Yoghurt – using advertising to sell to existing customers with a brand benefit

SCA advertising school Brixtonthe collective Here is the second set of briefs (this time for advertising yoghurt) which I wrote for the School of Creative Arts in Brixton led by Marc Lewis.  A school which every year trains young creatives so they can get placements for their first advertising job. I spend a day a week as an account planning mentor with around 35 students from half a dozen countries. This year Marc has asked me to use Dave Trott’s binary brief format to prepare creative briefs for the teams to work with. Because of the number of students I have to write not one but 3 creative briefs so there is some variety. For me as brief writer, it is mind bending since I have to approach the chosen market from 3 different directions. What this exercise shows is how you need advertising to play a different role depending on where your brand is.  The second set of briefs is about yoghurt for the UK market. For  3 brands the Collective, Yeo Valley and Yoplait Liberte.

Yoghurt is a classic mass market brand. Cheap to produce and ubiquitous it is readily available in developing markets. As long as you have lots of cows! In the years I was visiting Romania to train marketers and advertising people I saw the move from yoghurt being a commodity that everyone knew and probably had someone make for them at home. To a supermarket product sold with all the bells and whistles that western marketing brings. Yoghurt after all, is just fermented milk. But how profitable it can be if you can wrap a brand around it. Using Dave Trott’s binary brief I concluded that all 3 brands had a similar task – to protect existing customers using a unique brand benefit. To stop them wandering off and trying alternative brands.

binary brief has 8 outcomes


So here are some musings having written the briefs and seen the work which resulted. What makes this activity a little abstract is having to this with no research input whatsoever. Oh for a focus group or some accompanied shops, not to mention a little ethnography to see how these products actually fit into customers’ real lives!


Provenance –  tired or a real point of difference?

Yoghurt is an established category with not much innovation to speak of. I wrote the briefs to focus on brand instead of product benefits. Why buy from this company rather than another? The easiest way to go was to focus on the irreverent roots of the Collective a Kiwi brand even though it is produced in the UK (and partly in France), Liberte which might be safely tucked into the stable of Yoplait the French dairy giant but had its roots in Montreal.  And Yeo Valley – a farming co-operative in the southwest of England.  Yeo Valley’s advertising has in the past has been eccentrically English – but has the added burden that you can’t just promote yoghurt – they have a whole range of products that the advertising alsyeo valley yoghurt limited editiono needs to serve.  So is it a good idea to pitch the 3 brands as an international contest: A New Zealander, a French-Canadian and an Englishman walk into a (dairy) bar..

That is too easy. Actually, that line leads to weak briefing because you end up playing to national stereotypes. Though the French students in the school were momentary interested in the French Canadian connections. Apparently, there are a lot of jokes about French Canadians in France.  It is more fruitful to ask how the national stereotypes manifest themselves in tone of voice and product selection.  The Collective offers some pretty odd flavours and they have a certain anarchy which I recognise from having spent time in New Zealand. But imagination and irreverence are more interesting to work with than generalisations about Kiwis.  Likewise, it was the size and sheer scale of Yoplait which has produced a yogurt with twice as much milk. In other words, French techno-industrial expertise was more useful than cliches about Frenchness: is haut couture and haut cuisine a valid association? This is where Yeo valley turned out to have a bit of a problem. Everyone knows food from the country is better but actually, that is where most food comes from and the general well-being of livestock and farmers is well and good but hardly a major reason for choosing a British country brand. It doesn’t help that most supermarkets have created entirely bogus country own label brand names to sound a bit more natural. If you ARE a real country brand are you saying anything distinct about yourself? Really?


yoplain liberte yoghurtWhat about premium-ness?

Premium-ness is tricky when it comes to yoghurt.  However luxurious the ingredients and manufacturing processes, supermarket pricing and promotions are a terrifying leveller. Just because a brand has high quality ingredients and high production values, doesn’t mean it can charge significantly higher prices. That may not matter. If the trade is impressed enough enough to stock the product and if retailers feel they are offering the customer a bargain then the premium-ness is part of the set up that makes the offer price point look even better. But it’s not surprising that these brands with the possible exception of Yoplait (yes that really is a Liberte product photo on the right-hand side) weren’t willing to innovate because you couldn’t raise your prices to take profits.

The students were enterprising enough to ring the brand owners and got an interesting insight – that they were trying to batter their way through the supermarkets levelling with segmentation marketing to particular customer groups.  If digital allows them to target that precisely then.. hmm maybe but I am not holding my breath on that given the problems we currently have with online targeting and content delivery.

How the students responded to the Binary Brief

I would love to show you examples of the work the students did but let’s give them a few more months and briefs to mature their work.   In the end, the strongest work found ways to connect with the ways customers ate the product.  Together with an interesting route to dramatise how delicious and desirable the product was.  What they did, for the most part, was to head for product rather than brand truths. Let’s see how they tackle the next brief they receive.

Two  briefs down and six more to go. The school reopens next week. Stay tuned. And if you need activating – it should be perfectly obvious that if I can write 3 briefs in the same marketplace for 3 different brands at the same time then giving you some forensic support on one brand is like falling off a log. So call me! Even if the brief isn’t about yoghurt advertising!



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Designed by Matthew Pattman