Magazine article Marketing

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter

Magazine article Marketing

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter

Article excerpt

The spread is suffering as its rivals flourish, buoyed by a health-focused positioning.

One might think that a decline in the heavy use of yellow fats by UK consumers and the fact that only 40% of them consider butter a 'natural' food, according to Mintel, would be to the benefit of Unilever spread brand I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Indeed, fellow Unilever spreads Flora and Bertolli, both of which are positioned as healthier, natural products, have grown their value by 8% and 18.4% since 2006, respectively, according to Mintel. The value of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, however, has fallen by 6.7%.

When the brand was launched in the UK in 1991, its bold packaging and quirky positioning helped it to stand out from existing yellow fat products filling supermarket fridges.

The left-field brand achieved fur-ther standout in 2006 with the first UK TV ad to feature rock legend Ozzy Osbourne, appearing with impressionist Jon Culshaw, who acted as his double.

While the brand distinguished itself, it has done little to stay up to speed with modern consumer needs. Quirkiness does not appear to be enough in a world of health-conscious consumers.

What can the brand do to stop its market share melting away? We asked Gareth Helm, marketing consultant at and recently appointed marketing director at Mars, who has worked on Golden Churn, and Richard Huntington, director of strategy at ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which handles General Mills' business, to give us their views.


GARETH HELM, incoming marketing director, Mars

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter was a huge success in the past. I remember the breath of fresh air it brought into a dull category, leading to a host of imitators.

Sadly, that is where the brand has stayed. It hasn't moved forward, and the competition has caught up with it and undermined its value equation. Now quality + price + brand = 'I can't believe it's worth that'.

If this wasn't enough, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter now also fights the trend of natural : 'I can't believe this is natural' springs to mind. It's trapped, and is seemingly having to turn to heavy discounting. Its best solution is to fix the value equation, enhancing the quality and brand perception.


- Be a natural alternative to butter. Stay focused on the 'better than butter' proposition, but improve the ingredients to improve the perception of quality.

- Be brave again. Flex the brand architecture, do something different and become famous once more. …

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