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Category Marketing: A Breed Apart
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“Selling an entire category is vastly more complex than selling a brand. It’s like the difference between a manual, five-speed and an automatic transmission.”--Kurt Graetzer

Milk. Beef. Pork. Cotton. Raisins. Potatoes. Even prunes (now dried plums). All have generic or category marketing programs. While the fundamentals of marketing apply, these boards and commissions are truly are a breed apart. In part because of GOT MILK?, other, non-agricultural industries are considering programs designed to increase category demand. While this makes great sense, conceiving, organizing, funding and managing a generic program requires a different breed of thinking. Below are some of the reasons.

  • The government is your boss. Most programs are legislated federally or state level. Thus, the ultimate “boss” is often a government agency.
  • Sworn enemies sit on your board. The same folks who compete daily for business must put aside their brand hats and act as an industry.
  • Consumer attitudes are deeply embedded and extremely difficult to shift. Because people are so intimately familiar with the category, changing attitudes is a complex, long term proposition.
  • Dollars are limited and the competition is immense. Most generic programs are outspent 10 to 1 by branded competition.
  • Accountability is vital and is complex. There are dozens of factors outside the influence of the program, e.g., price and quality. Sophisticated econometric analyses are used to supplement.
  • Strategic partners are crucial. The collaboration between Oreos and milk involved the product (cookies embossed with GOTMILK?), packaging, consumer and trade promotion, POP, publicity and co-branded TV advertising.
  • Creative opportunities are unlimited. Some of the finest, most enduring creative work is done for generic marketing simply because: 1) there is no brand mandate and 2) the work is not usually tested to death.

Any industry contemplating category marketing would benefit hugely from “Category Marketing: A Breed Apart”. This keynote speech is the foundation for a workshop and longer term consultation. Existing boards and commissions will find the “Commodity Marketing Audit” invaluable in benchmarking their program.

     
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