Lewis Road Creamery, which was founded by Assignment Group's Peter Cullinane, kicked off with a range of premium and 'mass premium' butters before launching its milk range. Both have found plenty of success, with the brand now stocked in a number of Countdown and New World stores around the country. Its ambition is to continue down the dairy aisle, and as part of that process, it's hooked up with Whittaker's to launch "New Zealand's only chocolate milk made with real milk chocolate". And it seems to have sent New Zealanders into a dairy-related frenzy.
Co-branding initiatives are fairly rare in the world of FMCG, but Whittaker's is one brand that seems to enjoy experimenting. It shacked up with L&P for a fizzy white chocolate last year (and punked the media with a fake crash in Paeroa), it made an ice cream with Killinchy Gold and it shacked up with Griffin's for Hundreds and Thousands chocolate. Outside of Porirua, Kraft and Fonterra also teamed up a few years ago for a Pineapple Lumps flavoured milk.
In most cases they are intended to be limited edition releases, but, judging by the rather positive endorsements here and the huge amount of love shown for the product on both Whittaker's and Lewis Road's Facebook pages (one Facebook commentor said he drove around for 2.5 hours on an unsuccessful mission to find some and there's plenty of questions asking where it can be purchased), "the perfect marriage of milk and chocolate" seems like it could have some staying power (Assignment also does Whittaker's advertising, so there's another connection).
Scarcity can be a great strategy to enhance demand if the product is new, good or interesting, as evidenced by the ridiculous quest for Cronuts in New York last year. The chocolate milk was launched first at Moore Wilson's in Wellington, and it was also made available at select Farro Fresh stores, but it quickly sold out at both locations. Liquid chocolate lovers can rejoice, however, for it's set to launch in selected North Island Countdown and New World stores tomorrow.
At its heart, the success of Whittaker's is based on quality and transparency. Lewis Road seems to have a very similar philosophy. And, as a result, both brands have very engaged Facebook communities. This means the chocolate milk seems to have sold itself without any so-called 'traditional' advertising. And, when asked recently why two companies he has a share in—Lewis Road and Antipodes—don't really advertise, Cullinane said it was because he believes the product and the brand are inseparable.
First and foremost, it’s a matter of money. The businesses you mention are both start-ups. So the approach, by necessity, started with a focus on the one point of communication that’s more important than all the rest, the packaging. Both the Antipodes and Lewis Road packaging designs were the result of months of painstaking work while all the other elements of launching the brands were being brought together.
The focus on the packaging served to reinforce something I strongly believe: that in this day and age, the product and the brand are inseparable. One is only as good as the other. If you don’t have the wherewithal to utilise the power of advertising to launch and sustain your product/brand, it has to stand on its own two feet. Two other factors are worth noting. The media loves food products and both brands have been given fantastic support. PR is a really powerful weapon when there is genuine news about a product that people enjoy and are interested in. Secondly, both brands have been launched in the age of social media, the great leveller. Lewis Road’s Facebook page is a hive of activity and a wonderful way to have a genuine two-way conversation with an ever-increasing and supportive community. We will advertise because quite simply, advertising works. But like all things, it’s best not done by halves or half-heartedly. Currently we’re looking at a campaign to encourage trial. Integral to that will be a high degree of accountability. Long gone are the days of not knowing which half of the advertising is being wasted.
So can other brands follow suit? As Anthony Gardiner tweeted: "Right now in every NZ FMCG marketing manager’s head: “What product can I combine with mine? MarmiteSquiggletops? Kiwi shoe polish shampoo? ... Icebreaker pavlova? Benson & Hedges smokeybbq sauce? Masport shavers? Steinlager Pure Yoghurt? V flavouredsherbert cereal?"
And as the cartoon in the September/October NZ Marketing mag showed, there's still plenty of scope for 'FMCG innovations'.