Buried treasure

The Vitalite sun is dusting down its shades and preparing to return to the marketing breach and a little orange man is sighted once more on the UK’s screens. It seems that old brand icons never die, but are these exhumations sound marketing mo

Nostalgia appears to be making a comeback, with a number of brands choosing to revisit slogans or icons from the past, in the hope of restoring flagging fortunes. Tango is due to bounce back onto television screens in May, with ads that resurrect the “You know when you’ve been Tango’d” theme, while Typhoo has restored the “oo” to its new advertising slogan.

St Ivel Vitalite sunflower spread is to reintroduce the Mr Sun character to its packaging, although the old jingle – based on Desmond Dekker’s The Israelites hit – won’t be returning; Coca-Cola Great Britain (CCGB) revived the Schweppes brand slogan, “Sch… You know who”, in October; and Interbrew has returned to using a seductive woman in its Boddingtons ads, after using Graham the cartoon cow for three years. Even Michelin North America has decided to use the Michelin Man as the centrepiece of a US advertising campaign for the first time, after having used the character in smaller, regional campaigns before.

Tango owner Britvic Soft Drinks also revived the “Secret lemonade drinker” jingle for R Whites Lemonade as a radio ad in 1998, the concept having lain dormant since 1993. As R Whites is aimed at the over-25s, the jingle had plenty of resonance and recognition value.

We never forget a face

This revival of old concepts could well be triggered by a paucity of ideas among creatives. Equally, marketers are well aware that by returning to successful campaigns they can guarantee high awareness levels for new campaigns, generate additional PR coverage and save on development costs. As Kate Hamilton, managing director of research at design and branding agency Corporate Edge, says: “These brand icons are useful because people recognise them instantly.”

Awareness was one of the reasons behind St Ivel marketing controller Ceri Bennett’s decision to rejuvenate the Mr Sun campaign, which originally ran from 1985 to 1992: “The initiative is about consolidating the brand’s strengths. In Mr Sun, we have a really strong icon which is still relevant today – The Israelites still commands 90 per cent brand association with Vitalite.”

However, Hamilton warns awareness should not be the sole reason for reviving an idea: “You can get good tracking results from old icons, but you may not be getting the right message across. If people are familiar with the concept, they make assumptions about what you are saying.”

She says the revival of icons or slogans provides “a shortcut into people’s heads”, but warns that any advertising should be relevant for a new generation of consumers.

Clemmow Hornby Inge (CHI) has created both the Tango campaign for Britvic and Premier Foods International’s campaign for Typhoo. “You know when you’ve been Tango’d” was last used as an advertising slogan in 1994 and “You only get an ‘oo’ with Typhoo” in 1990. Both brands are now facing tough challenges – in 2001, Tango sales fell nine per cent by volume in the take-home category and 12 per cent by value, to &£69m (AC Nielsen). Volume sales of rival CCGB’s Fanta soared by 59 per cent, increasing in value to &£100m. Typhoo, meanwhile, not only trails PG Tips and Tetley, but saw sales drop by 20 per cent – to just under &£22m – in 2001 (Information Resources).

CHI partner Johnny Hornby says that the decision to revive the slogans was not motivated by a desire to capitalise on residual awareness levels. The slogans were rejuvenated because they form the foundation for “the big idea” behind the brand, on which the advertising is based. He says: “Big ideas are probably a lot more valuable than advertising executions. If you have a big idea, it leads to a string of great ads. It’s not about running old advertising, but about taking the core brand proposition, which we think is timeless.”

Interbrand chairwoman Rita Clifton agrees that it is hard to develop an overall brand concept, and says: “It’s hardly surprising that so many brands are searching for nuggets of something that gives them a head start.”

A sentence for life

Hornby says that the Tango slogan is a strong line, which encapsulates the explosive taste drinkers are meant to experience. The Typhoo tagline manages to bring together the brand name and the brand benefit – the “oo” – in a few words.

Tango brand controller Janine Chandler confirms that ads for the soft drink, which is made from whole oranges, will focus on the product’s core proposition – “the hit of the whole fruit”. She adds that, when Britvic was briefing agencies, it asked them to consider whether their creative ideas would work with the slogan.

