'Build a brand, don't invent it' – why Tunnock's British makeover took the biscuit

Tunnock's 'Great British' campaign

Teacake maker Tunnock’s whole persona is about tradition, family values and strong roots. Its website is old fashioned and the packaging hasn’t changed with the exception of the lion for the 120th year celebration.

Ordinarily its branding is proud about the family business and the close association of company and place.

It has never mentioned its association for Scotland but people in Scotland took it to their hearts.

Most companies can only dream of this spontaneous adoption of their product by a population.

That in itself would be something any professional marketer would have built up relentlessly.

Tunnock's has no "Scottish" persona but a cult Scottish following that it should adhere to.

Giving it a non-Scottish national persona – the brand is controversially advertising itself in England as 'The Great British Teacake' – is foolish. It could have found a better tag line.

“The world's best tea cake” or “Serving exceptional treats for over a century” would have worked well without alienating its loyal customer fan base.

Tunnock's has made the brand more British to "fit in" south of the border. This seems like a strange choice when regionalism is on the ascendancy.

It is innocuous enough in itself but I believe it has been built up as a slap in the face of the popular pro-independence movement.

It is also seen as ungrateful for the support that the Scottish people and politicians have given it, most notably at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

When you rebrand you always try to make sure you do not upset your core clients in search of the new clients and markets. This is a crucial rule of marketing. Otherwise you end up with what is called a 'Polo strategy' with weak new markets and a disappearing centre.

After the referendum in 2014, reopening the wounds of the vote is also not terribly smart.

Company head Boyd Tunnock has said he might brand it as the "world" teacake in other countries but again he is missing the point of branding.

Having multi-tasking branding different in England, Scotland and globally is extremely difficult to achieve.

The fact that it thinks this is possible is a little naïve, as the response from today has demonstrated.

It will make messaging far too complex. Brand integrity is all. Having multiple identities to adapt to market is not very sensible.

It makes the identity suspect and also makes it difficult to cultivate a clear identity in the workforce to create a sense of greater purpose and value.

Roots and longevity are so valuable and Tunnock seems to view advertising as separate from the rest of the business.

The fact that it was a thought by a relative and then adopted shows that no thought was given to it and was considered trivial.

This is a prime example that marketing is more than a good idea. It is joined up thinking to build a true identity based on fundamental values and has to think about all aspects.

I hope for Tunnock's it is simply a storm in a teacup but it should avoid criticising the people who love their brand and say that they did not mean it.

The comments of the patriarch have made this potential trivial decision a major issue and damaged the brand.

The large merchandise selection shows how iconic some people view the brand and that the product has a personal meaning, again a great asset to build on.

My advice for Tunnock's is to build a brand, do not "invent it".

Marketing is a holistic science and decisions should be done in a thoughtful way.

Jacques de Cock is a faculty member at London School of Marketing

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