First published on Linkedin February 5, 2019
In Barbados the name Nicholls is synonymous with bread and more specifically salt bread, a Bajan (Barbadian) favourite for tummy-filling sandwiches we call cutters. Harold Nicholls founded Nicholls Baking Co. in Antigua in 1958, but then relocated to Barbados where the business has been operating since 1967. There’s no question of its longevity, but it’s the corporate brand’s most recent moves that have caught my attention.
Before 2014, when I heard the name Nicholls I’d just think ‘old-fashioned’, now, the “traditional bakery, fusing modern equipment with yesteryear baking skills” (company Facebook page) has decisively upped its brand game. And it’s done this by owning that position of tradition and building on it.
I first started to notice Nicholls when they introduced what turned out to be sellout holiday offers on cakes. Bajans love any occasion to have fun and lots of food, so picnics and family gatherings are the norm on public holidays and it wouldn’t be complete without baked fare. But toiling away on the perfect cake for such events was already becoming outdated and one membership store in particular had become known as the place to go for ready-made cakes. But Nicholls made it twice as nice with cake combo specials - under BBD$30 for plain cakes or for the more elaborate, under BBD$50.These promotions ran on what seemed to be each of the twelve (12) official public holidays.
Flagship product, staying power and culture-relevant, competition-busting sales promotions aside, there are five (5) other reasons why Nicholls now ticks my boxes as a strong Bajan brand.
Brand equity - the brand name is recognisable throughout the local market and has a commercial value (equity); people look for the Nicholls brand and purchase it over competing brands.
There is clear value proposition - fresh, traditional baked products from a community baker shop. That’s what a customer can expect and this informs everything the company does, including those areas listed below.
Relevant brand design - the company did a soft rebrand in 2017. The new earthy brand palette and rustic design features in retail outlets reflect community, warmth and tradition, while still feeling a part of the modern age.
The brand has a clear product focus - traditional quality, taste and freshness. No airs and graces, straight-up old fashioned goodness, maybe with the exception of their latest addition, cheese cake, which wouldn’t be considered a bajan tradition.
The brand has a clear distribution channel strategy - as the neighbourhood baker you ought to be able to find it in various neighbourhoods and since 2015 Nicholls has steadily expanded into a small network of shops, now in six (6) key locations across the island. But no grand edifices, simple, cosy shops and in one case, a neatly converted 40ft container.
If you know Nicholls, let me know if there’s anything else you would add to my list.
More on the podcast
Hear about the Nicholls Baking Co. rebrand here.