Ignore the branding: These are the oranges you’re looking for

Navel Oranges

As a teenager, I worked for a few years at a produce store in Montreal and learned a great deal about fruits and vegetables from my boss, Harvey Levy, who loved to educate his employees.

One day, we got a shipment of navel oranges and they were delicious. Harvey, as he often did, sampled them before buying a few hundred cases of the juicy, seedless citrus fruit that is popular with consumers.

He knew it was good value – a better value than the navel oranges sold by Sunkist which relied on branding to pump up its price and reputation. Yes, pilgrims, Sunkist is not a type of orange, it’s merely one of many companies that grows and sells navel oranges.

Harvey knew that some customers would be skeptical about the oranges because they didn’t have the Sunkist stamp, so he asked us to cut up a bunch of them and offer them as samples.

For many people, tasting was believing and they happily bought the oranges which were on sale. They, like me, learned a valuable, lesson about oranges and branding.

Some people, narrow-mindedly refused to even try a free sample, even though these oranges tasted great and offered all the same health benefits of the name-brand orange.

“I only eat Sunkist oranges,” some said.

After I finish shaking my head, I pity people like that.

Branding Halifax: not exactly as advertised

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage is inviting citizens of Halifax Regional Municipality to define our city. It’s very kind of him to attempt to engage citizens, but I fear the focus on words – not actions – might prevent us from achieving the stated goal: branding Halifax.

With the help of a marketing company, there is a social media campaign that is prompting people to put on their thinking tuques and come up with a new slogan for the city. In many respects though, it’s like asking Rumpelstiltskin to turn straw into gold instead of loading up your rucksack and heading for the hills to pan for gold.

Attempting to conjure up a brand through a clever marketing campaign might generate buzz, but I doubt it will lead to a true, lasting brand. You forge a brand by consistently acting a certain way over time.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, a brand is sort of like Christmas.

“It comes without packages, boxes or bags!”

“Maybe branding doesn’t come from a store.”

“Maybe branding … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

A public relations firm can help promote a brand, but in HRM’s case, defining it is up to the government and the citizenry. The government can shape a brand by the way it governs and citizens can do so by the way we live.

If you want to define Halifax, don’t focus on the witty bon mots and pithy slogans – especially if they are hollow words.

If you must have a slogan, make them hallowed words and act accordingly: smartly, openly, honestly and consistently.