A view from Dave Trott: When to keep quiet

Photo credit: Julian Hanford
Photo credit: Julian Hanford

Crispin Porter & Bogusky has an elephant logo.

Why an elephant?

They got the idea from the great showman PT Barnum.

He owned a travelling circus: Barnum & Bailey.

In 19th-century America, there were lots of travelling circuses.

Before they came to town, they’d each put up posters saying they were coming.

These never got taken down when they left, so pretty soon there were circus posters all over town.

They weren’t special any more so people ignored them.

PT Barnum decided to do something different.

He sent an elephant into town ahead of the circus.

The elephant would walk down the main street trumpeting, holding up traffic, people would stop and stare and it would get reported in the local paper.

An elephant in the main street just couldn’t be ignored.

PT Barnum got lots of free publicity.

And Barnum & Bailey was more successful than the other circuses.

That’s why CP&B picked the elephant as its logo.

An elephant is a great logo for an ad agency, but noisy isn’t always the right thing to do.

CP&B recently demonstrated this itself.

One of its clients is Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Mac & Cheese comes in a cardboard box, it’s fast and easy to make.

For busy mums, lazy dads, students, anyone in a hurry.

But Mac & Cheese was getting hurt by consumers’ worries about artificial ingredients in junk food.

So Kraft removed all the artificial preservatives, flavours and dyes, and replaced them with natural ingredients.

For instance, it changed yellow dye numbers 5 and 6 for paprika, annatto and turmeric.

That solved the problem of artificial ingredients, but it gave Kraft another problem.

People liked the taste of traditional Mac & Cheese.

Kraft worried that when people heard it had changed to natural ingredients, they might think the flavour had changed.

So Kraft and CP&B didn’t tell anyone.

For three months, they carried on selling it as if nothing happened. 

And a great thing happened: no-one noticed.

From December to March, 50 million packets of Mac & Cheese were sold and no-one noticed a thing.

Which is when Kraft decided to announce what they’d done.

They called it "The largest blind taste test in history".

They ran commercials saying "Mums didn’t notice. Kids didn’t notice. Dogs didn’t notice. Guys pretending to work from home didn’t notice."

They ran press ads saying "We’d invite you to try it, but you already have".

And "It’s missing ingredients you’re not going to miss".

All the advertising had the strapline: "It’s changed, but it hasn’t."

And the great thing is they win both ways.

They relaunch Mac & Cheese as healthy while letting everyone know it still has the same great flavour.

Kraft kills any worries about artificial ingredients and people are reassured about both health and taste.

And Kraft can just carry on quietly selling 200 million boxes a year.

Sometimes the right thing to do is nothing.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three

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