Premier Food will never bring creative in house, according to its UK marketing director Yilmaz Erceyes, who believes its agencies have played an important role in turning around the fortunes of its biggest brands.
Speaking at the Festival of Marketing today (10 October) Erceyes admitted the brand “would never bring creative development in-house because we don’t have that core competency”.
Instead, he praised its agency McCann, arguing the team had been “critical” in its turnaround strategy.
The owner of Mr Kipling and Bisto kicked off that strategy in 2015 after seeing declines in the majority of its brands – including household names – with some reaching double digits.
Erceyes said: “Our results weren’t pretty. Our organisation had become trading-led, just thinking about next month and next quarter.”
He added: “All our focus was on the next quarter and was transactional with retail partners.”
This meant the brand wasn’t investing in deep consumer insight and brand building.
To turn this around, Erceyes implemented a three-pronged strategy to “pivot the company from trade-led to consumer-led’.
Firstly, to rejuvenate the core of the portfolio by modernising brands through renovation and media investment; secondly, to be innovation-led with new products that meet unmet consumer needs; and lastly to power market-leading growth.
How Angel Delight helped shape a food giant
A product synonymous with the 1970s, Angel Delight was the brand Premier Foods chose to roadtest the new strategy. New formats were introduced with ready-to-eat products in pots, real strawberry fruit was used for flavouring across the range and this was made prominent on packaging.
The revenue growth was impressive, from a decline of 8% in 2015/16 to growth of 13% in 2017/18 and 14% in 2018/19. Erceyes admits the results took him by surprise.
The same strategy of product innovation was used with the Batchelors brand, which includes the Super Noodles, Cup-a-Soup and Pasta ‘n’ Sauce brands.
Premier Foods took out some MSG from the ingredients, reduced cooking times and made packaging more convenient with pots. Again, a revenue decline (of 6% in 2015/16), turned into a 7% revenue increase in 2017/18 and in 2018/19.
Brand building with Mr Kipling
In early 2018, Premier Foods relaunched Mr Kipling with Ereceyes keen to emphasise the importance of its heritage.
He noted that “marketers often get bored before consumers” and that Mr Kipling’s strong brand love meant he decided to bring back an older version of the logo, re-emphasised the ‘exceedingly good cakes’ line and Mr Kipling’s voice, refreshed packaging designs and sought to establish an emotional connection with consumers through a new TV campaign.
The brand also sought to evolve with consumer needs and trends by bringing in a range of unicorn slices that quickly became one of its most popular products.
He added that “emotional campaigns outperform functional ones,” arguing that strong brands are a must and that maximising reach is necessary to maximise returns.
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