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Dr Chris Lerm, Executive: Brands and Marketing, Clover Industries Limited
Dr Chris Lerm, Executive: Brands and Marketing, Clover Industries Limited

Clover: How to re-position an FMCG brand successfully


Compiled by Wendy Smith - Feb 15th 2012, 14:16

Branded foods and beverages company, Clover, recently launched the “Way Better” campaign to communicate its new brand positioning statement to consumers. Fastmoving speaks to Clover’s Brands and Marketing Executive, Dr Chris Lerm, about the general intricacies of re-branding and the best steps an FMCG company should take to position a brand successfully.

1. Fastmoving: The decision to re-position a brand can be an extremely costly and timely process. What are the key factors that influence this decision?

Chris Lerm: Any iconic brand (like Clover) can only survive if the brand promises and communication stays relevant and adapts to change. In Clover’s case, a change in our communication strategy really was necessary to reflect our changing company when we took the bold step to list on the JSE.

2. Fastmoving: What is the rationale behind re-positioning, especially for a well recognised brand like Clover?

Chris Lerm: When we reviewed Clover’s communication strategy against the listing background we had to ask tough questions like “Where was Clover as a whole? What did it represent? “The more questions we asked the more we realised that Clover’s previous position “it’s all you need” simply did not work hard enough for our brand. It was time for a new positioning that reflects the prosperous future Clover is carving out for itself.

3. Fastmoving: In an environment where FMCG companies need to work continuously to satisfy consumers, what objectives must one set out to achieve, when deciding to re-position a brand?

Chris Lerm: You must take stock of your brand. We asked ourselves why most companies created over 100 years ago have disappeared. Why have only a few survived like Coco-Cola and Mercedes?

Fact is that these companies know their place in the world and what they are good at. They have been great at expressing it in new ways. They have a “way” which people buy in, over and over again. So we asked: “What is the Clover way? What are the key principles that have made us successful for over a century and will continue to make us successful the next 100 years?
We identified leadership, innovations and quality as these key principles. In order to remain a leader, our way forward should be driven by sustainable innovation, built on the foundation of superior quality.

We lead with regards to the category, market share, quality, ideas, staff, products and relationships. We maintain superior levels of quality by investing in better people, processes, operations and products.

With its 113-year history, Clover knows its place in the world market. It’s an iconic part of South African life. Clover’s relentless drive to be better at what it does has made it a trusted companion to consumers. But we have to earn that position every day – it’s not a right.

4. Fastmoving: A brand like Clover offers a wide range of products to consumers. How should a company re-brand tie in with its overall product marketing?

Chris Lerm: Clover’s innovation is the result of fresh thinking, fresh concepts, methods and products. We don’t see products as commodities, we want to develop products that add value to people’s lives. Ours is an environmentally-sustainable innovation that stems from natural goodness.

We have to reinvent ourselves and stay ahead of the game through innovation. We have to develop value-added products, not mere commodities. It’s up to us to maintain the highest levels of quality, through measures like our 55 quality checks on fresh milk and picking only the 270 best dairy farms as our suppliers.

And so we arrived at our new positioning ‘Way Better’. It represents an all-encompassing approach to our products, our processes and our people.

When we look at Clover’s strategic pillars, it translates into way better people, way better products, a way better business model, way better customer service, way better business decisions, way better partnerships and a way better place to work.

5. Fastmoving: Every brand has a life cycle, so to speak. At what point in that life cycle does one decide is the right time to re-position a brand?

Chris Lerm: Timing is critical; the ideal time is just before you reach maturation at the top of the growth stage. This will give you the thrust to jet into a new growth period and not spend unnecessary time and money first getting your brand out of a declining life cycle. We have many examples when that has happened, especially in the electronic markets.

6. Fastmoving: From a financial perspective, what percentage of a one’s advertising and marketing budget should be allocated to a campaign that informs consumers about its re-positioning?

Chris Lerm: I don’t think one can use percentages but you must take into account the profitability of your product category and more importantly “how much do you need to do it successfully?” We are making a huge investment with several phases over at least three years, but a brand like Vodacom had the money and margins to go big in a very short period.

7. Fastmoving: Is it important to have a contingency plan in case the re-positioning campaign is not as successful as initially planned?

Chris Lerm: I believe one must be pretty certain of your chances of success before you take such a decision. But if you stay true to who you are and what you stand for, your risk is minimal. In Clover’s case we promise the same and more to our consumers but just in a “Way Better” way.

8. Fastmoving: How will Clover’s new positioning change the way consumers perceive Clover as a brand?

Chris Lerm: We would like the consumer to believe, feel and experience our promise of “Way Better” in all facets of Clover, our products, our distribution, our merchandising, innovation and how everybody working for Clover operates.

We would strive that not only the consumer, but that our milk producers, partners in packaging and raw materials, the trade, the community and our staff will experience the “Way Better” Clover.

We have a marketing budget that consumers will notice and talk about. The creative execution of the “Clover wellness factory in the milky way” by our above-the-line agency, Joe Public, is a fresh approach for a dairy company in the world and the results of the success of the campaign thus far make us just more focussed and determined to entrench our “Way Better” positioning. 

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