Next week Campari will unleash its new image on Britain’s fickle
drinkers. A new TV campaign created by Mellors Reay & Partners will seek
to dispel its perception as a girlie drink endorsed by Lorraine Chase in
the 70s, replacing it with more macho feel. Tim Mellors’ new commercial
even features notorious East End gangster ’Mad’ Frankie Fraser.
The relaunch is the latest in a series of drastic attempted revivals for
brands that were big until the 70s but then lost their way. Such
ambitious relaunches have had differing degrees of success (see
So how will Campari fare? Can it really drag itself from the
Continental-style lounges of the 70s to the minimalist bars of the 90s,
or will it be permanently confined to the back of your parents’ drinks
Chris Meredith, marketing director of First Drinks Brands, the
distributor of Campari, is confident that this piece of ’strong man’s
communication’ can lift the present sales of 35,000 cases a year to over
100,000 in three years.
Tom Bury, chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather, is less sure. As head of
the agency which has successfully relaunched the Lucozade and Guinness
brands, Bury believes Campari is taking an ’exceptionally high
’It’s dangerous to turn a brand around by 180 degrees as you’re in
danger of confusing people. It’s all about brand stewardship; building
rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water,’ says Bury.
O&M’s approach to ’refreshing’ brands has been to strip them down to
their ’core DNA’ and rebuild. In the case of Lucozade, it took the
’pick-me-up’ reputation of the drink and transferred its core attributes
of orange, glucose and energy to create the modern, sporty drink of
The image change is marked; compare today’s ’Fat Slags’ ads with the
health-centred work of the 70s.
The agency’s turnaround of Guinness was more dramatic. Through Rutger
Hauer’s dark, quirky advertising in the 80s, it gave an old drink a
modern, confident edge.
But even here Bury stresses the danger of alienating existing
’With Guinness we attacked a new audience. We made sure we didn’t
challenge customers’ existing relationship with the brand. Rutger
Hauer’s individual and confident style had an appeal to the older
Guinness drinkers,’ says Bury.
HHCL & Partners’ marketing director, John Leach, takes a more bullish
approach. ’I wouldn’t have tackled Campari in that way, but at least
it’s a new message. When you’re reviving a brand you’ve got to be bold.
It’s about pride and ambition. You can’t take half measures and admit
you’re a bit naff. You’ve got to leave your old brand behind. If it’s
done skillfully, people will still recognise the old brand
HHCL’s approach has certainly seen some successes, most obviously with
its Tango work, but also with Pot Noodle. A decade ago the brand was a
convenience food with cuddly advertising. It was becoming the naffest of
brands and the butt of many jokes.
Its advertising has turned this around. It may still be the sustenance
of students but more recently Chris Evans and Oasis have been heard
singing its praises.
’If you’ve got a marginal brand you might as well try something bold.
You’ve got nothing to lose,’ says Leach.
So was this the case with Campari? ’Not at all,’ says Meredith.
’Relaunching a drinks brand is an expensive business and it’s not being
He insists that far from chucking out Campari’s brand equity, the new
advertising is getting to the nub of brand: ’Those people who think
Campari is a soft, easy drink tend to be those who have never tasted it.
It is actually bitter and distinctive and appeals to whisky or bitter
Meredith believes that although it was popular, the Lorraine Chase
positioning was wrong in the first place.
The long haul
Of course, one commercial is only the first step. Meredith is not naive
enough to believe Campari’s image can be turned around overnight.
First Drinks Brands has a long-term strategy for Campari that is likely
to involve brand extensions, much like Martini’s Metz and V2
Meredith has a wealth of experience in bringing ailing brands back to
life. He was marketing controller at Martini during its relaunch and
prior to that at Sara Lee, where he helped revive the Brylcreem
But if Campari is to succeed it needs to take a leaf out of the Tango
book. As Leach says: ’Any idiot can create shock and noise, the question
is whether you can do it professionally enough to make the message
stick. You have to continually surprise people.’
Successful brand revivals of the 90s
- Tesco - From the pile ’em high venue of the 70s to present market
- Skoda - Considered the brand from hell in the early 90s, it has turned
its joke image into an advantage by appealing to consumers who like to
be seen to look beyond image.
Less successful revivals
- Babycham - In 1993 Matthew Clark killed off the famous Babycham deer
and its trademark green bottle for a masculine relaunch. In May 1997 it
resurrected both and went back to its retro, female positioning.
- Spam - Hampered by its school-dinner image and a Monty Python song,
Spam tried to change its image with a campaign through BSB Dorland. The
1995 VE Day celebrations were the last straw, thanks to thousands of
Spam fritter jokes.