Brand expert view – Walkers

Against the backdrop of uncertainty that will come to define 2020, we are already seeing that heritage brands, who provide a comfort in the familiar, are likely to thrive.

And so one might expect Walkers, a national beacon of positivity, happiness and familiarity, to be a brand whose fortunes continue to soar over the next 12 months.

The ‘watch out’ in the current climate will be for the brand to continue to strike the delicate balance between playing to that much craved nostalgia, and keeping the brand evolving and relevant. Whilst the crisp market is booming (according to Mintel 93% of adults ate a packet last year), the fact that this growth is being fuelled by ‘premium’ and ‘healthier’ innovations will allow no respite for the ever-chugging Walkers NPD pipeline.

And what of the year ahead for Walkers advertising? As the marketing team look for a “fresh perspective for comms to stay relevant to modern Britain” there is a further balance of the old and new to be struck. One can’t help but wonder if, after 25 years, Gary Lineker has lost his place (and his regular Walker’s pay check) as the likeable, cheeky face of ‘everyman’ Britain. Indeed, appealing to the masses through populist advertising-led campaigns is arguably what the Walkers brand has done best over the years. Their ‘Too Good to Share’ creative platform allowed brand consistency and new news to walk hand in hand. Finding an advertising vehicle that keeps the brand moving with the times will undoubtedly be an area of focus.

The Spice Girls collaboration last year was a successful step in the right direction. One could surmise that this was in no small part down to the fact that the Spice Girls’ present-day resurrection itself was a strategic ‘gift’ wrapped up in a union jack bow. The long-perfected Walkers recipe of nostalgia, populism and new news made them a powerful ‘brand fit’.

Now it appears the brand is seeking new ways to reach the hearts, minds and lunchboxes of ‘younger audiences’ and ‘millennial families’. We see that ‘engagement’ and ‘talkability’ is high up on the checklist for new campaign deliverables for the year ahead. No doubt the team will be ever-chasing their 2008 masterstroke invention of ‘UGF’ (User-generated flavours). But the true achievement of its marketing is that, for a heritage brand established over 70 years ago, Walkers has always been abreast of the current zeitgeist. The Walkers brand is a shiny foil comforter of joy, our familiar childhood friend who to this day still makes us smile. Yet it is also one million ‘Do us a Flavour’ votes, their ‘Taste Icon’ partnerships and ‘Cajun Squirrel’(!) This tension needs to be resolved with a clear creative platform if the brand really is leaving behind ‘Too Good to Share’. Fernando Kahane, Walkers Marketing Director talks about moving the brand from the “business of crisps to the business of enjoyment”. That seems like a good place to start.

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