Case study: Re-branding the potato

Market opportunity

In the late 18th century, Frederick the Great, of Prussia realized the potential of potatoes to feed his people and his army. The volatility of wheat crops posed a threat to the market and to the people of Prussia. By adopting potatoes, Prussia would decrease the chance of famine and overcome their reliance on bread.

frederick the great, branding the potato

Market hesitation

The things have neither smell nor taste, not even the dogs will eat them, so what use are they to us?
– 18th Century Prussian Folk

The people of Prussia refused to grow or eat potatoes. Records show that farmers were executed for not growing the vegetable – but still, the people would not comply.

The re-brand

potato branding frederick the great
Rather than continuing to enforce his rule, Frederick decided to re-brand and re-position the potato in the market. He declared the potato a royal vegetable, only allowed to be eaten by the royal family. He planted them in a royal potato patch secured by royal guards with specific orders to watch over them – but not very well. Potatoes were stolen by local peasants, and eventually a black market for potatoes was formed. Potatoes now became popular, sought after, and in high demand. Eventually, farmers could not produce enough to keep up with the people’s demands.