Thursday, 15 May 2014

Uncle Nigel's country-style fruitcakes

Tryton Foods is investing £4m in the launch of a range of ready-to-bake cakes and cookies under the Aunt Bessie's brand.
marketingmagazine dot co dot uk, 2006

As somebody once (almost) said, the secret of success is sincerity authenticity. Once you can fake that you've got it made. Which is why the processed frozen food product manufacturer, Tryton Foods Ltd (a division of the William Jackson Food Group), markets its packaged foodstuffs as if they came straight from the oven of no-nonsense old Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire farmhouse kitchen, rather than off the conveyor belts of a factory in Hull.

Yes, I'm sorry to have to break it to you, but Aunt Bessie isn't a real person. Just like Mr Kipling (a trademark, owned by Premier Foods, after its acquisition of Rank Hovis McDougall in 2007), Uncle Ben (formerly a brand of Converted Rice Incorporated, since acquired by Mars, Inc), Captain Birdseye (a fictional fisherman created to market an international brand of frozen foods owned by Pinnacle Foods in North America and by private equity group Permira in Europe) and Betty Crocker (first invented in 1921, as a "food agony aunt" by the Washburn Crosby Company, to personalise corporate replies to consumers' baking queries, Betty is now a brand name and trademark of American Fortune 500 corporation, General Mills).

Of course, on a rational level, nobody's fooled, but on an emotional level, the faux human touch must help to shift product, or the manufacturers wouldn't bother creating and maintaining these avatars. The illusion of authenticity often extends to the look and feel of a product, with packaging calibrated to give the brand an authentic, homemade feel;  fake "home-made" jam labels decanting factory-produced jams into jars with gingham-printed lids, or using a logo that looks as if it's been drawn by a kid with a chunky felt tip pen.

The same principles apply to marketing a political product. Back in 2012, I mocked UKIP for having a crummy pound shop logo, which even the party leadership seemed set to replace with something a bit less rubbish-looking.  Two years later, and the party leadership has had to disown a lot of embarrassing things, including a manifesto that the leader subsequently described as 'drivel' and a string of high-profile lunatic (mal)functionaries (Mr Kipper does make exceedingly good fruitcakes), but it looks as if the pound shop logo is here to stay. Not only is there no longer any talk of axing it, but various UKIP apparatchiks concerned with media manipulation and image management have lately been trying to bully and intimidate anybody who dares to illustrate critical comments about the party with examples of UKIP's own branding, whether straight up or altered to make an observation or satirical point.

Thomas Clark at Another Angry Voice had a visit from UKIP's reputation-management goons after he illustrated some of his on line comments about the kippers with UKIP-sourced material. Even after he'd more than reasonably complied with their totally unreasonable demands, these hilariously self-descibed "libertarians" (who've apparently never heard of fair comment or fair use) weren't satisfied - here's an intimidatory rant by an obnoxious clown who goes by the on-line name "stevesmartarse" (you're so funny, Steve), left in the comments after the "offending" material had been self-censored:
You're not above the law AAV. It is illegal to post something impersonating a political party if by copying their style and logos the result would be that people thought that the content was from that party. The content has never been and is not UKIP policy. UKIP's record on throwing out of the party those who have joined under false pretences is second to none. UKIP is made up of ordinary people who are fed up with those 'other agendas' that have betrayed this country and its people for the past 40 years. If you are fed up with that betrayal too, and I suspect you are, then help do something about it, instead of trying to denigrate those prepared to stand up and do something about it. 
This ridiculous over-sensitivity about image management makes me wonder whether UKIP's crummy, amateurish logo is, in fact, a valuable piece of intellectual property, something that looks almost deliberately fabricated to seem home-made.  I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they decided to hang on to the slapdash branding to enhance the "anti-establishment" look and feel of the party. Like Uncle Nige's contrived ordinary-bloke-ishness and the manufactured attention-seeking, headline-grabbing immigrant baiting, maybe the crap logo is part of a smokescreen, designed to hide the real agenda of this pro-the-already-overprivileged, bugger-everybody-else, hyper-Thatcherite political clique and its wealthy donors and influential fellow travellers among the chatterati.

I say, Nigel, old boy, does this thing look as if it was made up by an ordinary person? 'Like something a low-grade bank clerk with the charisma of a damp rag would come up with', you say? That's very good indeed, Nigel, you really must remember that line - I'm sure we can use it later. And how absolutely spiffing - 'low-grade' was precisely the look we were after! I think we jolly well have a winner, chaps. Champers all round!
As I said in my own comment:
The kippers do seem rather over-protective of a logo that looks as if it cost a lot less than a pound to create. Mind you, I'm beginning to think that the amateurish look is a deliberate branding decision.
Put yourself into the well-heeled brogues of the individuals who fabricated this astroturf "anti-establishment" political movement, (funded by ex-Tory party donors and fronted by an ex-public school former City commodities trader and wannabe tax avoider). How, apart from supergluing a proletarian pint mug into the leader's hand and a fag into his gob, do you make your movement look like something created by real people? Do you:
a) Produce a slick, professional logo that looks like the result of an extended blue-skies thinking session by a team of highly-paid latte-slurping metrosexual creative sushi-munchers with hipster specs and post-ironic goatees?
b) Come up with something that looks as if it was cobbled together by old Mrs Goggins at the post office, who only learned to use MS Paint so she could print out some home-made jam labels for the village produce show?
I think you go for b), in which case it must hit a raw nerve when outsiders mess around with the symbol of your fake authenticity...

Anyway, that's enough politics for now so to wind up, here are four fun facts about Aunt Bessie's product line, courtesy of Kay Adeola's blog:
  • The first ever Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire Pudding was created for a Butlins holiday camp in 1974.
  • Aunt Bessie’s Ltd produces up to a staggering 20 million Yorkshire Puddings a week at its busiest time and half a billion annually.
  • In the last 15 years, Aunt Bessie’s products have become so popular that Aunt Bessie’s Ltd has grown its retail sales value to £190m.
  • Aunt Bessie is actually an Austrian transvestite, who was inspired to grow a beard and enter the Eurovision Song Contest after watching the stoning scene in The Life of Brian.
One of the above facts isn't strictly true and does not, in fact, reflect the views of Kay Adeola, or of any other real person, living or dead. Sorry, Kay, I got bored.