Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Colin Isn't a Load of Pollacks

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Colin Isn't a Load of Pollacks

Article excerpt

Sainsbury's rebranding of an underrated fish shows how the supermarket marketing tide is turning.

First, a sincere apology for last week's column. The OLOF spectacles that rendered all advertising invisible and Prail, the company behind the specs, were both anagrams and part of a really bad April Fool's column. Marketing will next be published on April Fool's day in 2015, so I promise no more joke columns until at least then. That's an important commitment, because this week's column might also seem a bit foolish at first sight, but I can assure you, this one is for real.

On Monday, Sainsbury's rebranded a fish - the pollack, to be precise. It seems that despite pollack being much more plentiful, environmentally sound and cheaper than cod or haddock, the supermarket's research has revealed that the fish's unattractive name and reputation as only good enough for the cat have proven too big a perceptual barrier for consumers to overcome.

So this week Sainsbury's has started to promote pollack using the French name for the fish which is - wait for it - colin. No, not Colin as in Firth; Colin as in Powell, which is how the French say it. Not content with the fancy new name, Sainsbury's also hired designer Wayne Hemingway to overhaul the line's packaging with a Jackson Pollock-inspired, multi-coloured theme. Last week, it was boring old pollack; this week, it is a post-modern-packaged, French-accented envirofish.

Usually, at this point, I would evoke the universal, one-word rule of all rebranding strategies: don't. Unless your organisation must change a brand name for legal reasons, stay well away from the dangerous, career-shredding world of rebranding. It looks good on the flip chart at the branding agency, but the post-launch reality is usually a disaster Customers and employees hate the new name, the company's leadership cringe when asked to support it, and the media rips apart the strategy and those idiot marketers behind it.

Even if a rebrand is received positively by the public (and it won't be) it still makes no sense in financial terms. It can easily cost a brand pounds 1bn or more to build global brand awareness these days, so why dump your existing identity if you don't have to? Better to work on the brand associations and attempt to realign them with consumer tastes than rip it all up and start again with a name immediately associated with marketers and artificiality.

So has Sainsbury's made a big mistake with its colin campaign? I am not so sure. A closer look at the packaging reveals a tongue firmly in cheek. …

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