Coke is with a bacon and onion ring-laced burger.)

Similarly, by offering Satisfries for free in kids meals but charging an extra fee to adults, Burger King has essentially nullified the impact Satisfries will have.  The message to customers is that you'll make your kids eat them because they have to, but, given the choice, you know don't want to. 
The smart brand marketer understands that customers decide on "healthy" issue before they every step foot into a Cinnabon or a Burger King.

As always, thank you for reading, sharing and sending your feedback.

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