From Ampol to Polly Waffle: Lessons in reviving a brand

Reviving an old brand might seem like a way to catch a wave of nostalgia, but is it that simple?

Two long-dormant brands are set to be revived in the Australian market, with news the Polly Waffle chocolate bar is coming back to supermarket shelves and drivers will soon see Ampol back at the petrol bowser. But is the nostalgia both represent enough to win back consumers?

After the success of reviving the Violet Crumble, South Australian outfit, Robern Menz, has gone one step further and is bringing back the once-popular Polly Waffle. It was last seen on the shelves in 2009, after having a near 50-year retail run. A campaign called ‘Bring Back The Polly Waffle’ even has its own Facebook page, with almost 55, 000 people following the developments.

Robern Menz CEO, Phil Sims, explained to CMO there’s always been a lot of nostalgia around confectionery. “We all have happy memories of enjoying certain products in childhood and the response we’ve received from the public when acquiring these brands from Nestle has shown that there is a demand for these products,” he said.

“As soon as we announced the acquisition of Violet Crumble a few years back, we started getting requests about Polly Waffle, so it was an opportunity we knew there was an appetite for it.”

The importance of opportunity

The company is planning to have the iconic chocolate bar on the shelves in late 2021 and hopes fans have patience while it acquires the bespoke equipment needed to remake the sweet treat as it once was. A $1 million grant from the Commonwealth Manufacturing Modernisation Fund will go a long way to supporting the production of the Polly Waffle bar in Australia.

“When we purchased the recipe and brand from Nestle, the bar had not been produced for over a decade and the specific equipment to make this product no longer existed," Sims said. "This significant contribution from this grant gives us the confidence to move forward.”

The chocolate bar seems to have ticked off the first ingredient in staging a successful comeback - potential customers. DentsuAegis Network Australia head of intelligence, Christine McKinnon, told CMO the starting point for any brand is opportunity and with Polly Waffle, as well as many other revived brands, it is also the basis for restarting.

“The fact Polly Waffle was voted Australia’s favourite chocolate bar in a 2019 News Limited poll 10 years after it was last available demonstrates how possible and critical it is for brands to create bonds with their customers. Brand values, brand character, provenance, performance, distinctiveness - they are important factors in creating that bond – they are all chapters in the brand story,” McKinnon explained.

BWS head of marketing consumer experience, brand and convenience, Ken Russell, told CMO nothing reminds us more of our own consumerism than when we go mad for the return of a once loved product or brand. 

“Polly Waffle appears to have achieved just that and it’s refreshing to see the internet go mad in a positive way for a change, over a long lost chocolate fix,” he said. But he cautions reviving brands must pay attention to the same rule of existing brands: tinker with it at your peril.

“It looks as though they have also taken another step in the right direction by ensuring they produce the Polly Waffle just the way we remember it. A common mistake for many brands, dead or still alive. I’ve seen first hand the backlash from consumers when you do. Think Johnny Walker Red premix.”

Why nostalgia isn't enough

Separately, Caltex Australia is revitalising the Ampol brands and has taken the first step, unveiling a new brand logo. Interim CEO, Matthew Halliday, said it is the right time for the company to transition to the Ampol name, as it better reflects its position as an independent Australian company.

“Trusted and high-quality products, a commitment to customer service, market leading networks and infrastructure and playing a positive role in local communities remain at the heart of our business, as they were when Ampol was established over 80 years ago,” Halliday said.

The updated Ampol logo taps the original red and blue bands of the old logo, capturing the organisation’s history as a company built for Australians. The company said the new, distinctive leaning ‘A’ symbolises the company’s forward momentum with the symbol intended to be a beacon for customers when on the road.

“The new logo reflects our growth and evolution into new markets and geographies and our ongoing drive to be world-class in everything we do. Our fresh new symbol will connect Ampol with a new generation of customers and underpins our commitment to again make it Australia’s most loved and admired fuel brand,” he said.

Key ingredients for reviving a brand

However, reviving a dormant brand takes much more than a few polls and nostalgia. It is a process with a particular set of requirements to meet for a successful relaunch and to avoid a flop. 

BWM Dentsu CEO, Paul Williams, said when looking to revive a brand, there are a number of things to consider before hitting go. These include the importance of brand trust, understanding of how powerful brands can pay off, and the need to find a brand purpose early on.

“If the latent potential of a core brand platform can fulfill these three criteria – then do it, but do it well. If, after pushing strategy and creativity to its limits, the brand still can’t fulfill this holistic role, then it’s time to look for an alternative. But remember, it’s often more expensive to start something from scratch, than to breathe new life into something which deeply resonates with people,” he said.

“Brand revival requires more than smart and creative communications and marketing. It requires transforming the mindset of a company from its current state and delivery, to a new state. This means creating a plan for all parts of your business – from organisational impacts, product and delivery impacts, as well as people impacts.”

Brands, new or old, have a central role in people’s lives - inspiring - and to help consumers to feel entranced, said Williams. Adding, that people desire understanding, need information and want to be entertained. 

“To deliver this, marketers need to insist that their transformational plan opens up a myriad of possibilities where ideas are noticed and remembered, they last for years, and they work across channels.”

Carat Australia head of strategy, Danni Wright, pointed out a brand needs a consistent set of basic ingredients - the product or service itself, which preferably offers differentiation, a distinctive identity, physical distribution, meaning and the often-deprioritised ingredient of mental availability.

With Polly Waffle, the mass allure of a nostalgic blast from the past will be enough to get the vitals firing, “but whether or not the brand can make it without life support will depend on whether the company invests in creating and shaping new memory structures that take it out of the novel and into the everyday repertoire”, Wright said.  

“Whether it’s a brand looking to stage a comeback, a newborn, or one that’s been around the block, the brands that rise to the top are the ones that invest in building, sustaining and triggering distinctive brand associations in the minds of as many potential consumers as possible,” she added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.  

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