Bring me my jar, of brown and gold!
Bring me the one that I desire!
Bring me my knife. O bread, unfold!
Now my breakfast is inspired.
The brand's throw-away Facebook ditty speaks volumes. Taking a closer look at Marmite reveals exemplary social media cultivation, a spot-on tone of voice and polished execution of its positioning in the market. When coupled with continual bursts of inspiration and consistent and engaging brand values, it is not hard to see why this unassuming yeast-based spread has become a true British branding icon.
Indeed, far beyond the shelves of local supermarkets, where the £2 jar is nestled between fellow savoury spreads and commodity goods, December 2012 saw a gold-topped jar sparkle high above London’s Regent Street in its renowned Christmas lights. Selfridges recently selected Marmite as one of a limited number of brands, alongside such premium and esteemed brands as Crème de la Mer and Beats by Dr. Dre, for its unique, high-profile 2013 ‘No Noise’ campaign.
With more than one million likes on Facebook and a finely-cultivated following of more than 32,000 on Twitter, this much-loved spread constitutes an excellent example of what makes British brands so likeable and successful. Or indeed, in Marmite’s case, loved to be hated. What is different in the example of this brand, however, is that this split opinion is encouraged, cultivated and capitalised on as the brand accepts the honest opinion of the UK’s tastebuds with tongue-in-cheek dignity.
A prime example of the brand's well-executed market positioning was demonstrated in its first foray into television in August with the "controversial" spoof neglect advertisement. The ensuing complaints around an insensitive treatment of and parallels drawn with animal neglect do not, however, indicate a PR failure on the brand’s part. Quite the opposite in fact. What those who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) failed to realise was that this is exactly the point of the advertisement; it is an embodiment of the light-hearted tone of voice the brand takes across every piece of communication it puts out into the public domain.
A quintessentially British attitude of self-deprecation, of a cheeky and playful tone that is pitched just so; the audience is supposed to be torn into a camp of love or hate, just as it is for the brand itself. Marmite’s donation of £18,000 to the RSPCA as a result is not an admission of wrong-doing either; rather it is a gesture of goodwill from Unilever’s portfolio star and a nod to those who have understood the real implication of the advertisement.
Beyond being a humorous and memorable advert that really got everyone talking, what the advert also reveals is that Marmite fundamentally understands its customer insights. Every household, somewhat curiously, seems to own a jar of this dense brown nectar. The brand has succeeded in establishing a cult status as a cupboard staple, the sort of comforting product that requires no effort when returning from holiday on a slice of bread.
Brands from Warburtons to independent butchers and eateries celebrate such unofficial partnerships. Whether anyone in the family even likes it or chooses to eat it is another matter. All it requires is the nostalgic purchase by the lead household shopper, who may not even like the product, leading to a dynamic whereby some of Marmite’s customer base does not even like the product they are buying.
Whilst it may not quite be the jar that you dunk your spoon into when you think no one is looking (Nutella users, you know who you are…), the future looks bright for the nation’s most divisive spread.
Julia Bland is an Analyst, Brand Strategy, at Interbrand London.