Brands should look back to their roots and their “authentic story” to be successful, says Benazir Barlet-Batada, Marketing Director for Cadbury UK.

Speaking at MAD//Fest London in July, Barlet-Batada spoke about the strategy Cadbury used to turn around the failing fortunes of the iconic global brand. In short, her advice was “don’t try and replicate the blueprint that brought previous success”. Instead, you should “look back to what the brand was all about. Its true DNA”.

The background behind the reason why Cadbury has needed a recent, yet very successful, turnaround both lie with the success of a previous marketing campaign and its acquisition by Kraft in 2009.

With the acquisition came new initiatives such as new product development and more of a focus on ROI. These were not successful because as Barlet- Batada opined, “they were not brand or consumer centric enough”. With the triumph of the 2007 ‘In the Air Tonight, Cadbury Gorilla’ came the burden of trying to replicate its critical success – it won a Cannes Lions and was a global viral hit. Even in 2017 Cadbury was attempting to find the next ‘Gorilla’.

However, this merely was “throwing away Cadbury’s DNA and what made it iconic”. For Barlet-Batada the answer lay in the authentic story that underpins the brand. What she calls, “their inner truth”.

Cadbury’s history is all about generosity: from the creation of the garden village of Bournville for their workers, through to the fact that a glass and a half of milk went into each bar of its Dairy Milk. All that was needed was a strategy that would connect the “huge equity in the ‘glass and a half of milk’ ethos to the current day so people can feel close to the brand again”.

The result was a campaign, ‘There’s a glass and a half in everyone’, (that began in 2017), that was anchored in humanity and steered away from the “bombastic and hyperbole”. Barlet-Batada went on to say that “storytelling is not enough anymore. Brands need to also 'story-do'”. This meant a game changing ‘Donate Your Words’ partnership with Age UK to help the 1.4 million people who regularly go a whole week without speaking to anyone.

Looking at what was at the heart of what Cadbury was originally about, its DNA, history of community, and of giving back, now shaped its entire marketing strategy.

Overall, the return to Cadbury’s roots has been an overwhelming success. Three years later they have become the fastest growing grocery brand in the UK and the retail sale value of the brand has increased by £240 million.

Barlet-Batada finished with these three top tips.

1.    Know your roots and DNA

2.    Allow the authentic story to challenge perceive corporate wisdom - Stand out to be different

3.    Story-do as well as story-tell - Put your money where your mouth is

Over 8,000 people attended MAD//Fest on 7-8 July in-person and via the virtual platform. Speakers included new KFC CMO Jack Hinchliffe, S4 Capital Executive Chairman Sir Martin Sorrell and Resi Founder Alex Depledge MBE. Full sessions are available now on our YouTube channel.