Britvic CEO on trust, programmatic and reigniting the Tango brand

Britvic chief and ISBA president Simon Litherland spoke at the ISBA annual conference where he outlined how a lack of trust in advertising is the biggest threat to industry.

Brivic: CEO Simon Litherland says industry is being eroded by lack of consumer trust
Brivic: CEO Simon Litherland says industry is being eroded by lack of consumer trust

Marketing caught up with him following his speech.

In your speech you focused on a lack of trust. What do you think is eroding trust and how can industry claw it back?

Consumers know a lot more than they used to, they have a lot more information than they used to and they’re a lot more demanding than they used to be and therefore a decrease in trust is partly as a result of that and as a result of advertisers and brands making claims that aren’t true. It’s like anything – it takes an awful lot of time to build a reputation and a very short space of time to lose it.

I think that transfers across from one brand to another and consumers start to question what’s going on.

From a brand perspective, there’s nowhere to hide anymore. Brands are sitting in glass houses, people are absolutely interested in the message you’re selling to them and responding to it but they’re also looking behind that message and they have the where with all to do that now.

So what’s behind a brand – the people, the values, the corporate responsibility is so much broader now. The touch points where people engage with brands has just multiplied and multiplied, so keeping consistency [is key] and there’s only really one way to do it, and that’s to make sure anything you say is based on fact and is honest and is clear.

Do you think the ‘war on sugar’ and the debate around obesity has eroded brand trust in the soft drinks sector?

You see headlines like ‘sugar is the new tobacco’ – but what are the facts behind that? I think we absolutely recognise there’s an obesity challenge and we recognise that soft drinks and calorific intake are part of that.  We have a role to play in reducing the calories in our drinks and we actively do that. Our calories have gone down 37% since 2010 and we’ve delisted full sugar Robinsons, full sugar Fruit Shoot but that’s just part of the story, it’s about education.

We’re part of the Responsibility Deal and we signed up to front of pack labelling to give consumers the information they need to make choices. We believe we should provide choice. Some consumers only want real sugar products, some want other variants.

Obesity a massive subject and that involves many stakeholder groups. Passionate rhetoric is in danger of subverting consumers and the agenda away from real exploration and real solutions.

Are you concerned that a new government may be more influenced by the ‘rhetoric’ of pressure groups?

There’s always politics, but one would hope that sensibility prevails.

Do you have any concerns about the outcome of general election and potential impact on brands?

To be honest I don’t think there are any massive red flags. I think most parties - certainly the major parties - have been pretty positive in terms of collaboration and self regulation and there’s nothing I’ve seen hinting that that will change and I’m a big fan of that.

 I do think that a collaborative approach is far more likely to succeed than purely legislating and I think self regulation is important based on evidence rather than rhetoric and you often see big rhetoric based headlines and the danger is that people get sidetracked away from what the real underlying issues are.

You said that some consumers have reservations about programmatic advertising. Why is this and what can be done about it?

It starts with people not understanding it. There are some people who do and those that don’t, and that creates an automatic position of lack of trust. And because it’s a newer part of the [marketing] world still going through an early cycle, there’s not necessarily a huge amount of consistency.

It takes everyone in the value chain to do their part and make sure the value and messaging that’s being brought to the consumer is relevant.

This month new redesigned cans of Tango will be hitting shelves. What’s the thinking behind this?

We’re going to reignite the brand, get some investment behind it and we’re quite excited.

It’s a brand we haven’t done an awful lot with for some time but it’s still got a huge amount of latent value in it and some huge loyalists.

Spend is increasing behind Tango and the broader brand portfolio. We have publicly stated that we’d see our advertising and commercial spend take up year on year. 


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