Dragons, edible play dough, and three-letter abbreviations – oh my!

Company makes dough on the Den while another eats it.

Beg to Differ is going to focus on a beauty and the beast story of two hometown brands that showed up on Dragon’s Den last night, order with very different results. One plucky little company made a pile of money from investors, cost while the other – a much larger organization – wasted a pile of dough. Want to find out more? Of course you do. Read on.

Den - front page with yummies

The Beauty: spreading the dough on the Dragon’s Den

Yummy Dough

Beg to Differ knows that our non-Canadian readers probably won’t be familiar with the Canadian version of this reality TV show where real life entrepreneurs compete to get funding from real-life millionaire business moguls. But it’s a great show, visit web the guest entrepreneurs range from brilliant to insane to just cheesy, and it really helps average viewers get into the entrepreneurial process.

Last night, one of the big winners was the product “Yummy Dough” pitched by Stefan Kaczmarek from Germany and Tim Kimber from Ottawa (who owes me a few pairs of new shoes because my three year old loves his other product PlasmaCar so much).

You can watch episode 5 here and the Yummy Dough product is first up.

If you’re like me, you probably hear “edible” and “modeling dough” and you first think of the PlayDoh most of us grew up with, then you think “YUCK!” Then if you have young kids like I do, you probably also think “I don’t want my kids to eat their PlayDoh!”  But this is pliable cookie dough that you can bake into cookies.

Check out the Yummy Dough site. It tells its story in a fun and compelling way (but make sure you quickly mute the annoying and slightly creepy background noises). One quick positioning note for the owners now that they have some marketing dollars: they need to steer away from the word “clay” and focus more on the “make your own cookies” aspect. It needs to seem like equal parts toy and food product – which will take some careful work.

The Beast: dumping dough on the Dragon’s Den

But another Ottawa-based “brand” is wasting money as fast as Yummy Dough is making it  – probably faster.

Take a look at the screen shot (above) from the Web site, and in particular the sponsor logos in the upper right. You’ll probably recognize the Cadillac insignia. You may be curious about the “Ivey” brand – which is the University of Western Ontario’s school of business (note to Ivey – great name, but negotiate a short tag under your logo with the words “School of Business”).

But unless you’ve directly done business with them or have a family member working for them, you probably won’t know what the letters “E.D.C.” stand for – even if you are Canadian. Yet, EDC has been pumping truckloads of money into season after season of the Dragon’s Den to build brand awareness!

So who the heck is EDC?

Some Hints:

  1. Don’t look for it to be spelled out for you anywhere on the Dragon’s Den page. It’s just EDC in the video ads, side banners, and sponsor logos.
  2. I’ll give you the “C” – it’s Canada, and yes, this organization is run by the Canadian Government.
  3. It is often confused with two other corporations that do similar things and also go by TLAs (Three Letter Abbreviations): BDC and CCC.
  4. See if you can find them on this Wikipedia “EDC May Refer to… ” page. And I’ll give you a bigger hint, it’s the 20th EDC on a list of 25 things that call themselves EDC.

Still stumped?

Well, if you’re not baffled, call your brother who works at EDC and tell him what a bang-up branding job they’re doing. If you are, you’ve helped me make a point I’ve made many times here on Beg to Differ:

An abbreviation is not a brand!

Read my July Op Ed from the Citizen with the message "NOMO" useless acronyms!

(Oh, and if you’re still wondering, it’s actually “Export Development Canada” and they do important work – as do BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) and CCC (Canadian Commercial Corporation). Shame that none of them have real brands…)

8 thoughts on “Dragons, edible play dough, and three-letter abbreviations – oh my!”

    1. Thanks. I think the show is just fine about marketing mistakes by its sponsors. Money is money after all. That’s why it’s up to the lunatic fringe out here (me not you) to pour a bit of cold water every now and then.

  1. Dennis the Menace is at it again! How can you spotlight a company that markets a product where its key feature is it’s ideal for disease vectoring – right in the middle of a pandemic?

    EDC is a great Canadian institution!

    1. Call me an optimist, but I happen to think we’ll get through the H1N1 froofraw and there will be time and leisure for all kinds of “disease vectoring” activities – particularly if my family and I are ever able to get our shots!

      As for Export Development Canada (full names only for me), I totally agree: it’s a fantastic organization with all the right tools to help Canadian companies succeed abroad – except one: a strong brand that Canadians actually know about and can find / understand / remember.

  2. Acronyms are essentially nicknames for real, longer names. Generally they are a bad idea because they mean nothing and are difficult to remember. And the real names begin to fade away over time …

    However, once a company is well known and long established, consumers tend to accept them, such as IBM, GE, AT&T, BMW, UPS, BP and KFC. Of course, this takes millions of marketing dollars making millions of brand impressions over time.

    Not too many organizations can afford to pay the dues it takes to establish an acronym.

    1. Totally agree. I’ve often had small businesss clients tell me “oh it’s okay if we call ourselves XYZ. It works for IBM right?” Um. Yeah. Because they’re IBM, and because they were International Business Machines for half a century first.

      KFC is another story. They have lost character and direction since the adoption of the TLA. I’ve made the point and will continue to make the point that they should go back to the “Kentucky + Chicken” that anchored their brand for so long.

  3. You’re right Dennis. I totally agree that acronyms are poor substitutes for brands and it annoys me that CBC is subsidized by such bad federal business. Our government should be 100% more accountable and we should have more control via home computers.
    I’ve been watching a lot of Dragons’ Den ever since myCELLmyTERMS was on and did a deal with Brett and Arlene. They are out to stop the cellphone oligarchy which is another creation of our poor government.
    Now after watching a few shows I’m liking Kevin O’Leary more and more – yes he’s a jerk, but his no nonsense business acumen is admirable. Maybe he should run for Prime Minister?

    1. Hey Angry (do you mind if I call you Angry for short – TAC wouldn’t work for this post). I should note that I never said that the Export Development Canada business was bad, just their branding practices – which does reflect on their spending habits as well. But linking up with an entrepreneurial and well-produced show like the Den makes total sense IF THERE’S A CONNECTION WITH VIEWERS – which their branding fails to make.

      On your other notes, I won’t recommend anyone for Prime Minister except Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics (and 3-4 books on my shelf) but it’s fun how much we come to identify with the Dragons and watch their “narrative arc” from week to week. Eh?

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