Marmite: love or hate it, it is strong stuff

This Monday a lorry collided with a caravan and spilled 20 tonnes of Marmite on to the M1 in Yorkshire. It’s hard to think of a more English mishap and the papers lapped it up. What was basically a minor road traffic accident has, so far, generated almost 300 headlines, trended on Twitter and subjected Britons to a lot of extremely bad puns. So what is it with the English and Marmite? What dark forces are behind this rather odd obsession?

Mmm, yeast extract. It’s like the reality TV of the food world: basically disgusting but unusually good at commanding column inches.

Of course, by yeast extract I really mean Marmite, which, over the last few years, has managed to spark an international incident, play host to Jesus, and give Madonna nightmares. Not bad for a reasonably priced savoury spread. Being candid about your disgustingness is not for every food brand, yet it has worked wonders for Marmite

Well, as with so many things, advertising is largely to blame. Marmite’s status as a national institution is closely tied to a history of canny marketing.

Since it launched in 1902, Marmite has been adept at adapting itself, tapping into prevailing cultural trends with impressive alacrity. Until the 1970s the brand positioned itself as a nutritious food for children, even utilising a Marmite sales force to target health professionals in a similar manner to today’s pharmaceutical reps.

The brand focus then shifted to Marmite as a family favourite, before embracing the memorable “My mate” tagline of the 80s. But Marmite’s most genius marketing move yet may well be its most recent “Love It or Hate It” campaign, devised 15 years ago when a creative team had a difference of opinion over whether the spread was gross or great.

Instead of glossing over the fact that a good portion of the populace feel Marmite is really quite grim, the Love it or Hate it campaign embraced the truth that Marmite is a strong flavour, which evokes strong feelings. In doing so, it created a way for even those who hate Marmite-the-product to interact with and love Marmite-the-brand. Giving them licence to say things such as “I want to stab it until it dies. Then burn it. And then mail its ashes to its grandmother” and sound like they’re in with the joke, rather than in with the lunatic asylum.

The extent to which the love/hate campaign has pervaded the national consciousness can be seen in the way that “Marmite” has become synonymous with a divisive issue/person. Whether its Victoria Beckham or expanded Google side-links, saying that something is “like Marmite: you love it or you hate it” has become something of a cliche. Indeed there were few articles covering Monday’s M1 Marmageddon that did not somehow reference the brand’s tagline.

Being candid about your disgustingness is not for every food brand…..

The Guardian: Read the full article here