I’ve found the one. Not for me—for you. She’s got curves in all the right places, knows how to strike a pose and has that “come hither” look about her—a first impression you’d be a fool to turn a blind eye to. I’d go as far as to say you two could be soul mates if you give her a chance. Tell me more, you say? Her name’s Fanta. She has quite the bubbly, exotic flair. Refreshing, I might add. You say she’s not your type and you’re into that more reserved, pure girl next door, Dasani? Trust me, I know you. You don’t want Dasani. You want Fanta, and you want her bad.
Consciously or not, we see similar scenarios play out all the time during purchasing decisions, especially at the grocery store shelf. We have a mental model of our type, but occasionally we run into matchmakers trying to hook us up with something better. For every fish out there in the sea, there’s a matchmaking Gorton’s Fisherman trying to get you to take his bait, reel you in and pair you up with one of his own. Matchmaker brands, from General Mills to Frito-Lay’s Baked!, exist to play puppeteer with your heartstrings in an effort to get you to put out—your wallet, that is. And with consumers on the rebound after a bad breakup with corporate America at large, the matchmaker brands and their yenta leaders are being forced to tighten their product portfolios in an effort to bring their vulnerable, solo-flying bachelor brands into their brotherhood of stable suitors. Let’s take a closer look.
In an effort to align its cereals, General Mills features a prominent blue nutrition bar at the top of each box, declaring that each Big G cereal is guaranteed to be made with whole grain. Mom feels comfortable feeding little Johnny Honey Nut Cheerios in the morning. It’s good for her, it’s good for him. But one day Johnny is mesmerized by the charming Lucky. Mom is leery of him. Does Lucky Charms have too much sugar? And what about those artificial dyes? And that’s where the matchmaking Big G comes in.
“Mom, you’ve been eating Cheerios since you were Johnny’s age. You trust Buzz the Bee. I introduced you to him, remember? You can trust me. Take a leap of faith and let me introduce your son to Lucky.” Through the use of strategic brand alignment, years of invested brand equity in Cheerios is leveraged to play up Lucky Charms. And just like that, mom caves and Little Johnny and Lucky become best breakfast buddies.
If General Mills is your well-intentioned friend who knows you better than anyone else, Frito-Lay’s Baked! is your overbearing mother reminding you you’re not getting any younger and the time is ripe for you to tie the knot. Baked!’s packaging is dominated by the big Baked! logo. Lay’s Southwestern Ranch Flavored Potato Crisps, a snack food nobody, becomes a big man on campus when associated with ladies’ man Chester Cheetah. In this case, matchmaker Baked! is making an effort to bring its SKU 4s, 5s and 6s up to Chester’s attractive 10.
The difference between how General Mills and Baked! reel us in comes down to design and how shoppers perceive subtle (or in Baked!’s case, not so subtle) aesthetic cues. Whereas Big G subtly nudges, “Take my advice for what it is,” Baked! barks, “You don’t have many options—take what you can get!”
The concept of brand matchmaking within the retail environment is a growing response to consumers’ increasingly adulterous purchasing decisions. Whereas big brands want you to settle down, you’re still looking for your next frugal fling. Matchmaking, then, is the big brand’s idea of a compromise. You can still date whoever you want—as long as they’re parent brand approved.
Do you find yourself more willing to go on a blind date with a brand if it has been vouched for by a brand you already love? Or are you suspicious of any attempts to set you up with an unknown suitor? Let us know in the comments on our Facebook page, where the Design Love Doctor is always in.
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