Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: An Organic Conclusion

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: An Organic Conclusion

Article excerpt

Consumers should beware studies funded by companies with vested interest in the results.

The French philosopher Henri Poincare once observed that science is built from facts just as a house is built of stones - but he went on to note that an accumulation of facts is no more science than a heap of stones is a house.

British consumers are currently faced with several towering heaps of stones, and they might do well to look at who is doing the piling. We have the Natural Hydration Council (NHC), for example, which is very clear on the benefits of drinking water. It especially stresses the benefits of consuming 2.9l (men) or 2.2l of fluid (women) a day and is keen to point out the 'undisputed' health benefits of water over other beverages.

This advice also fits beautifully into the long-term strategies of bottled-water companies, who are keen to maintain both the heavy consumption of water and its perception as a superior drink to juice-based competitors. It is handy, as the NHC's research is funded by bottled-water brand owners Danone, Nestle and Highland Spring.

Another significant pile of stones sprung up last week when the Guild for Fine Food launched a broadside against private labels. According to the body's chairman, Bob Ferrand, 'almost all (supermarket) foods, including super-premium ranges, are designed to hit a price point, not a quality standard'. His advice to consumers was to ignore private labels and buy foods that have been subjected to 'independent scrutiny'. This strong and seemingly independent advice came from an organisation set up in 1995 to support independent food retailers and suppliers.

I am sure that Ferrand's criticism of private labels is motivated solely by a deep-felt concern for British consumers. A more cynical columnist, however, might suggest that such an attack would benefit his paying members as well as the Guild itself, which promotes its 'Great Taste Awards' as an alternative benchmark of quality.

The biggest pile of stones of all was built by the Food Standards Authority (FSA), which last week officially declared that there was 'no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food'. One might infer from the independent status of the FSA and its government funding that this was an authoritative and objective conclusion. Indeed, the body's chairman strongly emphasised the 'scientifically rigorous and independent' process by which its report was produced.

Scientific it might have been, but rigorous it was not. …

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