Cadbury – Classical Conditioning

Cadbury is a confectionery brand originating from Birmingham in the United Kingdom.  The firm has been owned by Mondelez International since 2012, after acquiring the brand from Kraft Foods.  Cadbury is most famous for its Dairy Milk Chocolate and its use of purple wrappers that have become synonymous with the firm.  The particular shade of purple Cadbury use is known as Pantone 2865c and is very much part of the brand’s identity; the color has been used since 1905.  However, this could now be subject to change.  Cadbury has lost a legal battle with Nestle, regarding the trademark of the color.  A trademark is a unique design, expression or sign that identifies a product.  Unfortunately for Cadbury, the UK Court of Appeal has ruled that the color purple is not distinctive enough to qualify as a trademark.  Consequently, the color Pantone 2865c can now be used by other confectionery manufacturers.

But why is this such a big problem for Cadbury?

This post will look at how a color becomes associated with a brand and the potential damage the court’s decision can cause Cadbury.

The process of brand identity association can be best explained by Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning theory:

When consumers see the color purple, their main thoughts are of luxury, high quality and royalty: all of these are positive associations with the color.  Before the association with purple, back in the late 19th Century, Cadbury would have been just recognized by consumers as a confectionery manufacturer when presented with their products or advertisements.

In the early 20th Century, Cadbury decided that they wanted their brand to be associated with the same qualities as the color purple.  The brand embarked on a long – albeit highly rewarding – process of pairing the Cadbury brand with purple.  This involves an integrated marketing communications strategy and coordination of the marketing mix to use the color purple as much as possible and in consistent formats over a long period of time – over one hundred years!

As you can see, when it comes to Cadbury the one color any consumer would immediately associate with the brand is purple.  This has been reinforced – or ‘paired’ – over many years to entrench the color into the brand’s identity.  The result of this is that consumers’ responses to Cadbury and purple become merged.  Thus, when exposed to a Cadbury’s chocolate bar or marketing they see and think of purple and then of luxury chocolate; or when consumers are presented with purple, there is a good chance that Cadbury may come to their mind and subsequently luxury chocolate.

If you really want to drill-down into the fine details of how this ‘pairing’ process works (which I do!), then we need the help of something called Balance Theory:

1. Balanced state without pairing

The first triangle shows the consumer’s state of mind before classical conditioning has taken place.  The consumer associates purple and luxury (etc.) to be associated with one another; this is because of societal norms and culture.  However, Cadbury is not considered to be linked with the color purple and thus not luxury either.

2Unbalanced state during pairing process

This second triangle is the consumer’s state of mind during Cadbury’s branding campaign.  At this point in time, the consumer has been exposed to plenty of marketing stimuli containing the color purple.  Hence, the consumer now believes there is a connection with Cadbury and purple – yet still no link with Cadbury and Luxury.  But this is an unbalanced state, which a consumer cannot remain in for a long period of time.  Namely, it is illogical to believe luxury and purple are synonymous, and that Cadbury and purple are associated together, but not Cadbury and luxury.

3. Balanced state after successful pairing

The consumer was exposed to further marketing stimuli to build a stronger bond between Cadbury and purple so that their state of mind becomes so confused they undergo an attitude change.  Therefore, they reconcile the previous ‘unbalance’ by associating Cadbury and luxury together; now all three constructs are related, which is a logical response.

So why is the trademark loss of the purple Pantone 2865c so disastrous?  There are two main reasons:

1. Improved authenticity of copy-cat products – as pictured above, if generic alternatives to Cadbury can now use the exact shade of purple it increases the chances of consumers mistaking the two, therefore Cadbury lose sales.
2. Damage to reputation – if cheaper products start using Pantone 2865c on a mass-scale, this purple may lose its association with luxury.  Instead, it could – in the consumer’s state of mind – become paired with poor quality.  In this case, all of Cadbury’s marketing will back fire on them!

In summary, purple has become associated with Cadbury as a result of consistent and integrated marketing communications.  The ability of generic or cheaper brands to use this exact shade of purple makes it harder to identify Cadbury’s products and potentially damages the Cadbury brand.

© Josh Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 05/10/2013

Nestle – Market Penetration

Nestle is one of the world’s largest confectionary manufacturers.  Although this may at first appear to be a good position to be in, it in fact means that Nestle’s marketing strategy has to be particularly competitive.  Thus it must be proactive to external change, formulated and – last but not least – it must support the wider corporate strategy, a critical success factor for large, multinational corporations.  This is necessary just to maintain the company’s global competitive position as a market leader, let-a-lone increase sales.  Nestle’s latest move to consolidate its position – and compete with Cadbury, McVities and Mars – involves a market penetration strategy using its popular ‘Aero’ chocolate bar.

Market penetration involves trying to boost, or maintain, sales of an existing product to the current market.  This often involves minor product tweaks; this strategy, thus, offers minimal risk albeit the pay-off is limited.  Hence, this strategy is ideal for large firms with maturing products how need to simply maintain their competitiveness, like Nestle.  It should come as no surprise then to see that the Aero chocolate bar has already been modified numerous times – different sizes (targeting different occasional uses), different flavours and even brand extension  into hot beverages and ice creams.

The latest ‘enhancement’ to the Aero bar is to extend the brand further; this Easter a new ‘Aero Biscuit’ will be launched.  Although this sound like product development, rather than penetrating a current market, it is still a relatively low-risk strategy.  This is because the fundamental differentiation strategy used by Nestle to position Aero as a ‘lighter’ and ‘healthier’ chocolate bar remain as part of the actual product – the core and augmented product benefits are also relatively similar to the traditional bar.  Hence, Aero Biscuits will contain fewer than 100 calories a pack and continue to target young women by emphasising the brand’s association with bubbles and air, both of which have light-weight and weight-loss connotations.

All of these past strategies must, however, be viewed in the long-term.  And by that I mean consider how this fits into Nestle’s wider strategy.  Firstly,  it maintains sales of Aero by generating new interest in the brand and generate short-term sales.  This is called an extension strategy, which aims to prolong the life span of a mature product to prevent a decline in sales – thus, the product can continue to fit in the firm’s wider product portfolio as a Cash Cow.  While this appears to be a  short-termist tactic, it does actually work in the long-term: variety seeking consumers will notice and try the new Aero variation and then return to become a habitual customer of the original Aero chocolate bar.

Furthermore, market penetration aids Nestle’s competitive strategy.  Does hearing of a light-weight chocolate snack with a crispy biscuit centre sound familiar? If so you may be thinking of Maltesers.  Not only is the core product fundamentally the same, the actual and augmented features are strikingly similar: they both offer a ‘light’ chocolate snack that appeals fundamentally to women consumers.  Moreover, Cadbury’s’ Whisper chocolate bar makes use of the connotations of bubbles to create a very similar offering to Aero.  This highlights just how ruthlessly competitive Nestle’s market is; although it is a market leader, it still needs to defend its brands from market challengers.

I appreciate that Nestle’s latest move is nothing out of the ordinary or particularly innovative, but it highlights the fact that the best strategies used by the best firms are those that are tried, tested and proven.  Some may call this bureaucratic or inflexible marketing, but I think it is refreshing to hear a company going back to basics.  Perhaps more firms need to focus on traditional marketing, as opposed to devoting too much time to social media?

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 19/04/2011

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