Productive Marketing: Don’t “Just Do It”

“Should we advertise?… increase our twitter presence?…launch an e-mail campaign?… or execute the hot marketing tactic du jour?  These are important questions that you should eventually consider, but in most cases these tactical questions are premature.  Often, they are an early warning sigh that you are on a dangerous path to a disappointing marketing campaign – – and a waste of your precious money.  If most of your recent conversations have been “should you?” save yourself from marketing peril right now. Instead, focus on why.  Set clear, specific business goals first to direct all of your marketing efforts.  It’s infinitely easier to hit a target when you aim.

The most important first question is: “What is your business objective?” Only after you have answered this do you have a sufficient foundation to develop, execute, and invest in a successful marketing program. Use this simple, but effective thought process to guide your marketing decision-making “Objective, Strategy, Tactics.” Here’s how it works:

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Step 1: Clarify your Objective

“What is your business objective?” The clearer and more precise this is, the more productive and cost-effective your marketing will be.

This is the level of clarity you should have for your annual business goals:
– WHAT: Increase a specific business measure (typically sales or market share) from X to Y
– WHO: Among specific target customers (e.g. new customers? existing customers? new channels?)
– WHEN: By what date will you accomplish and measure the business goals?
Now that you have a specific goal, you can develop marketing strategies and programs that link directly to your objective. Your business objective must link directly to your long term goals (typically a five year horizon) as documented in your Strategic Plan.

Step 2: Select Marketing Strategies to Achieve the Objective

Develop appropriate marketing strategies – which are ways you will accomplish the goal. Marketing strategies are not individual marketing programs.  They are the ‘hows’ not the ‘whats.’ The most successful companies and brands stay focused on three to five marketing strategies. This forces discipline and focus on doing fewer important things exceptionally well. Examples of specific marketing objectives are:
– Secure three new “A” accounts
– Increase retail distribution by 10 percent
– Increase awareness among target consumers by 8 percentage points
– Increase sales per transaction by 9 percent
Marketing strategies are the paths you choose to reach your goal. Setting and adhering to marketing strategies is a powerful tool to narrow your focus to only pursue “on strategy” ideas. Most companies have more than 15 percent of their marketing budget invested in programs that are not tied to one of their marketing strategies.  Does yours?

Step 3: Develop Marketing Tactics with Laser Precision

With your business objective and marketing strategies in place, you are now ready to build the marketing plan and evaluate marketing tactics.  Choose your tactics wisely. Make sure they achieve the marketing objective and are a sound choice, based on projected return-on-investment. Even though projecting sales is an imperfect science, marketing budgets must be critically evaluated, just like any other potential business investment.

When you choose among potential marketing tactics, 1) select the right marketing tool to accomplish your desired outcome (e.g. building consumer awareness and increasing customer loyalty are very different marketing challenges that require different marketing tools) and 2) choose the most productive, appropriate, and efficient option (i.e. compare alternative media or programs), different levels of investment in the program, and different creative resources to do the job.  Don’t make a sizable marketing investment in any program until you have evaluated its impact per dollar spent versus alternatives.  This does not recommend ‘analysis paralysis.’ Rather, it’s a plea for you to get the best possible marketing program you deserve

Step 4: Measure and Monitor Performance

Effective marketing, contrary to popular belief, yields measurable results.  Before you start a program, commit to measure the actual performance of the program versus the projected results. Evaluate performance at specific program intervals, typically incremental sales for the duration of the program, and at three- and six- month intervals after its completion, to measure sustained impact.  This keeps you and your organization focused on desired results, rather than activity.

Measuring program impact also gives you quantifiable return-on-investment information to determine whether you should repeat or expand the program in the future. The marketplace is littered with victims of doing marketing tactics without setting business goals. You are bombarded with these potential marketing tragedies every day. Avoid this common plight by applying the same amount of rigor that you use on your other strategic investments. Get more out of every precious marketing program – and dollar!-by using this simple but effective formula: “Objective, Strategy and Tactics.”

by Tammy Katz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Chipotle brand will Rebound Quickly

Chipotle has been through no picnic recently, with two multi-state E-coli outbreaks, a separate norovirus issue, and widespread negative food safety publicity.   However, barring any other major food safety issue, Chipotle will recover quickly and thrive, for five major reasons.

