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17 October 2016

Brexit and the brands

Marmite (along with other well known brands) has hit the headlines in the latest Brexit story as giant retailer Tesco and Marmite’s parent company, Unilever, went head-to-head in a price row. Tesco has removed some of Unilever’s products from its shelves over the consumer goods company's decision to hike the price of the spread and other products in response to the Sterling’s post-Brexit fall in value.

Although it’s not a positive story for the parent company, brand managers for Marmite must be rubbing their hands in glee with all the free PR they are getting. This kind of coverage would cost inordinate amounts through the usual channels. But why was it Marmite and not one of the other Unilever brands starring in this supermarket soap opera? It comes down to Marmite's brand story and years of consistency in its brand values.

Love it or hate it

The most obvious reason why it was the lead product in this story is that, like Marmite, Brexit is a divisive subject – you either love it or hate it. Having a brand with such a polarising effect may seem like a worst nightmare for many brands, but Marmite embraces the position in its marketing activities, knowing that those who love the product are evangelical brand ambassadors. Having an emotional connection to a brand encourages loyalty, positive associations and ownership of the product and Unilever highlights this through adverts ‘rescuing’ unloved jars, promoting cosy images on social media and offering a personalisation of jars online. And for those that hate it? You’re still part of the club, you will argue vehemently against it and can usually find camaraderie with others who agree with your position. But you’re also more likely to purchase it than the generic alternative two shelves down for that loved one with the dreadful taste in toast toppings. Regardless of your personal feelings, there is a high level of brand awareness which is why Marmite is the market leader.

Brand positioning

Marmite isn’t the only brand that offers a challenging taste that can manipulate those perceptions surrounding their product. Redbull is famously known to ‘give you wings’  but its taste is hardly something most consumers would savour. With flavour comparisons ranging from sour cherry or cranberry right through to cough medicine or amoxicillin antibiotics, Redbull Original has famously never had any kind of flavour development. Instead Red Bull choses to focus its development and messaging solely on what experience the product offers customers, an energy boost and alertness. Embracing extreme sports, Formula 1 and even whacky events, such as soapbox derbys in their marketing activities, further reinforces the experiential position without a second thought to what is often a key component to beverage brands. Whilst Redbull never engage in discussions regarding the flavour they have recently expanded the range with ‘limited edition’ named flavours, but their strap-line continues to be ‘Redbull gives you wings’ and, given their marketing position, that's unlikely to change soon.

Knowledge is power

Both Marmite and Redbull demonstrate that having a full understanding of your brand's potential strengths and weaknesses makes it easier to promote the positives in your marketing activity, create a powerful brand proposition and help convert your customers into vocal brand ambassadors. At ifour, we understand that taking the time out of your day-to-day business and taking a step back to review your USPs, offer and target audiences can be difficult, which is why we offer a range of workshops and strategy solutions to advise, consult and devise strategic direction for your brand. Working as an extended part of your team, we will tap into your brains and get to the bare bones of your brand, before helping you lock down a strategy to take on the competition and increase your brand awareness. Before you know it, your brand could be the next beloved product benefiting from free PR!

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