Friday, July 3, 2009

Holy Branding!

There was an item on CBC today about an Alberta milk ad featuring a group of Hutterite farmers:

Apparently, the ad's been around for a couple of years. In the spirit of the slow news day, however, someone finally got around to noticing that what's strange about it: most Hutterites won't pose for pictures, let alone ads. (Even though these guys, apparently, do.)

Religious orders and consumer products have a long and involved history. From the days of Benedictine monks creating beers, liqueurs and cheeses that are still popular today, to the famous Shaker furniture of the colonial U.S., sectarian reputations for craft and wholesomeness created some of the western world's first real "brands" (in the true sense of the word).

In a less organized fashion, Old Order Mennonites own the brand of choice at every farmers market I patronize, from Ottawa and St. Jacobs to Woodstock, New Brunswick, and a village near Sault Ste. Marie. For a family like ours, who look for organic foods and natural processed meats, the carts, hats and bonnets are a sign of quality. And the practitioners can't be unaware of their favoured status over many of the aging hippies and produce resellers who make up the rest of a typical organic market.

But is it credible for a provincial milk association, representing producers of every cow and creed, to use the Hutterite religion to promote product purity? Especially when doing so violates a belief held by some colonies that photos are sinful graven images?

I'm not offended on religious grounds, but it does seem to break some branding commandments. What do you think?

Have a great weekend.

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