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A real meal


A real meal



Picnic is an Australian chocolate icon. People know the brand and like the brand, and there’s equity in every facet of the brand. Consumers say it’s unique and delicious; the problem is they’re just not buying it as much as they used too.

Picnic’s previous campaign, ‘Deliciously Ugly’ was used exclusively on the brand from 2000 to 2008. Over this time the brand slowly lost relevance and, accordingly, it was in value decline for four years.

The reasons for the decline in purchase and the loss of relevance came from three broad areas – the changing role of snack products, the influence of distribution channels and increasing competition.

By 2009, marketers and advertisers had watched how hard the rise of the ‘on the go’ trend had worked across the chocolate and confectionary categories. Many brands had benefited from simple packaging and product innovations; some new brands had even launched opportunistically against this consumer benefit.

This trend was causing Picnic problems, as inherently it’s not the kind of bar you can eat while driving, walking or racing to catch a bus. It’s also not the kind of bar you can eat half of and put the rest away for later. That’s because it’s a chaotically messy eat – bits fly off left right and centre, falling on clothes, into bags and generally causing havoc.

Staying true to its recipe meant Picnic struggled to be opportunistic in responding to this trend. At its heart Picnic was just not an ‘on the go’ kind of chocolate bar. Trying to become one was not going to give it the growth that was needed to position Picnic for success.

A second factor impacting Picnic sales was promotional activity that was driving purchase in route and convenience channels. These retail outlets make up 50% of category sales due to the high impulse nature of the product. The constancy of the promotional calendar was beginning to train consumers to ‘bulk’ buy each time prices were low. Coupled with this, Picnic could not capitalise on the popular combo purchase of a chocolate bar and a Coke. Corporate ownership of Schweppes at the time rightfully prevented this. But it did leave room for the smaller portfolios to partner up and let the punter get a Mars Bar, a Snickers and the leading soft drink in their hands for a few dollars.

It’s tough enough in the chocolate bar category with constant investment and innovations from your outside competition, but when the competition comes from both internal and external sources it is a nearly impossible fight to win.

Picnic’s share had nosedived and there were a couple of reasons – first, the strong performance of Snickers, Picnic’s biggest competitor, and second, place share was going to other Cadbury brands, Boost and Boost Totally Nuts. One brand was clearly cannibalising the other.

Picnic watched Snickers successfully move from its old and deeply entrenched ‘Really satisfies’ campaign line, to a quirky, humorous campaign using Mr T to tell consumers to man up and ‘Get some nuts’. The Snickers campaign had caused that classic disruption that odd creative ideas do, and moved it successfully to front of mind, at the same time winning the youth currency of mass YouTube viewership.

Picnic meanwhile was still only communicating via the ‘Deliciously ugly’ campaign in outdoor and large format. The other element of the Snickers campaign success was highlighting one simple ingredient – nuts. Traditionally, nuts were the domain of Picnic and the reason for its lumpy ‘ugly’ appearance.

Campaign: ‘Picnic. It’s No Picnic’
Product: Picnic chocolate bar
Client: Cadbury
Agency: George Patterson Y&R


The situation was this – Picnic was not an ‘on the go’ eat, it was victim to aggressive pricing promotion, had suffered at the hands of its brother, lost ground, lost part of its ingredients story to Snickers and failed to defend itself. The culmination of all these factors meant that in 2009 the brand was losing share rapidly. Retail value sales on the brand in 2009 were down 12.5% with Snickers up 7.2% in value over the same period.

While soft measures around brand health were considered, the ultimate goal was to drive market share and dollar value of the brand in the category, because, after all, it had been declining steadily for four years. Picnic’s compound annual growth rate of the four years was down 9.4%, as opposed to Snickers, which was up 7.3%.


Faced with internal and external challenges George Patterson Y&R, alongside Cadbury, created a new campaign – ‘Picnic. It’s No Picnic’.

Strategically what was needed was to stop thinking like the marketers of a 50-year-old chocolate bar and start thinking like our target. We needed to return to the bar and find a resonating truth that we could leverage. With 10 years of success and awareness built through ‘Deliciously ugly’, we needed to be pretty certain of where it was going, to ensure we weren’t doing any more damage to brand health or, even more importantly, the sales of Picnic.

Youth is the common fodder of marketing articles. They have been labelled everything from fickle to cynical, lazy, morally driven, ethically minded, indulgent and technical. The term ‘Adultescent’ has been bandied around to try to play on the phase of adults acting like teenagers, so we needed to find different room for the Picnic consumer. A process of working through trends reports and vox pops started to shape a different kind of picture.

Eating a Picnic is to create a cyclone of crumbs, bits of wafer, flying peanuts and chocolate droppings. You can’t look cool eating a Picnic, but you can have a hell of a lot of fun if chaos is your thing. As well as messy, Picnic happens to be a big eat – something of a consumption challenge in fact. And who likes a silly challenge more than a young man with a naughty boy lurking just below the surface?

We had the beginnings of a strategic idea and we knew that to excite and engage our audience we had to wrap it in a media idea that was as innovative, spontaneous and silly as the challenge we were about to throw down – ‘Can you eat a whole Picnic within a specified time?’

As the campaign idea developed, playing with conventions and utilising all non-traditional media available seemed to be a prerequisite rather than an indulgence. Can you eat a whole Picnic bar in the space of a commercial? Actually, you can’t – but you can certainly have a lot of fun trying.

