Audio Branding Unilever Audio

Pot Noodle: why our slurp doesn’t suck


By Lena Portchmouth, Marketing manager local brands UK

March 22, 2024 | 7 min read

‘I would do it again – I think you should too.’ Unilever’s Lena Portchmouth opens up on Pot Noodle’s infamous slurp ad, an audio brand fit for 2024.

Pot Noodle's infamous slurp

I worked with Adam&EveDDB on the ‘Nothing Satisfies Like a Pot Noodle’ campaign, a piece of work made unforgettable due to a 12-second noodle slurp that feels like it lasts forever [drawing fame and infamy alike]. So I know the talkability a good audio brand can create on social media.

I first noticed the power of sound when my love for music spilled over into my career in marketing. Music is a particularly powerful device to evoke a memory or emotion in advertising. For example, when you ask people if they remember any ads from when they were kids, it almost always ends with someone singing you a jingle. But when Gen Z is old (and yes, my young Gen Z readers, it will happen), it won’t be ad jingles that spin them off into youthful nostalgia – it will be today’s branded sonic logos and viral TikTok sounds.

Marketers have long understood the power of sound to trigger memory and recall, with Apple, Intel and, more recently, Netflix all making sound an integral part of their identities. But the role sound plays in brand marketing is changing beyond recognition – and that’s because of TikTok. Unlike Instagram and YouTube, which have tended to treat sound as optional, TikTok fundamentally has a volume-up approach, and it is impossible to underestimate its impact in creating a new world of engagement around sounds. In fact, according to research for TikTok for Business by Kantar, 73% of respondents said they would “stop and look” at ads on TikTok with audio – significantly more than on any other platform.

Many TV ads use sound to cut through and get us to look up from our phones. Some have overtly gone for the ASMR effect; others try to silence or ditch dialogue in favor of soothing music. And it’s increasingly common to do it sneakily by wedging a doorbell or a meowing cat into the ad’s narrative, in the hope we’ll mistake it for a sound in our own living room. [editor’s note: WhatsApp, Facebook and Slack notifications should be banned from ads].

Now to the slurp

But Adam&EveDDB’s idea of a long slurp struck me as something new. Not only did it use a sound that most of us have been told is socially unacceptable, it made the sound the star of the whole ad. Most importantly, the slurp is completely relevant to the Pot Noodle brand, given it is based on the universal truth that eating noodles is rarely the most dignified experience. Even the ad’s concluding noise – a hand patting the bottom of the Pot Noodle tub – is a knowing wink to the consumer experience, at least for those who like to get every last tasty drop out of the pot.

We were confident that ‘Nothing Satisfies Like a Pot Noodle’ would cut through and cause a bit of a stir. Much like Marmite, one of the other Unilever brands within my local brands portfolio, some would love it; others may hate it! Granted, a slurp isn’t one of those mindful, soothing sounds the Gen Z ASMR community loves. But at the same time, I’d argue that it’s no different to aerating a fine wine to get the full-bodied flavor - we want people to get the best flavor experience while eating their noodles. The slurping action is often a necessity when eating noodles, and let’s be honest, if it’s behind closed doors, most of us probably do it.

I think the issue is that slurping is something Brits consider slightly antisocial – the reaction to the campaign reminds me of the outcry that followed a 2017 KFC ad showing office workers singing with their mouths full. [Editor’s note: KFC also had the same issue in 2005].

Does that mean I wouldn’t do it again? I would – I think you should too.

The caveat here is that being disruptive just for the sake of it won’t work and that was never the intention with this campaign. For a sound to evoke a feeling or reaction, it needs to mean something. Slurping certainly does, as it’s a universal action that most of us associate with soupiness or warmth (and do not object to if we’re the ones making it).

Choosing a meaningful sound can also convey a product’s truth incredibly quickly (especially if your sound doesn’t last 12 seconds). For Pot Noodle, that relates to the full flavor and “juice” (as consumers tell us), along with the tap and the glug at the end to get every last drop out of the pot.

My colleagues who work with Unilever’s ice-cream brand Magnum, have also achieved the brand truth one-two with the ‘Magnum crack’ – a sound which transports you to the pleasure of that moment when you are biting into a Magnum while also signifying the quality of the chocolate used to make them.

Working with Adam&EveDDB on this campaign, I feel confident that in the battle to get consumers to look at our advertising while dual screening, we have created something that will cut through with this bold use of sound. Do I think jingles no longer have a role? Absolutely not, they are still incredibly important. But as we move forward, we should all consider how we use sound as part of a total package to build brand identity and equity.

I for one, whenever I slurp some noodles, will be taken back to the time when I watched a lady slurp noodles for 12 seconds across my screens - and I must say, I will be one of the many giving the pot that last satisfying tap to get every last drop.

[Editor’s note: Adam&EveDDB has listened to complaints and has rolled out an ‘apology’ campaign replacing the slurp with out-of-place sounds. This is one of the funniest campaigns of the year. Unforgettable too.]

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