Friday, November 14, 2008

Gum Galore

Week after week as I stand in line at the grocery store to buy my milk, beer and bread (the essentials), perusing over the tabloids and Altoids, I'm struck by the countless number of confectionery treats that line the aisle. I think more gum and candy brands exist today than ever before (tempting to insert an aside here on America's obesity issues, but I'll pass).

The number of brands is matched only by the variety in which they're promoted at retail. By "at retail," I mean the packaging and branding that takes place in the store. This includes the pretty colors, fonts and designs they use to catch your eye in the aisle. Ever wonder why gum and candy are always in the check-out aisle? Look at me. Or your kids. Inundate the consumer with your eye-catching products at eye-level (or at least for someone a little shorter, um, like a kid) in a narrow passageway through which they must pass to exit the premises. It's effective. They know.

"Funny though," I always thought. "Gum is gum." Don't tell that to the manufacturers.

"Wrigley" could conjure up two images depending on where you're located geographically. Fabled Wrigley Field and the Cubbies, bless their hearts, or Wrigley gum. Chances are if you're in Chicago, you know them both.

Headquarterd in the famous, you guessed it, Wrigley Building in Chicago, the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company is the world's largest manufacturer and marketer of chewing gum, with global sales of $5.4 billion. That's a lot of gum. From Wrigley's Spearmint (I can't even say "Spearmint" alone, it has to be "Wrigley's Spearmint" - darn effective branding) to 5, there's seemingly a stick for everyone.

Some gum packages look like mini-laundry detergent tablets (health conscious, hard working middle-somethings?) while others look like iPhones (club-hopping hipsters with their fresh breath and, well, iPhones?).

Yes, it would appear that Wrigley has created (or acquired through major mergers and acquisitions) a bubble-gum brand for nerly every person and every occassion...

You know, like if you want to view an "Eclipse" (a phenomenon caused by the "Orbit" of the moon and Earth, not "Mars") in the "Winterfresh" air with your "Hubba Bubba" at "5" before you catch the "Big League Chew." Just make sure there's an "Extra" piece handy; it's a "LifeSaver." I tried.

Lest you think I'm jabbing the gum giant here; I'm not (hard). I raise Wrigley and the gum/confectionery marketing topic to demonstrate how a seemingly archaic industry has used effective marketing and public relations to earn more than $5 billion annually. It's not always who you are; it's who the consumer thinks you are.

For more examples, see Blue Rhino, Repreve and Vespa.

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