Magazine article Marketing

GREAT BRITISH BRANDS: Bisto - Linked Inextricably with the Bisto Kids, Bisto Has Survived Changes in Taste to Continue Sales Growth

Magazine article Marketing

GREAT BRITISH BRANDS: Bisto - Linked Inextricably with the Bisto Kids, Bisto Has Survived Changes in Taste to Continue Sales Growth

Article excerpt

Few brands are as closely linked with a single brand image as Bisto.

Although there was an 11-year gap between the birth of Bisto in 1908 and the appearance of the Bisto Kids in 1919, the two street urchins are as tied up with the brand as a Sunday roast.

Bisto was the brainchild of Mrs Roberts and Mrs Patterson, who were cooking together and found they could not get the gravy quite right. Their husbands both worked at the Cerebos salt works and were challenged by their wives to create a product that would guarantee perfect gravy every time. Experiments began and the birth of Bisto was announced in a full-page advert in the Daily Mail on February 4, 1910. Although the choice of name was arbitrary, advertising retrospectively conferred on it the meaning 'Browns, Seasons, Thickens in One'.

The success of the new product meant that by 1919 there was enough money in the kitty to produce a full-scale advertising campaign. The artist Will Owen was commissioned to create the Bisto Kids.

The duo became cult figures in the 1920s and 1930s, with their flat caps, ragged clothing and 'Ahh, Bisto' strapline. However, with the advent of the National Health Service and the promise of a better and more prosperous Britain at the end of the Second World War, the ragamuffin kids seemed out of place and their appearances in Bisto advertising were reduced significantly.

Bisto carried out research in the 1970s to see how well the children were remembered and were astonished by the results - huge numbers of adults and children displayed knowledge of and affection for the characters.

In response, Bisto gave the kids a makeover and, in 1976, they appeared in animated form for the first time. The revamp lasted almost 20 years, until the kids were axed in 1995 in favour of real children sitting around a family dinner table.

Since the demise of the kids, Bisto has struggled to find a campaign that matches the popularity and impact of the original. The company resorted to using lingering shots of the gravy poured over traditional Sunday dinners accompanied by the song 'Save the best till last'.

In 1999, Bisto came back with a new take on the family meal with the 'gravy matters' campaign. In one ad, a doddery grandmother struggles with the heavy gravy boat and ends up spilling all its contents on to her plate. …

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