Shakespeare may have written that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but for Roberts Dairy, it appears that milk by any other name leaves a sour taste with some of their customers.
Roberts Dairy recently announced that beginning in May, it will market its milk and dairy products under the Hiland Dairy Foods label. In a press release, Hiland Dairy hailed the move as a way to “solidify the synergy between two of the country’s finest dairy producers, under one name.”
Time will tell if the name change will mar the brand’s 100-year reputation among customers. Initially the response has been less the ideal, even as the company pledges the name is the only aspect about the brand that will be changing:
“Can't believe Hiland is sacking the Robert's Dairy name. I realize the quality will continue, but now under the "Hiland" name. There's something to be said for history and "what's in a name". I'll now be looking to buy a brand NOT labeled as 'Hiland' !!” one customer left on the dairy’s Facebook page.
“Discarding a brand name that has an over 100 year sterling reputation seems like a very backward business decision. Whose stupid idea was this?” another fan commented on a report from the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald.
Branding is a vital part of milk marketing, and as Roberts Dairy’s customers have shown, loyalty is everything.
In a commentary, Dairy Herd Network Editor Tom Quaife looked at why the industry must get smarter about branding.
“Why not market milk as a product with relevance and benefit? Why not drive that home with branding? Let’s come up with brand images that are as iconic as Col. Sanders or Pizza Hut,” Quaife wrote.
Despite angry customers questioning the reputation of the company, Brian Breci, general manager of the dairy's Omaha division, believes that in the end the change will be positive.
“There's a little bit of a heart tug when it comes to the Roberts name,” Breci told the World-Herald. “But it's a good thing. It's been very well-received.”
As one former customer summed up on the World-Herald report, the reputation of the dairy may be seriously impacted by the change despite what the company's employees say.
“A waste of money to unify their brand," the customer wrote. "100-year-old brand recognized and respected like a puff of smoke gone."