What Can Potato Chips Teach Us About Brand, Naming, and Brand Equity?
Whether they’re a go-to snack, a guilty treat, or a temptation to be avoided at all costs, everyone has some kind of love/hate relationship with potato chips, and no brand is more ubiquitous than Lay’s. That is, if you live in the United States. If you live in the U.K. they’re not chips at all of course (chips are what the U.S. would call French fries), they’re crisps and the brand to know is Walkers. Head down to North Africa to visit Egypt and you’ll find that both the snack and the brand are ‘Chipsy’. In Israel you’ll find ‘Tapuchips’, and in Australia you’ll find ‘Smith’s’. The catch is, all of these brands are owned by American multinational food, snack and beverage giant PepsiCo.
Why would PepsiCo bother using so many different brand names across the globe?
Walkers, Smith’s and Chipsy were all local chip/crisp producers bought out by PepsiCo, but because they had such local recognition and popularity (what we call ‘Brand Equity’) it made more sense to maintain the name. Not only does this avoid the problem of trying to convince British or Egyptian buyers to try a new ‘Lay’s’ brand, but it also helps ensure no one will panic that the flavor of their favorite snack is changing.
But as you can see from the labels and packaging, PepsiCo still leverages the collective power of these brands even if they maintain separate names by keeping them in a clearly recognizable visual family. The logos all feature:
- The same color palette
- The logo has a yellow background (generally a globe)
- A red banner with white text for the name
- The packaging uses bright bold colors and similar graphic layouts of raw potatoes transitioning into chips (that’s how you know it’s natural and healthy).
The original Smith’s logo (left) for example has been updated multiple times since being acquired by PepsiCo in 1998 to fall more in line with the look of the other global chip brands:
By keeping the logos and packaging similar, the company exerts the power of the familiar and nostalgic as tourists, travelers and immigrants move from country to country – finding a little bit of home in their new destination (even if it’s called something else and comes in “strange” different flavors).
Of course many mergers also merge the brands to become one (see our white paper on Branding and M&A), and brand equity can be transferred over time from an old brand to a new one with careful positioning and clear, repeated communication. And although it is sometimes the right decision to maintain separate names following an acquisition, that doesn’t mean there aren’t tools to bring the brands into alignment – and make them part of one brand family.