A Branding Story as Told by Pop-Tarts

I will confess that I have a weakness, one that will likely not lead to my demise, but a weakness, nonetheless. I really like Pop-Tarts, whether it is the real deal from Kellogg’s or a wannabe store brand. Pop-Tarts are an inexpensive, tasty, and convenient breakfast I can grab between a workout (had to squeeze that in) and starting my workday. I realize that a 45-year-old man is probably not the profile of a typical Pop-Tarts consumer, but I am all too happy to be an outlier.

A recent shopping experience for Pop-Tarts reinforced the impact price can have on perceptions of a brand. As I was packing food to take to the office, I realized I was out of Pop-Tarts. No problem, as the snack bar in my building on campus carries single-serve packages of Pop-Tarts. However, I was shocked to learn that the price for a package of my breakfast vice was $1.49. A quick comparison: an 8-pack of Pop-Tarts retails for about $2.29 at the supermarket, and a convenience store near campus sells the same single-serve package sold at the snack bar for 99 cents.

I questioned myself as to whether I let this be an issue because I was acting like a little boy pitching a fit because his Pop-Tarts cost too much. No, I do not think that is the case. It seems to me that pricing a product 50% higher than a convenience store is a wee bit too high. A bigger issue is looming: the perception that the foodservice vendor is taking advantage of students (and professors) because it has a somewhat captive audience has negatively affected my view of the foodservice company across the board. Now, buying a snack or meal on campus is not even a last resort. I simply refuse to do it because I would be supporting a brand whose pricing certainly does not provide value to me!

The point of my Pop-Tarts story is to remember that all of your marketing decisions communicate, not just your communications program. In this case, a selling price that is significantly higher than other options sends a negative message about the seller. It could just as easily be a product with an instruction manual that is difficult to understand or a store with inconsistent or inconvenient store hours. They all have the same effect: damage to brand equity by way of hurting brand associations that comprise brand image.

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