07/10/2010

Brands at their best have an emotional resonance and few compare to Cadbury’s. Allan Biggar, Chairman of All About Brands, explains that despite a change of ownership a quintessentially British brand, built on the values of its founders still remains dear in peoples’ hearts.

In February 2010, one of Britain’s best known brands was bought by Kraft, the world’s largest food, beverage and confectionary company. After two failed takeover bids the £11.7 billion price tag gave Kraft access to even more markets and ownership of one of UK’s top 100 brands.

The takeover was greeted with much hostility in the UK. Journalists, politicians and the general public denounced the Government’s decision to allow Kraft to acquire such an iconic British company. Calls for protectionist legislation to avert the acquisition by a foreign company, risked seriously damaging the integrity of the Cadbury brand.

The situation for Kraft was only made worse when it decided to close Cadbury’s Somerdale factory, breaking their initial promise to keep it open. This lead to further negative press surrounding Kraft’s earlier acquisition of UK confectioner Terry’s, which saw Kraft close its factory in York and relocate to Poland some months later.

Such negative attention was not the best start to running such an established global brand, especially one that was built on its integrity and quality. So, six months on is Cadbury as a brand damaged by what has gone before?

No. Despite the challenges that Kraft encountered when taking over Cadbury, the first thing they recognised was that a successful brand can endure, provided the original ethos behind the brand is maintained – nothing should be done to alter it in any shape or form in the eyes of the consumer.

‘Performance Driven (and) Values led’ is the ethos behind Cadbury’s success as a brand. The latter is the most important aspect of the company’s strategy. Cadbury’s values drive its success. Its values are performance, quality, respect, integrity and responsibility. It is those values that consumers have come to expect and recognise with all Cadbury’s products and makes the bond between Cadbury’s and its consumers strong.

Put more simply – ‘doing good, is good for business’. This is something that Cadbury and now Kraft have placed great stock in. This has allowed Cadbury to continue to occupy the top slot in 20 of the 50 major confectionary markets in the world.

Their values have been inherent to the company since its creation in 1824, and have much to do with its founder, John Cadbury’s Quaker beliefs of social justice and equality. Kraft has done well to recognise that at the heart of Cadbury’s relationship with the consumer is the promise that all of its products maintain the highest moral standards, practices and quality.

One way Kraft can be seen to adhering to the values driven strategy is the continued investment in the area of fair trade. Nick Bunker the UK boss of Kraft visited Ghana in early September to reinforce the companies commitment to fair trade and to see the benefits of premium pricing for cocoa has for communities in that country.

In addition the way Kraft continues to market and advertise the Cadbury’s brand remains constant, reaching consumers via the numerous channels established prior to the take over and exploring new ones such as social network sites.

For example the combined total of fans for Cadbury’s products that have their own fans page Facebook (at the time of writing) is over 4 million fans; Cream Eggs alone have over 1.4 million fans. All of these channels have allowed Kraft additional avenues to reinforce the message that the ownership of Cadbury has changed but the brand’s character hasn’t.

Interestingly social media has given the consumer more influence over Cadbury forcing them to listen to the consumer about what makes Cadbury special to them. The anti-takeover Facebook groups have allowed Kraft to tap into consumers thoughts as to what the takeover has done to the brand and how this can be changed in line with Kraft’s expectations of growing the brand further.

It would seem that Kraft is fully aware of what the consumer expects of the Cadbury’s brand. Maintaining the same level of commitment and living up to expectations and finding new ways to connect with their consumers via the plethora of channels now available to it.
Any company worried that their brand is not sustainable must ask itself what gives a brand longevity?

The answer is trust, like all long term relationships trust is key. As long as the consumer trusts they will receive the same quality of product that it has always received the longer the brand will endure. It is this bond of trust between the consumer and producer that deliver a lasting business.

It is with a sense of sadness that I watched Cadbury’s being taken over. My hope is that Kraft is not as arrogant or clumsy with this most cherished British brand as it has been with many other great names that it has acquired.

All About Brands (AAB) is a group of international companies collectively dedicated to building business value for clients through the effective development and management of their brands. To find out more visit www.aabplc.com

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