  1. Consumers LOVE, not like, the brand – Chipotle has extremely high levels of brand awareness and brand esteem, well beyond their peers, which yields very high levels of brand equity, from which a setback can borrow.  Brand equity is like a bank account: continued positive experiences build brand equity; issues will erode.  Consumers have a very strong personal affinity, love and respect for the brand; it’s well beyond a fast-food choice they visit.  In fact, Chipotle scores 83 (out of 100) on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), nearly at the top of all fast food brands, which average 77, well beyond Wendy’s (73) and McDonald’s (67).
  2. Chipotle has been transparent in its communication and rigorously improved product safety – Once the second E coli incident occurred, Chipotle’s leadership has aggressively communicated taking responsibility for the problem, sought best-in-class system-wide food safety counsel and implementation, and has invested in redundant measures to ensure food safety.   In their most recent quarterly report, Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle said “We are pleased to have this behind us and can place our full energies to implementing our enhanced food safety plan that will establish Chipotle as an industry leader in food safety. Image result for chipotle loveWe are extremely focused on executing this program, which designs layers of redundancy and enhanced safety measures to reduce the food safety risk to a level as near to zero as is possible. By adding these programs to an already strong and proven food culture, we strongly believe that we can establish Chipotle as a leader in food safety just as we have become a leader in our quest for the very best ingredients we can find.”  This contrasts with several food companies who either hid or understated their food safety or recall issues and were quick to try to claim it was solved with a reactionary nominal manufacturing change.
  3. Favorable food safety and public relations are reassuring and reminding consumers to return – Yesterday, both the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and FDA (Food & Drug Administration) called Chipotle’s E. coli outbreaks over.  Chipotle will close its Image result for chipotle company wide meetingstores for several hours on February 8th to have a company-wide meeting reviewing new food safety measures.  Internal communication and execution of these improved processes are already in effect in their stores.  We also expect Chipotle to resume and increase its compelling advertising, in-store promotion, and couponing programs to welcome concerned consumers back to their stores and resume their unusually high frequency and loyalty of coming back to the stores.
  4. Chipotle will refine, but stay true to its compelling promise of Food With Integrity –2010_02_Chipotle
    Chipotle loyalists are drawn to their unique positioning as a higher quality fast food option, strong price/value, and great taste.  While their will be refinements in product sourcing and distribution, the product promise of Food With Integrity will remain intact, and strengthened. Consumers will continue to see the Chipotle brand as a superior fast food choice meriting their continued loyalty.
  5. Same-store-sales will rebound faster than industry averages – Since Chipotle has a stronger and more loyal customer base, traffic will improve more quickly than the industry’s typical 12-18 months to recover same-store-sales performance, as per Credit Suisse estimates. In addition, their marketing and promotional effectivenessChipotleand sophistication will also accelerate the pace of same-store-sales rebound.  We expect a recovery in 3-4 quarters, propelled by an even stronger in-store experience, product quality, favorable public relations, and consumer word-of-mouth.

Lessons learned:
1.  Give consumers a superior, differentiated product and a reason to love, not like, your brand.
2.  Beloved brands can, and do, recover from quality and public relations issues, if they are quick, contrite, and responsible.
3.  Be proactive and vigilant in your product quality processes, pre-prepare how you would mobilize to address a product quality issue.
4.  Incent post-crisis consumers to resume confidence in your brand and incent/reward them for their loyalty.

 

Can I patent my recipe? – Typically No!

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Beyond patents

Design Patents.

Annual Plan Checklist for a Killer 2016!

We hope your 2015 is exceeding expectations and you’ve created a strong plan for 2016 to grow faster.  As most of you are, or are approaching, completing your 2016 Plan, here’s a checklist to make sure you’re ready for a killer 2016!

2016 Annual Plan Checklist

1. Develop a Written, Market Based Growth Plan Carefully

  • Analyze and segment your customer and consumer base, prioritize by growth potential
  • Understand what your customers’ unmet needs and why they will choose your superior product or service
  • Build a strategy that leverages your business model: market opportunities, your core competencies and where you are most profitable

2. Widely Communicate Your Growth Strategy

  • Summarize your 3-5 Key Growth Strategies, based on factual analysis (e.g. channels, products/services)
  • Growth Priorities should be quantified and clearly communicated throughout your company and key constituents (e.g. suppliers) so everyone understands them and is aligned
  • Innovation should be among your top priorities; have clear parameters (fertile areas in which to innovate) to provide direction

