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Frederick the Great and his Royal Potatoes – a lesson for rebranding products

King Frederick the Great is also known as the Potato King is a great case study in how rebranding a product can change the entire perception around it, especially when you have huge amounts of power over the market.

King Frederick the Great was looking for ways to feed his nation since the price of bread was getting too expensive for most people to afford. He proposed the idea of potatoes as a substitute for their main carb – it was cheaper, easy to grow and, most importantly, filling.

Surprisingly, the people didn’t like it; they said the potatoes were unsightly, dirty and tasteless. They thought because it looked strange to them, that they were poisonous. So, the King went back to the drawing board.

In order to combat the outlook that King Frederick decided to rebrand the potatoes as a ‘royal vegetable’. He planted potatoes in the royal garden and had his guards pretend to protect them. The guards were told to pretend to not notice when the people were stealing these royal vegetables and to take regular naps so that it was easy to snatch a potato for themselves.

It didn’t take long for his people to begin to associate royalty with potatoes and they began to grow and eat potatoes themselves. Just like Frederick wanted.

It is safe to say that Kin Frederick understood the importance of positive associations with a product and used that to his advantage to lead him to success in his original plan.

So what do we learn from this story?

1.Associations are important

Brand associations are a set of remembered qualities that stick in the mind of the customer. There is true value in these positive associations because they communicate the message of your brand to the people you’re trying to target. In the case of King Frederick, he branded these potatoes as royalty, which resonated with his nation and convinced them to change their perception of potatoes. The potatoes themselves hadn’t changed, just the perception of them.
More generally, brand associations are useful for differentiating your brand – what sets your brand apart from others – thus, helping your customers decide to pursue your brand over a competitor’s. This is why it’s especially important to create positive associations with your brand because if your customers positively view you, they are more likely to pick you.

2.The Law of Scarcity increases worth

The Law of Scarcity explains why, when there’s less supply, demand is higher. King Frederick did this by having guards protect the potatoes, creating the perception that they’re food reserved for royalty, which would make them available to only a handful of people. So, a product with seemingly low supply and positive associations will drive demand and therefore, also increase the worth and value of the product.

There are many real-life examples of this: night clubs practice the Law of Scarcity by creating entry queues outside and initiating a one-in-one-out system, creating interest and increasing desire to get in.

Businesses also practice this to drive sales. For example, the brand, Supreme, is notorious for manipulating the supply vs. demand equation by strictly limiting its stock, and hardly – if ever – producing enough to meet demand. And Supreme never restocks anything – if it’s gone, it’s gone.

This creates the association of exclusivity in the mind of the customer, which is exactly what King Frederick, night clubs, and Supreme have done.

How you can rebrand

Here are some ways you can rebrand your business

Reestablish your brand’s target audience and market.

Sometimes your target audience shifts or your target audience turns out to be a different demographic than originally thought/intended. Getting your target audience right is the first step to success and influences every action you take moving forward.

Redefine your company’s vision, mission, and values.

What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why are you doing it? How does it bring value to your customers? These are some questions you should be asking and answering about your brand. Let’s break down these key elements:

Vision – the what: a clear vision is crucial because it is the backbone of every decision you and/or your colleagues make. So if you find your vision is a bit outdated or doesn’t relate to your target audience anymore, it’s worth revisiting.

Mission – the how: a mission is the foundation for getting to your endpoint. The mission statement of IKEA, for example, is “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” How do they do this? Everyone needs furniture, so by making their services accessible and inexpensive, they are bettering their customer’s everyday lives.

Values – the why: this is where you set out why you’re working towards your vision and why you’re dedicated to your mission. If you’re working in a team, having the same values will lead to success because you’re all working towards a common goal: implementing the vision and mission.

Reconsider your brand’s slogan.

A good slogan will encompass all of the three key elements above. However, your slogan should also be succinct, easy to remember and easily repeatable. If we use IKEA’s example again, their mission statement can also be used for their vision and value: what are they doing to better everyday life and why? It’s also to the point and easy to remember.
Here are some ways you can come up with a slogan:

Keep it simple

Get metaphorical

Use poetic language

Provide instructions

Compliment customers

What makes your brand special?
If you’re having trouble creating a slogan, try thinking about it this way: if your brand could talk, what would it say?

Rebuild your brand identity.

Your brand identity is the tangible elements that communicate your brand to your customers. These include visual elements like your logo, colour palette, typography, or the shapes you use to represent the company.

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