Be Vanilla: Marketing Your Real Voice, No Imitations

I think vanilla gets a bad rap. It is often used to describe a thing or a person that is the manifestation of average—just “meh,” nothing special, barely adequate, standard or without imagination. Vanilla is supposed to be “normal” because, I think, we don’t really know vanilla anymore and maybe we never did. 

As it turns out, vanilla is consistently the top-rated ice cream flavor in this country and around the world, typically outshining the next three flavors combined, yet even though it is our universal preference, in language, we use it to signal something incomplete. It is the second most expensive spice in the world, behind saffron, and we see it as anything but exotic when, in fact, its origin story spans the globe.

So. A quick run down. A native of the Caribbean, Central and South America, vanilla is a member of the orchid family, first cultivated by the Totonacs of eastern Mexico, conquered by the Aztecs who were conquered by the Spanish who on the wings of capitalism brought vanilla to the world. Which was very difficult to cultivate, until Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, used a stick and his thumb to develop an effective pollination technique in the absence of the correct species of bees. 

Using Albius’ method, today we (humans, I mean; not our company specifically—that would be wild) can produce 2,000 metric tons of the subtle and delicious spice. And while that sounds like a lot, it only meets one percent of the world’s demand, which means that pudding cup you had when you were a kid, or yesterday, the one you put the little vanilla wafers in, the cookies and the confection both … vanilla free.

Most of the vanilla flavored products out there are actually flavored with Vanillin, which is a product of wood pulp and clove oil, easily made and twenty times cheaper than real vanilla. Real vanilla contains as many as 500 different olfactory components, depending on the sensitivity of your nose.  

Why the Cliff Clavin routine about Vanilla?, you may ask. Cole, what does this have to do with marketing?, you may be wondering. Well, Norm, let me tell you. Vanilla has its own voice, its own complex flavors, but so often we dump things on top, syrups, candied fruits, nuts and sprinkles. Its depth is so often overlooked in favor of toppings or coatings that perhaps we believe to be more exciting. The very simple fact is that something or someone like vanilla takes time and real attentiveness to appreciate.

When looking at marketing, always think of your voice as vanilla—real, genuine, special and rare—and of unquestionable quality and worth. Some marketing firms will try to cover your voice up, replacing your “why” with their own, painting a picture of who they think you are without getting to know you and how you fit into your chosen industry. Now, you may not exactly know how to say why you do what you do, but that’s our job, to help you translate that to the world through approachable media and messaging flavored by you, not by who we think you should be.

And if you’re chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan or cookie dough, metaphorically speaking, don’t fret. Every market demands and requires variety to be a viable environment for economic growth. Discovering what part you have to play, uncovering your strengths and where you should put your dollars to capitalize on your unique flavor is fundamental. 

Be genuine. Be efficient. Always be yourself.


At Rooted Web, we think you should be you and we want to work hard—with you—to figure out effective ways of promoting your unique brand of self and service.

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Cole Windler

Cole Windler is a copywriter and SEO expert. He uses his creative writing background to create fresh, compelling and customized content for Rooted Web clients.