Earlier this year, yogurt maker Chobani and its ad agency Droga5 launched a campaign, timed to run at the same time as the Super Bowl, emphasizing the “how” of food, specifically under the tag “how matters.” This seemingly innocuous campaign is suddenly causing some trouble for the country’s largest yogurt brand.
The first problem cropped up in the form of a lawsuit filed this month by Dov Seidman, chief executive of business ethics consultancy LRN, claiming that Chobani and Droga5 stole the “how” marketing tag. LRN’s founding principle, as stated on its website, is “HOW you do what you do matters more than ever.” Seidman also published a book in 2007 entitled How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything (with a foreword by Bill Clinton). He also has trademarked uses of the word “how” in publications, consulting, and education, though Chobani has trademarked “how matters.”
Other companies have taken to trademarking the simplest of phrases, from game maker King’s “candy” to Village Voice Media’s “best of.”
In a statement, Chobani said Seidman’s allegations are “baseless, desperate, and have no merit.” Peter McGuinness, Chobani’s chief marketing and brand officer, says Chobani plans to move ahead with its “how” campaign. “It speaks to our food philosophy,” he says. “It’s a beautiful and perfect articulation of what our brand is all about.”
The second headache comes from a tag printed on the inside of some of Chobani’s cup lids for 100-calorie yogurt that reads, “Nature got us to 100 calories, not scientists. #howmatters.” Consumers took to social media to lampoon the phrase for undermining the value of science and for exaggerating the “naturalness” of a product with processed ingredients. Chobani replied on Twitter on Wednesday that the company was “too clever for our own good” and that the lid portion of the how campaign was already at the end of its course. “This is not a bump, I would barley call it a blip,” says McGuinness.