AGENDA: Why Opal Fruits name has to go - Mars’ decision to rebrand Opal Fruits as Starbursts, as it is known throughout most of the world, reveals the conflict between domestic brand loyalty and the pressures of global strategies. Mars UK marketin

The debate over the change of name from Opal Fruits to Starburst has revealed once again the strength of emotion certain brands, especially in confectionery, seem able to stir up in us.

The debate over the change of name from Opal Fruits to Starburst

has revealed once again the strength of emotion certain brands,

especially in confectionery, seem able to stir up in us.

It was a marketing director’s dream when the previously unannounced

change to Starburst attracted so much attention. To be the subject not

only of comment on the front page of The Times, but also of a leader,

was a great boost.

The dream, though, was rudely interrupted by the leader-writer

expressing Luddite views on rebranding. It is surprising that objections

should be voiced purely on the basis of a historical attachment to a

well-established UK brand name.

Since we are not alone at Mars in rebranding some well-known brands, we

and the marketing profession have clearly failed to explain the benefits

of these changes to consumers.

Brand growth

Not everyone will be pleased at the loss of a well-loved brand name, but

there are plenty of examples of brands which have grown as a result of


Snickers grew following its change of name from Marathon and moved from

being number five in the market to number three. The advantages of a

name change to consumers are reflected in the availability of the same

product with the same brand name throughout the world.

Without the name change, Mars would have been unable to develop the

brand globally through the sponsorship of events like Euro ’96 and the

World Cup.

We know that changes of brand name do not happen on the whim of a brand

manager without reference to the people who really matter, in this case

Opal Fruits consumers. Presented with the rationale for the name change,

and the reassurance that it is only the name that is changing, research

shows (as one would expect) opinions ranging from the very positive to

the very neutral.

Consumers recognise, however, that in an increasingly global

marketplace, this sort of name change is increasingly common. They

understand that the advantage for them is that they will be able to find

brands they recognise and trust wherever they travel.

Of course, there will always be those who regret losing the old brand

name but, for us, the position is very clear. Out of every 100 packs of

fruit chews Mars sells worldwide, over 80 are branded Starburst.

Only in the UK does Opal Fruits exist, and it was inevitable that we

should rationalise the two brands into one sooner or later. The fact

that it is happening now is a reflection of an increase in the focus we

have chosen to put on our sugar business.

It would make little sense to increase our marketing investment behind a

brand name with limited geographical distribution in a global


Testament of youth

The memories of our youth and childhood sweet-shop recollections are

very important to us all, but we must not allow this to prevent change

where consumers will benefit.

We have found that a new generation of young consumers has come to

regard Snickers as its own brand. We are confident that a new generation

of consumers will say the same about Starburst in the years ahead.

In the meantime, we should all try to continue to extend more widely an

understanding of the benefits to consumers of changes to our brands.


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