<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >The making of an iconic brand – what we can learn from Vegemite</span>

One of Australia’s most well-known brands turned 100 this week. How many other Australian iconic brands have been with us through everything (wars, economic ups and downs, our lunchboxes in primary school etc) and have been consistently branded and advertised for 100 years?

Vegemite is a brand that is known and loved by Australians. It is part of the fabric of our country. Part of the Australian psyche. We’re not really a patriotic bunch, but we are proud to say that we eat Vegemite and we love it!

One of the most interesting things about Vegemite is the heritage of its advertising. If you challenged the average Australian to recall 5 Vegemite ads most will struggle to name more than one. And they will likely all name the same ad. And ad that was developed by JWT in 1956 (‘Happy little Vegemites’)!! That was nearly 70 years ago!


This makes us wonder about two things…

  • How is it that the brand has stood the test of time and could still be relevant all these years later? Wouldn’t we all love a bit of that formula!
  • And why has the brand not been able to move beyond their 1956 campaign?

So, here are 5 key lessons to keep in mind as we aim to build iconic brands…


1. Be Consistent

The ‘Happy Little Vegemites’ ad was originally on air for around 8 years. I’m not sure of what the average ad lifetime is for most brands, but I’d guess that it is more like 1-2 years.

So one of the key strengths with the Vegemite ad was the consistency and repetition in the media play. Everyone knew the ad and heard it regularly.

Those who have studied psychology will know that repetition is one of the best ways to develop memory structures. And this is also what we need to create iconic campaigns.

So before you feel bored of your latest campaign, ask yourself, is it really worn out or am I just tired of it?


2. Have a Jingle

Jingles are one of the most under-used advertising hacks.

For Vegemite, the standout jingle was written by Allan Weekes originally for a radio ad in 1954, before being integrated into the TV ad two years later.

The jingle has been engaging us and telling the Vegemite story with 3 generations of Vegemite fans.  Almost every Australian aged over 45 can sing the song.

It is an ear worm that gets stuck inside our heads. It helps to get the ad noticed, ties to the brand, but also conveys a message about the brand.

It worked in the 50s and again more recently to leave us feeling good about the brand. The happy and uplifting feelings you have about the jingle get transferred to the brand by association.

Is the jingle not often used these days because they are not seen to be cool? Seriously think about whether a jingle would be right for your brand – you’ll be remembered forever.


3. Build and Reinforce your Distinctive Brand Assets

As a result of the catchy jingle, the brand created and continued to reinforce a distinctive brand asset. As soon as people hear the song, they link it to the brand.

And along with their distinctive jar with diamond logo and red and yellow colours, the brand has a suite of memorable tools by which to code the brand in their ads. But has the brand been able to build any new assets in the past 70 years?


4. Power of Nostalgia

There is a lot of emotion linked to nostalgic memories of better times from the past, or childhood, or time with family.

Bringing back the jingle in the late 80s set the tone and transported a whole new generation of Vegemite fans to the fun and upbeat emotional territory while triggering nostalgia for older viewers.

One of the elements of the original campaign is that it takes people back to these happy, simpler and relatable times and leaves people feeling good.

Many brands seem to shy away from leaning into their ‘heritage’ because it is perceived as old fashioned and uncool. But old fashioned does not have to be a negative association – it can provide a sense of trust and stability.


5. Distinctiveness and Fame

As a black and white ad with marching girls and children on swings, the ad visuals, aligned with the jingle makes it distinctive and therefore memorable.

It may no longer be cool or relevant, but the ad helped to build brand memories. Something many of the recent campaigns have failed to do. Is that because we end up all looking the same with montage of people eating toast?


And one last watchout….

Don’t mistreat your brand… Interestingly, Vegemite sales have been slowly declining for the past 15 years or so. This seems to be partly due to the changing tastes, preferences for alternative spreads or breakfast options and shifts in the make-up of the Australian population (according to the ABS, now around a third of Australians are born overseas).

But could it also be due to the brand guardianship over the last 50 years or so? Remembering that the brand has changed ownerships three times, could it be that the brand wasn’t nurtured or invested in as much as it should have been? Was it treated just as a cash cow for a long time with no media investment?

Or is just that the original ‘Happy Little Vegemites’ ad developed by JWT was just so iconic that nothing could surpass it?