The world of advertising can be a ruthless place, with brands constantly jostling to earn the top spot and have the next big ad campaign. Sometimes brands can have revolutionary adverts that can completely change their branding and gain them super-brand status (take Budweiser’s iconic frog advert of the 90s), or equally brands can develop such an iconic branding that their next campaign can anger consumers and fans, painting the brand  in a negative light.

Dolmio recently announced they would be removing the lovable puppets that have dominated their advertising campaigns for the last 15 years and instead replacing them with a filmed advert dedicated to “real life situations” and families – you may have already seen the advert on your TV already! Dolmio assured consumers that the puppets will still remain on the product packs as they are recognisable for consumers and the brand is “very fond” of them. The new advert, launched late last month, features Dominic West as a melodramatic father who cannot pry himself and his son away from their video game, launching into a dramatic speech until the mother calmly quips, “Spag bol, anyone?”. The advert also has a new slogan: “No drama”. The aim is to connect with people and provoke a response with its comedic nature, which can be seen to be as equally charming as its puppet predecessors. Clarence Mak, global chief marketing and customer officer at Mars Food, adds: “This campaign stems from what we know about families – sometimes dinnertime can be the most stressful part of the day. We wanted to show the power of our brand – a delicious, tempting meal can bring every family together.”

Whilst reactions to Dolmio’s campaign have been met with a fondness for West and changes can be forgiven by fans as ‘Mama and Papa’ remain as part of the brand, this leads to the question: what happens when brands ditch the characters, songs or story lines that have held their brand together for the past few years? When you’ve hit the advertising jackpot, when do you refresh the brand attitude and change direction? Brands can’t continue with the same advertisements forever, but altering your marketing without angering consumers can be tricky. Take these brands that altered their campaigns or were met with disdain when released to the public, provoking the question – how far is too far?

In 2010, Andrex replaced their lovable real-life puppy with a CGI version which was met with widespread public outcry over getting rid of the real thing. The CGI puppy was able to get up to more mischief as it was given its “21st century edge” and was seen playing with friends, eating and sleeping in the new campaign, dubbed “It’s the Little Things”. The brand denied it was a cost-cutting measure,  and Jon White, marketing director for Kimberly Clark Europe, told The Daily Telegraph that while the puppy had a “huge and loyal following”, and that the company was “refreshing” the brand: “We really believe we’ve given him a new lease of life and have evolved his character,” he said.“Brands have to refresh themselves in order to stay relevant to today’s consumers and this is exactly what we’re doing. We are refreshing, not reinventing. The Puppy is still at the centre of our communications.” The refresh did not endear consumers and was met with huge backlash from the loyal lovers of the real Andrex puppy, indicated by Facebook groups named ‘Kill The CGI Andrex Puppy’, to most-liked comments from members of the public denouncing their hatred for the new advert. As The Guardian’s James Donaghy smirked at the backlash, “Andrex faces a very expensive poop scoop mission tidying up this mess”.

Who can also forget Coca-Cola’s huge blunder of the 1980s? Coke and Pepsi went up for a taste test battle where Coke lost. Hurt from the results, Coca-Cola launched a project to completely alter the taste of coke. The result? Public outcry and a quick reversal from Coke who soon reverted back to its old taste. Some marketers actually commented that this move would up being positive for the company as it incited fans to realise how much they love the “real” Coca-Cola taste, causing the brand to reintroduce it as “Coca Cola Classic” and creating a whole new marketing strategy out of the blunder.

The lesson here is not to mess too much with success, and learn from brands who have blundered along the way. Take risks and incite emotion, but once you have created something iconic that people love, be very wary of destroying it and facing a public backlash! In the end, brands move on and come back from major advertising fails, and as the famous saying goes, we ask is there really “no such thing as bad publicity”?



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