Revitalising a brand

The other day whilst watching television, I spotted something I had not seen since I was a very young; an advertisement for Lyon’s Golden Syrup.

Lyon’s Golden Syrup is one of the United Kingdom’s oldest brands.  It has been on shop shelves almost from the beginning of modern retail dating back to the beginning of the 19th century.  It is a staple store cupboard product for both home and professional bakers.

In recent years, Lyon’s have not advertised their products on television.  They have relied upon prominent shelf position in supermarkets and advertising in specialist magazines.  As a very mature product line, the strategic marketing objective may be to hold onto the current market position of the product.  The strategic focus is to protect market share with the objective of encouraging brand loyalty.  promotion of the product should be to encourage repeat purchase and to maintain existing brand awareness.  This should be achieved for the lowest possible price.

So what has prompted the new television advertisements for Golden Syrup?

I have no firm facts regarding the new promotional strategy at Lyons but I can think of one possible reason.  In recent years, there has been a growth in the number of people baking at home.  This has been driven by television programmes such as The great British Bake Off.  Fans of that programme tend to be younger and more trendy than the traditional image of the home baker.

I suspect that, as a result of the show’s success, Lyons have seen an increase in sales of their baking products, in particular Golden Syrup and Treacle.

In recent weeks however, there has been a crisis at the heart of Bake Off.  The format has been purchased by Channel Four (for a huge amount of money).  The show has also lost three of its four regular hosts, the presenters Mel and Sue; and the judge Mary Berry.  it is a fact that Channel Four has much lower viewing figures than BBC1.

Given events, and the possibility that the chaos caused by the show’s station move, Lyons may believe the fad for home baking may be coming to an end.  The new television advertising campaign is a clear attempt to remind Lyon’s new trendier customer base that their products still exist and that baking is still fun.

In his book, The New Strategic Brand Management, J N Kapferer lists factors which are indicators that a brand’s equity is in decline.  These include:

  • A degradation of product quality – Pressure from lower cost competition forces a reduction in the quality of components.  There is an incentive to produce products at an equivalent cost to those competitors.  An example is Marks and Spencer’s who were known for high quality clothing at a reasonable price.  New firms such as Primark entered the UK market.  Their clothes were of a lower quality to those of M & S but at a far lower price.  Primark were happy with a high level of disposability in their products.  As a result, M & S cut prices and switched suppliers.  Consumers used to the high quality of M & S clothing were disappointed with the lower levels of quality in their products and sales fell.
  • Missing new trends – A tired brand may miss the changing expectations of their customers.  An example is the golf club manufacturer Taylor Made.  In the late 1980’s Taylor Made was America’s leading supplier of golf clubs.  However, they missed the trend of larger club head sizes, particularly for drivers.  Calloway introduced the Big Bertha driver and swept the market.  Taylor Made and other club manufacturers had to play catch up.
  • Mono-product syndrome – Brands may become associated with a single product – as is the case with Lyon’s and their Golden Syrup.  One such example is Wonderbra.  The Wonderbra was launched in Europe by Playtex in 1994.  Sales peaked in 1995 but since then they have collapsed dramatically.  The term Wonderbra became generic, describing a type of bra rather than a particular brand.  Competitors entered the padded bra market and traded off the generic name.  Playtex based its European marketing team in the UK.  It appeared that market research was based on UK consumers only.  Playtex failed to recognise changing fashions elsewhere in Europe.  European sales figures were increasingly dominated by the UK market.  UK sales became European sales.  The Wonderbra brand stayed strictly in the padded bra market and failed to move into other clothing/lingerie categories.
  • A faltering distribution chain – for example, cosmetics were traditionally sold in chemists and department stores.  This was the well used sales channel preferred by Vichy cosmetics.  Other cosmetics manufacturers developed lines specifically for sale in supermarkets.  Vichy ignored this change and their brand faltered.  Similarly, it was traditional for wines and spirits to be sold in specialist stores; off licences.  In the 1980’s supermarkets started to get liquor licences for off sales.  Several well-respected off licence chains went bust.
  • Increasing below-the-line investments – When a brand is struggling, many firms reduce the level of promotion and communication and turn to the use of in-store promotions to drive sales.  This reduces the brand’s share of voice and it withers.
  • Increased use of sub-brands – This can fragment a brand’s image as its identity can be lost in the multitude of options being offered to consumers.
  • Brand acquisition – Big groups can weaken the brands they purchase.  For example, it was incredibly difficult for L’Oréal to imbue The Body Shop brand with the same independent and authentic image imbued by its creator Anita Roddick.
    • Big conglomerates can impose more bureaucratic decision-making onto smaller brands which reduces creativity and adaptability to rapidly changing market conditions
    • Big conglomerates often lump purchased brands together to reduce overhead costs.  this is what happened when Martell bought the Seagram brand.  Martell moved the brand to its New York head office and placed Seagram in its spirits division.  The Seagram brand stalled.  Only when it was purchased by Pernod -Ricard and returned to its home in Cognac, France, did the Seagram brand begin to recover.  Moving to New York killed the brand’s individuality.
  • Brand dilution – Brands can become generic when the abandon communication on the specific nature of their products, e.g. Hoover, Jacuzzi, Lycra, Nylon.

Managing brands is about managing change.  If, for whatever reason, you stand still, your brand can stall as your market moves away from you.

Jobber and Jobber identified several strategies for reinvigorating brands.  I suspect this is the approach being taken by Lyon’s.  These are:

  • Product facelift – Modify the product but keep the rest of the marketing mix the same.  For example, changing the recipe of a food to imply improved quality.
  • Inconspicuous technological change – again no change to the mix but a change to the technology of the product; or its production; which is not obvious to the consumer
  • Remerchandising – no change to the product but a change to the way it is marketed (the approach taken by Lyon’s in relation to Golden syrup by changing its promotional channel mix)
  • Relaunch – Modify the product (as in product facelift) and remix its marketing
  • Conspicuous technological change – make a significant change to the technology of the product and make it the focus of changes in its marketing (e.g. The Calloway Big Bertha)
  • Intangible repositioning – The basic product remains the same but it is advertised to a new market segment (geographic or demographic)
  • Tangible repositioning – A modified product is marketed to a new market segment (geographic or demographic)
  • Neo-innovation – Fundamental changes to both the product and to the marketing strategy, e.g. Nokia moving from the paper industry into the manufacture of mobile phones.

The marketing of products and brands is a constantly changing and evolving managerial process.  Those brands and products which succeed long-term are willing to adapt to suit changing consumer expectations and market conditions.  Philmus Consulting can help your firm to identify strategies which assist this process.