Weekly Comment

Ditch the marketing madness

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Advertising, Cadbury

Marketing strategies - two words that incorporate everything from
pseudo scientific research to shock value advertising campaigns.
But shouldn't honesty be the best policy?

If you've been paying attention recently you'll have noticed some sterling examples from the whole bag of marketing tricks available to opportunistic ad-men. Heavily in the news this month was Cadbury (no change there). The confectionery maker courted controversy when it wheeled out a series of UK television adverts promoting Trident gum. The adverts featured a hyperactive Caribbean man whose role consisted of bouncing on screen and shrieking 'mastication for the nation' in a thick Caribbean accent. Strangely enough this sensitive portrait of Caribbean culture was not well received. Many viewers complained it was 'offensive and racist' and, while these criticisms were later thrown out by the Advertising Standards Authority, the ASA did feel it necessary to reprimand Cadbury and instructed the company to pull the campaign - saying it had breached codes relating to stereotyping. Naturally the furore created could become something of a sales coup for Cadbury. These adverts may indeed get people talking and possibly even work the bizarre 'mastication' slogan into public parlance but they fail to highlight anything of the actual product so that the viewer learns nothing about the gum itself. After its success elsewhere in the world, Cadbury is attempting to launch Trident into the UK market for the first time and surely a company which has millions to invest in the promotion of an important brand can afford to wheel out more appropriate advertising or indeed spend it on the gum itself, giving it an edge over competitors that doesn't rely on testing the boundaries of ASA leniency. But Cadbury isn't the only perpetrator of all this marketing malarky. Companies have always regarded advertising as the chance to go to town on finding new ways of luring in consumers. While some go the obvious route of securing celebrity endorsement, others are prepared to try more ambitious efforts. And so to the craze of the food-themed calendar. Breakfast cereals week, chocolate week and even national chip day have all been greedily exploited by companies operating in those very industries. Just a few weeks ago, Danish Bacon attempted to reinvent 2007 as the year of the bacon buttie (never mind that we are only four months in). As part of its themed campaign, the company wheeled out its 'formula' for the best sandwich - leading consumers to believe that meat-loving boffins had spent hours slaving over a laboratory grill pan monitoring things such as 'force required to break bacon' and 'function of condiment' in a quest to maximise consumer enjoyment. Of course the moral of this particular 'scientific' experiment was that the ultimate bacon sandwich was within reach, all one has to do is rush out to the shops and stockpile Danish-brand bacon. It's a canny concept. Consumers are all too keen to lap up any product with the stamp of legitimacy conferred by our modern-day deity: Science. But a willingness to learn about food and nutrition should not be exploited in this manner. If consumers become blasé about food research, a vital cornerstone of the food industry would suffer. Advertisers should be leaving the sanctity of science intact rather than peddling it for their own gain. And not only are companies shirking their duty to advertise responsibly, they continue to patronise consumers. Insincere advertising breeds jaded, cynical buyers. To retain consumer trust, companies should perhaps be looking at using a novel approach that is generally regarded as anathema to marketing: honesty. In an ideal, simplistic world, the product in question would be good enough to make truth the best tactic in selling it. Sadly, this is not that world and advertisers fear that painting a true portrait of their (often unhealthy) wares will deter potential business. In this they overlook the fact that the majority of consumers have enough information at their fingertips already to be able to distinguish between healthy food and the not so healthy variety. The public is being bombarded daily by messages jostling them to make the right dietary decisions. What they would appreciate now is a little straight talking. Catherine Boal is the editor of Confectionerynews.com and Bakeryandsnacks.com. She has lived and worked in the UK, Ireland, France and South Africa. If you would like to comment on this article please e-mail catherine.boal 'at' decisionnews.com

Related topics: Editor's Choice, Markets

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