Cadbury remembers and refreshes what made it famous

Post by Simon Gore, Managing Partner and Head of Visual Identity & Naming.

The league table of Britain’s biggest brands shows what a good job the Cadbury’s team have done at revitalising their brand: not only has it regained the nº 1 crown, it’s also Britain’s fastest-growing brand, with sales up +£105m (1). And the success is not just UK-based, with annual global growth of 8%. The brand’s reputation is also back on track, with its YouGov BrandIndex score up +10pts to 35%.

Here we look at how Cadbury’s pulled off the delicate balancing act needed to revitalise long established, ‘heritage’ brands: remembering what made you famous AND refreshing yourself to be relevant for today.

1. Avoid the risk of too much change

Cadbury’s success in the last couple of years is something of a turnaround. Between 2012 and 2018 Cadbury’s ranking in YouGov’s BrandIndex* fell from 44 to 26 (2). With the benefit of hindsight, it appears that the brand put too much emphasis on ‘freshness’ and not enough on consistency.

The brand’s famous ‘Gorilla’ commercial, with an ape drumming to the tune of Phil Collins ‘In The Air Tonight’, made headlines and was associated with a 10% increase in sales. Follow-up campaigns, ‘Trucks’ and ‘Eyebrows’, continued in the absurdist style, culminating in the joy-focused ‘Joyville’ campaign from 2012 onwards (see below).

However, the assets that made the brand famous were all absent, failing to build on and strengthen Cadbury’s distinctive memory structure: generosity of spirit and the classic, well-loved chocolate taste, supported by the product truth of “A Glass and a Half of Milk’.

The brand had got away from what we had all grown up with,” suggest Darren Bailes, executive creative director of Cadury’s agency VCCP. “It has become novelty, jazz-hands, with a single note of fake optimism – joy. It had become plasticised.”

*A metric including quality, impression and reputation

2. Refresh what made you famous

‘Milking’ its rich brand story, Cadbury abandoned its ‘joy’ positioning and built a new positioning based upon its philanthropic roots. Harking back to its Quaker origins, Cadbury re-focused on the spirit of generosity. Against a cultural backdrop of people becoming selfish and self-obsessed, Cadbury chose to highlight the small acts of kindness and generosity still ever present in the world.

The brand focuses on its iconic Cadbury Dairy Milk product as the hero product for the first ‘chapter’ of this refreshed brand story. Although the brand had stretched into multiple formats and flavours, this still accounts for 35% of Cadbury’s brand value. This call paid off, with core sales up + 9% in value to £586m.

The brand also refreshed its classic slogan, ‘There’s a Glass and a Half inside every Cadbury Dairy Milk’, with an emotive twist to bring to life the idea of generosity: ‘There’s a glass of and half inside everyone’. The first communication campaign for the new positioning was called ‘Mum’s Birthday’, and launched in the UK in January 2018. Amidst other confectionery brands’ increasingly fantastical and bizarre ads, Cadbury’s quietly emotive and real-life focused campaign cut-through through the category noise. It nicely integrated the brand and product into the story (‘sausage’) whilst communicating with emotion (‘sizzle’). It scored in the first percentile of Millward Brown brand testing as one of the most emotional ads ever recorded.

Cadbury’s follow-up campaign, ‘Fence’, was the most emotional non-Christmas ad of 2019, according to market researchers at System 1.

3. Turbo-charge your marketing

Cadbury complemented and aligned the TV campaigns with real-world marketing activation. The ‘Donate Your Words’ campaign involved a partnership with charity Age UK. In the UK 225,000 elderly people go a whole week without speaking to anyone. In response, the brand released limited-edition Dairy Milk bars with no writing: the words were donated to old people, with 30p per bar going to the charity. During the campaign, more than 990,000 people had a conversation with an older person.

4. Think global, act local

One sign of a great idea is when it is picked up by other countries and goes global, which was the case with the Cadbury’s idea, which was rolled out globally to ten different countries. The global idea was executed locally with sensitivity to reflect individual country cultures, with ‘Mum’s Birthday’ being re-shot in several countries, including South Africa (below) and Pakistan.

Local countries also brought the idea to life via locally relevant brand activation. In the Philippines, for example, the brand worked with a local NGO to create a ‘Generosity Bar’, a version of the iconic Cadbury Dairy Milk bar with less milk. A symbolically ‘unused’ glass-and-a-half of milk was then donated to children suffering from malnutrition in the Philippines. The campaign reached 83 million people in one week, achieving 164 million media impressions, with100,000 glasses of milk being donated.

In conclusion, the Cadbury’s revitalisation is a great example of remembering and refreshing what made you famous and reconnecting with your roots. The central idea of human kindness and generosity is of course more relevant than ever in today’s crazy Covid times!

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