Greek Yogurt and the case for content

Big brand personality is an interesting beast.

Today I read an article on AdWeek about Chobani’s “unavoidable” brand transformation. In short, the company has completely redesigned their packaging and are launching a rebranding campaign to establish themselves as more of a wellness company than simply a yogurt producer.

The reason? Brands like Dannon, Yoplait, and others have become imitators.

The goal? To stand out. 

After reading the article a couple times, an issue popped into my mind – what happens if the rebranding is successful? Chobani has now potentially set themselves up for a recurring cycle of reconceptualization, where every few years or so they must overhaul their appearance, presentation, and ultimately their purpose.

Now, it’s easy to say that a company that can react to change is healthy and successful. But, now the lid, so to speak, might be open for more expensive “catch-up” efforts in the future, for the express reason of “staying ahead.”

It’s almost as if innovation and change has become a new utility for Chobani. Not only do they sell Greek yogurt and a concept of wellness – they now need to ensure they stand out constantly, which could add some heavy lifting to their ad team in the future.

While working for Overseas Adventure Travel, the company was undergoing its own overhaul to be less “transactional”, meaning they wanted to move away from being just a place to buy tours, and morph into a kind of “travel resource” that also happens to sell trips. Part of what I worked on was content meant to “inspire” as opposed to “sell” trips.

All this was in an effort to keep up with the changing travel industry, and often the company found itself at odds with balancing between the “transactional” and “relationship” approach. 

Staples is a case where rebranding became an expensive and, ultimately, unsuccessful venture, and one I can speak to with experience. As a regular retail clerk in and around 2003-2008, the company went from being a simple office supply company to one that offered a whole suite of “business solutions”, which meant placing increasing demands on staff for skills sometimes outside their initial job descriptions.

Another case in point – the newspaper company Gatehouse Media (for which I reported for the Lexington Minuteman) was moving to a “digital-first” model. This turned into cutting staff, loading responsibilities onto reporters (which made them essentially editors without the title), and focusing more heavily on what readers wanted to see. I can clearly remember being told not to attend Selectman meetings, and to write more fluff pieces, all for the sake of innovation.

It’s evident that innovation, rebranding, and repositioning are everywhere in our marketplace.  With Chobani, it’s not just about buying Greek yogurt – it’s about buying into an entire concept encompassing wellness, health, and nutrition. When you purchase a pair of Nikes, it’s not just shoes – it’s an ethereal idea of going “beyond limitations”.

Yet buying into an idea is not new. “Just Do It” debuted in the 90’s, and products have long been associated with seemingly arbitrary concepts for decades. Narrative is increasingly becoming an important part of a product’s nature, whether it’s your craft beer, artisanal pizza, or your free range eggs.

All this ties into a bit of wisdom I think needs to be expressed here. Author and award-winning marketer Simon Sinek once said:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” 

Along with making this my email signature for the time being, in talking with clients I’ve worked with discovering what makes their business different from others. It’s not the what, but the why.

When you’re thinking about why someone should choose your product or service over another, it’s increasingly important to consider how to sell the why along with the what. Without it, you’re doomed to be lost in the crowd. And, with the crowd growing more and more over time, this could be fatal.

Thankfully, Chobani likely has the ad department and budget to accomplish its rebranding while still remaining financially stable, but for small businesses this kind of overhaul is not an option. So, how can a small business craft its own image without the major budget of a Greek yogurt giant?


That’s right. With all the resources available to small businesses to create a web presence, or be on social media, it’s incredibly easy to develop a brand on a budget. As content delivery systems, the pieces of the digital marketing ecosystem need great content, whether it’s video, word, or photo.

Enter the “pragmatic creative”.

As companies need to create their own arbitrary niches in their respective markets, it’s not necessarily about what you sell, but how you sell it. Creative minds are needed more than ever to distinguish the difference between two identical Greek yogurts, as well as between two chiropractic offices that require the same licensing.

Take two tomatoes. Both are the exact same shape, size, color, and ripeness, but you can only take one. Assuming they are the same price, how can you go about making a choice? A couple of factors come to mind:

  • Where they came from
  • Who grew them
  • What is the impact of buying one over the other?

One could be from a farm that donates profits, or grown by reformed convicts looking for a chance to reintegrate into society. One could be local, while the other is trucked from thousands of miles away. One could be from an old couple’s farm on the outskirts of town, while the other is a major factory farm on a tract of land the size of Rhode Island.

Either way, it’s really not about the tomato, is it? Assuming those things are valuable to the buyer (which I can project is the case with the burgeoning millennial generation, and won’t be changing soon), then it’s the why and how that trumps (sorry) the what. 



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