By UTalkMarketing Founding Editor, Clark Turner.
Number one so why try harder? Unless you’re number one in a poll of the UK’s most hated brands, that is.
This is the sorry position that Pot Noodle has found itself in recently, on the back of research carried out by Joshua G2. But rather than accepting defeat it’s simply thrown down the gaunlet to the popular noodle snack to meet the challenges of the market.
Golden Wonder’s Pot Noodle has been a feature on supermarket shelves for just over 30 years, launching in the UK back in 1977.
Instant hot noodle snacks had been popular in Japan for a number of years. Golden Wonder hit on the idea of noodles in a cup, but the name ‘Cup Noodles’ had already been taken in the orient – and as a result ‘Pot Noodle’ was born. Today the snack sells 155 million pots a year in the UK.
“We’re in a good position in the marketplace, Pot Noodle brand manager, Cheryl Calverley told us. “It’s a hot filling snack on one level, but it’s also got the brand values of being young, funky and cool on another.
“It’s backed by fantastic advertising that keeps the brand fresh and innovative and we’re consistently developing the brand with new flavours to keep it relevant and contemporary for each generation.”
She added, “With all this we try to move with the needs and demands of consumers over time as they evolve.”
It’s by looking at this bigger picture, that Calverley’s not disheartened by the brand being voted the nation’s “most hated”. But what exactly has the brand done to earn the wrath of the nation?
“I think we can put it down to a number of reasons,” she said. “The audience sampled in the research was not who we target. I doubt if many of them were young working lads from the North, or 17-year-old plumbers from Sheffield.
“We’re also a quick, convenient snack and for some consumers that carries a certain stigma in itself.”
Calverley added, “Finally, we’ve never pretended to be an holistic or health food product but are still being judged against ‘holier than thou’ brands such as Innocent Drinks.”
In meeting the demands of today’s increasingly health-conscious consumers Pot Noodle’s marketing is addressing these issues.
The northern lads market remains key to the brand, but alongside this efforts have been concentrated at reaching mums with top line brand messages.
“There’s been a change in the consumer landscape with increased awareness of food issues due to campaigning from the likes of Jamie Oliver,” Calverley said. “We’ve basically been doing some housekeeping to tell shoppers that we’re not as bad as they might think and are low in fat and lower in salt than we used to be.
“Press and PR (managed by Cake) plays a major role in reaching consumers and reminding them we’re not an evil food. There are no additives in the product – just noodles, vegetables and flavourings. That’s it. And by engaging lads and key opinion formers we’ve helped to put the brand in a better place.”
She added, “To be honest, if we presented ourselves as a healthy proposition, we would be completely out of line with the brand and all it stands for.
“Core Pot Noodle consumers and our target audience aren’t particularly interested in healthy foods. What they are looking from us is a hot filling snack, and on that level, we deliver.”
One of the challenges of the brand is reaching that traditionally difficult youth target market of young men.
TV activity has included screening ads on digital channel favoured by lads such as sports channels and the recently re-branded Dave. Key press titles include Nuts and Zoo while mobile activity includes the development of downloadable video clips.
The brand has also been utilising the powers of YouTube with its own Pot Noodle Network channel. It has been used to host a number of challenges asking users to create their own Pot Noodle related videos. Winners featured have won cases of product.
“We regularly communicate with consumers and this was launched as an experiment last summer, “Calverley explained. “It was really successful but was put on hold on the run up to Christmas. This year we may revive it or look at something completely new.”
She added, “With any social networking activity, we’re very aware that we need to offer users something they can participate in rather than simply owning a proposition.”
Pot Noodle’s TV ads have fast become cult favourites. High on humour and created by Mother they’ve featured catwalking Welsh miners and castrated factory workers who develop falsettos.
“Humour is at the core of our audience and it’s vital for social interaction,” said Calverley. “For our young audience being funny is everything, rather than worrying about their careers and how much they’re earning.
“Historically we’ve also been a funny brand. Look at the concept. We’re a pot! With
She concluded, “How the brand will develop in the future is hard to predict. But as youth culture grows, we hope to still be at the heart of it in whatever new markets and areas that might involve.
“It’s vital for us to be seen as a current brand and remain relevant to our target market.”
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