– 14 November 2012

What is it about Marmite that makes the yeasty spread such a perennially relevant brand? Perhaps it is because the dark, salty sandwich favourite has been around for almost 110 years, but my bet is that it is, in part, because the people who market the brand are clever. Oh so very, very clever.
In the UK, the makers of the dark brown paste where intelligent enough to work with an advertising agency that told them that not everyone was a lover of Marmite, and that the sandwich spread shouldn’t try to be all things to all people.

Harvard Business Review tells how Marmite’s brilliantly controversial ‘Love It or Hate It’ campaign was born 15 years ago out of a difference of tastes among the creative team at DDB London. “One loved the brown, savoury spread and one hated it. The campaign’s longevity and fame reflects the fact that even in its country of origin, the brand’s strong taste is ‘challenging’.”

The business journal recalls a memorable ad in the campaign called ‘Apartment’ which was aired over ten years ago and featured a young couple locked in a passionate embrace. “The clinch ends abruptly as the young man gags. The ad ends with the now famous super, ‘You either love it or hate it’.”

HBR says this campaign saw an end to five years of stagnating sales and a weakening brand. The ad took a bold risk and led to growth of around 5% each year for many years.

Writes Guardian of the bold campaign: “Instead of glossing over the fact that a good portion of the populace feel Marmite is really quite grim, the Love it or Hate it campaign embraced the truth that Marmite is a strong flavour, which evokes strong feelings. In doing so, it created a way for even those who hate Marmite-the-product to interact with and love Marmite-the-brand. Giving them licence to say things such as “I want to stab it until it dies. Then burn it. And then mail its ashes to its grandmother” and sound like they’re in with the joke, rather than in with the lunatic asylum.”

Back home independent agency Machine has produced an ingenious Halloween campaign that plays with this love/hate compulsion called ‘Don’t be afraid of the Dark’. The creepy activation encourages people to not be scared and try the original dark stuff “because there really isn’t anything to be afraid of”.

The challenge with a product like Marmite is keeping the brand fresh, relevant and in the forefront of consumer minds, which Machine has done with this clever campaign and its precursor, the multiple award winning work – ‘If Mother didn’t tell you about Marmite, what else didn’t she tell you?’ work.

‘Don’t be afraid of the Dark’ was executed across multiple channels and including two Marmite Halloween graffiti walls at high traffic intersections in Johannesburg; Marmite Halloween posters that hint at Hollywood horror; and a hand illustrated book of 13 ghoulish SA short stories; and a limited edition of Marmite jars hand crafted into caricatures of well-knownhorror personalities that will be auctioned off for charity.

The challenge for Machine was that research by Marmite showed that few local youth knew about the product, and the brand had very little relevance to the market. Often these ‘let’s go capture the youth market’ ads are embarrassing, if not twee, because they’re often ads where agencies presume to know what young people want, like or need.

The Machine campaign is different. It is completely cool and relevant. Which is of course, what makes it oh so very smart. What’s not to love?

View the campaign work here:

The motion stop video of the graffiti wall

The creative credits for Marmite’s ‘Don’t be afraid of the Dark’:

Creative Directors: Jake Bester, Gareth Macpherson
Design Directors: Dani Loureiro, Bridget McLaren
Art Directors: Josh Hilton Foster
Copywriters: Craig Walford, Gisele Human, Neil Meyer
Designers: Josh Hilton Foster, Bridget McLaren
Illustrators: Dani Loureiro, Andrew Ringrose

Marmite Figurines:
Original Artwork: Joshua Hilton Foster, Neil Meyer
3D Modeling: Amy Rusch, Melissa Cohen, Jacqueline Viljoen
Painting of Figurines: Althea Visagie

Original Artwork: Andrew Ringrose
Mural: Nick Herbert
Animation: Natalie Perel / Nick Herbert
Editor: Natalie Perel
Sound design: Say Thank You