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We Don’t Need Better Marketing

When I was growing up in Dublin home baking was the norm. Most families couldn’t afford the luxury of expensive, shop bought cakes, so ironically something like a mass-produced Mr Kipling’s French Fancy was seen as a decadent treat—the kind that was rolled out on a doily when you were having a special guest or a visit from the local priest. Back then shoppers put complete trust in food manufacturers. The media presence of these companies meant that they were significant authorities in our lives. We encountered them daily through traditional advertising and we mostly didn’t question the truth beyond the story they presented us with.

I imagined Mr Kipling as a kindly old man like my grandad, who spent his days walking around dipping a spotless forefinger into big bowls of freshly whipped vanilla sponge mixture and painstakingly icing diagonal lines across pink and yellow confections. Shoppers believed Mr Kipling made ‘Exceedingly good cakes’ because he told us so during every ad break. We had no way of knowing any different or of digging deeper.

Forty years on and the packaged cake industry is in trouble. Sales are in decline. Shoppers are more savvy and have access to all the information they need to make better choices. Movements like Jamie Oliver’s Real Food Campaign have encouraged people to get back in the kitchen and take responsibility for their health. Now more than ever people want to know what’s in their food and to understand the health implications of their choices. Raw food startups, artisan food entrepreneurs and gluten free bakeries are popping up to serve this new more conscious consumer.

On the back of slower sales the company that owns and operates Mr Kipling—the UK’s most popular cake brand, has invested £10m into marketing Mr Kipling in the second half of 2014, bringing us new package design, an edible billboard, the boy shares cake with pink elephant advert and the ‘Life is better with cake’ slogan. “The new packaging will have a modern feel using an uplifting colour palate of pastel colours. The packs will deliver strong appetite appeal without feeling artificial and increase overall shelf appeal and visibility.”

The company invested £20 million at its packing facility “to double the manufacturing capacity of Mr Kipling Snack Packs” which will be marketed as a convenient single-serve item suitable for lunch boxes. Like many food brands they have added more clearly labelled nutritional information to the front of the packaging, because lobbyists and shoppers demanded greater transparency on food labels, so that people can decide how to make the ‘treat’ fit into their lives.

The packaging and the slogan may have changed, but it’s not clear that those changes are reflected inside the box, or what investment has been made to improve the product.

Changing the packaging doesn’t change the story.

We don’t need better marketing.
We need better products, made by trustworthy companies, led by brave leaders, who can look us in the eye and say hand on heart, ‘this really WILL make your life better’ because we put you first.

Image by Amanda Tipton.

Thanks to by health and food packaging gurus Alexx Stuart and Tessa Stuart (no relation!)
for their help with this one.