What You Can Learn from the Yogurt Wars

 In Business Marketing

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

One of the hardest lessons in business is staying true to your company’s mission, history, and vision for the future. As entrepreneurs, we’re inundated with success stories of people going after new markets, adapting new technologies… even inventing whole new industries.

It makes us wonder: is the grass greener on the other side? We’ve all been tempted to find out for ourselves at one time or another.

This article from the New York Times is a great example of the types of mistakes companies make when they try to be a “me too” or a “Johnny-come-lately” to a market.

It’s also a great example of what happens when a company wises up and creates a product that’s better aligned with who they are.

Reading the entire article is worthwhile, but here’s a quick summary: a few years ago, Yoplait executives had a problem: their share of the Yogurt market was declining, and they knew exactly who to blame: the Greeks!

The Greek yogurts, that is. Companies like Chobani, Fage and Oikos were gobbling up Yoplait’s market share like a toddler gobbling up Cheerios (Yoplait is owned by General Mills, which also owns Cheerios.)

Yoplait’s overall yogurt sales had declined by more than $100 million since 2010. General Mills’s share of the yogurt market had shrunk by a third.

(Can you imagine your company’s sales declining by $100 million in a few short years? I’d bet you’d look for a solution, too ― and pronto!)

Yoplait’s solution? To introduce Yoplait Greek with great fanfare.

It tanked.

There are many reasons the product failed, but one of the main reasons the company zeroed in on was the lack of a compelling story. Yoplait recognized that one of the most appealing attributes of their Greek-style competitor, Chobani, was the founder’s story. (He was a Turkish immigrant, actually, named Hamdi Ulukaya.)

The problem was that Hamdi Ulukaya’s story was his own ― not Yoplait’s.

So what did Yoplait do? They mined their own company’s history… and remembered that their roots are French.

They came up with a new concept called Oui by Yoplait, which they’re packaging in individually-filled glass pots ― just like authentic French yogurt is distributed.

It remains to be seen whether this latest salvo will swing the yogurt wars back in Yoplait’s favor. I give them all the credit in the world though for trying to re-create Chobani’s magic using their own recipe.

I lived in France for a time and remember to this day how amazing the yogurt is. I remember the little glass pots, too. I’ll definitely buy some Oui by Yoplait the next time I’m at the grocery store to see if it’s as good as I remember!

Your story is uniquely yours ― no one else can lay claim to it, and that’s from where it derives its power.

What story (or even better, stories) are you telling your clients about you? If you’re not already, it’s time to sit down with pen and paper and get crackin’!

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