While many other places in the country are enjoying signs of spring, here in the Twin Cities, we’re hanging on to the white stuff, for a while longer; we shoveled 22 inches worth this past weekend!

There’s something about our long winter here that makes fresh fruit in the grocery store all the more appealing, interesting, and engaging, especially when it’s an ordeal to even get to the store:

So, it’s not exactly Buddha’s Hand, but the enormous SUMO Citrus displays have caught my attention and interest this winter. This time, the brand name is actually the largest wording:

SUMO as a brand of food, has the initial challenge of overcoming the frequent “you are what you eat” admonition, and any resulting fear of the mark describing the results of over-consumption.

And, the promotion as “the sweetest citrus you’ll ever eat,” perhaps reinforces the concern, but the silly rotund shape of the fruit itself and the informative tagline helps prove a different meaning.

The combination of those additional brand elements helped convince me of its overall cleverness and suggestiveness, especially after reading the SUMO Citrus story, and seeing the “top-knot”:

“It is the biggest mandarin you’ve ever seen. It has a distinctive shape with a prominent “top-knot.” The peel is bright orange, bumpy and loose so it peels effortlessly. The delicate sections separate easily. It’s seedless, juicy without being messy, and it is quite probably the sweetest citrus you’ll ever eat.”

SUMO kudos to the creative who saw the Japanese “knot-top” (a/k/a “man bun“) in the fruit.

Less kudos for the apparent decision to only seek registration of the composite SUMO CITRUS, and not the broader and stronger SUMO mark itself without the other generic wording or man bun.

Size and prominence of wording on business signs, product labels and hangtags will often emphasize brand signals. Yet, sometimes decisions are made to scream generic names instead.

Never having seen the above shown wacky fresh fruit until recently, my assumption was that Buddha’s Hand represented a clever brand name for a certain type of citron fruit. Nope, generic.

The source-indicating information on the above shown Buddha’s Hand hangtag — the trademark — is barely legible, so I’ll help readers out: Ripe to You represents the above shown brand name.

So, what are the best practices when it comes to marketing commodities over brands and vice versa? The Branding Strategy Insider had an informative take on this topic just yesterday, here.

From my perspective, since brands manifest reputation, relationships and experiences, there must be accountability, and sometimes apologies are needed. Commodities, nope, not so much.

I’m thinking that while Ripe to You apparently is working to create market demand and interest in the unusual Buddha’s Hand fruit, more emphasis on the fruit’s generic name may take priority.

It also stands to reason that as Buddha’s Hand citron fruit becomes as understood as cherry tomatoes, tangelos, and bananas, the thing will speak for itself, and the brand will be paramount.

It’s also important to remember that when work is needed to create demand for a new category of products, attention on a memorable generic name can be as important as the brand name.

Otherwise, a brand owner launching a new category might find itself forever working to avoid the slippery slope of genericide, can you say, Rollerblade, Velcro, Band-Aid, and Peppadew?

Thankfully for Ripe to You, the clever and memorable Budda’s Hand generic name was handed to it on a silver platter, leaving the field wide open to focus on and emphasize its brand name.

I’d love to hear more insights from our extraordinary marketers and designers about when and how to balance the marketing of commodities/brands — when do you lead with Buddha’s Hand?

Picking up where we left off yesterday discussing brand valuation, I’ve recently taken great interest in the branding of fresh fruits and vegetables — they seem to be the ultimate commodity, a perfectly ripe environment for branding, don’t you think?

When I grew up, the only branding I recall of fresh fruits was for Chiquita and perhaps Dole and/or Del Monte bananas, now almost every fresh fruit is branded and many vegetables too, but how many of the brands are memorable while not being too corporate or boring?

Maybe it’s just me, but there is something very special about the Cherubs, Cuties, and Halos brand names — owned by three different and apparently unrelated companies, but each one, at least to me, has created some branding magic by inviting a whimsical personality, allowing for valuable emotional consumer engagement and loyalty:

cherubscutieshalos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the point of the value of a brand, I regularly place each of these little gems in the grocery cart, at least when I’m part of the shopping experience, and full disclosure, I’ve never bothered to compare price, I simply know from experience they are winners.

Having said that, just to complete the experiment to help make the business case for branding, I’ll probably compare prices between these little gems and the unbranded varieties, on my next visit, and I’ll get back to you on the premium price each probably enjoys.

What kinds of commodities do you experience and/or enjoy seeing as branded?