3. Have, or Get, the Right Accountable Team

  • Have accountable talent who can lead and drive respective pieces of the growth strategy
  • Have strong and clear inter-department communication and processes
  • Have the right talent who can produce; commit to coach up, outsource for, or dismiss those who can’t

4. Execute with Cross-Functional Precision

  • Have clear leadership, accountability and measurement of top initiatives
  • Maintain ongoing cross-functional leadership and communication to keep key initiatives on track
  • Track key programs quantitatively and refine them based on in-market learnings

5. Deploy Effective and Efficient Marketing

  • Marketing should identify and drive consumer and marketing growth opportunities
  • Marketing should develop and lead a clear marketing strategy that directly ties to growth strategy Your brand positioning(s) should be clear, consistently communicated.
  • Your marketing communication and R&D efforts should consistently strengthen your superiority
  • All major programs should be on strategy, measurable, optimized across multiple media, and provide measurable return-on-investment

6. Drive Productivity… Everywhere

  • Set ambitious, achievable productivity goals (cost reduction/efficiency). $1 in productivity > $10 in new sales
  • Challenge each function to develop specific, measurable, cash-saving (not conceptual) programs; drive wide participation
  • Celebrate, publicize, and reward best programs. This creates a ripple effect for more productivity

5 Branding Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Campaign

The 2016 Presidential Campaign is loaded with great branding lessons that every company and person can apply to their favorite brand.   I’ll try to be unbiased.

1.   Awareness Trumps –  The ascension of the Trump brand has been astronomical, largely due to awareness.   You had heard Trumpof him before, and you’ve certainly heard of him now. Millions of Americans were exposed to the Trump brand through his television series, real estate and entertainment holdings, media-inducing polarizing comments, and the unique, visual persona.  He’s said more soundbite friendly and contentious comments since, further gaining publicity.   The political pundits were quick to downplay his legitimacy, yet he dominated media mentions.   If you’ve heard of something and it registers in your mind, it has successfully penetrated the critical consideration set – the short list of things you might choose.

Latest NBC/WSJ Poll

2.   Differentiate –  Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Bernie Sanders are succeeding, largely on their ability to  differentiate themselves.  carson Ben Carson expertly plays the ‘I’m from outside of politics, plain-speaking neurosurgeon’ game, Carly is the ‘seasoned ex-HP CEO, non-Hilary female leader,’ who deftly leveraged the “look at that face” Trump gaffe into a gift, and Bernie Sanders is the self-described democratic socialist focused on improving middle class inequality.   He also is the sole non-Hilary Democratic option.   Conversely, Scott Walker, an early front-runner dropped to oblivion and out as one of the many ‘successful governor with relevant experience’ options. You must be different, and relevantly different, to be selected from your competition.

3.   Be Authentic – Consumers demand authenticity in their brands and selections.   Consumers have a strong “bs meter” Clinton and have 24/7 access to social media that can uncover and amplify lies, inconsistencies, and skeletons.   On the (at least perceived) authenticity meter (net score on honest and trustworthy, latest Quinnipiac poll) Carson (+51),  Biden (+45), Sanders (+23), and Bush (+19) lead, while Clinton (-31) and Trump (-22) take a beating.   A brand is a promise to consumers – what you are, what you stand for, and what you consistently do – and consumers value and crave credibility and authenticity.

4.   Resonate – Your offer must resonate with your target audience; know what their key issues are, articulate how you solve their most important issues, and speak their language.    Despite his polarizing personality and image (top 4 Quinnipiac poll descriptors: arrogant, blowhard, idiot, businessman), his surge is largely explained because his messages of ‘make America great again’ and ‘sick of insider incompetence’ resonate deeply with a vast population.   He may ultimately have a product and personal credibility gap (29% of GOP voters would definitely not support Trump), but his message unquestionably resonates.

5.    Cut Through the Clutter – You must sharply define and articulate your unique brand positioning.  At the moment, Presidential_DebatesTrump, Carson, Fiorina, and Sanders’ brands are memorable and clear.   Although still early in the campaign where Trump’s style over substance noise is captivating consumers and the media, several extremely solid, admirable and, arguably, superior talent – like  Kasich and Pataki are going relatively unnoticed so far, as 57% and 58% “haven’t heard enough” about them, respectively.

As the campaigning and jockeying for position continues, we continue to enjoy the show and its rich brand and marketing lessons.   The marketing communication is riveting, but great brands perform on measurable criteria over time.