We presented this challenge to Australians, encouraging them through online to try it. But in the spirit of keeping it real, they were going to create the ads for us.

The ‘Picnic. It’s no Picnic’ campaign would rely completely on engagement and user-generated content. If we hadn’t got the brand strategy right we would potentially have no material running. It was risky, but worth it.

The campaign was risky for its reliance on the punter, but also for Cadbury as a company. In an environment where responsible consumption is a mandate in pretty much every category, this campaign flew very close to the edge of encouraging irresponsible overconsumption.

While we all live in the world of marketing and can debate the validity of these concerns, it was a very real ‘watch out’ in developing the idea to finished production.

In the same way Top Gear can be silly and still speak to safe driving, this campaign needed to work out a way to address this regulatory environment. Limiting the age of entrants, placing an instructional video at the start of the website and having fun with the ‘responsible’ conversation were all elements that helped us turn this challenge into an advantage.


The website was the hub for all consumer-generated content. It needed to be simple, self-explanatory and ultimately lots of fun. Punters simply needed an unopened Picnic bar and a computer. The shell for each ad was set up following a formula that included voiceovers (50 individual recordings), the consumer’s name (from a choice of 1000 guys and girls’ names) and a super website. The rest was left to our super-duper ad making machine. Punters were able to choose one of the voiceovers and include it in their finished ad. They were able to record their video from their webcam, mobile phone or handy cam. If people were going to create the ads, the finished product needed to be as they wanted it to be – no post-production, no polish, no CGI and no tricks. All this meant that the ad would feel real and would be as customised as possible for the individual.

In the spirit of keeping it real, the ads were judged and uploaded to TV daily. Punters got an eDM advising them of their selection for TV, which gave them the opportunity to tell their friends via Facebook or Twitter when and where their ad would be playing.

With potentially hundreds of consumer-generated videos on offer there needed to be a media approach that would allow for this content (as much as humanly possible) to be broadcast to our target audience. Mass reach media is the cornerstone of FMCG, so TV coverage was going to be a must. With Carat, GPY&R set out to see that no ad would be seen twice… meaning a lot of material instructions and dub despatches!

Over 100 individual ads aired during the five weeks of TV activity nationally (metro and regional). We also knew that the opportunity for consumers to get their mug on TV would provide one of the most compelling hooks to participate.
The TV coverage was supported by online, with ‘one click’ being our ultimate goal in order to get people from engaging banner creative straight to the website and seeing other video that had already been uploaded.

The ‘Picnic. It’s No Picnic’ YouTube page also housed videos, so that people could share their videos with friends via Facebook to help grow the awareness and reach of the campaign.

Interestingly as the campaign went live it was celebrated for its non-bull***t approach. It seemed to tap a vein of commentary that was anti the over policing of individuals. It basically told people that if you want to eat a Picnic you should, but you should be aware that it’s not an easy eat.

We had kept it real, stayed true to the difficulty of the bar and managed to make this a ‘safe consumption’ conversation.


Within three weeks results were looking better than good. The campaign was voted by a Canadian creative director as the best ad in the world by the end of week one, international media were covering the story, 2.5 minutes was the average time spent on the site and an audience of over 100,000 was following the brand on Twitter, meaning someone was talking about the brand approximately once every three hours of the day.

When people went to the website they were watching at least three ads – three times the guaranteed exposure that we would have had following a standard 70:30 peak/off peak buy on free-to-air TV.

‘Picnic. It’s No Picnic’ saw more than 450 TV ads created on the website by consumers with over 100 individual ads airing during the five weeks of TV activity nationally.

At the end of 2009, Picnic had a 3.1 share of the bars market, with Snickers having a 7.7 share.

Enter ‘Picnic. It’s No Picnic’ and its performance for February 2010 saw Picnic with a 5.1 share and Snickers a 6.2 share. In February Picnic grew retail value sales by 94.6%, while Snickers’ contracted 20%.

In a category where one share point gain equates to $5 million-plus over one year, Picnic is on track for an amazing turnaround in 2010. Importantly, Snickers media spend in 2009 alone was $1.8 million compared to a zero spend for Picnic.

But could all this be attributed to the strategy and the advertising? Despite a sell-in of a new variant for Picnic Roast Almond Feast seeing a big push, yes it could: the base business grew along with the new product development.

Initial trial data also shows that Picnic Roast Almond Feast did not cannibalise the standard Picnic (price promotions have continued to run in grocery, but the brand has posted high growth figures across all channels).

While Boost Totally Nuts had cannibalised its brother Picnic’s share in 2008, by 2009 Snickers had taken nearly all of Boost’s market share. At the end of 2009 Cadbury removed Boost Totally Nuts from the shelves, meaning any share gains received in 2010 for Picnic have been at the expense of Snickers.

So while it certainly wasn’t a ‘picnic’ from the start, this case study proves how powerful the connection between a cultural truth, product truth and brand promise can be. It shows that you are never too old to connect to a new generation, as long as you are not afraid to be a bit mindless, a bit brave and a bit open-minded about it.

This campaign has shown the most promising results for Picnic in the past 10 years. Provoking mass conversation in the social media space is going a long way to once more cementing Picnic in the category.


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