Media: strategy of the week – Heinz Baked Beans. Will the people vote to save the slogan? Do Beanz mean Heinz? Glen Mutel enquires

Beans, or rather Beanz, used to mean Heinz. Then, for a decade or so, it didn't. Now, thanks to the efforts of Leo Burnett and Starcom Motive, it soon will again.

In an effort to give its baked bean brand a bit of PR-fuelled revitalisation, Heinz is very publicly considering putting the famous Beanz Meanz Heinz slogan into retirement, after 36 years of dutiful service.

However, the decision will not be taken by Heinz itself. In the spirit of democracy, the future of the most celebrated piece of dyslexia in advertising will be placed in the hands of the viewing public.

As part of a new campaign, Heinz is urging viewers to either "save our slogan" or "vote for change", and will be showing a selection of classic bean TV ads to help them with their decision.

Mike Smith, a senior account director at Leo Burnett, explains: "We're taking three or four historical ads and showing them on the basis that Heinz is looking at creating a new campaign. The idea is to empower the consumer."

Viewers can either vote by text message or by visiting the website, www.beanzmeanzheinz.com, where there are daily updates on how the results are taking shape. A message board enables those who have strong feelings about the slogan to let the world know.

The TV ads have been rolled out on national terrestrial and satellite TV. In addition, they also feature on Sky's interactive TV platforms, where viewers are able to vote by simply pressing the red button on their remote controls.

At present, most viewers have voted in favour of keeping the slogan. Considering the nostalgic fondness with which the public tends to view long-running old ad campaigns, you could argue that the result was predictable.

And it's been 13 years since the Beanz Meanz Heinz endline was actually used. Were people ever really likely to take the time and trouble to vote for the ditching of a slogan they haven't seen for more than a decade?

Starcom Motive's group account director, Will Phipps, doesn't believe the result was predictable. He says: "Heinz is getting a huge response, and, at the moment, it's surprised and pleased. But it honestly wasn't sure how the vote would go and it's worth checking what the public thinks."

It may be a high-profile way of reintroducing an old slogan but, ultimately, the campaign will be judged on its effectiveness. And, if success is measured in column inches, it's already performing well. For example, several papers have recently carried articles in which the slogan's creator, Maurice Drake, launches into what is described as an attack on Heinz for even considering shelving his masterpiece.

This is not the first time Heinz has adopted such a strategy. In 1999, the company warned consumers that it would permanently shelve its Salad Cream brand if they continued to buy mayonnaise instead. The Daily Mail promptly launched a characteristically hysterical "save our salad cream" campaign, with other newspapers following suit.

The endeavours were not in vain. The brand was reintroduced, complete with a price rise and a fresh, well-funded marketing initiative, which included a sampling campaign. The renewed investment in Salad Cream continues today. The brand that was supposedly once threatened with extinction can now be seen sponsoring the ITV soap Emmerdale.

Leo Burnett also has a history of giving consumers a say in the future of a brand. In 1998, Kellogg changed the name of its cereal Coco Pops cereal brand to Choco Krispies. The following year, a Leo Burnett campaign urged customers to vote via the phone and the internet to decide whether the name should remain or not. The old name prevailed, taking a massive 92 per cent of the vote.

The Heinz Baked Beans campaign will run for four weeks. Neither Leo Burnett or Starcom Motive seems sure what will happen after that. The content of any future campaign depends upon the result of the vote.

If, as is looking likely, the public votes to keep the long-running slogan, then Leo Burnett will be set the interesting creative challenge of reintroducing it in a way relevant to a modern audience.

But the scale of such a campaign has yet to be decided. "If consumers continue to give such a positive response I'm sure Heinz will want to find some way to let them know the results," Phipps says.