 

Avoid Botching Exposure: No, we still don’t know BDO

BDO, a global accounting, business and financial consultancy, is wasting millions of dollars on its current advertising campaign, “People who know, know BDO.” In their advertising, they could tell you who they are, but they don’t. They could tell you what problems they solve for you, but they don’t.    They could tell their target audience when to contact them and why, but, alas, they don’t.  It’s painful to see such a great introductory opportunity go to waste.

Rather, they do tell you that the people who already are aware of them and know what they do (presumably anyone but the audience) are knowledgeable.     So they are talking only to people who already understand and use their services.     This is a great example of everything you don’t want to do in your advertising.

Sadly, they repeat the strategic vagueness on their website as well (At least the campaign is consistent).BDO

To avoid this, take these simple steps:

1.   Clarify your brand proposition – Who are you, what problem(s) do you solve, who is your target audience, and why are you superior and unique.
2.   Determine your advertising goal – Are you trying to attract new users?  (like BDO is attempting, but failing to do)  Convince current customers to buy/select/consume your brand more frequently?   Are you trying to improve your brand image?    If you are not clear about the purpose of your advertising (or any marketing investment), you can count on meandering advertising, unless your marketing partners are clairvoyant.
3.   Assess your advertising from the consumer’s perspective – What do they know about you now?  What do you want them to know about you after they have been exposed to your message?    Make sure you are giving them a persuasive message, in their language, based on what you know from your consumer research.     Again, BDO makes a common error of crafting advertising based on their internally focused, prideful self-assessment.     It’s a missed opportunity to tell potential customers of who they are, why they’re a superior service, and how they will solve the customer’s problems.
4.  Pre-test your advertising – There are several great advertising effectiveness evaluation methods, including MSW ARS and IPSOS ASI, that will give you unbiased, quantitative and credible feedback on if your advertising campaign is persuasive and has achieved your marketing goals.    These are small investments that can be done while the campaign is in the idea phase, prior to wasting money on producing or airing ads that do little to grow your business, or even may do harm.

5 Hottest Food Trends at Expo West |

We were delighted to appear in The Ohio State University’s Food Innovation Center Blog:

Expo West

Natural Products Expo West 2014 was an incredible show of natural, organic, and healthy food and beverage manufacturing, ingredients, and in many ways – the future of the food industry, given that healthier food has moved from trend to societal shift. The natural, organic and healthy products food industry is growing nearly three times higher than the food industry average, per Penton. I had the privilege of attending with 67,000 of my closest friends and 2,600 exhibitors. Expo West was an enlightening window to emerging food industry trends.

 1. Gluten-free continues to explode, up 20% versus last year, driven by perceived health benefits and better diagnosing of celiac disease. New brands, new food categories, and Gluten-freeimproved organoleptics were virtually everywhere. Per NPD, 30% of consumers want to reduce the amount of gluten they are eating, and gluten-free foods’ household penetration has leaped to 11%, more than doubling since 2010, per Nielsen. The tidal wave is projected to continue as the foodservice sector (restaurants and institutions) catches up with consumer demand at retail. Even Pillsbury has jumped into the space with gluten-free dough (et tu, Doughboy?) as has Columbus’ Donato’s with its gluten-free Donato’s and Sonoma Flatbreads brands. Gluten-free is projected to grow by 22% annually through 2016, per Mintel.

2.  Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) verified food offerings have tripled since last year, in response to growing consumer demand, as well as organic manufacturers’  non-gmo efforts. Regardless of where you stand on the contentious GMO discussion, consumers are responding. 93% of Americans said that foods that have been genetically modified or engineered should be identified, per a recent New York Times poll and non-GMO has recently surpassed ‘organic’ among consumers’ desired food claims. Whole Foods’ requirement of GMO labeling on all products in U.S. and Canada by 2018, will also drive non-GMO consumer awareness. Promising, except only 11% of consumers say they are willing to pay more.

Non-GMO food and beverages are projected to grow at a 13% compound annual growth rate for the next few years and account for 30% of retail sales by 2017, even without mandatory labeling, per Packaged Facts. General Mills, Smart Balance, Ben and Jerry’s, Chipotle, and Kashi have all taken proactive stances on GMOs by either eliminating them or pushing for increased labeling. To help manufacturers and consumers with product and ingredient sourcing, the verification body, the Non-GMO Project has established a centralized database. Buckeye brag: Marzetti launched Mamma Bella GMO free garlic breads, led by Fisher alum Adam Koenigsberg.

