Is Mr Kipling mad to ditch a 46 year old slogan?

Cake brand Mr Kipling may be about to ditch the slogan its been using for almost 50 years, according to an interview given by the CEO of brand owner Premier Foods, Gavin Darby. He admitted it is "possible" that the strapline – "Exceedlingly good cakes" – may be missing from a forthcoming marketing campaign, according to reports here.

[For non-UK readers, Mr Kipling make a range of traditional British cakes sold in boxes in supermarkets, with the most famous one probably the cherry bakewell. Yes, British cuisine at its best.]

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So, is ditching the slogan a good idea, or not? Below I draw on some of the ideas from my Grow the Core book to help think through the question.

1. Memory structure is valuable

Most brands chop and change every couple of years. As a result, they fail to create much "memory structure", the hard-wired associations that help drive brand recognition and meaning. So, a slogan used for c.50 years is a "brand asset" that is not be thrown away lightly. The first advert for the brand is shown below, from The History of Advertising Trust.

Premier Foods also need to keep in mind that once created memory structure takes at least 2-3 years to forget. So, whatever new campaign the brand does, it will take many years for people to forget "Exceedingly good cakes", if they ever do.

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2. Measure the asset

In my experience, most companies don't have a way of properly measuring and tracking their brand assets. That's why we're working on this year on developing a research tool to do just this. If Premier Food used this tool they would have some hard data on slogan recognition and meaning to make an informed decision.

3. Brand equity or brand baggage?

There are examples of brand changing slogan and doing well. Sainsbury's left behind "Try something new today" in favour of "Live well for less" and performance has been good. This is because the new brand idea was more relevant for the cash-strapped consumer of 2012/13. In contrast, Try Something New Today felt out of touch.

So, for Mr Kipling, is Exceedingly Good Cakes still relevant? I would have thought it would be, wouldn't you? I can't see why it would be any less relevant today than in the past.

4. Fresh consistency

The key to growing the core is "fresh consistency". Consistency comes from sticking to the same brand idea, and also a set of key brand properties (slogan, colour, symbol, pack shape, sound etc.). Freshness comes from giving a new excutional twist to your story. This freshness can come through updated commuication, but also through pack and product upgrades, such as Mr Kiplings "Cake to Go" slices I posted on here.

A look at Mr Kipling's pack designs shows how the brand has struggled to get this balance right. Thanks to The Branding Source for pulling this history together, here.

Back in the 1980's the pack design featured product shots, and a little basket-like logo in the top-left. This symobol had been made more stylised by the 1990's.

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In the mid 2000's the brand seemed to forget what made it famous, in a failed attempt to go upmarket. "Sales  dropped significantly… the company blamed the re-design for the steep sales drop, claiming it had alienated its core audience," according to The Branding Source.  

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The brand went back to a more familiar design in 2006 (below left), with brand symbol back in the middle of the pack, helping stabilise sales. But only 2 years later and the brand moved to less brand-led pack (right below), with the easily copiable product shots dominating.

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Finally, in 2012 a further change re-stored the brand symbol at the heart of the design!

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In conclusion, the Mr Kipling pack design history shows the risk of forgetting what made you famous, and not refreshing your brand properties. We will have to wait and see what decision Premier Foods make in the end with the Exceedingly Good slogan.