Marketers often talk and write about the makeup of a great brand. Chances are, if it’s vibrant and relevant, there’s a visionary behind the brand, and it has a great story to tell. Then, there’s usually a unique culture that buys in completely, living it, breathing it, eating it and sleeping/dreaming it.

Such is the case with Kashi. “Seven Whole Grains on a Mission” was the brainchild of Phil and Gayle Tauber of La Jolla, California back in 1984. Serendipitous decision that: Kashi was born at the right time. The natural foods industry was poised to take off.

No longer were strange-sounding, oddly-packaged and marketed organics and whole foods sold in cramped stores the size of bowling alleys; the whole business was beginning to go mainstream thanks to a rising health-consciousness in the general population.

Kashi cereals were well-accepted and performing so well at retail, it didn’t take long for major supermarket chains to cut a few SKUs into their sets. Then the inevitable: in 2000, the company became part of behemoth Kellogg’s. That could have been a bad thing, but Kellogg’s wisely decided not to tinker with the Kashi brand.

Meaning: while Kellogg’s considerable marketing budget for the Kashi brand, which formerly operated on a shoestring, has translated into significant investments in advertising and promotion, the unique culture and mission that make Kashi Kashi have been left untouched. Good thing, too.

The Kashi story is nicely summarized in a recent Brandchannel article. What makes it compelling are the insights into the company’s unique culture. The company’s claim: “Many of us at Kashi don’t know where Kashi ends and we begin. To us, Kashi is more than products in packages—it’s a way of life.”

We could argue that’s the story behind every successful brand: a passion on the inside that’s infectious; that customers buy into. But for a brand like Kashi, the passion runs deeper because of the company’s mission. As the article states: “...the company is quite serious about making a positive impact on the world.” The mission: educating consumers so they are empowered to make the most nutritious food choices for themselves.

Kashi is not only about making and marketing great food. BTW: leveraging its success in hot/cold cereal into multiple categories has paid off handsomely. Snack bars, crackers, cookies, frozen food entrees, pizza, pita pocket sandwiches, waffles have been launched with the same scrupulous attention to quality, nutritional content and flavor: hallmarks of the brand.

But, Kashi is also about a serious commitment to educating consumers about nutrition and fitness, offering cooking demos, sampling, hands-on yoga trainings. In 2007, a “Kashi Snack Drive” targeting four U.S. cities, allowed consumers to trade in unhealthy snacks for Kashi snacks. Online cooking videos with vegetarian cooking pro and cookbook author Mollie Katzen show consumers how to cook with natural ingredients.

Other than Ms. Katzen’s contribution to advancing the Kashi mission, the company’s marketing really centers on Kashi’s own employees. Ads feature employees discussing various aspects of their Kashiness: what it means to live Kashi. Love the concept.

So why the Kashi story? True, I’m personally prejudiced. When it comes to Kashi cereal, I love the stuff. Yet, purely from a marketing perspective, there’s a lot to consider here. The Kashi story just goes to show entrepreneurs and small company owners what they can do, one step at a time, if their convictions, passion and vision are infectious from the inside out: to employees and customers alike. For many companies vibrant brands are a dream. For companies like Kashi, they’re a reality.



  • Do you think culturally-driven, consumer-centric brands can be replicated that are still unique to each company?

  • Do you think it hard for companies in most categories to create the kind of energy a Kashi-like brand can? After all, their products are pegged to a growth industry: natural/organic.

  • What matters most in the creation of vibrant consumer product brands: a strong POV (mission) and culture, consumer outreach or innovation? Does one trump the others? Are they all equally important?

I’d love to hear from you.

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image of Ted Mininni

Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni