In 2016, Cadbury’s chips were down. There was a need to reset long term strategy for the global Cadbury brand. One that would help reverse declines and get people to fall in love with the brand again. To do this Cadbury had to find a way to rekindle meaning and what Cadbury uniquely brings to the world. Consumers still had firm memories of Cadbury's warmth, approachability, and sincerity; but there was a risk that these memories were being muddied by the bubbly, exuberance of recent activity focused on ‘joy’ and a host of count-lines, bearing the Cadbury brand name.

Working with Kantar and its creative agencies there was a recognition that the brand needed to go back to its Quaker routes to a brand that is all about warmth, unpretentiousness, positivity, and connection. VCCP then coined the phrase – generous instinct. The outcomes achieved by the work that this idea sparked have been transformative. Cadbury is part of the fabric of the nation again, reflected in the UK value of the brand, as measured by Kantar BrandZ, increasing by 51% between 2017 and 2022. 

Further success followed, with Cadbury taking the crown of the most effective Christmas ad in 2022, landing the brand its best Christmas ever! 

Whilst advertising isn’t the only factor influencing Cadbury’s success its contribution has been transformational. Kantar BrandZ data shows that Cadbury over indexes massively on perceptions that it’s a brand that has great advertising. It is also perceived to be a brand that stands out for making people’s lives better and is one that people are prepared to pay more for. 

So, what are the secrets behind the development of such highly effective advertising?
Three themes emerge consistently across all the work. 

1.     Fuelled by culture, always anchored in generosity.

Not only is the strategy rooted in real human understanding, the stories told are also fuelled by human insight, cultural understanding and are anchored in generosity. The strategy is based on such a fundamental universal insight that the stories transfer across cultures in a meaningful and resonant way.

Discipline has been key. It is so easy to get bored with direction, tempted by shiny new strategy or distracted by the need to evolve. By being regimented in making sure they only ever carried forward the Cadbury shaped version of any evolution, the marketing team has achieved fantastic results. After all, a tight brief and a defined space to play opens creative freedom and sparks ideas.

2.     Get comfortable with the uncomfortable

Creativity demands originality. Setting out to be intentionally disruptive and break so called advertising codes is not only liberating, it underpins the most effective work. Award winning ads on average land in the top 20% of all ads in terms of being perceived as being different to others. Actively setting out to make a genuine difference to people’s lives has proven highly impactful, but it takes courage to tackle potentially sensitive topics. It takes strong relationships to be resilient to the inevitable tensions that arise when doing the unconventional, so a trusted partnership – where uncomfortable conversations can be comfortably had – is essential. 

3.     Nurture ideas the audience loves.

So, you’re thinking you already do this, right? Be honest, question yourself, are you genuinely creating work that your audience will love, or work that you love? This applies not only to uncovering tensions and insights that inspire the stories you tell, but also the way you bring the idea to life, and every detailed aspect of that. Whilst some may fear that early-stage research kills ideas, Cadbury and VCCP embrace it and actively seek out the consumer voice to nurture those ideas and optimise their effectiveness. They also ensure that content is designed to win where it will be experienced. This means ensuring that each element of the campaign earns its place and connects coherently with the rest of the campaign (back to being anchored in the generosity and the overarching campaign idea). It also means ensuring that advertising is never an unwelcome disruption where it will be experienced, but an enjoyable part of it. 

Lynne Deason, Head of Creative Excellence at Kantar, Emma-Jayne Paxton, Senior Brand Manager (Christmas & Halloween) at Cadbury and Ollie Gilmore, Group Planning Director at VCCP will be revealing more about these three pillars of success at MAD//Fest London at the Kantar Marketplace keynote session on 4th July at 11:20am on the Hexagon stage.