Anti-Branding: Don’t Get Pink Slimed!

The “anti-food” crowd (you know, the ones who think we should all survive by eating dandelions from our back yards) have been creating the perfect undercurrent against the beef industry for several years. Movies like Food Inc. Secret tapes from “employees” from inside livestock plants. Undercover “news-ish” reports. Online campaigns. Lobbying. All of it has softened up public perception of the food and agriculture industries. Enter a deceptively clever idea like pink slime at the right time – and you have the makings of a marketing/PR nightmare. That’s anti-branding.

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Anti-branding happens as a result of a brand-vacuum. When a product category exists, but lacks a strong brand, the opportunity exists for others to create a story to fill in the vacuum. When was the last time you’ve heard of Beef Products Inc.? If you’re in the cattle industry, you’ve probably heard of them. But if you’re in the consumer market, you probably have little knowledge of BPI. And, while cattle are not consumer products, beef- like hamburger (which is what BPI makes and sells) is.

The Pink Slime scare isn’t about a company. More than one company in the industry follow the same or similar processes when processing beef. But, because the the companies in the industry lack a strong brand identity in the marketplace where their product is sold, they are susceptible to being “pink slimed” with an anti-branding campaign.

So, how can a marketer avoid being “pink slimed”?

1) Understand the whole market. Understand where your product is being sold, who controls the brand messaging in those areas and how your product is represented. 2) Be proactive with building advocacy. If you don’t have any soldiers to fight for you when there isn’t a fight, how do you expect to recruit them when you really need them? 3) Don’t let others tell your story. There’s not a company or organization that can’t benefit from building a strong brand. Brands build trust. They create advocates. And, if you’re really good, they let you earn more for your products or services. 4) Listen. Know what your enemies are doing or saying about you, your products or your industry. Knowing this helps you respond. 5) Stop playing defense. If you are always playing defense, you can never score. While it can be difficult to point out negatives of your opponents directly in the marketing work, supporting associations and other groups that can serve as third parties and help advocate for your position is smart.