Why this classic brand is greater than Apple, Nike, or any other

While preparing to speak at the American Marketing Association’s Branding Conference, one of the questions that was presented to me was, “Besides Apple and Nike, name a brand that you really admire and why.” Fair enough. Although that’s assuming that I really do admire Apple and Nike. I’d be hard-pressed to say I don’t.

I work on a MacBook Air, as many writers do; I talk on an iPhone; I generally wake up in the morning with my glasses in one hand and my iPad in the other; and when I walk or run in my Nike Free 5.0s, I listen to music on my Nano. This, of course, begs the question, does interaction and transaction constitute brand admiration? From a brand’s standpoint, that’s really all that matters. Or is it?

The brand I admire most I haven’t interacted or transacted with in 25 years. For that matter, I probably haven’t even seen it, and if I have, it was only out of the corner of my eye. I admire brands based on three factors: usage (i.e., market share); how stiff the competition is; and staying power (i.e., does the brand have “legs”?). For me, hands down, the brand I admire most is as old as the hills and only serves the young. Since 1927, Gerber Baby Food has dominated the category. When it comes to having “legs,” these guys really know their audience’s mouths — and stomachs.

Over the course of nearly 90 years, Gerber’s market share has fluctuated between a staggering 83% and 90%. That’s just sick — in a good way, of course. Nothing is even close. And during the same length of time, Beech-Nut has been a distant second. That’s like being a prizefighter and taking punches every round, fight after fight. I really wouldn’t know, but it sure doesn’t sound like a walk in the park.

That amount of market share is unheard of. And those admired brands? Apple’s market share for computers is 19.5%, and that includes all its tablets. And Nike’s market share for shoes is 47%. These are huge numbers, but not quite as domineering as those achieved by our friends at Gerber.



Oh, you say, look at all the other products these two admired brands bring to market, or as we call them, line extensions. Don’t discount the baby. Gerber Life Insurance Co. has nearly $700 million in assets and insures millions of people. And we’ll toss in baby bottles, vitamins, breastfeeding supplies, and other health care products.

And what about stiff competition? The number three provider, Nature’s Goodness Baby Food, was launched by Del Monte Foods and then sold to Heinz, two formidable brands themselves. And the market share for Nature’s Goodness? Two percent. Take that, you bunch of babies. Not even two of the largest food giants can pierce the soft, tender skin of my most admired brand.

So next time you’re at the grocery store, take a look at the baby food section. Even if you’re not in the market for a little bit of the pureed stuff, you’ll find the dominance telling. In the race for market share dominance, I’ll put my money on those who crawl, cry, and you know what.

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