• Transform magazine
  • July 15, 2024


Opinion: Inspiring long-term brand loyalty

Jamie Williams.jpeg

The supermarket is full of products that we can’t imagine life without. Marmite, Colman’s, Birds Eye fish fingers, Weetabix, Bisto – they’re all brands that have transcended their category to become national treasures.

But what makes a national treasure? And is it a status that can be achieved with clever branding? Get it right and you’re almost guaranteed a continuing presence in people’s shopping baskets. But there’s not one easy road to success – every brand is different and has to find its own way into the national consciousness.

Since isobel started working with Kelly’s of Cornwall in 2016, the brand moved from an ice cream much loved by locals to one appreciated across the UK. But crucial to its success was having the courage to look beyond the expected. We could have opted for a safe, ‘traditionally Cornish’ approach instead we celebrated the county’s unique language and culture with the UK’s first campaign in Kernewek. Initially, creating an ad in a language that very few people understand was deemed a risk but, in the event, it captured the hearts and minds of the whole country.

To inspire loyalty in your brand, you need to understand it and your target consumer fully, and then capitalise on existing traits and characteristics to create a sense of ownership. In other words, find your USP.

Provenance can play an important role here. Marmite is from Burton-on-Trent, Walkers comes from Leicester, Lea & Perrins from Worcester. They all have a back story, either rooted in location or simply Britishness. But a brand’s story could equally be about its reputation or founder. Bernard Matthews led the charge for his ‘bootiful’ turkeys, and no-one cares where Robinsons squash comes from but we can’t image Wimbledon without it.

It’s important to walk the line between innovation and nostalgia carefully. Being a national treasure isn’t about being stuck in the past.

Our mission was to turn Kelly’s into a national treasure with cross-generational appeal and our ‘enemy’ was chintzy old Cornwall. Kelly’s had a loyal following among older age groups but it wanted to attract younger people too. There are lots of hip independent food and drink companies popping up in the region and, after chatting to Visit Cornwall, we learned that holidaymakers are getting younger. So we positioned Kelly’s to join that vanguard of entrepreneurial brands coming out of the county, like Sharp’s Brewery and Origin Coffee. Our work saw an increase of more than 90% in consumers aged 18-40.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia but you need to keep an eye on trends. The OXO cube used to depict the ‘traditional’ family mealtime, with mum at the stove and dad at the head of the table. But today, this former category king struggles in an increasingly innovative space.

Understand, too, that working towards national treasure status requires commitment. It’s not enough to shoot a great ad and get a social media campaign going. Every touchpoint needs to be branded, including point of sale, sampling and trade activity. Kelly’s collaborated with Cornish chef James Strawbridge and comedian Edward Rowe, otherwise known as the Kernow King to keep things varied, fun and most importantly live.

The journey to becoming a national treasure is ultimately about having a deep understanding of what your brand is, its Britishness, and communicating that to consumers in a way that taps into our idiosyncratic sensibilities. Establish trust and authenticity through brand character and make sure you’re giving target consumers what they want – hopefully they’ll love you for ever.

Jamie Williams is a partner at creative agency isobel