Turning Marmageddon into flawsome


Some Marmite, today

In this guest post, Clemenger BBDO’s Al Crawford  argues that Marmite offers a lesson to all marketers in how to make the most of a setback.

Over the last few days, some of our friends across the ditch have had to contend with a looming famine. The threat of ‘Marmageddon’ has bounced around national and international press and has even got the PM advising people to spread it thinly so they can eke out supplies as long as possible.

Whilst my heart goes out to the army of Marmite lovers at this difficult time, I want to focus on something else: namely, that this is yet another great example of brands turning disadvantage into fantastic opportunity.   

The Christchurch tragedy disrupted the production of Marmite and, rather than simply curse their ill-fortune, they’ve turned it into a brand and PR opportunity with Sanitarium’s general manager, Pierre Van Heerden, kicking things off by urging people not to panic buy the stuff.

We’ve seen this kind of thing before, with the likes of FedEx responding to one of its employees bunging a customer’s package over a fence with the ‘Absolutely, Positively Unacceptable’ campaign…

…or Domino’s launching the Pizza Turnaround campaign featuring an appropriately cheesy CEO, after some of their employees highlighted the product was more than a little bit shite.

These are campaigns that have gone beyond merely putting out the fire, they’ve become a beacon for how the companies operate and evolve.

You don’t even need a good crisis to make something out of your dirty laundry.

I worked on the original ‘Love it or Hate it’ Marmite campaign in the UK, where we embraced our focus groups turning into physical brawls by celebrating the fact that, for many people, Marmite has been scooped out of Beelzebub’s wazoo.

In my wildest dreams, I like to think this paved the way for Pot Noodle’s ‘Slag of All Slacks’ campaign, ‘It’s a Skoda, honest’ (which aired at a time when Skoda had just been transformed from Commie shitbox to VW’s younger brother) and even Moro’s ‘4th best chocolate bar in New Zealand’ campaign.

So we should applaud Marmite’s latest cheeky reversal. It’s another reminder that in the modern age, where we’re scared shitless of failure and surrounded by images of perfection, you can embrace potential negatives and make something awesome out of them. It takes courage and agility to do it, especially when our natural reaction is to try and hide our brand’s saggy bits. One of the many sadnesses of the Kony 2012 campaign is that rather than harnessing the negative criticism and evolving the organisation, they’ve simply tried to put out the fire.

Trendwatching.com has dubbed brands who celebrate their deficiencies as ‘Flawsome’. The term, as they acknowledge, is likely to be both memorable and have you reaching for the both the bullshit bingo card and the sick bag. The Chinese, as usual, cottoned on to this fact ages ago: their word for crisis is made up of two characters, one that means danger, the other, opportunity.

  • Al Crawford is executive planning director at Clemenger BBDO Sydney

Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.