Magazine article Marketing

OPINION: Parma Ham Maintains Heritage as EU Strikes Blow for Branding

Magazine article Marketing

OPINION: Parma Ham Maintains Heritage as EU Strikes Blow for Branding

Article excerpt

From a marketer's point of view, the European Union is hardly a bastion of brand-centric thinking, but recent events suggest it may be time to revise this perception.

For several years the EU has built a list of more than 500 European products that have protected designation origin (PDO). These must be produced from a particular geographic area and in a specific manner to earn their name.

Stilton cheese, for example, is a PDO. It can only be called Stilton if it is made with milk from Derbyshire, Leicestershire or Nottinghamshire.

For once the EU has created a wonderful piece of legislation, because the PDO rule provides legal protection for a brand's heritage. Originally brands were a mark of production. Brand comes from the old Norse word for fire, 'brandr', and derives its name from the Vikings' practice of burning their symbol on their livestock. Brands began life as a mark that communicated where a product was made, by whom, at what time and with what ingredients. Only later did the meaning of brand shift its focus from origin to conclusion.

Strong brands retain a close link to their origins by protecting and communicating their brand heritage. Jack Daniels, The Conran Shop and Disney have all managed to evolve and modernise while also retaining their brand heritage. Alternatively, brands such Ben & Jerry's (now owned by Unilever) and Deutschebank (which recently considered moving its headquarters outside Germany) are likely to struggle as they threaten, and thus damage, their brand heritage.

The biggest threat of all to many major brands are the retailers. …

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