AGENDA: Can ailing brands be reinvented overnight? - Is it possible to turn a struggling brand’s image around in one burst of advertising? Campari is the latest brand to receive the drastic relaunch treatment Danny Rogers reports.

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.

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

box).



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

cabinet?



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

risk’.



Risky business



’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

today.



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

customers.



’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

underneath.’



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

taken lightly.’



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

drinkers.’



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

sub-brands.



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

brand.



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.’



EMERGENCY TREATMENT



Successful brand revivals of the 90s



- Tesco - From the pile ’em high venue of the 70s to present market

leadership.



- 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.



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