The Situation

Unilever were developing a new ‘extra-strong’ variant of Marmite, a yeast-extract breakfast spread in the UK which has a very strong flavour. It is marketed as a product which you either ‘Love’ or ‘Hate’.

We needed to create awareness and desire to trial the product amongst existing Marmite consumers, specifically the category of ‘extreme’ Marmite Lovers (daily and high-volume users). The new product was to be sold at a higher price than regular Marmite, so our activity needed to position it as a premium variant.

 

The Strategy

The new ‘extra-strong’ product was squarely targeted towards those who already really love Marmite. These consumers tend to use a lot of the product in order to get a stronger ‘hit’ of flavour on their toast or sandwich. We wanted to harness their extreme dedication by giving them something quirky and fun to belong to, as well as a sense of ownership of the product itself.

In social media environments, and anecdotally, individuals would regularly claim to be “the biggest Marmite fan ever”. If we could give fans a sense of discovery about the existence of the new product, it would help build interest and intrigue. So news about the launch needed to spread amongst fans who liked being the ones ‘in the know’, who would then be proud to share this exciting news to other fans.

We played to the fan’s obsessive competitiveness by asking them to prove they were truly dedicated to Marmite, and worthy enough to sample the ‘extra-strong’ variant. Those who could demonstrate the extreme nature of their Love would be accepted as a member into a very exclusive club.

Membership was aspirational, a badge of honour for the serious Marmite fan to wear proudly. To ensure their ongoing advocacy, we involved members of the in the process of the product development, giving them shared ownership of the final product.

 

The Creative Solution

The creative approach was the invention of a quirky, quintessentially British, Victorian-era themed, and richly detailed parallel universe: The Marmarati.

We devised a history, invented traditions, and created heroes and enemies for this ‘secret society’ which became the tone of voice and driving force of the launch. Working with Marmite’s product design agency, we developed an identity for the Marmarati that brought to life the eccentric and playful tone of voice, which was carried through all the online and offline communications, including the final packaging for the retail version of the product.

After conducting research to identity the Lovers of Marmite who were most active and vocal in social media, we contacted them with details of our secret and exclusive event: a reward for their devotion and the promise of an important new chapter in the glorious history of Marmite.

These ‘super-fans’ were inducted into the “First Circle” of the Marmarati, reading the Marmarati Oath, and taking part in a blindfolded tasting of three possible recipes for Marmite XO.

This “crowdsourcing” component of the campaign saw detailed feedback given in person to the product development, design, marketing and management teams of Marmite, who were dressed up, in character as the regal “Inner Sanctum” of the Marmarati. The Unilever staff in attendance gave an extra sense of privilege to the attendees, who were given a certificate confirming their status.

Members were invited to a private Facebook group, allowing their conversations with fellow members to continue, and to enable the distribution of logos, images, and instructions to promote the next phase.

We invited applications for membership at our website, marmarati.org, accepting submissions to win “one of only 200 commemorative jars containing the ‘prototype’ stronger, more mature Marmite, handcrafted by our Master Blender with the utmost care.”

Our "First Circle" were asked to help recruit fellow Lovers, who would be required to prove the extent of their Love in order to win a place – now highly coveted – in the ranks of the “Second Circle” of Marmarati. The UGC part of the campaign attracted diverse contributions, including a 10 minute spoof version of The Blair Witch Project, as well as animations, images, songs and poems.

Hopeful members asked their friends to vote, and the website provided tools to easily share submissions: Facebook Connect facilitated login; Share This buttons allowed access to social networks; videos were embedded in the site via the YouTube API; each entry had a unique URL.

Throughout, the Marmarati continued to engage with the community ‘in character’, on Facebook and Twitter, offering support, advice and promoting general conversation about Marmite.

When we needed to decide on the final design for the money-can’t-buy “prototype” jar of Marmite XO, we asked our First Circle members to publish images of the two jar designs and get their readers to vote.

Winners were rewarded with a collectable jar of the prototype Marmite XO, as well as a ‘taster’ jar to sample. To encourage ‘unboxing’ videos similar to those created by technology and gadget bloggers, we placed instructions on the outside of the box asking winners to record the special moment before opening the package.

We requested our new members conduct a tasting event, in order to gather feedback about the prototype, and to encourage trial amongst a wider group of consumers. Winners were asked to recording the events on video, which was incentivised with the chance to reach "Ambassador" status, creating a further social media frenzy to include more people in each video, and to make it as creative as possible.

Ambassadors were given special Marmite XO icons for their Twitter and Facebook profile pictures, denoting their special status within the Marmarati community, and were rewarded with lifetime supplies of Marmite.

During the retail launch, we engaged with excited fans keen to get hold of a jar, answering questions about availability and amplifying pictures, posts, and tweets from those who had found it in store, or were trying it for the first time and sharing their views.

Following the launch, Ambassadors were rewarded with a large supply of Marmite, with the top few Ambassadors, given a personal tour of the Marmite factory by the ‘Master Blender’, including tastings, and a jar of Marmite personalised with their photo on the label.

 

The Results

The Marmite XO product was successfully launched with no paid for media whatsoever, which we believe is a first for Unilever globally.

The product sold out in many locations within days without an expensive advertising campaign to raise awareness and guarantee retail distribution.

With a spend of only 20% of the cost of typical product launch, Marmite XO achieved retail sales of over £600K in its first 6 months, with a premium price point during a period of recession.

We generated 150 blog posts about the Marmarati and Marmite XO, reaching an estimated 2.4 million online readers.

Using Sysomos to track the Twitter elements of the campaign, we recorded over 6,000 twitter updates mentioning Marmarati.

In the one month the competition was open:

  • The website received 2,835 user registrations
  • 66,895 votes were cast
  • 846 approved entries uploaded (from over 1,200 total submissions)

In the four months of the campaign there were:

  • 28,377 unique visitors to the website
  • 54,285 total visits
  • Average 2:45 minutes duration
  • Generating over 302,000 pageviews

The lasting result is creation of the Marmarati community: loyal brand advocates available to help launch future products, a group who desire to be involved in an ongoing dialogue with the brand. Many fans have publicly pleaded for the Marmarati not to “disappear” now that the Marmite XO product has launched.

 

The Marmarati went beyond traditional campaign thinking, creating a playful, entertaining and engaging world for fans of the product to become involved in, at the same time building a community and creating a platform for people to celebrate their love for the brand.

View all the elements of the campaign.