Brand Health Check: Wispa

Brand Health Check: Wispa
Brand Health Check: Wispa

Cadbury is giving the chocolate bar an Olympic role, despite a slide in sales.

When the public demanded the return of Wispa in 2007, the Facebook campaign became a case study of how powerful social networks could be for brands.

Cynical rumours that the petition was a PR stunt were quashed and, when the bar returned to store shelves, consumers snapped it up. They wanted their Wispa - which had been absent from shops since 2003 - back for good.

Yet, surely, it had been a lack of public interest that had led Cadbury to delist the line after two decades on sale.

To maintain consumer interest, in 2009 the company brought back Wispa Gold for a limited period. Now it is reviving the caramel variant once more, this time to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics, of which Cadbury is a tier-two sponsor.

Is the focus on revival and nostalgia a sustainable marketing strategy? While many of us gorged on chocolate this Christmas, pre-festive figures suggest the public's appetite for Wispa may be waning, with value sales down 12.2% to £49.2m in the year to October 2011 - the most significant decline of the top 20 chocolate-bar brands. Twix and Twirl leapfrogged the Cadbury/Kraft brand, with Twirl's sales up 24.2%.

What should Wispa do to ensure a regular spot in the chocolate fixture?

We asked former Mars European marketing director Bob Morrison, who is a founding director of innovation agency Elephants Can't Jump, and ex-Innocent commercial director Giles Brook, founder of snack brand Bear.


BOB MORRISON - Elephants Can't Jump (formerly of Mars)

With sales down 12%, Wispa would appear to have nothing to shout about. However, success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. While last year Wispa was more of a Wimpa, the good folk at Cadbury might be feeling quite happy with the return on their investment. I can think of many brands that would make plenty of noise about sales of £49m.

Confectionery is a market in which new products generate huge novelty spikes as consumers seek out fresh pleasures. The 'Bring back Wispa' campaign gave the brand a second such spike with few of the costs of launching a brand from scratch.

The Wispa party may be quietening down, but, with eight out of the top 10 confectionery brands being more than 70 years old, age is clearly no barrier to sustained success.

REMEDY

- Memory is better than reality - when you eat a Wispa again (or for the first time), you quickly realise why it was a good, but never great, product. It needs innovation to deliver more of the product characteristics of modern chocolate.

- Nostalgia is not a strategy - Wispa needs a proper positioning that targets a key need or consumer type.

- Keep Wispa-ing. Whether 'Bring back Wispa' was genuinely consumer-led or just clever PR, Wispa's Facebook page is still bigger and fresher than those of much bigger rivals, such as Aero and Maltesers.

GILES BROOK - Bear (formerly of Innocent)

Wispa - what a great brand of yesteryear. It always provoked a strong emotional connection, but I cannot help feeling that the saliency of the brand for consumers has been diminished as it struggles for a clear identity and role in the increasingly congested confectionery category.

Playing on the brand's heritage will continue to be important, but I think the real issue is about giving consumers clearer 'reasons to buy' through better product positioning and understanding.

As with any brand plan, there is a careful balance to be struck between rewarding Wispa's existing loyal fans, recapturing lapsed consumers and extending the footprint by attracting new ones.

I'm not sure the current marketing delivers enough reasons to buy for those new consumers, which is a real necessity if this great brand is to thrive in future years.

REMEDY

- Have a clearer identity and purpose for the brand. Nostalgia and emotional appeal are great, but the connection has to come through better product understanding. What is so special about a Wispa?

- Continue to amplify the brand and Cadbury heritage to a greater extent to appeal to those lapsed consumers.

- Consider how the overall Wispa Gold Olympic revival campaign can (re-) connect consumers with the core Wispa brand, which is the priority.

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