Red Mango at Valley Fair & Branding Thoughts

Today, I went to Red Mango frozen yogurt opening at the Valley Fair Shopping Center for it’s grand opening. This is second store owned by my friend Yul Kwon and I had to show up to support his effort.

As I walked in, there was a line of about 100+ people lined up to get a free froyo, as it’s known.

Basically, froyo was a phenomenon started in South Korea that migrated to LA area and now it’s making it’s way through the US. Froyo is a bit different than the traditional yogurt. It contains active culture so the taste is not sweet but more sweet and tangy. It’s very unique and delicious.

Knowing the owner has it’s privilege, I didn’t have to wait in line for a free sample of their new Pomogranate yogurt (thanks Yul). It was as good as advertised. Red Mango is taking Bay Area by storm with three franchises open so far. It’s a brand that has plenty of following from Southern California, specially in the Korean American community. Ask any young KA and they will know what a Froyo is and if they are from SoCal, they will know names of the chains of Froyo, like Pinkberry or Fioré.

This got me thinking about how branding success in consumer market depends on several factors. Red Mango is one of those companies who followed the right "recipe" to get to where they are, on the way to success. There are several factors in achieving this success, which could mean big profits for the company. I mean, how much could it take to make a cup of froyo? I would say less than $0.50 in ingredients but they are selling it for about $3. If you look at it, it’s not always about the frozen yogurt, it’s about the experience.

Most of the successful consumer products, specially consumable products, fall in to two categories, fad and cultural icon. Of course, fad should last short period where as cultural icons lasts longer with longer revenue cycle, but some fads could stay around many years. Sometimes, fad will turn in to a cultural icon and sticks around for a long time. Look at products like hoola hoops, freesbies, Starbucks (yes, they were considered fad by many, including some financial experts) and Jelly Belly Jellybeans. What makes them successful and not fade out like Pet Rocks or bellbottom pants?

There are a few rules on helping a product become a cultural icon rather than a fad.

Rule #1

Good products with good value. First rule of the product is it has to provide value perception to customers beyond their expectations. The price has to be within reach (can you imagine what would would have happened to hoola hoops if they were $500 each?) and the product must provide perception of value so that it’s easy to convert customers to repeats. It doesn’t mean you have to have the best products ever, it just have to provide best values. Does McDonald’s make best hamburgers? No, but they have decent food to bring people in.


Consistency. The product, whether sold at one place or multiple place, it must provide consistent experience to the customers. Starbucks is one good example of how they provide same experience whether they are in New Hampshire or California. This is important because the cultural icon is all about memory recall response. If customers remember the product being one way earlier, it’s much easier for them to chose it again because they know they will get what they are expecting.

Rule #3

It’s not all about the product/service but the experience associated with positive memory. If you look at successfully products in the past, it provided some satisfaction to some or all levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. Some of the keywords associated with cultural icons include: nostalgia, comfort, happy, must have and most importantly, share. If the product satisfies or exceed the expectation, people will share their experience based on their positive experience of the past. It hit the spot where others couldn’t


Provide means for the customers to share their experience. Often the sharing of experience is what propagates the cultural icon status, specially in consumable area. If you look at some of the more popular food chains, like White Castle, In and Out Burger, Hortons and Beard Papa, the experience is shared enthusiastically by those who eats at these establishments. I can point out an example locally when first franchise of In and Out Burger came to Norther California. The anticipation was building months before the opening. The SoCal crowd enthusiastically share they stories about the chain to their colleagues from their earlier positive experience, who in turn talked to their friends, etc. The viral effect took from that point on and the opening week, the line out the door was 150+ deep. This continued for several months. The successful companies will provide means to share this experience. This used to be gadgets, like t-shirts or bumper stickers (McDonalds was master at this by providing thousands of branding items they gave away). Now with social networking web phenomenon is so prevalent, it’s easy to spread the word and share experience online.

Rule #5

Do no evil (sorry Google). Companies must review their entire operations to make sure that they are doing anything that is "evil". This means something they do that will tarnish hard fought brand status. Often, all it takes is one bad perception to bring a product from cultural icon to fad that will go away. A good example? How about Poprock? Remember the candy that exploded in your mouth when mixed with moisture of your saliva? It was hottest selling candy for number of years before a rumor about some kid who had the candy with a can of soda and his stomach exploded and killed the kid. They never recovered from the false rumor and they faded away. I remember my own mother forbidding me from eat Poprocks because of the rumor. Once the rumor is out, it’s very difficult to contain it. However, if you follow the Tylenol approach to PR management, sometimes a brand can be saved. Don’t try to argue why you are right, just do the right thing or at least something that appears to be doing it right. Total recall of all Tylenol based on a small sample of possible poisoning was the right thing to do and it saved the brand name that is priceless.

These are not the only rules or these rules apply to every company but it’s a good list of common sense rules to help with building a brand. Hopefully the brand can exist as a cultural icon and stay around longer than most fads. If you do, you may be able to sell a rock as a pet for many many years to come with big contribution to the bottom line.

On January 24, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by
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