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Marmite – Love It or Hate It, Just Appreciate The Marketing

Marmite, a traditional British brand if there ever was one. That well known slogan; ‘Love it or Hate it’ that everyone associates with the dark yeast spread became a staple phrase of our vocabulary years ago. But how can a product really polarise opinion in such a way? The truth is that Marmite has been a textbook example of brand marketing for years and have long reaped the rewards of brilliant brand awareness. Here are some examples of their brand campaigns and PR coups:

For Valentines day, Marmite teamed up with MySingleFriend, adding a feature to allow users to find prospective partners based on their feelings towards Marmite. Whether an individuals choice of toast topping is really a useful indicator for romantic compatibility may be questionable but it does show the brand’s desire to comically promote it’s product as a life choice.

The Marmite Neglect TV campaign seemed to polarise opinion perfectly, accurately reflecting the famous slogan. Imitating an animal or children’s welfare charity, the advert depicts welfare officers removing unfortunately neglected pots of Marmite from surprised owner’s homes. The TV campaign and spoof neglect hotline partnered with engaging and creative social media activity but it provoked some hostile responses from some. Over 500 ASA complaints were logged, calling out the advert for being insensitive but the results speak for themselves, creative agency adam&eveDDB reporting a 15% spike in sales in the 8 weeks following the ad going live.

Judges at Marketing Week clearly love it, naming it Brand of the Year for 2104 at the MW Engagement Awards, and with the data reported it is hard to argue with them. This paints an interesting contrast to a recent survey by Isobel naming Marmite as the third most hated UK brand with only UKIP and the Conservative Party beating them on the poll. This is likely to be music to Marmite Executives ears, another opportunity to trade off that slogan and use the divisive opinions in their favour.

Brand Manager Joanne O’Riada suggests the success is due to the reach of the brand beyond it’s customer base, turning non-customers (and those actively dislike the product) into brand advocates on the strength of their content:

“Our marketing strategy is essentially about reminder communications and keeping the brand top of consumers’ consideration set. There are very active fans on social media who will share a lot of Marmite content, but it’s testament to the brand that there are also many people who don’t like the product but who love engaging with the brand.”

Whatever the recipe for it, the results can’t be denied. Brand ownership belongs to the consumer now and in this social driven era in which a company is just another contributor to a conversation. Marmite has accepted that and worked out how to use it to their advantage. Their ability to steer the conversation towards results is something many brands should try to emulate.