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CREATIVE STRATEGY: A pint of brand, please, Magners

Gentle readers, please indulge my short diversion into history and archaeology. As I scribble this, my partner is writing an MA dissertation on Anglo-Saxon amulets in Conversion-period England.

Magners: latest ad campaign employs a mix of heritage and humour

Magners: latest ad campaign employs a mix of heritage and humour

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It’s fascinating to see how a humble household object, like a key, can carry such powerful symbolism and even acquire quasi-magical properties; and how the significance of particular amuletic artefacts can change. 

Yes, it’s analogy time. What was once a simple product bearing its manufacturer’s name becomes something else ... an amalgam of associations and values that tie us ever more closely to that product, now brand. In a TED talk, Rory Sutherland called it "intangible value". But when and how does a product turn into a brand?

In marketing, it is rare to see anything that truly resembles "an overnight success". But maybe C&C’s Magners Original Irish Cider qualifies. Trialled in Glasgow in 2003, then rolled out nationwide in 2005, all of a sudden it seemed that every man, woman and teen was ordering cider in pint glasses filled with ice.  

As the World Cup came around in 2006, ale and lager drinkers were deserting their usual tipple for the cold, applely alcohol from the Emerald Isle.  

But, rivals were quick to jump on the bandwagon, or rather, apple cart. Scottish & Newcastle shamelessly turned Bulmers into a Magners copycat that helped dilute the latter’s sales just as the fad that C&C had orchestrated reached its zenith.  

Soon the market was flooded with "trendy" and/or "premium" ciders. Who’d have thought a few years ago that we’d be ordering cider from Sweden! Maybe the boom time for Magner’s innovation has gone forever.

But it seems that C&C won’t go down without a fight. Check out this ad of the man who doesn’t know his own strength, which featured in the breaks during the recent England/Switzerland Euro 2012 qualifier:

Note just how the advertising has moved on since the launch. When they created a new market, C&C commissioned generic ads. While not the most "creative", the commercials reflected the new product’s attributes: simple, refreshing, fun, inclusive and populist (I recall jolly young people playing cricket in an orchard, for example).

But the new ads go beyond purely pushing product and ask us to engage with the Magners brand, employing a mix of heritage and humour.

Whether the 'Method in the Magners' campaign heralds further new product development, I don’t know; but in the meantime, maybe it will tempt back the original triallists. If so, the Irish will have made their own luck.

Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones.

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