Friday, May 08, 2015

A Sure Sign Someone isn't thinking at Hershey's

I came across this somewhat bizarre article today which describes Hershey's legal efforts to keep British chocolates out of the US.  The base story - which is about Cadbury's - actually leaves Hershey with a leg to stand on, since they do have the legal right to sell Cadbury branded product in the US.  However...and this is a big however...the underlying story details Hershey's attempts to keep all sorts of other chocolates out on the basis of the claim that the importation of these brands (Yorkie bars and Rollo - which Hershey doesn't have any right to) will be "too confusing" for people looking for the Hershey brands.  Not only is this backward nonsense that Hershey's lawyers (and brand managers) should feel ashamed of, it completely overlooks the fact that, while Hershey brands are heavily stocked and distributed almost everywhere in the US, the British brands are rarely available outside of specialty shops and highly-marked-up foreign foods sections of grocery stores.  In other words, if you actually CAN find the British product, you'd have to be an idiot to actually confused a four dollar Yorkie Bar with a two dollar York Peppermint Patty.  So, what Hershey considers worth the considerable legal investment and public relations backlash is something that amounts to just keeping any competing product out of the US no matter what - or at least making it very expensive for them to be sold at all.
Maybe I'm missing something here - after all, I'm not a lawyer and I don't know everything about these cases - but on the surface it sure looks like anti-competitive legal maneuvering.  I'd be happy to hear the other side of the story - but to me, this isn't just poor thinking, it's poor marketing and poor strategy.  Any manager who thinks the products even exist in the same market space needs a lesson in marketing strategy, and probably needs to learn a bit about how the public views this kind of legal maneuvering.  As for the headline grabbing story about the Cadbury products - all I can say is that it's a shame that the preferences of customers weighs so little on the minds of the folks at Hershey's.  Fighting customer preferences is perhaps the surest way I can think of to waste money in any consumer market.  Maybe someone with a more strategic brain should look at this issue?

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