Emmi Benelux
Branding & Communication

Emmi Benelux went through a fact-based research process to strengthen the brand positioning of brand Fondü

When he takes the brand under his wing in 2017, marketing manager Roger de Bruyckere plans to embark on an entirely new brand strategy with Emmi Fondü. That was easier said than done. Not only did Roger have to figure out a solution to the dichotomy within the local and global team. He also had to convince the more traditional headquarters in Switzerland of his bold plans, in order to reposition the brand as well as grow it. But he succeeded. Emmi's internal ties are now stronger than ever. Together with Blauw, Roger went through several research projects in 2.5 years. In this client interview we take you step by step through his brand journey, keeping Byron Sharp's brand vision in mind.


About 2.5 years ago, Emmi Benelux raised the alarm with Blauw. As part of the international Emmi, known worldwide for its Swiss dairy and cheeses, Emmi sells Fondü cheese fondue. Roger: "Despite being a fairly small brand, we already had a number of studies on the table. Still, many results were uncertain. All the numbers and data told something about Fondü's sales and brand awareness but that's where it stopped. Deep underlying insights were unknown. In addition, we in the Netherlands had a different idea about which aspects are important to grow as a brand than all German-speaking countries. Each country also had different opinions. Everyone followed their own "fingerspitzengefühl," based on subjective arguments. As a marketing manager, I wanted to know how the customer really sees us. I wanted insights, based on facts that we could build on to strengthen our brand positioning."


Fire positioning

Emmi Benelux didn't just ring the bell with the first best market agency. Roger: "Often marketers internally indicate how consumers perceive the brand. Often based on their own feelings and not based on actual, fact-based figures. However, brand expressions are then based on that. How are you supposed to grow your brand if your gut is wrong? At Blauw I discovered that they work from a certain vision, including Byron Sharp's. That you build a strong brand positioning through memory structures in the consumer's brain and for that you need to research the right assets, including CEPs and DBAs. So that you can build on that to grow as a brand name. I also believe in that. For that reason, I went to Blauw ."

Emmi Fondü is only a small brand part of the Emmi headquarters in Switzerland. To take steps, Roger had to convince headquarters of his new strategy plans. This did not succeed with just a nice story. Roger: "For that, thorough research was extremely important. After all, as a small company we stand a lot stronger if we present fact-based arguments. But to convince the head office, it was first important that I got the local and global team behind me. Within these teams there was still a division, because all ideas were subjective."


'Eye openers'

Through qualitative focus groups, Blauw explored which Category entry points (CEPs) and Distinctive Brand Assets (DBAs) would be most successful for Emmi Fondü. At the end of each focus group session, we asked several questions that were less central to the purpose of the research. Such a moment is often the prefect opportunity to discover new insights. As a result, consumers' answers provided a number of eye openers. Consumers defined the category differently than expected and experienced different motives and obstacles than we thought. This was followed by a quantitative survey of consumers to test the CEPs and DBAs on a larger scale. During a workshop with Emmi Fondü's global team, all potential growth CEPs were discussed. We also compiled a list of the ideal brand assets. As a result of this Salience Boost process, Blauw delivered all the insights in a clear report. An action-oriented document with advice for Emmi's marketing and brand baseline.

Roger: "I remember participants holding the product packaging and thinking: this must be powder, this is chemical and industrial. Because of the salience boost, we came up with the idea as a team to switch the cardboard packaging to a pouch, a stand-up bag. We first tested this live by putting the packaging on shelves. Soon we found out that a pouch shows off our product better. So a small question turned into a million dollar tender, because for a new pouch we had to buy a new machine. In September we will officially introduce the pouch."

Walking from proposal to research

Despite the booked research results, Emmi Fondü clashed with headquarters again. Roger: "In Switzerland, our colleagues had never heard of Byron Sharp, let alone Blauw's research method. To properly explain why this method could help Emmi Fondü grow brand positioning, I needed a more in-depth explanation. I knocked on Blauw's door again. This time for a brand archetype study." With a Brand Growth Architect, Blauw examines a brand's personality based on 4 axes: open vs. closed and badging and bonding. This tells you what you can do to further differentiate the brand from the market. Roger: "Did we have a strong brand archetype? How many points did we need to achieve that? From there, we set up different KPIs to help focus on our true personality. Thus, I continuously walked from proposal to research to convince our actions to 'why am I doing this again'."

More and more often when Roger came up with an internal proposal and he could then solidify his case through research, colleagues admitted that his ideas were good plans. The final blow came after a brainstorming session. Roger: "Developing stronger brand positioning is nice, but I wondered what those DBAs would look like in concrete terms. With the Emmi Benelux team, we met at Blauw to brainstorm. I chose Blauw because most strategic agencies go in all directions very creatively, but then often let go of the framework. I didn't want that. I wanted to brainstorm with Byron Sharp's vision in mind. Blauw helped us with that. I can honestly tell you that this was the best brainstorming session I have ever had in my life. The experts really thought along with us, which I really enjoyed."

Roger translated the results of the brainstorming session to headquarters. Roger: "One by one, everyone trickled over the line. I made it fact-based clear that the choices Switzerland makes do not always work for another market. In Switzerland, everything works more traditionally, but for the global team, Byron Sharp's brand assets are needed to grow our brand awareness. For example, we started to focus more on the 'u' of Fondü with umlaut. With that we can distinguish ourselves. The German-speaking countries thought that was a strange idea at first, but eventually even Switzerland found the idea interesting and "cool. These kinds of insights emerged more clearly through the brainstorming session."

Stronger ties with retailers

There are two ways to achieve success with a product. On the one hand, as a company, you have to make sure that the retailer will buy your product and put it in the right place, with the right communication and pricing, also known as the Physcial Availability of the brand. On the other hand, it is important to focus on the consumer, who should be able to think of you and ultimately make the choice in the store: the Mental Availability of the brand. For this, it is important to capitalize on the "moments" when you want the consumer to think of you (CEPs).


Internally, Roger has been able to change a lot at Emmi Fondü. The bonds between colleagues at both local and international levels have been greatly strengthened by the insights from research. But not only that. Roger: "Ties with retailers have also grown. Buyers see that we communicate at a higher level than before. If a brand shows a dot on the horizon and says 'this is where we want to grow to and these are the steps we want to take,' you talk more easily with retailers and get more done. You are taken more seriously, even as a small company."

Step by step

The insights from the salience boost and brainstorming session are still working Emmi Fondü step by step. Roger: "Because the brand develops slowly in the consumer's mind, and Emmi Fondü is a small company, it takes a lot of convincing to change something strategically. The packaging emerged so clearly through the focus groups as an area for improvement that we had to do something with it. We also wanted to make a television commercial to create more brand awareness. But how do we know if it will resonate well with our target audience? And whether the expressions are in line with the chosen brand positioning? For this we turned to SPRINT, part of Blauw. SPRINT showed our commercial to potential clients in a very short time, so we knew for sure that we were on the right track. Last December, I called the campaign into life."

Meanwhile, Emmi Fondü has a better idea of exactly what the brand stands for and what elements they can best claim to achieve brand growth. Roger: "We are not yet where we want to be, but we are definitely on the right track. I also definitely look back on a fine collaboration with Blauw. How often I encounter a market agency that thinks from its own 'I', but at Blauw they put themselves in our consumers' shoes. In addition, it is nice to work with a market agency that speaks the same language for a longer period of time!"

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Ed Borsboom
Ed Borsboom