Promotion and marketing | Canada Beef Inc. warned not to water down value of logo by branding all products
Most people intuitively recognize logos and slogans of popular products, but imprinting the Canadian beef brand into consumers’ psyche may take some work.
Canada Beef Inc. is charged with marketing and promoting beef at home and abroad but must find ways to gain widespread brand recognition. Promoting the bright red maple leaf brand as a symbol of quality and safety was a major theme at Canada Beef’s annual forum held in Calgary Sept. 19-20.
Brand management is ongoing for a company like John Deere with its green and yellow farm equipment and reputation of quality for more than 170 years.
Deere manufactures agricultural, construction and forestry equipment, and operators expect it to be reliable because their livelihoods depend upon it, said Lani Lorenz Fry, a member of the company’s brand management group.
“People have emotional connections to brands,” she said.
A brand is a promise of quality and should be a measurable asset to the company because a manufacturer can charge more for a branded product. For example, Coca Cola is considered to be worth more than a generic drink .
In 2011, John Deere was selected one of the top 100 best global brands.
Canada Beef is responsible for the development of an overarching brand that could co-operate with industry partners, said John Baker, vice-president responsible for global marketing.
The current strategy showcases a safe product raised in a clean environment in a sustainable way using internationally recognized genetics.
Attaching that brand to a product tailored to meet different customers with varying culinary practices is a challenge, agreed panel members discussing the concept of the Canadian beef advantage.
When the owners of the Quebec sports bar Le Cage aux Sports decided to add beef to its menu, it selected western Canadian product because of an existing perception of quality.
The chain of 52 outlets did not use the Canada Beef logo because it wanted something more specific that emphasized it was a high quality product from the West and was worth more money, said chief executive officer Michel Lonctot.
“We wanted the brand to be very descriptive of the promise,” he said.
“We figured we were ready to pay a premium for Canadian beef, but we had to convince consumers the quality was worth paying more for.”
Jorge Alberto Baeza Fares, chief executive officer of the Mexican food and agribusiness corporation Grupo Bafar, said his company offers Canadian beef in its retail outlets because of a consumer perception of quality.
“If we get the public to taste a good product, they would come back and buy,” he said.
Customers wanted more once they tried it, he added, but Canada needs to tailor its supplies to suit the Mexican palette. Consumers want a leaner product and different cuts to fit their style of cuisine.
“A lot of times Mexico as a country needs something else from beef from what Canada does,” he said.
There is potential to sell more to Mexico, he added. His company went from buying three loads per month to 60 to 70 loads per month.
“You have to increase the availability of the product because sometimes it is hard to come by,” he said.
A corporation cannot develop marketing plans without consistent supplies and will have to substitute from other sources.
Quebec and Mexican customers seem happy with the product, but the brand needs to be exploited further by attaching it to as many Canadian products as possible. This could include products that already carry a company brand, such as Western Beef or Sterling Silver.
“This is a brand those other brands should be able to utilize to help them market the product,” said Kevin Boon, manager of the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association. He is a former Alberta rancher and past chair of the Beef Information Centre, which was melded into Canada Beef.
He sees a brand as a unifying force for the disjointed beef industry.
“If we look at one of the challenges we have always had is we are made up of a bunch of independent thinking individuals who are pretty opinionated and like to have their own way,” he said. “We have to get by some of this as an industry. We can use that name brand to unite us.”
Brand programs should be used judiciously because they are a promise of quality, said Ray Price, whose family owns the high end grocery chain Sunterra Market as well as Sunterra Meats at Acme, Alta.
The Canadian beef promise should be a baseline of quality and everything above that should be differentiated. Attaching the brand to everything could devalue it.
“The problem with the beef industry over the last 20 years is inconsistent quality at the retail counter, in my view. If you can narrow down that inconsistency and deliver the best steak every time, you can live off that. You can’t do that from every steak in Canada,” he said. “You can find different markets for different products but you can’t have the same product at the counter every time unless you control it from one end to other.”