3. Proteins, Popcorn, Chia and Kale were prevalent in multiple categories. New protein-rich or enhanced products targeted to consumers who are reducing or eliminating red Popcorn Indiana brand(or all) meat from their diets included yogurts (whey and soy proteins), snack bars (almond and pea protein isolate), and pancakes (oats, quinoa, and whey). Popcorn, with its better-for-you consumer perception, was featured by over 25 companies in every mainstream and exotic flavor. Most intriguing were Popcorn Indiana’s fit brand, positioned as a low-calorie option, and chip’ins, a popcorn-based extruded snack chip. Chia continues to be a hot omega-3 rich and filling superfood in many bars, yogurts, drinks, as well as seeds alone. And kale, which has grown four-fold since 2008, is the hot supergreen in raw snacks, chips, sauces, dressings, and disturbingly: macaroons.

4. More Funding, Investments and Acquisitions – The health and wellness segment’s rapid growth is attracting interest and investment from multiple sources. Major food Food_Acquisitionscompanies are penetrating the segment via acquisition and joint ventures, such as Coca-Cola (Zico and Honest Tea). Heinz (Hain Celestial), and Campbell Soup (Plum Organics), and the sector has become a darling of private equity leaders such as Sherbrooke Capital (Angie’s Popcorn) and Alliance Consumer Growth (EVOL brand). There is also an explosion of funding available for smaller companies through food incubators and crowd-funding platforms, with over 25 new food and agriculture funding sources launched last year. This foretells both continued growth among increasingly well-capitalized companies, as well as improved product quality and rate of innovation.

5.  Local Participation –  Ohio was well represented by many of our friends at 19 companies. In addition to the aforementioned Marzetti and Donato’s, Almondina, Avitae, Bunker Ohio StateHill Cheese (Heini’s), Eurochoc Americas Corp., Fit Organic, Fremont Authentic Brands, Garden of Flavor, Gaslamp Popcorn (Rudolph Foods), Graeter’s, Herbal Science, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, 1-2-3 Gluten Free, R.A.W. Real and Wonderful, Swurves (Mike-Sells), Trophy Nut, Unistraw, and Wyandot Snacks exhibited, all of whom we expect are gearing up for the surge in new business… and hiring talented Buckeyes.”

Meet the Expert

Tammy Katz is an Adjunct Professor of Brand Management at the Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University, and Chief Executive Officer of Katz Marketing Solutions, a marketing and brand management consulting firm. She is particularly interested in brand management, marketing strategy, commercialization, corporate outreach, and consumer-driven innovation.

Super Bowl XLVIII Ad Rankings: Budweiser, Doritos (and Seahawks) Blowout

Budweiser and Doritos were the uncontested winners in last night’s Ad Bowl, as measured by USAToday (popularity),  Brand Bowl (social media buzz) and Katz Marketing Solutions (effectiveness).   Both brands had two exceptional spots (Budweiser: Puppy Love and Hero’s Welcome; Doritos: Cowboy Kid and Time Machine) that nailed all the essentials of great advertising:   enhances brand equity, persuasive, resonates with the target audience, compelling main message, brand integral to the story, and the Super Bowl ‘wow’ factor for entertainment.   Doritos spots were particularly outstanding – the story line is the quest for the coveted product.

Kudos to several highly effective campaigns that clearly communicated a persuasive sales message (oh – – remember that?) such as Radio Shack (visit our contemporary stores), T-Mobile (no contract carrier), and Volkswagen (durability).     These are the companies most likely to reap the best returns on their +$4 million per ad Super Bowl investments.

While the lovable animals remain timeless, increasingly grating are the formulaic ‘sex sells’ ads, sorely lacking in reasons to prefer their brands.    Sure, they ‘made ya look,” but we doubt H&M, Oikos, or SodaStream need to run out and up their production forecasts.

Lastly, we applaud two brands’ continued respect for diversity:  Cheerios and Coca-Cola.      While Coke’s song choice and multilingual approach pushed the edge with some consumers (a fairly low 57% positive sentiment score), it placed an enviable #5 on BrandBowl’s social media ranking with +33,000 tweets.

As for the worst:  the cringe worthy attempts to be funny, contemporary and cool.    Better luck next year Wonderful Pistachios, GoDaddy, and Beats Music.

Here are the winners (and worst) from three marketing mavens – USAToday’s AdMeter (panel popularity), Pointslocal and Boston.com’s Brand Bowl (twitter volume and sentiment), and Katz Marketing Solutions (effectiveness).

