Brand Health Check: Boddingtons

Boddingtons braves cream-free strategy. Ale brand Boddingtons has dropped cartoon cow Graham in favour of glamorous models and dry humour. Rose Smith asks if the latest campaign will help it improve off-trade sales.

Boddingtons has put Graham the Cow, star of its advertising, out to

pasture after two-and-a-half years. The Interbrew-owned ale brand has

instead returned to its strategy of using sultry models lusting after a

pint.

'It's a bit gorgeous' is the strapline for a strategy aimed at the

older, more sophisticated male and the female occasional drinker - part

of a £14m marketing spend for 2002.

With a theme reminiscent of the 'Cream of Manchester' campaign of the

90s, the first execution shows a beautiful woman who asks her boyfriend

to liven things up in bed by miming pouring her a pint of

Boddingtons.

After pretending to drink it she rolls over, satisfied, and goes to

sleep.

In 'Screenkiss', a sexy redhead finds her co-star so repellent she

pretends he's a pint of Boddingtons and then can't stop kissing him.

Boddingtons says the ads, through Bartle Bogle Hegarty, are a creative

change in line with research on the buying potential of 25- to

35-year-old male consumers.

But the change also follows an 8.6% decline in off-trade sales,

according to Marketing's Biggest Brands survey for sales between May

2000 and April 2001. On-trade sales were more positive, with an 11.5%

increase.

The 'Chilled cream' ads featuring Graham had attracted complaints to the Independent Television Commission for promoting bestiality, homosexuality and drug-taking, although they were not upheld.

Boddingtons is the leading brand in the ales sector. But ale sales lag behind those of lagers, and in the wider drinks market it is up against the likes of Stella Artois and Carling.

So will the return of sexy ads get punters reaching for a pint of

Boddies?

Can the new ads match the original Melanie Sykes campaign? Could

dropping the 'creaminess' theme be damaging for the brand?

Marketing asked David Spencer, brands manager for independent brewer Fuller Smith & Turner, and Justin Cernis, managing director of Barrett Cernis, which handles accounts for Ruddles, Wexford and Sol.

VITAL STATISTICS

Brand share in the off-trade ale market, by value, year end 2001

pounds m Year-on-year

% change

Boddingtons Draught Bitter 44 -2

John Smith's Draught 29 -4

Caffrey's Ale 27 2

McEwan's Export 27 -11

John Smith's Bitter 25 -11

Source: ACNielsen

DIAGNOSIS

David Spencer

As a Mancunian, I've got a soft spot for Boddingtons, so I'll be watching its progress with interest now that Graham the androgynous cow has gone. Fun though he was, it's the right move.

Competing for the over-18 repertoire drinker is a task fraught with

difficulty, especially over the past couple of years when second-generation pre-packaged spirits brands such as Smirnoff Ice and bacardi Breezers have made serious inroads into beer's share of throat.

Repositioning the brand to an older, more experienced audience, with palates more likely to appreciate its flavour, gives the brand room to breathe.

But I wonder if quietly ditching 'creaminess' is a move which could

backfire.

It was the key attribute (in an unremarkable beer), which formed the basis for the brand's positioning, its benchmark-setting advertising, and its subsequent rise to fame.

Dropping the cream theme may have watered down the brand's personality, leaving it at risk of being squeezed by confident brands such as John Smith's and Carling.

After all, there are any number of merely 'gorgeous' beers out

there.

Justin Cernis

On first sight you might think Boddingtons has gone from one extreme to

the other.

Graham the cow, largely appealed to lads, in a style and tone mirroring

the South Park-type of shows that are popular with blokes. Now, with new television commercials, attractive women overcome unwelcome situations involving unappealing men by thinking about a pint of the creamy stuff.

I don't think this move is about redressing the balance and making the

brand more appealing to women. 'Boddies' has come a long way, from being a declining regional bitter in the North-West, to the brand it is

today.

This strategic development reflects the fact that it has grown up and is

acting like a truly national brand. Boddingtons needs something more to

help it succeed in a very competitive market and this might just give it

the stature it needs.

As for the creative proposition - it's hardly unique. Setting up your

product as more attractive than the very attractive, or so attractive

that it helps you endure the unendurable is not new. But by 'eck - what

is these days.

TREATMENT

Spencer's suggestions

- If Boddingtons wants to compete more directly with lager brands, it

needs to emphasise its attributes - flavour, creaminess, refreshment,

ease of drinking.

- Build a stronger personality through advertising and keep making us

laugh.

- Follow through with appropriate on-shelf and in-pub communication.

Sponsorship could also work.

Cernis' strategy

- Don't lose sight of the product's benefits. Smooth and creamy doesn't

immediately come across in the new ads. Do a job for the brand, not the

category.

- Don't alienate blokes. I feel this current campaign has the potential

to, if it's not careful.

- 'Gorgeous' is there to be owned creatively - so own it.

- Bring back Melanie!

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