The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Branding is what you do to cattle – part 1

I am baking a chocolate birthday cake today. Last night I was reading Garr Reynold’s blog post Who says we need our logo on every slide? right before trotting off to the supermarket to get birthday cake baking supplies. So, the idea of branding was on my mind when I found myself standing in front of sixty-four linear feet of boxed cake mixes, comprised of three brands only: Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury.

This is what the cake mix packaging looked like:

Cake mix

Since I do not know anything about the quality differences between the three different brands, and I suspect that there isn’t any quality difference, I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t base my purchase decision upon the brand with the prettiest box.

The packaging looked all the same!

If I picked three graphic designers at random and asked each to independently design a package for devil’s food cake, there is zero possibility that any two of the designs would look so amazingly similar as all three of these boxes appear.

I must conclude that the similarity in graphic design among these three brands is intentional. In this case there must be some valid economic reason for visually appearing “the same as.”

It is my guess that the cake mix business does not have much growth potential, and the profit margins are slim. The brand competition battles were fought and decided decades ago. At this point in the game, the business objective is to maintain the status quo and to present a unified front to keep new entries off the shelf space.

It’s just a guess, though.

Related posts:

Branding is what you do to cattle – part 2
Branding is what you do to cattle – part 3

Written by Tom Fox

05/14/2007 at 8:33 am

2 Responses

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  1. I guess I have never noticed how similar these boxes were! Nice eye. I am going to create a cake brand and call it Uber Moist! Maybe you are right and this industry is long gone, but if all of the competition looks so similiar, that should be a great opportunity for someone to move in and be different and be seen.


    05/15/2007 at 2:04 pm

  2. […] back to my great cake baking adventure Branding is what you do to cattle – part 1, the last thing I read before heading off to the store was An Interview with Marty Neumeier. I was […]

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