INDUSTRY Viewpoint

Let me put my cards on the table.

Let me put my cards on the table.

I hate this product, I don’t like the brand and I neither understand nor enjoy the advertising campaign. When I first saw the ads on TV I looked forward to explaining to people why it wouldn’t work, and now, thanks to Marketing Week, I have my opportunity. Oh dear.

In my defence I can only say I am clearly not the only person to have let prejudices cloud my judgment. No one else seems to have woken up to this brand’s success either.

Pot Noodle is the second largest brand in the UK snack market and yet it has no branded competition. Does anyone know of another 100m brand that gets a free ride?

‘Give the brand street-cred with the kids but reassure the mums’ must be the most over-used strategy in food marketing. HHCL is clearly demonstrating the way to make it work and yet no one else seems to be learning the lessons.

Because competitive differentiation is increasingly hard to sustain and any success can be copied instantly, it is surprising to find a brand in so much clear water. For it to occur in a competitive market like snack foods is astonishing.

Understanding how this extraordinary situation has been achieved must contain lessons for all marketers.

It would be comforting to find some technical, structural or historical fact that neatly explained the phenomenon. Unfortunately, no such fact exists.

I believe Pot Noodle’s success can be put down to two rather unfashionable qualities, which are at the very core of competitive differentiation: courage and imagination.

In a world of pre-testing, Infoscan and ‘purchase intention’ being measured to within two decimal points, these terms seem rather quaint. But while pre-testing, Infoscan and increasingly precise measurement are available to everyone, courage and imagination remain as rare now as they were when brands were invented.

Surprisingly, courage is an even more valuable commodity than imagination. Most organisations have the ability to access imagination, very few have the courage to put that imagination into the market.

Launching Pot Noodle all those years ago was a brave move. The brand’s marketing over the past five years has been similarly courageous. It appears it has achieved its competitive advantage simply by going where others fear to tread.

Congratulations to Pot Noodle and HHCL for being so courageous. Shame on the rest of the market for not making it harder for them.

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