trench coat

How to determine your brand’s stretchiness: A Marmite case study

I am a self-confessed Marmite addict. I slather the stuff lavishly on toast, crumpets, and croissants. It comes out surreptitiously at breakfast buffets abroad, a foreign stowaway that liberates me from the dreaded blandness of continental breakfasts. I’d even admit to eating it with a spoon.

And I am not alone in my love for Marmite. Their figures are nothing if not impressive- the £37 million brand produces 17 million jars a year, Marmite has over 1 million likes on Facebook and its recent controversial “End Marmite Neglect” advertising campaign generated a 14% increase in sales growth in the eight weeks after launch.

So what’s next for Marmite? In order to continue its strong vein of growth, and cement its place in the hearts and minds of British consumers, where can the Marmite brand extend to? And how should brands generally decide which extensions work, and which extensions clash with their brand message? I’m not talking about minor tweaks to existing products here. I’m talking bold innovation into new categories. Over the years Marmite have entered as diverse product extensions as cheese, chocolate and branded merchandise, but is there scope for even more adventurous product innovations (and not just because I yearn for an even greater Marmite fix)?

In order to establish what extensions are right for a brand, we first need to take a step back and think about what associations the brand conjures up. Then we can determine the brand essence, and hence the scope for innovation. The purpose of defining these associations is that we can then begin to clearly identify what product categories could potentially be in scope and potentially out of scope from a brand essence perspective. By considering new product development through the lens of these brand associations, we can therefore come up with new product ideas that could authentically carry the Marmite brand name.

The added advantage of describing the Marmite brand in broader ways than simply describing the product- namely, as a savoury spread- is that it allows us to think about what the Marmite brand represents and hence, start thinking about the brand outside its current category. Taking these associations as the starting points for Marmite could therefore prove rich territory for future new product developments.

With my thinking cap on I wondered if the Marmite brand could stretch into the following categories:

A table sauce- Marmite is traditionally served on toast at breakfast, but what if it were to accompany another traditionally British breakfast, the fry up? Both ketchup and brown sauce are typically associated with this dish, but a combination of Marmite’s British and breakfast credentials could see it sit comfortably on the table too. Brown sauce is a similarly savoury breakfast sauce with a unique taste profile. What’s stopping Marmite from moving from the back of the cupboard to sitting proudly on the tabletop?

A range of dry rubs– Marmite’s savouriness is a winning alternative to the ubiquity of sweet spreads typical at breakfast time. Yet breakfast is surely not the only time a hearty kick of savouriness would be appreciated. What about a line of Marmite dry rubs for beef and chicken to turbo charge your evening meal? Think about the complexity and depth of flavour a Marmite rub could bring (FYI my mouth is watering).

A range of savoury hot drinks- admittedly Marmite’s kid brother Bovril has historically had some success being served diluted in hot water as a beefy drink. Yet, in the same way that Marmite is the savoury alternative to jam, could a Marmite drink be the counter to milky coffee and hot chocolate? With consumers growing increasingly fearful of the amount of sugar in their drinks, a savoury alternative may well be exactly what the health-conscious consumer is looking for.

A fashion tie-up– Marmite is synonymous with Britishness- and has notably released a limited edition Diamond Jubilee Ma’amite, but why should it stop there? What about Marmite announcing tie-ups with other brands which similarly play on their British heritage such as Burberry, Jack Wills or Harrods? A fashion tie-up would be particularly interesting, since a love it or hate it attitude is not necessarily a bad thing in the fashion industry, where cutting edge style is often divisive.


I wonder what a Marmite trench coat would look like…



Food for thought anyway.



The integration of technology into the retail space is an increasingly compelling prospect. Although some retailers fear that sales in their stores are being lost to their digital equivalents, others are beginning to appreciate that e-commerce need not be a threat. By welcoming e-commerce channels as an asset, along with other digital concepts, brands should able to enhance their overall offering.

Luxury fashion retailer Burberry has been at the forefront of the digital retail charge, and is clearly reaping the benefits. Perhaps a huge complement to Burberry’s digital strength came last year, when it announced their CEO, Angela Ahrendts, was leaving the company to become senior vice president for retail and online stores at Apple. Regardless of the products they sell, all retailers must have an appreciation for digital, and serve customers who are increasingly adept at shopping online. Ahrendts has noted that her digital strategy for Burberry has been informed by Apple, who she identifies as a business contemporary in some cases more closely than typical peers Gucci and Chanel: “If I look to any company as a model, it’s Apple,” she said. “They’re a brilliant design company working to create a lifestyle, and that’s the way I see us.”

Burberry is a case study in combining digital and offline to create a profitable model. The brand has nearly 15m Facebook ‘likes’ and 1.5m Twitter followers, yet their digital engagement amounts to so much more. Not only have Burberry moved into the digital space, but they have also moved the digital space in store, introducing a whole host of interactive digital concepts which subtly and intuitively enhance the customer experience. Notable successes have been the live streaming of their catwalk shows, which enabled customers to buy what they see; the social media site The Art of the Trench, which enables customers to submit pictures of themselves in their Burberry trench-coats, and connect with other trench-coat lovers, as well as their use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, which is particularly inspiring. A chip placed into each product triggers RFID-enabled mirrors in changing rooms to transform into digital screens, displaying information about the craft and detail of the garment being tried on. This gives customers the added bonus of more product information in a fantastically intuitive way.

These digital concepts work with, not against their stores and general offline offering. They enhance the customer experience in store by appreciating how their customers shop and want to interact with the Burberry brand. Having an appreciation for e-commerce and utilising it effectively to increase revenue is not a new trend, but integrating digital with a light touch to improve the customer experience seems increasingly prevalent in the marketplace, especially as the wider population are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and unafraid to interact with brands online. Ironically, such a tactic could well preserve the high street and enhance the shopping experience. It is certainly an exciting direction for retail to be heading.

(Originally posted in The Value Engineers blog October 18th 2013)