How to revitalise a brand: BN

How to revitalise a brand which is iconic but has somehow lost its way and is suffering as a result? This was the challenge the BN brand of biscuits faced, when we started working with the team back in late 2019. The brand was in sales decline and had been de-listed by Carrefour, one of BN’s most important retailers. News reports questioned if the brand would even survive (see below: “The eternal Choco BN on its way to disappearing”).

In this post, we explore the approach used to put the smile back on the BN brand and business.

Step 1: Re-connect with the core

In the couple of years prior to the project brief, the BN brand had made two bold strategic moves in search of growth.

First, the core positioning target was changed. The brand moved focus away from parents buying biscuits for their kids to enjoy as an afternoon ‘gouter’ snack. This had been the core target for the previous 27 years. To note, this core target inspired a marketing mix which appealed to a much wider consumption target, including lots of adults. Instead, BN tried to talk directly to older kids, tweens and teens, and become a cool brand they would love and request.

Second, to meet the needs of this new core target, product focus moved away from the core BN gouter biscuit and onto a new range called BN Sensations (see below). Importantly, this new product range missed one key element: a smile literally baked into the biscuit. Communication featured teens only and centred on sharing and sociability, with the tagline “BN: It’s so good to share”.

With a big budget invested over multiple years, there was a chance that BN could pull off this re-positioning. It meant going up against other brands, including chocolate brands like Snickers, who were spending heavily to win over older kids and teens. However, the brand and business analysis delivered a reality check on how hard this would be. We also highlighted the risk of neglecting the core BN product, which still made up the bulk of the sales.

Insight work with parents, the key biscuit buyers, confirmed that the re-positioning was an uphill struggle. The new teen-focused communication was bold and modern. But it didn’t build on the memory structure the brand had built up over decades. It seemed to be a big stretch for BN that would be hard to pull off with the available budget.

After a lot of debate, discussion and heartache, the BN team came to an important but difficult decision. The brand would re-focus on and re-connect with the core target of parents buying BN gouter biscuits for their kids.

Step 2: search for true insight

The next step was to work on ‘the triangle of truth’, searching for insight at a cultural, human and brand level. Looking at the cultural truth in particular was a real ‘aha’ moment. We found that kids in France, as everywhere, were under pressure from multiple directions. They were expected to perform at school, have hobbies and were living in an increasingly uncertain and threatening world (see headline below left: “Burnout of kids: when the little ones collapse”). Little did we know that things would only get worse in future years, with Covid and the war in Ukraine!

The great news was that BN had a brand truth that perfectly matched the cultural truth. The BN core gouter biscuit had a smile baked in that in turn made the person eating it smile. Social media was full of images BN users shared of how they like to eat the product. “More than ever before,” I urged the team “The world needs BN!”

The positioning work was summed up with a big brand idea that would also become the tagline for the new communication campaign: “Taste the smile”.

Step 3: brand vision into action

The team now had a brand purpose and positioning which provided clarity and inspiration. The big challenge, as on every brand growth project, was to turn this brand vision into big, bold actions:

  • Visual identity and pack: the smile was neatly integrated into the brand’s logo to make the brand’s design more impactful and distinctive. This had the added benefit that even products like BN Sensations without a smiley product at least had the smile on pack
  • Core product upgrade: a lot of time, talent and investment were put into upgrading the core product to improve the taste
  • Communication: new communication told the heart-warming of a young boy struggling at judo, who is cheered up by his dad and a BN biscuit.

The communication performed well in testing, well above norms in pre-testing (see below). It went on to be voted number 2 by consumers in a poll of their favourite new adverts of 2021 (1).

Step 4: keep up momentum

Early results from the re-launch are encouraging. Volume and value sales have returned to growth for two years in a row, after a period of decline. Penetration and market share are also up. And importantly, the brand-led growth plan and positive results have helped convince Carrefour to re-list the brand.

It is great to see the BN team keeping up the momentum behind the Taste the Smile brand idea. For example, the brand idea is being used to create a distinctive and interactive campaign to celebrate the brand’s 30th anniversary: 30 Years of Smiles.

In conclusion, the BN story shows the key to how to revitalise a brand is often not to try and re-invent yourself but rather to re-connect with and refresh what made you famous.


  1. Consumers’ favourite ads