USA Today – AdMeter                              

Best:
1.   Budweiser (“Puppy Love”)

2.  Doritos (“Cowboy Kid”)
3.  Budweiser (“Hero’s Welcome”)
4.  Doritos (“Time Machine”)
5.  Radio Shack (“Phone Call”)

Worst:  BudLight “Cool Twist.”   Good reminder that great advertising requires risk taking.

Pointslocal and Boston.com’s BrandBowl

1.  Budweiser

2.  Doritos
3.  Cheerios
4.  Pepsi
5.  Coke

Worst:  Staples

Katz Marketing Solutions

1.   Budweiser (“Puppy Love”)

2.   Doritos (“Cowboy Kid”)
3.   Doritos (“Time Machine”)
4.   Cheerios (“Gracie”)
5.   Radio Shack (“Phone Call”)

Worst:  GoDaddy

Food Mergers and Acquisitions that will shape 2014

Brilliant overview by Paul Conley/FoodDive: three expected trends in the food industry.

1.  Buying market share
2.  Dumping the non-core (refocusing on core)
3.  Buying younger (and more innovative) companies

“This week saw two more giant deals for the food industry in a year that has been filled with mergers, acquisitions and divestments. Sysco announced it would spend $3.5 billion to buy competitor U.S. Foods; meanwhile, WhiteWave announced it would spend $600 million to acquire Earthbound Farm.

Those deals, as different as they were, pointed to a series of business trends in food and beverages that dominated the headlines in 2013. These are hardly new concepts in the mergers and acquisitions world, but they did seem to take on a new urgency this year. And we see no reason why those trends won’t continue into 2014.

BUYING MARKET SHARE
There’s a change-management and business theory known as “corporate lifecycles” that we adore. Without spending a lot of time explaining what is a fairly complex approach, suffice it to say that the theory tracks the growth of companies at various stages of their existence.​

(Image credit: Flickr user karen_2873) One of those stages is called “aristocracy,” when a company tends to struggle to find growth, shies away from new markets, and focuses on short-term financial gains. Aristocratic companies often take to merging with other aristocratic companies in an effort to control market share.

The Sysco-U.S. Foods merger is a classic example of such a royal wedding. But it’s not the only one we’ve seen this year.

Dairy Farmers of America, although structured as a cooperative, has been acting the part of the aristocratic corporation in its mergers with Dairy Maid and other similar companies. Another approach common among aristocratic companies is to buy up smaller competitors in smaller markets. That’s the approach J&J Snack Foods seems to be taking as it buys up every other pretzel maker in North America.

DUMPING THE NON-CORE
When aristocrats age they often enter the stage called “early bureaucracy,” a time marked by corporate restructuring and blame placing. It’s also a time when a corporation will announce with great fanfare that it is shedding non-core assets, returning to its roots, and “doing what we do best.”

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

No company has better illustrated this trend in 2013 than Nestle. The world’s largest food company has suddenly taken to selling anything that doesn’t seem Nestle enough. Jenny Craig? Dump it. Givaudan? Who needs it?

Other companies in a similar position include Chiquita — which hired a new CEO in 2012 who plans to focus on the core” and “eliminate distractions ​— and Del Monte Foods, which has decided its core is actually pet food.

BUYING YOUNGER COMPANIES
Aging corporations often look to regain their youth by buying a much younger company that is presumed to have expertise in new markets. Examples this year include Coca-Cola, which is seeking shelter from the anti-soda movement and completed its takeover of coconut-water bottler Zico Beverages; Campbell Soup, which is seeking shelter from the declining market for canned soups by buying Silicon Valley darling Plum Organics; and Post Holdings, which is seeking shelter from the collapsing market for cold cereal by buying every company it can find that doesn’t make cold cereal.

(Image credit: Flickr user sfllaw)The corporate lifecycle approach to understanding businesses isn’t flawless, but it can be illuminating. And nearly every transaction we’ve seen this year fits into the model. (WhiteWave’s purchase of Earthbound Farm is a particularly wacky one. WhiteWave was spun off as non-core by Dean Foods just 14 months ago, and is buying Earthbound as it exits the “adolescent” stage, when company founders step aside.)

And if nothing else, corporate lifecycle theory is pretty good at predicting what a company is likely to do as growth slows. Which is a sort of long-winded way of saying we expect A-B InBev and SABMillerto merge in 2014 in one of the largest aristocratic marriages in food and beverage history.”