Robin Hood flour was founded in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1900. It’s grown to be one of those ubiquitous North American brands.
I grew up seeing their logo in our cupboard. Somehow I feel attached to the brand. Even though these days we don’t even buy Robin Hood, seeing it in the grocery store gives me a grand sense of nostalgia.
If there is any product that can benefit from a huge dose of nostalgia, it’s baking flour. The act of baking is a pastime passed down through the ages. We’ve been baking breads for thousands of years in one shape or another.
Robin Hood hasn’t changed its logo since 1958. Most of us have grown up seeing their logo our entire lives. It’s been on the counter when Mom made cookies or Grandma baked banana bread. Baking is synonymous with Robin Hood flour—so of course when we next go to make pancakes we will consider grabbing some Robin Hood.
Even though the company no longer is Canadian, has mills all over North America, and is now owned by Smuckers Food group, they’ve kept one thing consistent. That bright yellow bag with a dashing green and red statuesque man still stands.
The logo design epitomizes “Robin Hood”. Dropping the name works whole-heartedly with no issue. The designer nailed it.
More than that, their consistent logo tells the story of a consistent product. It tells us “the flour on the shelf today is just the same as the stuff on Grandma’s counter”. It looks nearly identical for a reason and not sheer cost avoidance.
But what does a brand like Robin Hood do when every search result in Google has E. Coli in the title?
Their massive recall is growing. Every grocery store has their flour (presumably the safe stuff) on sale to counter the bad press. The brand image is tainted. We’re not talking a misprint on the packaging. E. Coli can cause an angry stomach at best and severe illness to death at worst. Scary stuff.
Giving support during wartime hardship in WWII and providing clothing and funds during a massive flood in Winnipeg goes by the wayside. Brands of this size are so easily swayed by the latest story in the news.
The solution can’t be as simple as a rebrand. What other dashing vigilante could they change to?
As simple and easy as it would be to completely change their look and pretend they are something new, it wouldn’t work. The tradeoff of all that history and nostalgia they’d build up over decades and decades would be lost. It’d go over worse than a bad batch of sourdough left out in the sun.
What Robin Hood needs to do is control the story. The headlines can’t be about what has happened to Robin Hood but what Robin Hood is doing because of it. They need to uphold their long standing brand messaging of helping those in need and do something monumentally responsible. No deflections or distractions, just tackling the issue head on.
How would you respond if they decided to donate water purification facilities to third world countries or $100k to E. Coli research. Of course they are going to fix their own issues, but if they put others ahead of themselves and apologize prophetically with a big fat “We’re so sorry”, this bumpy ride will be a lot smoother.
After all, Robin Hood is all about taking from the rich and giving to the poor. They need only live up to their name and logo. The two tell a story of what is at the core of their brand. It’s why we’ve trusted them all of these years.
When you’ve got a strong brand message, use it in the good times and the bad. It’s what makes us love you in the first place and underlines the importance of a strong brand.