Brands are a little like people. We all have our quirks and can lose our way which prompts reflection and readjustments to get back on track. And the brands I admire are the brands who veer off course and then come back stronger. As a strategist I love looking at problems to solve and a brand which has lost its way is the ultimate challenge. For me, what is interesting in these brands, is looking at the insights which drive the strategy step-change and then seeing how this translates into creative and media partnerships to bring the strategy to life.
Having worked within the not-for-profit space for the last few years, I had been tracking Cadbury’s activity and their shift in positioning from joy to back to generosity.
“Gorilla drummer” left a mark on me and many others when it launched the brand to fame through the creative platform of “Joy” in 2007. The strategy was working well for them but was, in their own words, “not unique or ownable for the brand”.
Add an aggressive takeover, factory closures and the moving of production out of the UK and people started to fall out of love with the brand they had held so dear. A picture started to emerge which no Brand Manager wants to see - brand resonance and sales falling and penetration dropping from 73.6% in 2013 to 66.2% in 2017.
In Andy Nairn’s book Go Luck Yourself - he talks about the 40 ways in which you can stack the odds in your brands favour. And one such way is to look at a brands legacy - what gems do they have in their history which could serve you well to reinvestigate.
And this is what Cadbury and VCCP did. They went back to what is at the core of the brand.
When John Cadbury (1801 – 1889) established a manufacturing business in the early 1830’s he was a campaigner for social injustice, fighting the exploitation of child chimney sweeps, and other social ills. Helping disadvantaged communities was ingrained in Cadbury’s belief system. And this spirit of compassion, caring and generosity was as needed today as it was all those years ago. So, the brand team, and very clever strategists, chartered a course correction back to this heartland.
Aware that this meant different things in different cultures, they carried out a big semiotic study to gain greater understanding as to how this spirit showed up in different cultures.
One key insight emerged – that the world was becoming a very polarised place. But that small acts of generosity were evident in all communities. And this is what people needed and wanted to see and hear in this time of turbulence and turmoil we were facing.
This aligned with their product truth of a glass and half of milk in every bar and the generous spirit of the heritage of the brand. I am literally smiling writing this. When all of the arrows point in the same direction and highlight the path to take.
The other big strategic leap came from research into the psychology of generosity and its links to empathy and empathy being something which brings us closer together. Part of the brief was to reconnect the brand to their audience and this would become the core human truth which guided the strategy.
Research and insight drove the strategy and development of the generous instinct creative platform with the change from “there’s a glass and a half in every bar” to “there’s a glass and a half in everyone”.
And to me the sign of great strategy is simplicity and clarity it delivers which allows all parties to align in its delivery. The strategy here was so beautifully simple yet emotionally complex, that creative, media and partnerships were all able to take the platform and develop outstanding work from the core strategy.
Examples such as:
Donate your words
The brand had reconnected with their audience on a human truth that ran through every culture. Sales grew significantly to 15.1% growth against a category rate of 3% in 2020 and drove penetration levels to the highest ever recorded of 74.6% in 2020. Market share increased from 14.1% in 2015 to 15.6% in 2020.
Insight, strategy and creativity were undoubtedly the key ingredients for the brand revival, made possible by:
1) Robust diagnosis of the problem – data driven insight which showed performance in decline due to disconnection with their audience
2) Forensic examination of the brand – what it stands for, what is at its core, where are the connection points for engagement
3) Research to establish cultural relevance of connection points and semiotics analysis to provide greater insight and fuel for creative development
4) Clear, simple and concise strategy which connected the brand platform to creative proposition and clear articulation for everyone to unite around
Strategy should make the complex clear and simple with a clear roadmap and that is the core principle of this brand revival which I admire.
Compiled with information from the following resources:
On Strategy Podcast
APG Creative Strategy Awards 2021: Donate your words
Cadbury, a sweet tradition of giving: https://www.medalofphilanthropy.org/the-cadbury-family-a-sweet-tradition-of-giving/