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Beyond Growth Inc. | Markham, ON

By Tim Rooney

If you’ve seen the latest advertisements for Halls “Refresh” you’ve been told, “it’s not a cough drop.” This is a great re-positioning tactic for the goal of “introducing a different kind of Halls.” The problem is that Halls is already a leader, it doesn’t need a new position. Let’s look at the stats:

  • Halls has been the longtime leader in cough drops for sore throats
  • Halls registered its “mentho-lyptus” ingredient (a way of differentiating its brand through an attribute benefit)
  • Halls owns the category. When you’re looking for a cough drop you don’t say, “do you have a throat lozenge?” you ask, “do you have a Halls?”

I want it all

The real problem is always about wanting to dominate the market. The CEO says, “Look at all these great candies out there. There’s Vitamin C candies, fruit berry blast candies, chocolate fruit candies. We’re losing market share by just selling cough drops.” So the team at Halls goes off and develops Halls Vitamin C, and Halls Breezers, and, now, Halls Refresh. And the website says: Get the Halls that’s right for you.

So now I find myself wondering, which Halls is right for me? And I’m no longer comfortable asking, “do you have a Halls?” because I’m not sure whether somebody is going to hand me a pomegranate blaster instead of the cool healing power of mentho-lyptus® I grew up on.

Divide and Conquer

If you really want to hear a success story you could take a look at ole P&G (Procter & Gamble). If you’ve never heard of them maybe you know some of their brands: CoverGirl, Gilette, Pantene, Ivory, Tide, Pampers…

What’s interesting is that the same company that owns Tide laundry detergent (#1) also owns a brand called Cheer, who makes laundry detergent (can help clean your clothes surprisingly bright). And they own a brand called Mr. Clean who makes household cleaning products.

What’s also interesting is that Mr. Clean never made laundry detergent, even though we’ve been letting him in to our houses for years to clean our toilets. I mean, who better to trust than Mr. Clean when it comes to, er, cleaning? So why not extend the Mr. Clean brand to include laundry detergent too? It already stands for clean?

The simple answer is that P&G understands the concept of divide and conquer. They have no ego about needing their name standing in for global dominance. They’re happy to “own” the category with multiple brands, let the parent company recede into the background, and cash in on the effort. And believe me, they cash in.

Of course there is another strategy besides divide and conquer. It’s called dilute and sink.

Don’t mix pleasure with business

When you’re the market leader you only have one job: to stay number one. Anybody who has been there knows it’s a tough ride to the top. Why give it up?

If you’re the leader in cough drops and you’re burning up to make tasty candies, make them. But find a new name and a new position and a new plan. Use your experience as a leader to become a leader again. It pays better.

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