Tag Archives: brand

How A Lowly Can Opener is Messing with KitchenAid’s Brand

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We all know that a brand is like the proverbial chain that is only as strong as its weakest link – – all aspects of the brand need to reflect its core value.  Ignoring even a small link can be dangerous to your brand’s integrity.

KA Can opener

Case in point: one of a well-regarded company’s least expensive products is constantly undermining the reputation of its expensive core product line – and management has apparently decided that this is ok.

KA Mixer

KitchenAid makes high quality, and in some cases iconic appliances that command premium prices (a status brand but not as expensive as SubZero or Viking).  We’re all familiar with the classic KitchenAid stand mixers in designer colors.  I recently purchased a KitchenAid double wall oven when my old one died.  A lot had to do with trust in the KitchenAid brand.

KA Product Line

So why would they go cheap on the most prosaic of items – the manual can opener?

can opener

When one of our kids stole our standard-issue metal can opener, we went on Amazon and splurged on a KitchenAid can opener in a designer color – it looks like the Hummer of can openers – a little affordable indulgence but one that should perform great and last a long time.  The Amazon ratings showed 4 stars and over 1000 reviews.  Safe territory.

Except it didn’t work.

Within a few months, it stumbled, stopped opening cans, capable only of spastic puncture wounds, and we ended up buying a less fancy but perfectly serviceable replacement.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 9.03.23 PM

Here is where you need to be familiar with the ‘Barbell Review’.

While the brand got a 4 star rating overall, the distribution showed about 30% of the reviews were one star.  Had we bothered to read these, we would have learned that this is a product with highly inconsistent quality, and when it goes, it’s completely useless.

Some review excerpts (and there are hundreds of them):
Really disappointed that this was a KitchenAid product that didn’t outlast an off-brand opener.”
…it was defective and I really expected more from the KitchenAid name”
I’m very disappointed. Typically I love KitchenAid brand and that is why I bought this particular can opener. I would not recommend it.

Do not trust the KitchenAid brand on this one.
Unfortunately I didn’t read the reviews first because well…KITCHENAID! You wouldn’t expect to have to read reviews it’s suppose to be a good brand, this thing sucks!!!

If you’ve invested time and money to build your brand, why would you want your brand dragged through the mud?

KitchenAid has outsourced this product (to a company called Lifetime Brands) and judging by the dates on the reviews (going back to at least 2012), they’ve not bothered to change this defective design in years – – despite a lot of disappointed buyers.

So who cares?

Well, if your first experience with KitchenAid was the lowly can opener, and it failed, you will be much less inclined to buy the more expensive appliances from which KitchenAid makes its money.  There are 500 negative reviews on just one version of this product on Amazon.

The lesson here: rarely, if ever, does it make sense to market a lower quality product under a high quality brand name.  (Cadillac Cimarron, anyone?)

This goes beyond product to every encounter a consumer has with your brand.  Whether your brand stands for premium, economical, effective, snarky, eco-friendly, high-tech or whatever, it all has to be consistent. Branding 101.

In a classic demonstration of good money chasing bad, we’re sending our crippled can opener back to Lifetime Brands, which has promised to replace it.  This is all in the interest of science.  Stay tuned.

can opener mailing

$10.62 to replace a $15 product

Moral of the story – keep your brand strong and consistent, and be alert to any potential ‘can openers’ in your organization.

blue can opener

And beware the dreaded barbell review.

Mondelēz Musings

First off, say you’re an international media powerhouse and there’s a hot branding story to be written — who you gonna call?  Well, if you’re the Wall Street Journal, it would be the fortuitously and impossibly named Julie Jargon, of course (check for yourself).

– On to the issue of Kraft’s new name – Mondelēz:  Despite the public yelping and nattering, beyond the many snarky-but-funny commentaries out there already (Mon-de-Leeza Rice, Da Vinci’s Monde-Leza), whether you like it or not, this name is unlikely to have a significant business impact one way or the other.  Corporate names (particularly where individual products are differently named) are generally inwardly focused; as Robert Passikoff of Brand Keys observed, consumers buy products, not companies.  Investors, on the other hand, do buy companies, in whole or in part.  So they are probably the most relevant audience – -and their decisions are based on financial performance, not nomenclature.

– If you’re in the business of developing a new corporate name, it is a bit like a chocolate candy with a small rock inside – -looks like a tasty fun project but quickly becomes very difficult to chew – especially for a global company.  Not only do you need to find a heretofore-unused name (because otherwise it’s not protectable or proprietary), it has to be usable internationally (and by usable I mean it minimally can’t insult cultures/religions or otherwise incite any sort of web-fuelled blowback).  Additionally, there needs to be global trademark clearance, availability of URLs, etc.  With luck, it can even conjure some sort of general imagery – – good-tasting food, global, etc. – -but that’s really not the primary consideration.  It’s about finding something that works.  Other industries that need a ready supply of new names, a prime example being the pharma business, have out of necessity chucked some of these criteria, which results in new drug names resembling past foes of Captain Kirk as he manned the bridge staring at that large before-its-time flat-screen TV:  including new entrants Jakafi, Egrifta, Erwinaze and Forfivo (according to Gregory Karp of the Chicago Tribune).  Mmmm!

But the most difficult aspect of naming is that new and unfamiliar names are rarely going to be immediately loved, or even liked.  As humans, we like the familiar, we assign emotional connections to brands and it’s generally not possible to drive instant familiarity and positive connections with an intangible corporate entity – – if anything, this would evolve over time.  It’s very hard to get a realistic assessment of how new names will play out in the long run through research, regardless of how many are polled – – in the immediate setting, there’s not a lot at stake with a positive or negative reaction, and people can’t project a familiarity-driven feeling into the future.  Think about some of the new names that have been hatched recently:  Verizon (not bad), Accenture (mostly harmless), BearingPoint (reminds me of BreakingPoint), Altria (neutral).  None of these really impacted the company’s fortunes one way or the other.  The most practical evaluation of a new name, thus, becomes: does the CEO like it?  This depends a lot on how it strikes this particular person – – with the obligatory ‘supporting research’ in tow.  Fair?  Optimized?  Probably not.

– On the other hand, there are some subjective repercussions of Mondelēz that can’t be ignored.  In this case, I can’t help but think that Mondelēz is an actual person. And not just any person, a male person.  And not just any male person, but someone who might be a cross between Juan Valdez of coffee fame, and the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World.  So there is definitely (at least for me) a Latin male image that was probably not the primary goal of the creative brief.  Don’t know if it’s ‘mon’ that is similar to ‘man’, or the long e (ē) macron symbol that looks like a Spanish enye (ñ). In any case, male and Latin is fine, but it perhaps loses some appeal to more than 50% of the world’s citizens, and a much greater share of the world’s shoppers.   Or maybe it somehow conjures a single-named entertainer (like Gallagher, Yanni, Fabio, etc).  Like an earworm, you can persuade me all you want but that’s now the image I’m carrying around.  (You know, one never gets a second chance to make a first impression).

– Net, this corporate naming business is difficult, but in the end, large budgets, repeated exposure and time will dull the first impressions and generate familiarity and possibly positive impressions over time.  And since consumers don’t really connect corporations to uniquely-named products, it’s not a life-or-death decision (product branding is a different story).  So my prediction: Mondelēz will, over time, become part of the landscape and we’ll move on to different and more important issues.  Just don’t get me started about AbbVie…or Russian slang…