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LaKOTA - native remedies
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LaKOTA - native remedies


  LaKOTA
native remedies
by Alycia de Mesa
May 14, 2007

In the politically correct era of today, there aren't many branded products that boast the image of Native Americans, let alone an entire tribe's name. Yet LaKOTA joint and arthritis pain-relief products are migrating to the US from its northern neighbor, Canada, in an attempt to tap in on the rapidly approaching trillion-dollar American health and wellness industry.
 
 

Started in the 1990s by a Canadian Métis (mixed blood) Cree in conjunction with the Lakota Tribe in the US, the formula was quickly released by HPI Health Products Inc., a family-owned Canadian corporation. Dubbed a "natural-source arthritis pain-relief company," the products are created from a blend of traditional medicinal herbs used by natives such as white willow bark, yucca root, and devil's claw root (all pain and inflammation relievers) with natural ingredients such as glucosamine and collagen to rebuild cartilage.

Aimed squarely at the baby-boomer market looking for natural alternatives to conventional pain relievers, the company considers itself the better choice over Tylenol, Advil, and Celebrex. The company and Synovate's Canada-wide survey in 2005 found that "individuals with frequent and severe arthritis and joint pain rated LaKOTA to be as effective as ibuprofen." LaKOTA offers topical products as well as supplement formulas for joint care, arthritis, and sports injuries.

All five of the products distributed by the company feature the same basic packaging design: a dramatic, sepia-toned photo of a Lakota warrior, reminiscent of similar 19th-century photographic portraits of Native American chiefs. (According to the company, the featured warrior is Chief Red Shirt, a former leader of the Lakota tribe.) The black label and jewel-tone font colors allow the photograph to "pop" that much more, and the consistent packaging allows for a design architecture that is as easy for consumers to identify as it is for the company to rotate different formulas in and out.

LaKOTA takes the authentic Native theme further by featuring Floyd "Red Crow" Westermann (a Sioux Indian) in Canadian television ads. (Westermann is best known for his roles in Dances With Wolves and Hidalgo.)

Despite the rich imagery, for those who know history, the irony isn't lost that a branded product based on Lakota imagery is aimed squarely at the betterment and pain relief of mostly white people.

The Lakota, also called the Teton Sioux and Teton Dakota, are a part of the Sioux people and were prominent in resisting the white invasion of the northern Great Plains. The Battle of the Little Bighorn—better known as Custer's Last Stand—resulted in Chief Sitting Bull's Lakota warriors defeating US Army soldiers led by General Armstrong Custer.

LaKOTA Canada is reported to be a US$ 20 million natural source arthritis pain relief company. Last year the health and wellness industry represented $91.1 billion in retail sales of US consumer packaged goods—up 15 percent from 2005, according to the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI).

Successful brands often inspire knockoffs, but in this case, copycats might want to take heed: In 1993, the Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality was passed at an international gathering of US and Canadian Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations, declaring war against those who exploit the tribes and its people and traditions for commercial purposes.

Now that's one way to protect brand identity.

 
     
  

Alycia de Mesa is a brand consultant, speaker and writer with more than a decade of industry experience ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. Her latest book is Brand Avatar – Translating Virtual World Branding Into Real World Success (Palgrave-Macmillan).

  
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