Dolmio Pasta Sauces

Market leaders owe it to themselves to redefine and own the high ground in their categories. So what can pasta sauces really be about?

Well they belong to food, and the function of food in a modern Western society is thankfully about more than self-preservation. Food is about communing, be it familial, among friends or in a one-to-one setting.

Pasta sauces themselves are meal enhancers, allowing us to make the connection between the two, and conclude that their real role in life is to improve the quality of the eating occasion in which they are deployed. Not rocket science, perhaps, but the first step in laying claim to the category.

The Dolmio advertising scores a lot of points on this front. There’s no doubt that in each film people across the generations and in a range of relationships are shown doing plenty of communing.

But another responsibility market leaders have to themselves is to carve out the piece of high ground they own. In this case Dolmio has gone for “Italian-ness”. It’s an unsurprising position to seize, perhaps, given the product in question but, in theory at least, unassailable by the hordes of own-label assailants.

In their quest to own Italian-ness Dolmio and DMB&B have chosen the theme of “Take Italian lessons with Dolmio”. The executions offer observations around how to enjoy food the way Italians do. Here again, the commercials score well by celebrating the spirit of Italian mealtimes through the use of irreverent and tongue-in-cheek text superimposed on the ads. The music also goes a long way to evoke this spirit.

But why does it somehow feel fake? Is it the over-chiselled jaws of the cast? Or the restraint of the boxes in which the text is reversed out? Or perhaps, the tell-tale “Made in Holland” instruction that the British Advertising Copy Clearance committee has insisted on?

The easy charm of the music and irreverence is belied by an underlying stiffness in a piece if communication that protests just a bit too much. Its words and pictures are great, but its “body language” doesn’t quite convey the authenticity it is trying to own.

In more technical terms, it’s hard to see where the personal benefit is. When Ragu promised to “bring the Italian out in you”, with people bursting into song at the mere sight of the stuff, it was a direct promise that “this cooking aid will help you to cook with flair, moving you and your friends to thoroughly enjoy it”. A pretty overt personal benefit, laden with Italian references. A pity it didn’t pursue it.

Overall though, Dolmio’s commercials are enjoyable and capture the sense of fun and chaos around eating Italian. The music and the observations carry them, but in commercial terms they seem more generic to pasta sauces than branded.

And that’s a shame, given that real market leadership demands powerful and genuinely distinctive branding.

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