Facebook isn’t always the easiest platform for brands to make a strong impact on, as ads interrupt a highly personal and private environment to compete for attention.
But love it or hate it, last month one Facebook ad stood out in all the right ways – Marmite’s ‘Flippin’ Tasty’ Pancake Day ad. The short-form, six-second video features a squirrel flipping a pancake while standing on top of two jars of Marmite Peanut Butter.
Building off the ‘Love it or Hate it’ creative platform the brand has been committed to for a number of years, the video closes on the line, ‘Love it. Hate it. Flip it’. An accompanying caption declares Marmite Peanut Butter the “best” pancake topper.
With its fun approach and ability to grab attention, the ad ranked as the most creatively effective Facebook ad of February in terms of public response, according to Kantar’s ‘The Works’ study.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Kantar’s head of creative excellence, Lynne Deason, explains creativity and originality are “essential” to cut through on Facebook, where brands are competing with users’ own personal stories, pictures and posts.
“Care needs to be taken with the approach adopted to avoid evoking feelings of intrusion in this very personal and private environment. This is a context in which receptivity to advertising is lower with consumers,” she says.
However, that isn’t to say Facebook is a platform to avoid. Instead, content needs to be created or adapted to work taking into account users’ mindsets, Deason says. Ads need to interest users, not interrupt what they’re interested in.
We needed to cut through all the standard toppings and offer consumers something different that they’d find delicious (or disgusting).
Sophie Allan, Marmite
Fortunately for Marmite, its pancake-themed ad manages to achieve this, earning attention through being “distinctive, unexpected and fun”. The video performs in the top 10% of all UK ads on its ability to make people stop and look.
The ad also performed at a “significantly above average” level on the “lean forward” engagement measures of being distinctive and original, Deason adds.
Produced in association with Marketing Week and the Advertising Association’s Trust Working Group, ‘The Works’ study asked 750 consumers what they thought of five of February’s top Facebook ads – 150 consumers per advert.
Participant’s in Kantar’s study described the ad as “vibrant”, as well as “distinctive, involving and catches your attention”.
A ‘pan-tastic’ twist
According to Marmite’s senior brand manager, Sophie Allan, the ad calls back to the “disruptive” and “distinctive” Marmite Mind Control campaign from 2019, in which the brand claimed to be able to convert haters of the product into lovers through the power of hypnosis.
Marmite used the Mind Control campaign when it launched Marmite Peanut Butter later that year, but to give it a “nutty twist”, it turned the ad’s star hypnotist into a squirrel. The launch ad achieved 17% ad recall and doubled the unit rate of sale, and as such the squirrel has been the face of the product ever since.
The launch of Marmite Peanut Butter has enabled the brand to reach a whole new segment, “delighting” its existing audience and offering Marmite haters a “more palatable way” into the flavour and brand, Allan adds.
Meanwhile, activating at seasonal moments is a “key” part of the brand’s marketing strategy, whether through Christmas gift sets or Halloween ‘trick or treat’ jars, she says. Pancake day is an “important moment” for peanut butter, so the perfect moment to push the product.
“We needed to cut through all the standard toppings and offer consumers something different that they’d find delicious (or disgusting),” she explains.
“So we gave our communications a pan-tastic twist by re-creating our classic, hypnotic visual with a pancake-tossing squirrel.”Love it or hate it: Why Marmite’s peanut butter is more than just a gimmick
According to Kantar’s study, viewers found the ad easy to understand, avoiding a potential barrier to positive engagement.
Indeed, the ad scored in the top quartile of UK ads on enjoyability, with the squirrel character driving likeability by being seen as “cute” and “funny” by participants.
Unsurprisingly, however, the ad split opinion on the prospect of Marmite Peanut Butter on pancakes, which had an impact on enjoyability.
“The greatest relevance and enjoyment are seen among those who love the idea of the product, in addition to how it’s brought to life,” Deason explains.
The long and the short
However, what really stands out about the ad is how effectively it conveys the brand, Deason says, “ensuring that Marmite benefits from the attention-grabbing power of the ad”.
The video scored in the top 4% of all ads on branding, which will play a “significant” role in ensuring the investment pays dividends for Marmite.
“Branding is in part supported through this being a fresh and original iteration of the brand’s Love it or Hate it creative platform in an authentically Marmite fun and light-hearted approach,” Deason explains.
“Additionally, the brand appears from the outset. This doesn’t guarantee strong branding, however. What makes the difference here is that Marmite is front and centre to what people see visually on screen and the ‘flipping’ action that follows.”
There’s method to the madness – these breakthrough creative ideas help us to appeal to the next generation of Marmite lovers and keep our brand as loved (and hated) as ever.
Sophie Allan, Marmite
On average, people chose to watch 56% of the ad, skipping at 2 seconds. But by this point, the content has already “landed” the Marmite brand and the concept of using it on pancakes, Deason says, adding that viewers also liked the shortness of the video.
Meanwhile, the ad also “powerfully” reinforces the feeling the Marmite brand is “really different to others”, falling in the top 20% of UK ads on this measure, according to Deason. This contributes to an ad’s ability to deliver a longer-term impact.
“The creative approach and the product itself combine powerfully to achieve this effect,” she adds.
Beyond building salience for the brand, the ad also generates a desire among consumers to try the product, and is therefore likely to contribute towards driving short-term sales alongside other activation activities. Once again, pre-existing Marmite users were much more highly persuaded and motivated to trial the product, with haters remaining unconvinced.
According to Allan, Marmite did see a “strong” click-through rate on the ad and “strong uplift” in Marmite Peanut Butter sales in Sainsbury’s – the retailer the ad drove through to – over the period the ad was running.Hotel Chocolat’s catalogue revealed as most effective Christmas direct mail
For the most part, either reach or engagement is the key success measure for Marmite’s Facebook ads, she says. In this instance it was all about engagement, as the brand aimed to take shoppers to the Sainsbury’s site.
“Using industry benchmarks and insights from a wealth of prior campaigns across Unilever brands, and with the help of our media agency partners, we then optimise in-flight to enhance performance while live,” she adds.
Facebook and other social channels sit within Marmite’s wider channel strategy as platforms with which the brand can engage directly with its ‘Marmarati’ community of fans, both organically and with paid media.
Considerations are given to format, length, message hierarchy and consistency to ensure the brand’s ads are highly effective, Allan says.
Marmite’s overall ambition from a creative perspective is to deliver work that “stands out in culture”, she adds.
“Since the 90s when our Love it or Hate it brand line was brought to life, working with our agency partners we have consistently delivered cut through creative work,” she claims.
“We carry this ambition across all brand touchpoints, from huge campaigns and NPD [new product development] launches to ecommerce content and back of pack copy.
“There’s method to the madness – these breakthrough creative ideas help us to appeal to the next generation of Marmite lovers and keep our brand as loved (and hated) as ever.”