INDUSTRY Viewpoint

Dean Dawson, Trade controller, Londis

Under normal circumstances, it is not a difficult task to determine the potential success of an ad campaign. You look at the consumer and the market and take a view as to whether or not the campaign is clearly focused. The difference with a brand like Walkers is that it can take a reasonable view of where it wants the market to be, and use its advertising to take it there. It could be argued that it is the responsibility of brand leaders to guide and develop their markets.

The simple bag of crisps has been transformed into a mainstream food product, and shed its image of being a ‘cheap snack to bung in the kids’ lunchboxes’.

The foundation, of course, is the quality of the product, because ultimately consumers will vote with their feet. The introduction of Gary Lineker has proved to be something of a masterstroke. Everyone’s idea of a ‘nice guy’, he provides mass appeal, with negligible risk. Who else could get away with stealing crisps away from a small child or conning a nun out of a winning cheque?

The risk in such an approach is that consumers may start to recall it as the Lineker ad, not the Walkers ad.

Apparently unfazed by the risk, Walkers turned it into a virtue, and branded one of the flavours salt & Lineker. The resultant limited edition pack was so successful, Walkers decided to make it slightly less ‘limited’ and promptly relaunched it.

Sandwiched between various Lineker executions was the successful Tazos programme. From humble beginnings as the insert to milk bottle caps, the pog became a huge hit with kids across the UK by late 1995. Walkers then hijacked the market by giving away over 250 million of them, allying them to cartoon characters and making them collectable. The result was a huge uplift in sales.

Wonderful you may think, until you look at the spike in the sales graph that has to be surmounted this year. Even Walkers would concede that it would take more than a thieving ex-footballer to tackle this.

Enter Darth Vader, with Walkers using the rescreening of the Star Wars trilogy as its latest Tazo initiative.

Through all of this runs a theme of Walkers homing in on safe, acceptable and unfailingly popular promotional themes. Huge financial support allows them to secure the licences, and develop the theme completely. But such fiscal muscle is no guarantee of success.

The cash has to be wisely invested and in this, Walkers has demonstrated an unerring ability to identify and develop concepts which have global appeal, and on the back of this strategy they have pushed their brand into the enviable position it holds today.

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