Sleeping giants

Sleeping giants

Five ways to wake the snoozing powerhouse in your portfolio.

In the lull between the fantastic growth of the most recent big brand to come on the scene, and the emergence of the next, let’s spare a thought for the brand before last: those once-loved but now neglected brands gathering dust at the back of the corporate cupboard as glittering newcomers take up the room at the front.

Every corporation has at least one. These are brands with a personality that has somehow faded away. Look at Marmite. Ten years ago, it was the dusty jar at the back of every kitchen cupboard. Brand recognition wasn’t a problem – but the love for the brand had completely evaporated. 

Now, Marmite has become a figure of speech: “It’s like Marmite” is a phrase everyone in the UK understands. We didn’t revitalise the brand by convincing everyone to love Marmite. Instead, we homed in on an unlikely selling point: this is a product with such a strong personality that if you don’t love it, you hate it. 

How Hornall Anderson achieved this turnaround for Unilever is well worth considering, because any corporation that doesn’t offer the public the opportunity to reconnect with a once-loved brand is wasting valuable equity. 

So, how can corporates do the same for their sleeping giants? Here are five methods to consider:

1.    Emphasise character

The funny thing is that people now say that Marmite is a special case – but any brand with a strong personality, however hidden, can be the same kind of special case if given the right treatment. It helps if it has character, a sense of humour and relevance. But of those three, only the first is crucial. As long as personality is there, you can get people talking.

2.    Own the flavour

With Marmite, owning the flavour was a crucial part of giving the brand back its unique personality. With another brand, that flavour may not be literal – but whatever the unique selling point may be, it is vital to pinpoint it, then bring it to the consumer’s attention. Marmite rice cakes anyone?

3.    Provide something special

Limited editions are an ideal way to do this. Unilever seized on our first suggestion for a limited edition – the two Dark Lords of Marmite and Guinness. We were able to emphasis the dark and unusual flavour of Marmite and it provided a showcase for its obscure cool. Re-presenting a brand also conveys the confidence that that brand is strong enough to remain lovable in different guises.

4.    Get your brand out there

Merchandising is a powerful tool. Our limited edition Marmite jars are still available on eBay, providing free testimony to the strength of the brand; every extra product, from snacks to cushions, reinforces the consumer’s recognition of that brand.

5.    Embrace new channels

Today’s always-on media offers a major advantage for anyone looking to revive a brand, because brands go in cycles. While your premium brands are resting, there’s a great opportunity to bring a forgotten brand back to the forefront of the public mind.

So many brands, so little time…

There are so many great, neglected brands I’d love to see getting the Marmite treatment. So, rather than sell off a tired brand to the venture capitalists, peek into your corporate cupboard and find one with potential behind the dust of neglect. Figure out what’s different and why it used to resonate, then bring it back.

It seems paradoxical to suggest that new modes of communication can help turn back the clock – but when it comes to a once-loved brand that deserves a second look, they unquestionably can.

Alastair Whiteley is Executive Creative Director at Hornall Anderson.

Alastair Whiteley Hornall Anderson Executive Creative Director
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