Pistachio Nuts. There, I said it. Now I’ll say something else: Pistachio nuts shouldn’t be covered in salt and pepper.

Lately, the pistachio nut wars have hit full stride. One pistachio nut-selling company is even enlisting celebrities to sell their nuts, and reminding us that pistachio nuts are the lowest fat and calorie nuts around.

Pistachio Nuts. Seriously.

I recently picked up a bag of Everybody’s Nuts Pistachios. I didn’t pay close enough attention, though, and when I got home found that the pistachios were covered in a salt and pepper flavoring. My fault. And although I find the flavoring gratuitous and unnecessary, I’m eating those salt and pepper pistachios. Three pounds of them. Yikes. Thank goodness for that low fat and calorie thing, huh?

So here’s the big question: Do more people buy pistachio nuts when you cover them in salt and pepper?

Actually, that’s not the big question at all. The BIG question is when do you stop extending your brand and just sell what people think you sell?

I think of this every time I see a new product branded “Oreo”. Oreo is a cookie. Oreo will always be a cookie. It’s made up of scary cream between brown, chocolate-eque wafers. Double stuff? OK, that’s still an Oreo. Changed flavor and color of the cream? Also still an Oreo, mostly. Different color wafer? Kinda not an Oreo any more. OREO CAKESTERS??? Nope. Not an Oreo. Not one bit.

When does a thing stop being a thing and start being a brand?

As the guardian of your brand, only you can answer that question. In the case of Oreo, Nabisco took a thing and turned it into a brand … and then diluted the brand. I’ve spoken to quite a few people about slapping the Oreo brand name on items that aren’t “Oreo, the thing”, and nobody’s OK with it.

Since neither Wonderful Pistachios nor Everybody’s Nuts invented the pistachio, the issue is different. And I guess there might be people who buy salt and pepper flavored pistachios who wouldn’t do so without that cover-the-taste-of-the-pistachio-nut flavoring. But sometimes you need to just sell the thing you sell.

In marketing, in fact, less is generally more.

This might seem to conflict with the idea of long-tail marketing. It doesn’t. We generate traffic by doing search engine optimization on many disparate key phrases, but when people arrive here via the traffic we’ve generated they know exactly why they’ve come.

And I didn’t buy those pistachio nuts to taste pepper.

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