Marmite’s masterclass in innovation

Another guest post from David Nichols, brandgym's Head of Invention (and also musical writer and performer), who's caught the blogging bug this year 🙂

In the UK we have some pretty unique tastes, none more so than Marmite (that’s ‘yeast paste’ for the uninitiated).  Their ‘Love it or hate it’ campaign has been written up many times in blogs and articles as a case study in brand revitalisation. The Unilever owned brand has kept itself buoyant with 2% growth last year.  It now churns out 60 million jars a year with sales of £40m in the UK, where it is theleading brand of spread (bigger than any honey brand). 


Far from sitting on their laurels, the Marmite team are providing a masterclass in how to find growth for a leader brand.

Job 1 – Grow the core

-       The team know that their no.1 job is to grow the core – get more people to buy Marmite to have on bread and in sandwiches at home.

-       They have kept up a stream of engaging and creative PR/online campaigns, sometimes connected to TV spots to increase awareness and drive trial. See their excellent Marmite Election Campaign here. They have also created buzz and interest with limited edition packs, such as this one for Valentine's Day:

Marmite Valentines

Job 2 – Innovate

-       This is where Marmite have thought strategically about where to innovate, rather than just launching ideas that get the best marks in concept tests.

1.   Remove barriers to usage

-        By observing and listening carefully to consumers, they uncovered barriers to usage among regular users; a) the awkward lid is hard to get off b) you have to use a knife to get it out of the jar.  These may seem trivial, but led to a significant innovation: 

-       Marmite Squeezy makes it easier to get marmite out of the jar, thus addressing barriers to usage in the core occasion, such as; no knife available, in a hurry, only have one hand (when carrying a child in the other)

Marmite Squeezy Poster
Drive into new occasions

-       The next step has been to look at other occasions core users have; one of the biggest in the Uk is the lunchbox – what kids take to school.  How could they increase ‘share of lunchbox’ was clearly the brief they addressed. 

-       The answer was to stretch into kids cheese snacks.

-       Marmite Mini Cheddar Bites are perfect to pop into kids lunchboxes and offer more interesting taste than the BabyBel plain cheese varieties.  This also builds on the common usage of eating Marmite with cheese in sandwiches, so the flavour is already well loved.

Marmite Cheddar Bites
Find new users

-       There are a significant number of people who have grown up  with Marmite, but now they have no kids they just don’t eat bread + spread, and so have no core Marmite occasions, even though they still love the taste. 

-       Trying to ‘force’ them to eating bread + spread is too hard so the team stretched the brand into new categories that were relevant to their life stage: salty snacks

-       Marmite Rice Cakes, Crisps, Breadsticks, Nuts bring the unique Marmite taste into a category that is eaten on the go, out of home and by younger people who don’t have kids.

-       This is a bold move, as is any leap into a new category, but seems to have established itself (they are still listed in Tesco – a good sign)

Marmite Salty Snacks

-       Back to the core users; get them to trade up to a premium offerThis is an easy thing to say and very hard to do.  Marmite have focused on their most ardent ‘lovers’ of the taste for inspiration.

 -       Marmite XO is a premium ‘aged’ variant with an even stronger, darker, richer taste.    Matured four times longer, it borrows the ‘XO – extra old’ code from the Cognac category to imbue premiumness

-       Even the on pack storage instructions are playfully in line with the brand;  “Store in a cool, dark, secret place”

Marmite XO
In Summary

As a brand leader Marmite is innovating strategically: increasing frequency, driving into new occasions and premiumising.  It is taking risks in stretching into new categories but at the same time nurturing the core.  It has gained growth in to