Charles M. Berger former brand marketer for H. J. Heinz Co. and CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. passed away a week ago today.
Mr. Berger developed the messaging which differentiated Heinz ketchup from its competition by positioning Heinz ketchup as “thick and rich” which in turn was brilliantly used to imply Heinz ketchup’s competitors were not.
Mr. Berger’s communications strategy proved to be a profoundly effective brand marketing tactic: Identify what your customers really want and receive from using your brand, then memorialize both its strengths and the competition’s weaknesses in the same few words.
Like all successes – after the fact – it usually looks and sounds easier to do than it actually was. I am sure Berger spent years perfecting the Heinz ketchup brand message.
Ultimately Heinz ketchup television commercials featured an OK Corral style ketchup duel where Heinz proclaimed it was the slowest ketchup in the west…east, north and south” – effective imagery which conveyed the strengths of his brand while simultaneously contrasting them with his competitors weaknesses.
According to Heinz Chairman and CEO William R. Johnson, Berger’s marketing prowess “enabled Heinz to break out of a tie and gain permanent leadership in ketchup.”
In a 2001 interview with Design Management Journal, Berger gave his definition of a brand:
“A real brand owns a very tiny but important piece of real estate in a consumer’s mind.”
“Heinz ketchup actually looks and tastes the way it did in 1890. In most cases, although you have to keep changing the product, the brand should be immortal.”
Although Mr. Berger is no longer with us – and provided his successors at Heinz don’t try to rethink or rework his success – Berger’s work on behalf of the Heinz ketchup brand ought to remain as close to as immortal as any brand message has yet become.