When you think of a category and only one name springs to mind, usually it would be a safe bet that the brand in question is in reasonable health. Not so if you're thinking of pickle and Branston, however, which seems to have lost its 'tang'.
It is notable for its absence from Premier Foods' line-up of eight 'power brands', announced last week.
Ambrosia, Batchelors, Bisto, Hovis, Loyd Grossman, Mr Kipling, OXO and Sharwood's have been identified by Premier as having the 'best growth prospects', and it is therefore to focus resources on them.
So, what does that mean for 89-year-old Branston? Premier had already sliced back its above-the-line spend for it in the past year by more than 80%. According to marketing data firm Ebiquity, just £132,000 was spent on Branston in the 12 months to July. Over approximately the same period, the volume of in-store promotions rose, but sales dipped 7.6%, to £47.1m.
Premier has said it will cut back on short-term tactical trading activities across its portfolio and focus on core brands. It plans to dispose of others. Will Branston be for the chop, or is there still an untapped recipe for success?
Marketing asked consultant Paul Watmore, who was formerly European brand director of Kraft Foods and a strategic consultant at the COI, and Alistair Green, head of strategy at Mindshare, where he works on the Unilever account.
Paul Watmore, consultant (formerly of Kraft Foods)
Branston is a brand that has lost its way and has no clear understanding of what it stands for in the minds of consumers.
I have no doubt that slapping the brand on a few big adjacent categories, including baked beans and tomato ketchup, yielded some short-term volume, but it is no way to build a sustainable business.
There is nothing distinctive about Branston's offering in these categories, and this has diluted the overall brand equity. By contrast, the core pickle offering remains strong with a bold on-shelf presence, and has a brand awareness that others would die for.
Branston has the opportunity to dominate pickles and relishes, but is leaving the gourmet end of this category to own-label and niche brands, and risks appearing dated by comparison.
The various line extensions that have been introduced share little of the visual equity of the core pickle, resulting in a fragmented shelf presence.
- Identify and articulate the brand foundations, and use this to guide everything from packaging to NPD. If it doesn't fit, don't do it.
- Ruthlessly prune the range to the lines that fit the brand foundations and make money. Adopt a one in, one out strategy when introducing new flavours to safeguard rate of sale.
- Understand in detail which elements of the marketing mix add value. Use this to inform an aggressive cost-reduction programme, removing product cost wherever it is not building consumer value.
- Identify an affordable and relevant ad medium to feature a series of unusual and appetising uses of Branston pickle.
ALISTAIR GREEN, HEAD OF STRATEGY, MINDSHARE
Everyone has a jar of Branston pickle, Branston's sweet chilli mayo is yum, and Richard and Judy proved Britain prefers Branston's Baked Beans to Heinz.
Unfortunately, the business tells a different story. So why the disparity between a brilliant British brand and business reality?
Branston faces a similar challenge to other heritage condiments: big penetration, but low frequency. Because of this, the category has shifted from singleto multiple-use occasions. Branston and the Premier Foods stable of brands have followed the trend with their 'Great little ideas' campaign.
Branston has extended its range to include ketchup, brown sauce, burger relish, flavoured mayos and baked beans. Hellmans, Heinz and Marmite have succeeded with a similar strategy, so what is missing from Branston's armoury?
- Branston needs to invest in paid media. Spend has dropped 80% and the 'Great little ideas' activity has taken the brand downmarket. Investing in the brand is even more important with the recession and the rise of own-label alternatives.
- Branston should use strategic partnerships. A partnership with a 'host food', such as Cathedral City cheese, and another to take it into chilled foods, with, say, Marks & Spencer, could communicate range, increase brand presence and use brand partner equity.
- Branston has a little more than 3000 fans on Facebook. In contrast, Marmite has 746,000 fans and Heinz sold out its limited-edition balsamic ketchups via social media. Branston needs to make earned media its most valuable brand asset.