McCain expands diversity focus to better understand families

McCain says its focus on diversity has had a real impact on the business, not just on brand perceptions but also its internal make-up.

McCain is launching a new £2.5m campaign that celebrates the differences in opinion in families across the nation, from pet preferences to political views, as it looks to expand its diversity focus.

The ad, which goes live today (19 August), is the third wave of its We Are Family platform and aims to show how differences in opinion, whether big or small, can bring families together.

Mark Hodge, marketing director at McCain, tells Marketing Week: “Where the first two ads were looking more at the physical diversity that existed, this is looking beyond that. It is more than skin deep. Differences exist between people and families and values and beliefs, and these get discussed over meal times.”

The ‘Differences’ ad, created by adam&eveDDB, will air across TV, radio, outdoor, print and online for the next six weeks.

The advert follows 10 real families from a wide range of backgrounds, each with different opinions on everything from home life, school, sports and technology, to religion, gender, politics and sexual identity.

The campaign comes on the back of research which identified that 81% of people agree that being in a family that sometimes disagrees is a positive thing and shows how differences can bring families closer together when discussed and debated around the dinner table.

Hodge adds: “It is often meal times where a lot of those differences are exposed and come to light in a clear way. But regardless of those differences, people come together over great tasting food.”

McCain keeps with diversity agenda after seeing brand boost

McCain carried out extensive research into which topics families were debating but was unsure whether to mention Brexit. Hodge says: “We obviously had a big debate asking will Brexit be relevant by then and will it all be sorted but it’s still very topical and will continue to be.”

But McCain is unequivocal that no matter the topic the brand isn’t taking sides.

“What we’ve been very careful to do is make sure the brand isn’t giving an opinion or taking a stance on one side or the other,” Hodge adds. “We are just saying, ‘this is reality. This is the real world. People have differences of opinion they believe in different things. They like different things’.”

Since the first We Are Family ad in 2017, McCain says it has seen an improvement in a number of brand metrics. Brand meaning and brand perception have both grown by 10%, while brand difference has increased 14%.

Hodge notes: “I ask: does McCain, as a brand, understand families today, and ultimately that’s the most important metric for me.”

Leading the way for diversity

When the first ad featuring two fathers launched two years ago, McCain received a lot of homophobic abuse on social media.

Since then, the brand has taken part in Channel 4’s Together Against Hate campaign, which highlighted the abuse participants receive.

McCain uses real families in all of its ads, something that Hodge argues is “part of the DNA of the brand”. But it remains “cautious” when recruiting ordinary people.

“If you are trying to shine a light on what the nation is really like, there is always a danger you will get caught out using actors. In casting we are very careful in how we approach people and we’re very clear in how they will be portrayed,” Hodge explains.

He adds: “When you are working with real people you have a responsibility and a duty of care. We prepare ourselves and in the event of some of these things happening we can deal with them swiftly and fairly and that doesn’t allow an incorrect narrative to develop inappropriately.”

We are leading the way externally with advertising so we’ve had to challenge ourselves and think how do we continue that journey internally.

Mark Hodge, McCain

McCain’s focus on diversity in its campaigns has also caused it to look inward.

“We are leading the way externally with advertising so we’ve had to challenge ourselves and think how do we continue that journey internally,” Hodge says.

The brand has a number of programmes, for example to encourage the integration of people from different backgrounds and ensure more female managers from senior to factory level. However, McCain is keen to ensure it doesn’t just focus on one issue.

“Often with diversity and inclusion people make the mistake of just focusing on one aspect of [but] you need an expansive programme. It’s like the campaign; we want to make sure we’re touching everybody and not just a specific group or a single issue,” Hodge explains.

Does he think the ad industry is diverse enough? “No. Although in the last 18 months there has been a lot of progress in that space and there are a lot of campaigns now in addition to ours that are using real people and real families.”

Why ‘fail fast’ is not the right approach for McCain

McCain is on an “accelerate platform for growth”, meaning it is investing in innovation and global markets. However, Hodge says the brand is not adopting a fail-fast approach.

“When there is 70% to 80% failure rate, it is hard to get innovation away. What I am keen we do is take an innovation to the market that is going to create category market growth and growth for our customers, otherwise it just creates a lot of wasted time and effort,” he explains.

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One of the areas McCain is tapping into is healthy eating. It has launched vegan burgers and in July a lighter version of its oven chips. This is to ensure the brand is keeping up with younger consumers, whose eating habits are radically different to older generations’.

“The idea of meals is disappearing and it’s about eating occasions. A lot of us in the past used to have three meals a day and a lot of these other generations are having six or seven eating occasions each day,” Hodge concludes.

“We’ve got to think about that and how we ensure the brand will continue to be relevant against that backdrop.”