Aunt Bessie’s shifts marketing message in biggest ever campaign

The frozen food brand is injecting £5m into a new marketing campaign that will see it get rid of its brand characters Margaret and Mabel in favour of a more “modern” approach.

Aunt Bessie’s is getting rid of its core protagonists, Margaret and Mabel, in a positioning shift that aims to modernise the frozen food brand.

Aunt Bessie’s introduced the two humorous old women as characters in 2009 but after testing last year found they no longer had the same appeal.

Hannah Haas, marketing director at Aunt Bessie’s, tells Marketing Week: “We’d used Margaret and Mabel for 10 years and while we know they test well on awareness, we saw as soon as they did or said anything the emotional engagement dropped off a cliff.”

The new £5m campaign, created by agency St Luke’s, aims to address that engagement issue. It includes a TV spot that features a father desperately trying to get home and cook for his family. ‘George’ steals a bike and rides a horse in order to get home on time and the ad ends with the tagline ‘Bring out the Bessie in you’.

The campaign, which launches today (25 October), will run across television, digital and social. It marks Aunt Bessie’s largest ever investment in marketing.

“We are trying to change those negative connotations of old and turn them on their heads and tell people it’s frozen food: it’s convenient it’s fast but there is no reason you shouldn’t serve it with pride,” Haas says.

She adds: “People are starting to see the benefits of buying frozen and younger consumers are realising it can help with health, with freshness and food waste.”

The first run of the campaign will end on 23 December but the brand will look to bring it back next year alongside new packaging.

“Packaging is the final piece of the puzzle for us because our research told us we were taking people to the frozen food section but we weren’t converting that into sales because we assume packaging didn’t live up to expectations. “

READ MORE: Birds Eye on rethinking its ‘bland’ marketing strategy to save the frozen food category

The ad and packaging are part of a new marketing strategy for the brand that aims to ultimately drive purchase for its core products. Haas explains: “We know we have a few things to achieve: increase consideration among our core customers across more products, convert new customers and step up our penetration and grow sales of our hero products.”

Aunt Bessie’s was bought by Birds Eye owner Nomad Foods this year and although the TV campaign and redesign were already in the pipeline, Haas says the acquisition offers more opportunities to push the brand by using Nomad’s scale and expertise.

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