Brenda’s Blog

Do You Have a “Bug” In Your Branding Chain?

April 26, 2012

As you may have heard by now, Starbucks certainly found a bug in its branding chain … or rather, in its Strawberry Frappuccinos. Ground-up cochineal beetles are government-approved food coloring used by a number of brands in the food industry, so why was it a problem when Starbucks added the ingredient to its frappuccinos?

Starbucks has long branded itself as “green” and safe for vegans, so when people who eat plant-based diets caught wind of this beetle-based ingredient, their organizations went … well (forgive the pun), buggy. And understandably so. It goes back to a fundamental principle that I always talk about: consistency in branding. The minute you do something that goes against who you say you are, you have created a brand disconnect. The damage can be significant and difficult to recover from. In Starbucks’ case, if their brand stands for environmental- and green-consciousness, the last thing they want to be known for is “beetle juice.”

[Of course, you don’t need vegans to make this particular incident a branding mess. Even non-vegans were understandably grossed out by the news. Yeeuw!]

So, what happened? A broken link in the branding “chain.” Everyone – and I mean everyone – in your company can impact the way the public perceives your brand, no matter how big or small your business. It’s the same for the people in Purchasing at Starbucks. Those folks – seemingly in the “back office bowels” of the company – probably weren’t thinking about the impact on the brand that they could have by deciding to use beetles as an ingredient.

How about in your company? If any of your team members aren’t crystal clear on what you want your desired brand to stand for and how they, as individuals, could impact that brand through seemingly-simple, day-to-day decisions, you could be in jeopardy, too.

This Starbucks incident shows the significance of what I call The Corporate Brand/Personal Brand Connection™. If the personal brand of a member of your team is not aligned with the corporate brand, you could end up facing a similar type of “Starbucks Beetle Challenge.” How to avoid that happening to you? Here a couple of actions you can take.

Action #1: Make sure absolutely everyone in your company understands exactly what you want your brand to stand for. [If you aren’t sure yourself and can’t summarize your positioning in a simple nutshell statement, take action now to get clear! My latest book Smarter Branding Without Breaking the Bank walks you through a simple, step-by-step process for defining exactly what you want your brand to stand for, using a proven framework that has worked for large companies and small companies alike.]

Action #2: Make it clear to everyone that every single action your team members take – no matter how seemingly small – must be in perfect alignment with that desired brand positioning. If it’s not, you run the risk of damaging your brand.

So, use Starbucks as a cautionary tale. Make sure that everyone in your company understands the importance of brand consistency and only takes actions that keep your brand intact.

Brenda Bence Bio

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1 Comment

  1. Elijah Lim

    Hi, Brenda!

    I don’t get grossed-out by beetles, they taste quite nice when lightly toasted. I’d heard about beetlejuice in Starbucks, but I didn’t know that Starbucks touted itself as being “vegan-safe”. To me, that becomes untruthfulness, in short, it’s lying.

    Branding – who WE ARE. If we’re not where we’d like to be yet, focus on what CK would have called “BE”.

    Thanks for sharing! I just realized that BDA could have been derived from “Bren-da-velopment” Associates. Great unconscious link!


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