Borrowing with pride can beat being brand new

Another post from David Nichols, our head of invention.

This is a story about how good marketing doesn’t have to be original to be effective. As marketers we love coming up with new ideas. But sometimes borrowing with pride can work just as well if not better.

Mucinex is a standard cough product that went from nothing to a $500m market leader in 8 years from launch in 2002, in one of the toughest markets on earth: US OTC pharmaceuticals. They simplified the complex cough & cold category into one word – ‘mucus’ – and then created a memorable brand property called "Mr Mucus" to help them build distinctive "memory structure". You can watch the ad here.

Mr Mucus
Reckitt Benckiser bought the business in ‘08 and had plans to roll it out globally to recreate their market stealing success. However, rolling out pharmaceuticals takes much longer than in FMCG due to the legal regulations and licenses required in each market. This delay in Reckitt's roll-out proved to be costly….

Enter Boehringer-Ingelheim's Bisolvon – the no.4 cough brand worldwide, with sales of €90m. This brand was , 40 year old family brand was well-loved but looking a little tired and short on inspiration, especially in the face of a possible entry by Mucinex and the ‘Mr Mucus’ idea.

Boehringer's bold marketing director borrowed with pride for Bisolvon. He created campaign called ‘Got Mucus’ with his very own cuddly/icky green monster. Click below on the blog to watch the ad, or click here.

The campaign was a hit. It worked brilliantly in-store, in print and online. Sales grew by a staggering 30% and the brand leapt from no.3 to no.2, increasing market share to above 20%.  Other markets round the world were quick to see the success and the global team helped them roll out the campaign.  ‘Got Mucus’ is now in 20 other markets as diverse as Finland and Brazil, where it has driven more than 15% growth in those countries combined.

Screen shot 2011-03-30 at 17.23.29
The bigger win still for Bisolvon is that they have shot a bloody big hole in Reckitt’s global roll-out plan for Mucinex.  They can no longer just use Mr Mucus wherever they go, as they will look like a poor ‘me too’.  They will probably have to come up with another global campaign idea – not an easy task and one that will cost them real money and real time to develop. 

Lessons learned:

1. The power of brand properties

-       One of our hot topics is the power of brand properties to create distinctive memory structure: symbols that drive both recognition and brand meaning. Mr Mucus is a great example of this.

2. Borrow with pride

-       Great marketing doesn’t always have to be original.  If you can use someone else’s idea but roll it out faster round the world then you are the innovator and can reap the benefits.  We call it ‘borrowing with pride’.  The bottom line doesn’t mind if the original idea wasn’t yours, if it works, it works!

3. Rolling out a concept fast is a competitive advantage

-       Being able to agree across markets on a marketing strategy, without endless debate or separate local development and testing, can be a competitive advantage you can take straight to the bank.

-       Boehringer showed that being a genuine global team can open the door to ‘economies of ideas’ – these can save time and create growth fast.

4. Fortune favours the bold

-       Initially the Bisolvon team feared that a cartoon would undermine their brand, would be too ‘silly’.  But consumers, mostly moms with cold ridden kids, didn’t see it that way.  They loved the icky green monster as the friendly face of an effective trusted medicine.

-       In our experience, marketers are always far more conservative about these things than consumers are.  They can tell the difference between a fun TV ad and a serious product and have no problem putting the two together.  It took a brave marketer with a clear vision to take his team with him to new ground. 

In Summary

If you see a good idea from another category, or even one of your competitors, that could work for your brand – why not use it?  No one says every marketing idea has to be a total original.  Marketing is there to boost the bottom line, not win originality contests.