BASTE WISHES FOR YULETIDE

Dreading yet another Christmas lunch of dried-out turkey and soggy vegetables? Why not try some of these fabulous alternative recipes, served up by the cream of the marketing fraternity, with a large pinch of salt. Helen Jones tucks in

Stuffed, roasted and served up on a bed of soggy vegetables, the turkey suffers an ignominious end. But this year, as ever, more than 28 million of us will sit down to the traditional Christmas lunch, followed by a spot of telly and a family row.

What are the alternatives? Well, for the writer it’s a tortilla and a Cuba Libre on the beach in the company of Take That, stripped, washed and awaiting my bidding. For the less adventurous, it’s a goose, which for centuries was the traditional Christmas meal until farmers latched onto the fact that unlike geese, turkeys breed all year round and are therefore a better investment. But this year, geese like nubile pop stars, are in short supply – this summer’s hot weather meant that female geese failed to lay.

So in the spirit of enquiry and as a seasonal service to our readers, Marketing Week asked new product development experts Brand Development Business to come up with some alternative suggestions.

Director David Goudge was keen to forego the traditional Christmas lunch altogether and proposed a range of ready frozen snowballs available from supermarket deep freezers in packs of ten in a bid to keep the kids quiet and take their minds off the fact that Father Christmas failed to deliver the requisite number of Power Rangers. However, he concedes that even the most dysfunctional of families must sit down to eat something together and his team has produced some turkey line extensions under the brand name “Crisp & Even Products”.

Goudge says: “Genetically engineered tomatoes, which are designed not to rot, have already been produced by Zeneca and will be available in the form of tomato puree in UK supermarkets next year. We decided to consider what genetic engineering could do for the turkey. We were interested in exploring how genetic engineering could add value to a natural product and meet consumer needs but get away from the image of ‘Frankenstein food’ where turkeys have been bombarded with rays, or something else from the realms of science fiction.”

The needs of single people were BDB’s first consideration. We are a growing nation of solitary households. According to Social Trends – the Government’s annual statistical snapshot of the nation – Britain is becoming a more lonely society with the number of people living alone almost doubling in the past 20 years to 11 per cent. Women over 60 are most likely to live alone, but much of the growth in this area has been among young men in their twenties and thirties.

“We decided that a turkey could be genetically engineered to provide single people with a proper Christmas lunch but without the need for them to eat turkey sandwiches or turkey fricassee for the next fortnight,” says Goudge. However, he adds that the product has to be positioned correctly: “We didn’t want it to be seen as something for sad old singles who couldn’t find anyone to share their lunch with so we put the emphasis on ‘discernment’ and the fact that the product meets ‘the singular needs of the individual gentle person’.”

BDB next turned their attention to the nuclear family – mum, dad and two kids. “There is often some argument about who is going to get the legs, so we decided that it was not beyond the realms of possibility to genetically engineer a four-legged turkey so that everyone gets one – although how it would fit in the oven is another matter.”

Finally, the company looked at the vegetarian market. Estimates vary as to how many genuine vegetarians rather than the “I’m a vegetarian but I do eat a bit of chicken now and again variety” there are in the UK. Market research firm Datamonitor says that it is between three and seven per cent of the population. As many as one in ten per cent of people are thought to have stopped eating red meat altogether.

Many of those interested in vegetarianism are teenagers and Goudge says family rows can flare as unsympathetic parents tuck into sizzled flesh while their kids pick at a few vegetables or an unappetising nut cutlet and say: “Dad, how can you do that?”

“We proposed producing a delicious product that looks and tastes like turkey but is made of a relative of the mushroom – rather like Quorn. That way both the meat eaters and the vegetarians are satisfied and mum – because it is inevitably mum who organises the meal – doesn’t have to worry about cooking two separate things.”

Once BDB had developed the new product concepts, we passed them to advertising agency Publicis to create the advertising proposition. Senior creative team Mel Williams and Tago Byers chose to concentrate on the turkey for single people. The emphasis is on meeting the consumer’s needs and Williams and Byers took a topical route concentrating on those who may be unintentionally single this Christmas.

The first ad focuses on Prince Charles and features the end-line “One’s turkey seems to have turned into turkey for One” – although Publicis dismissed the prospect that Charles may share his turkey with Camilla or at least his extended family. Perhaps the four-legged turkey may be more up his street.

A second version stars jailed Barings trader Nick Leeson enjoying his solitary turkey in his cell complete with some Singapore noodles. Publicis also produced an ad for the four-legged turkey which shows two children saying “Guess what Daddy brought home?” and the answer “A bird with four legs”. New man is alive and kicking at Publicis.

Finally we asked sales promotion company Black Cat to develop a campaign. Managing partner Stephen Callender and his team went above and beyond the call of duty and came up with too many ideas to mention them all. However, among those we particularly like are a free “Turkey for One” party pack which requires only one proof of purchase. This includes: a Home Alone video rental voucher; a pack of cards for patience; a miniature Wild Turkey bourbon and one glass; one party popper and hat; free three months’ Dateline membership; and a self-timing “fun” camera to allow you to take a shot of yourself to remember the occasion.

Black Cat also came up with some ideas for a promotion to run across all Crisp & Even’s turkey products including “Talk Turkey”, a free phone card with every bird, and “Get Stuffed!”, 101 recipes for left-over turkey. It has also developed “Plucky the Turkey”, a character to front a road-show and feature in spin-off merchandising.

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