Likewise Howard Beveridge, group marketing director at Premier Foods, says the Typhoo campaign is returning to the concept of tea as a refreshment. The new approach is designed to appeal to younger women who have grown up drinking soft drinks, and the ad is akin to a lager ad: an exhausted character shrivels up and flies around like a deflating balloon, before being perked up with a cup of Typhoo. It uses the slightly reworked tagline “Get your ‘oo’ back with Typhoo”

Same words, different tune

Other revived slogans which have been placed into new contexts include the Schweppes “Sch…” tagline. This was first used in 1965 with a suave, very “British” actor. Mother found the tagline worked well with its idea – that the sophisticated Schweppes drinker is able to differentiate the genuine from the fake. A series of photographs by respected artist Alison Jackson – featuring lookalikes of Camilla Parker-Bowles and Sven Goran Eriksson, among others – have run in the press and more are planned. Clifton says this is good example of “using an old idea in an interesting new way”.

Revivals do raise the question of why successful concepts were abandoned in the first place. It may be that the ads incorporating the slogan or icon lost relevance for contemporary consumers, or the product may have been reformulated to appeal to a different market. While the public may hold brand icons or slogans in fond regard, their continued use in advertising campaigns does not always help the brand. Both Tetley and PG Tips recently retired their respective long-running brand icons, the Tea Folk and the chimpanzees.

A spokesman for Tetley says: “We wanted to make radical changes and shake up the safe image of tea.” The new ads stress health benefits and show people “living life to the full”. PG Tips has turned to animated birds, developed by Aardmann Animations.

But Tetley refuses to rule out the return of the cartoon men in cloth caps. A company spokesman says: “It’s possible they may return to advertising at a later date”.

Hamilton says it will be interesting to see which of the two tea brands holds out the longest before returning to their famous characters.

Other icons languishing in limbo include Premier International Foods’ robotic Martians, which advertised Smash instant mash; and Birds Eye Wall’s salty old Captain Birds Eye. The Martians are still used on Smash packs and for promotional work, but no longer appear in advertising. Birds Eye Wall’s recently appointed HHCL to review the brand. “Work is in progress and no decisions have yet been reached regarding the future strategy or the Captain Birds Eye icon,” says a spokesman.

There can be internal reasons for ditching a campaign. Clifton points out that, when people are immersed in a brand day to day, they cease to recognise its strengths and start to feel that change is needed. Change can also be precipitated by the arrival of a new marketing director who wants to make his own mark. Hamilton says that marketers in big organisations do not expect to stay in their job for a long time and “have to show what they can do in a twoor three-year slot before they are transferred”.

Hornby says that the same is true in agencies, which are full of young, creative people wanting to do new things. He adds: “There is greater bravery in consistency. This is often overlooked.”

Mortimer Whittaker O’Sullivan (MWO) creative partner John O’ Sullivan backs up Hornby’s argument: “I am loathe to throw away properties that companies have spent a lot of money on building up. There is a lot of ‘not invented by me’ one-upmanship on both client and agency sides. It results in some powerful communication devices being discarded years before they should be.”

MWO works on the Direct Line Insurance account. It still uses the red telephone imagery developed in the original campaigns, but it is consistently updated. O’Sullivan says that the telephone’s significance has changed. From standing for cheap motor insurance over the phone, it has evolved into a consumer champion, offering trustworthy low-cost products.

He says: “This kind of process has to be slow but determined. You can’t change people’s perceptions overnight.”

Other long-running icons that have been tweaked over the years include the “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet” slogan and its attendant tune (JS Bach’s Air on a G String). It vanished from TV screens in 1991, the victim of legislation curbing tobacco advertising, but cdp:travissully still creates radio ads using the music and strapline. The Andrex puppy has kept running in various incarnations, while Homepride’s Fred the Flour Grader still embodies quality control, now as a computer-generated character.

Ultimately, a brand slogan with proven worth always has the potential to undergo a Lazarus-like return – but there has to be a commitment from the company and agency to finding relevance in the resurrection.

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