Bringing brands back from the dead: Phileas Fogg

I was intrigued to see that the Phileas Fogg snacks brand has been brought back from the dead. One of an increasing number of examples of looking back to the past for brand inspiration. Here we look at how this brand was created, how it was killed following a corporate take-over and the recent attempts to revive it.

Brand birth: pure genius (1982)
Picture 1 Phileas Fogg was created back in 1982 by 4 mates who had the idea for the brand down the pub. They started it with £67,000 of their own money. The idea was a range of adult snacks, such as tortilla chips, with a brand character and spokesperson called Phileas Fogg, inspired by the explorer in the film "Around the world in 80 days".

At the time (before Doritos), there was some real product "sausage": unique and exotic products, exciting flavours and disntinctive pakcaging. The whole world of Phileas Fogg added some lovely emotional "sizzle".

The ad campaign created by BBH in 1988 was pure genius. The entertaining mini-movies told amusing, tongue-in-cheek stories behind each product, contrasting the exotic roots with the place they were made: "Medomsley Road, Consett" (the factory in the North East of England). If you know Monty Python, the films were a bit like that. You can see one of the ads by clicking here. (Its the 2nd one on this compilation of 1980's adverts, so you have to skip past the first Swatch ad).

Brand death (1993-2003)
The brand grew during the 1980's and early 90's to achieve £30million in turnover. By this time it attracted the attention of multinational snack company United Biscuits (UB), who bought it for £27million. And this was the beginning of the end. The same old sad story of beautiful little brand bought by big business:
– The 4 owner/founders left, with a bg of money each, and the creative genius behind the brand
– The new owners cut investment, as Phileas Fogg was not part of a portfolio of brands
– They chopped and changed the packaging, diluting the identity
– They failed to invest enough in new products
– The brand got lost in the corporate machine, lacking love and care

The result? Fast forward to the present day, and brand turnover had declined to …. £101,000. In other words, invisible.

Brand re-birth (2009)
In a conference a couple of years ago I learnt that Phileas Fogg still had a startling 83% prompted brand awareness. At the time it seemed that this was a brand begging to be rejuvenated. So, it was a nice surprise to indeed see that the brand is being brought back from the dead by

On the good side, the packaging Andy Knowles and the team at JKR has brough back to life Phileas Fogg in his balloon. This helps communicate the idea of "exotic tastes from around the world".

Picture 3

I'm less impressed by the advertising. It uses soft focus, travel-ogue style imagery. You know what I would have done? Re-show the brilliant BBH ads from the 1980's. They have an edge and a wit to them. And I'm sure all the oldies like me who remember them would have had a nostalgia trip and bought back into the brand!

The one thing I do like in the advertising is the link from the comms to the on-pack device of the balloon. Nice way of getting across the idea of exotic ingredients transported back for you to taste.
Picture 4

But perhaps the biggest question is the dramatically more competitive brandscape today, 26 years on from the brand's birth. We now have Doritos, Kettle Chips, Walkers Sensations and many others. I fear that there is just not enough differentiation to help create a viable business model.