Some of you reading this post may not have even been born in the early 1970s. <sigh>. For those who were around when hair was bad every day and Stayfree maxi pads were the size of airline pillows, you will remember that chicken was just chicken. We were unfazed if we bit into a beak, elbow, knee cap or something that felt like a knuckle even though chickens don’t have knuckles. We didn’t know better. If we happened to bite into something foreign as we ate our chicken parmesan sub while we were supposed to be at church (just sayin’), we just chewed harder and powered on. We thought picking up a yellow styrofoam container dripping chicken blood through the inadequate cellophane wrap was a good time waiting to happen. We sure in the heck didn’t look for a specific brand of chicken. There were no brands. It was as homogeneous a market as ever existed at the time. Of course, all that changed when Frank Perdue came along. He was the first person to ever build a brand within a homogeneous product category. His absolutely brilliant idea changed the way people thought about and purchased chicken.
Just when you thought Perdue’s conquering of the homogeneous chicken category couldn’t be beat, along came the bottled water brigade. To me, there was no greater a homogeneous product category than water. Visually speaking, there was nothing to leverage. It was a perfectly clear liquid. Then Perrier and a host of others built brands by creating category mindshare based on the attributes of their product. When all product attributes appeared to be tapped (pun intended), Fiji decided to put the water in a square bottle and the frenzy continued. The branding within the bottled water category is so powerful that every person buying a bottle of water — that is not the least expensive — has in one way or another been influenced; and often times they don’t even realize it. Why else wouldn’t they just grab the Seven Eleven brand of water? It’s all water.
Back in the day when crotch hugging shorts, white stripped knee socks and Converse canvas high tops were not only what you rocked on the hardwood, but on a Friday night too, there was no brand when it came to oranges. But then, Sunkist came along and changed all that. We all believed Sunkist oranges were juicier. It is kind of ironic that a raging homophobic became the spokesperon for a brand emerging in a homogeneous category. Unfortunately for Sunkist though, hiring Anita Bryant backfired. Even back in the late seventies, people thought she was a couple of slices short of a fruit cup. Unfortunately for Anita and Sunkist, fruits buy a lot of fruit and Sunkist’s business was hurt because of her.
It’s been quite some time since a homogeneous category has been once again conquered by a brand. That’s why watching Cuties become a category killer in the mandarine space has been so much fun. Brilliant doesn’t even begin to describe their marketing approach. Their messaging achieves simplicity nirvana: Cuties are super sweet, e-z peel, seedless and kid sized. Those four attributes address the things we hate most about mandarines today: they are dry like a witches you know what, impossible to peel without filling your nail underbeds with sticky scuzz, riddled with seeds and they are the last thing you want to tackle for your kids snack. Yet, Cuties has completely changed all of that. Their commercials undoubtedly would ignite a smile in even with the most negative people. See for yourself.
What are your favorite brands to become a homogeneous category killer?