Brand Imitation – the Sincerest Form of Marketing

Cross-posted from LiveJournal

We’ve all seen them on the shelves, usually down at floor level. Oatie-O’s, Fruity Hoops, Crisp Rice. Store brands trying to cash in on decades worth of marketing by the big boys.1

Depending on your locality, you can find over 50 knock-off brands of Dr Pepper™.

Dr Pepper Clones

As a general rule, these knock-off brands are the abomination of desolation. Mr. Pibb, for example, Coca-Cola’s ubiquitous knockoff of the Doctor, tastes like something wrung from a very ill moose – and yet if you go to a restaurant whose nuts are being tightly squeezed by the Coke™ conglomerate, that’s all you can get. ²

In the case of cereals, the clones sometimes come close, but almost never approximate the quality of the real thing.

Until now.

I’m particular about my cereal. Just about the only one I eat on a regular basis is Quaker’s Life™. I’ve been loyal since it came out in 1961. When it was reformulated in 1998, I was one of many consumers who complained, prompting Quaker to revert to its original formula. So when my better half brought home a box of a new concoction by Kroger called “Living Well,” my thoughts turned darkly to glowing braziers and hot coulters.

(Image from Drawn and Quartered by Charles Addams)

How could they? Like Dr Pepper™, Life™ is unique, with no real head-to-head competition. No one had ever tried to clone it before, and this effort couldn’t possibly be worth the powder to blow it to Hell with. Could it?

Here’s the scary part: Kroger nailed it. Either they have a mole inside Quaker, or they’re buying Life™ in brobdingnagian quantities and repackaging it. Taste, texture, smell, looks – I’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. It’s that good.

What’s a loyal consumer to do? The driving factor in this economy, I fear, will be price. If Life™ costs $3.00 a box, and I can find Living Well™ on the shelf for $2.50, I’m afraid the clone will win. If, on the other hand, the prices are equivalent or just pennies apart, I’ll go for the real thing.

Sorry, Quaker.


1 Some particularly egregious examples of cereal knockoffs can be found at The Cheapass Cereal Hall of Fame

² Edit on New Year’s Day 2019: It’s gotten better since I last posted. Here in Maine, Hannaford carries it’s own version of Dr Perky and the diet one as well, and they’re pretty acceptable – and half as expensive as the real thing.

4 responses to “Brand Imitation – the Sincerest Form of Marketing

  1. Occasionally it’s the same stuff, with the generic name and minus the marketing costs. (Like they spend a lot on advertising Life…) It costs a lot to setup, dial in, and run a production line, and the same on the box filling line – If they can run it longer to produce and package up the generic on the same machinery, Win Win.

    You want to know for sure, ignore the printing and inspect the raw boxes – same maker, dimensions, same folding and gluing machine, same bag forming filling and sealing machine, etc. = Probably the same filling line.

  2. Pingback: The many faces of Dr Pepper | Playing in the World Game

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s