This Week in Marketing Strategy: Newell Brands Differentiation, Moleskine Cafe, and a New Sweetener From Cargill

Michael Polk CEO Video Interview on CNBC

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Welcome to the August 2, 2016 edition of This Week in Marketing Strategy. Here I’ll highlight a few articles, blog posts or news pieces from around the web that are trending over the last one to two weeks. I’ll also include articles or posts from the web or in social feeds that I think you’ll find interesting. My goal is to provide you with the latest news and thinking that is worthy of your attention.

First up: Newell CEO: Have to be Focused on Brands, Innovation, courtesy of CNBC.com. In this insightful 3-minute video, Michael Polk (Newell Brands CEO) talks about the company’s positive business performance and outlook. And, he repeatedly stresses the importance of innovation, brand-building and differentiation. Michael provides a few specific examples of recent innovations developed at Newell Brands, including Yankee Candle’s recent product innovations that answer the customization trend.

One thing to note: the interviewer states that birth rates are up as evidence that Newell’s baby brands will see continued growth. However, birth rates are actually down YOY and long term (source: Wall Street Journal).

http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000539393“What drives [our] growth is innovation and brands. You’ve got to come to market with differentiated product propositions. The consumers see value in it they’re willing to pay for.” read more at cnbc.com

Second up: Moleskine Cafe: A Contemporary Twist on the Cafe Litteraire, courtesy of brandchannel.com. It should be noted that this is a web publication “powered by Interbrand” and reads much like an Interbrand press release. But it does offer interesting insight into the strategy behind Moleskine’s foray into food service.

I can hear it in your head… “Moleskine? The brand that makes notebooks?” Essentially, Moleskine opened a flagship standalone cafe in Milan and plans to open additional cafe’s in California. The experience is a hybrid of a traditional cafe and an art gallery, where patrons are encouraged to write on the walls. The branding strategy centers around the idea of inspiration, and the cafes are a way to get your “daily fix of inspiration.”

It all makes me wonder if there’s enough of a connection to the actual Moleskine product. While there will be some notebook products for sale, the majority of sales will be food and beverage. Does Moleskine have the competencies required to pull off a foodservice business? Will it actually help sell notebooks? It’s hard to see the benefit beyond initial buzz and PR. Time will tell.

http://www.brandchannel.com/2016/07/28/milan-moleskine-cafe-072816/Designed a là Moleskine with essential clean aesthetics and a contemporary pallet of neutral colors, just like the pages of a Moleskine notebook, the new Moleskine Café is somewhere to be energized and stimulated by coffee, culture and conversation with spaces also dedicated to silence and contemplation, perfect for unplugging, reading and creating. read more at brandchannel.com

Our third and final article this week: For Cargill, a Breakthrough Ingredient Presents a Marketing Challenge, courtesy of StarTribune.com. Cargill’s latest sweetener innovation is called EverSweet, and it’s “inspired by nature, but made in a lab.” Confused? Well, I guess that’s the point of the article. This new invention lives in an odd space. The sweetening molecules found in the Stevia leaf inspired the new product. According to the article, the molecule is technically identical. The only problem? It was made in a lab.

The point of difference is that the product offers the sweetening properties of Stevia without the infamous aftertaste. However, the real question is how to market it. Technically, the product isn’t natural and the company does not claim it to be. But, will positioning the product as “inspired by nature” really get consumers over the negativity associated with artificial sweeteners?

http://www.startribune.com/for-cargill-a-breakthrough-ingredient-presents-a-marketing-challenge/388792101/EverSweet is made in a lab, but it mirrors a molecule naturally found in plants, which puts it somewhere in the middle of the food marketing debate.

“I think [customers and Cargill] struggle with how to position it on the spectrum between natural and not,” Ohmes said. “For us, it’s all about giving customers choice.” read more at startribune.com

Those are a few of the popular and trending pieces in the news related to marketing strategy. They caught my attention and hopefully they are useful to you.

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Images from cnbc.com, brandchannel.com, startribune.com.