This month Hovis celebrated its 120th anniversary by bringing back its iconic 'boy on a bike' ad and mounting an exhibition of its advertising over the years. For Scott Clarke, marketing controller of the bread brand, its history is a core part of its success in a crowded market.
'Some of my friends say that working on bread must be boring,' says Clarke, who has been leading the Hovis marketing team of 20 since last December.
'But there aren't many brands that have such a history, or manage to create a genuine emotional connection with consumers.' He points out that although bread is a household staple, Hovis - which is the market leader with a value of almost pounds 250m - is one of three players battling it out for the top spot in this hotly contested market.
Like all food and drink brands, Hovis is affected by consumer concerns over healthy eating and suffered from the short-lived success of the Atkins diet and its influential band of super-slim celebrity followers, although toast and sandwiches remain a core part of the British diet. 'The biggest challenge for us as an industry is the fact that carbohydrate consumption has been declining steadily,' admits Clarke. 'People are more sedentary and don't need to eat as much, which affects all food brands.'
However, food trends change, as seen when Walkers' recent ad campaign, comparing the salt levels of a packet of crisps with a slice of white bread, rightly raised eyebrows and sparked complaints to the ASA. 'Consumers will easily see through (such claims). Crisps are in decline, while bread is a growing market,' says Clarke.
Karen Fisher, head of account management at DDB London, which created last year's campaign for Hovis featuring a family of animated ducks, says Clarke has a good business brain. 'He's incredibly bright,' she says, 'and has a real understanding of the issues, as well as being a great manager of people.'
Oxford-educated Clarke, 37, began his career in sales, working first for Scott Paper, which later merged with Kimberly-Clark, and then Filofax (he has since become a BlackBerry devotee), before moving to category management with Gillette. He gained his first taste of food marketing at Centura Foods, working on brands such as Sharwood's, before moving to RHM.
It is clear that Clarke takes a challenge in his stride: last year he ran the London Marathon in just three-and-a-half hours, and he seems to put just as much enthusiasm and energy into his work. …