CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/CAMPBELL'S - Naked is set to revamp our perception of three classic brands, Emma Hall writes

Oxo, Homepride and Campbell's. Three huge and profitable household names, but all somehow lacking the vital "x-factor that propels a brand from back-of-store cupboard to front of mind.

Despite a collective budget of £11 million, conventional advertising has not lifted Oxo, Homepride or Campbell's out of the respectable mediocrity in which they languish.

Last week, Campbell Grocery Products appointed Naked Communications to overturn this state of affairs and inject a bit of "magic into the brands.

The FMCG giant wants the rest of its portfolio to receive the same sort of innovative media planning that Naked has so successfully applied to Campbell's Batchelors Super Noodles range.

"Television is very expensive and it can only affect certain things," Robert Rees, the interim marketing director at Campbell Grocery Products, says. "Naked looks neutrally at budgets and finds the best mechanics to achieve your business objectives. It gets brands connected with consumers in ways that make a difference."

In the case of Super Noodles' Vindaloo flavour, the difference was achieved by sticking Police tape bearing the warning "Danger, ringburn in progress on to cubicle doors in pub washrooms.

Other doors were plastered with "Emergency cooling instructions and advice such as: "Spray affected posterior region with chilled lager."

Not, perhaps, the sort of stunt that might appeal to the sedate fan of the Oxo family or admirers of Homepride's gentle Fred the flour grader.

Rees concurs: "The challenges are different and we have to find the relevant approach for these other brands."

John Harlow, a founding partner at Naked, explains: "Every market has its exploding toilet equivalent. It's a case of knowing your audience and bringing a product truth to light."

George Michaelides, a managing partner of Michaelides & Bednash, agrees: "By taking a broader perspective on media, you are open to a bigger pool of thinking and give yourself more opportunity to come up with something different."

Naked's challenge is to make consumers take a fresh look at three classic brands, each of which has picked up decades-worth of advertising baggage.

Rees admits: "It's one of the biggest marketing challenges going."

Neil Dawson, the executive planning director at TBWA/London, believes it can be done. "Look at Marmite, he says. "It stays fresh despite the fact that it's been around for donkey's years. Stuffy brands often become afraid of the things that made them great, but Marmite is not afraid of the truth that people either love it or hate it."

The Mini has also revamped and redefined itself successfully, he says, by capturing the original pioneering 60s spirit of the brand and bringing it back to the fore with the "Mini adventure campaign.

Harlow and Rees are confident that Oxo, Homepride and Campbell's customers are equally ready for change. You won't hear these two whimpering about "the dangers of alienating the core audience". Instead, Rees insists: "The grey market is smart and young at heart. They are very much linked in to the lives of the younger generations and they like to laugh."

Harlow adds: "Mums and housewives who like Super Noodles might have found the Vindaloo work a bit of a leap, but they knew why we were doing it. It doesn't have to switch people off if you get it right."

Of the three brands under the microscope, Oxo presents perhaps the biggest challenge. Its image is infused with an at-home, family meal appeal that relies on the housewife who cooks meals from scratch every night. The brand, although sales remains healthy, is slipping into anachronism.

"Oxo is a massive opportunity, Harlow says. "Everyone knows about Oxo, it's just about making it relevant to the way people behave and live their lives. People don't come home from work and start thinking about recipes at 9pm."

In partnership with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's revitalised Oxo family - which was introduced in January with a script and direction by Richard Curtis - Naked will seek solutions that can nudge Oxo into the real world.

Homepride, a disparate brand that embraces eight separate product ranges, is at least "on-trend", according to Rees, because it appeals to modern mothers who want to do more than heat up a TV dinner, but less than cook from scratch.

Fred the flour grader has done nearly 40 years of sterling service as the brand's spokesman, and was updated by AMV a year ago, when Paul Merton was brought in to replace Richard Briers, with a new attitude and a new voice.

Naked's challenge comes with the need to make Homepride stand out in a crowded, fragmented market that is prone to selling on "buy one get one free deals, rather than fostering brand loyalty. "We have to make Homepride stand for something, Harlow says.

Rees believes that Campbell's Soup has an underlying classiness and, as a light, healthy snack, is "on-trend", but it needs innovation. New cartons have been introduced, but Harlow and his team will be working on ways to "enhance memorability and make Campbell's "more than just 'there'. We need to give people a point of view about the brand."

It is easy enough to pick out the problems, but less easy to resolve them. All three brands need to dust themselves off and re-connect with consumers, and Rees has created the best possible environment for success by fostering a long-term, pragmatic approach, which allows room for an adventurous spirit.

"If something works, we'll do more of it, he says. "If not, we won't do it again. Super Noodles has taken five years. There are no dramatic quick fixes available. It's a long, slow process."

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