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Ribena marketing director breaks silence on Tesco delist saga: “A lot of brand love came out”

Ribena’s campaign to reposition the brand and target millennial drinkers was timed perfectly as “a lot of brand love” emerged from Tesco’s decision to delist added-sugar products, says marketing director Hannah Norbury.

Tesco announced plans to remove the added-sugar versions of Ribena from its shelves last month, citing the link between sugary drinks and obesity rates. The drinks will be pulled from shelves by the time the school year starts next month.

Norbury said the move - which didn't impact Coca-Cola or Pepsi, for example - prompted latent Ribena lovers to come out in defence of the brand on social media, which helpfully coincided with the roll out of a £6m campaign targeting a new range of consumers.

“We’d known about the Tesco’s plan for a while,” she said.

“The ad was planned – some people think we made it in a couple of days – before anything came out in the press to show our products and that [consumers] have that choice.”

Norbury said she was “surprised” by how many people took to Twitter as #RibenaGate started trending but was “really encouraged” by the impassioned response.

Many of those commenting on social media fell into Ribena’s new target demographic of young adults aged 16-30, she claimed.

It’s a move away from the parents it had directed its ads towards in previous years when it also focused heavily on the “health” aspect of products. However, the buyout by Suntory in 2013 gave Norbury licence to reconsider its decades-old tactic.

“We realised that people weren’t buying it because of the health messages,” said Norbury. “It was because of the taste.”

This revelation, coupled with the rise of the ‘ready to drink’ segment of the business – growing six per cent annually – prompted the shift in strategy.

The JWT-created TV ad launched earlier this month and showcases a ‘Ribenary world’ through photo-montage animation. It aims to convey the unique feeling you get when you drink Ribena.

The campaign also signalled the first time that the Light variant had been featured in above-the-line creative. “The market it evolving and we need to evolve with it,” said Norbury. “A lot of people don’t know that the Light [flavour] exists so we wanted to show that choice is there.”

Making that shift from talking to mums to young adults has also meant a new direction for its media strategy.

Norbury admits the new demographic is harder to engage with, and it’s had to stop using social to talk about the brand and instead look at how it can add value with content. The campaign started “with the bigger channels” like Facebook and Twitter, but Norbury is looking at how Ribena can speak to millennials through the likes of Snapchat, Pinterest and other emerging platforms.

“Focusing on the taste and experience of drinking Ribena means we’re not trying to land the health messages. So we’re celebrating everything that’s fun about Ribena.”

While a campaign of this ilk might have been heavily supported with press ads in the past, Norbury is now looking to digital, VOD, outdoor, cinema, in-store and experiential activity.