Eight reasons to love Marmite’s marketing

Well, that’s the campaign of the year sorted for 2013. Congratulations to the Marmite brand team at Unilever and their agency adam&eveDDB. There are eight very impressive reasons why marketers should love the new Marmite “neglect” work.


First, just because “breaking through the clutter” is a cliché does not mean it has stopped being a branding imperative. Do you remember the latest ad from Heinz? Me neither. Most ads pass their target market by like a ship in the night. Marmite smashed its ship straight through their target market’s front door, sailed directly into their kitchen and started blasting its message over a gigantic sound system. With flashing lights on it.

Mark Ritson

Second, despite its amazing clutter busting impact the ad is perfectly on-brand. Too often a campaign sacrifices consistency with positioning to gain awareness, or vice versa. The dirty secret of most impactful creative is that you could easily swap the brand behind it with one of its major competitors and the ad would work equally well. Cadbury’s much lauded Gorilla for example. The Neglect ad is different because, despite its outrageous cut through, from beginning to end this is an ad that could only have been made by Marmite.

Third, go after your target market and screw the rest. Too many marketers produce decent market segmentation and then throw it out of the window when it comes to targeting and chase the whole market. You always get vanilla marketing in these cases – an execution that no-one hates but no-one particularly loves either. Focusing on one or two target segments and chasing them hard is always going to deliver a bigger result than mass-marketing. “Love It. Hate It. Just Don’t Forget It,” as Marmite would put it.

Fourth, pray for a double response to your marketing. If you review most of the comments about the Marmite ad that have deluged social media and newspapers in the past week they are not directly about the ad itself but rather the response it generated. Ideally you want an initial negative response from a few humourless idiots (the 458 who have so far complained to the ASA) and then a tidal wave of support from target consumers leaping to the brand’s defence and creating an echo chamber for the campaign to continue to reverberate through.

Fifth, reports of the death of TV advertising have been greatly exaggerated. Here we have adam&eveDDB at the zenith of its art, and in this case the agency is a master of the sixty second spot. The casting, editing, Michael Buerk voiceover and the killer final scene in which the young boy turns up his nose at the taste. This is old school, top whack advertising at its best. Even the media buying – launched during Corrie – tips its hat to the 20th Century.

Sixth, integrated marketing really works. Marmite led with TV for the initial impact but when the furore spread to PETA and the RSPCA last week Unilever was quick to reach out to both using good old fashioned stakeholder management. It helps that Marmite is a staple part of most vegan and vegetarian diets but the work to get both groups onside was textbook. Offering, for example, to fund one day’s animal rescue for the RSPCA ensured that Marmite won the charity over and diffused any potential pushback. Similarly, the digital echo in the form of Youtube also worked well with a daily delivery of 300,000 additional, highly involved viewers.


Seventh, it is entirely possible to have a conversation with your customers without relying on either Facebook or Twitter. Considering all the previous social media hype from Unilever it’s intriguing that one of its biggest brands, engaged in one of its biggest campaigns and focused on such a conversational approach would almost completely neglect Twitter and Facebook to deliver the message. Six tweets about the campaign and a paltry 24,000 Facebook fans engaging with the site in the past week (despite more than a million fans) tell you something about both Unilever’s ambivalence for the tools and its relative value to the overall campaign.


Eight, build a purchase funnel and populate it. It might be old fashioned but it’s an essential source of insight to look at your target market and follow them through awareness, interest, purchase, usage and then rebuy. In the Marmite case the big insight was that usage and rebuy were the weak links in the brand’s funnel so the Neglect campaign drove both while reinforcing the brand’s positioning.

Consumers might be divided about Marmite, but marketers should feel only one emotion – love!

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