Photograph: Mars Wrigley/PA
“It calls for a mutiny”, Richard Osman tweeted to his 1.2 million followers. “WHICH?! That’s a devilish decision. wrote Piers Morgan (8 million). “I’m not amused…I’m drawing the line”, Lorraine Kelly said more than a million viewers of his morning show.
Broadcaster Dan Walker launched a poll. Comedian Mark Watson debated the correct grammatical form of the plural. And on Twitter, the memes multiplied and debate rages.
Which makes a lot of noise for a chocolate bar. The news – or rather a press release – that Mars Wrigley, maker of the Celebrations brand of chocolate sharing jars, plans to remove Bounty bars from packaging this Christmas has garnered widespread coverage in broadcasters and newspapers this week, after research, he said, showed 39% of people wanted the bars removed.
All this despite the fact that it doesn’t really happen at all. Instead, a limited number of ‘No Bounty’ celebration pots will be available at a limited number of Tesco pop-up stores, and unless you’re at Cradley Heath on November 11, Pontypridd Tesco Extra on November 22, or 38 more -one-day-only destinations, Bounty Bars will always be in your Celebrations tub this season – whether you like it or not.
Mars may not have “killed Christmas” after all, as Morgan suggested, but its publicity machine certainly played a blinding role. “Every couple of months in the UK PR industry you’ll have a campaign where everyone bows and says, yes, they did well,” said John Harrington, UK editor of PR Week.
When designing a marketing campaign, brands looked, in particular, for “ease of speaking”, he said – “it’s the idea that people are talking about your brand. If you can get it right, you can get huge coverage that you wouldn’t necessarily get with a big, big budget glossy ad.
There are plenty of examples of other brands playing the exact same card, from Marmite’s “love it or hate it” campaign from the 1990s, to the minor furore generated by Greggs vegan sausage rolls when he landed during Veganuary in 2019’s Celebrations campaign also echoes a move by arch-rival Quality Street, which has retired its luxury caramel candy more than once.
The “holy grail” within the industry, Harrington said, is “earned media” — or huge viral, free coverage. Taylor Herring, the PR firm behind the latest Mars campaign, has a terrific track record of working for Celebrations, winning a PR of the Week award for last year’s campaign, in which a “lonely Bounty” chased love, eventually teaming up with a sprout.
With 3 million views of this video, more than 500 media articles and a global reach of 1.2 billion, this campaign was hailed by Mars Wrigley as the most successful in its history; this year’s will surely rival it. It’s no surprise that other brands’ social media accounts – including Iceland, Krispy Kreme, Dominoes and Cooking pot – have surged in recent days to piggyback on the Bounty campaign.
Viral success aside, the campaign comes at an uncertain time for confectionery makers, noted Grocer editor Emma Weinbren. Government anti-obesity measures, which would limit retailers’ ability to offer ‘bogof’ deals, prominently display products or advertise as widely as they wish, have been called into question amid the Westminster’s recent turmoil. “They don’t know what’s coming, and there’s a slightly confusing picture at the minute,” she said.
In this context, Mars will be delighted with its early advantage in what it calls the “battle of the pots”, when it challenges Quality Street, Cadbury’s Heroes and others on the lucrative Christmas share of the British chocolate market of 3 £.6 billion.
“They’re all going after the same consumer,” Weinbren said, “and that’s which brand can get in front of that customer and get them, whether it’s through PR like Mars did, through through offers and clever marketing, or in-store placement.. They’re all vying for the same customer at Christmas.