All brands need an idea behind them.
It’s hard enough working out what that is and capturing it in a few words. But it can be even harder hanging onto that idea as a brand grows, as competitors react and, particularly, as owners change.
So all rise, please, for Aunt Bessie’s.
They’ve been selling their frozen Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and other traditional food since 1995.
In June this year they were bought by Nomad Foods, the owners of Birds Eye, Findus and Goodfellas Pizzas.
Aunt Bessie’s had been part of the William Jackson group. William Jackson himself set up a grocer shop on Scale Lane in Hull in 1851.
The story of Aunt Bessie’s goes back to 1974 when Butlins asked Jackson’s to supply their holiday camps with frozen Yorkshire puddings.
So Nomad have bought a brand with some serious history behind it. There are also factories in Hull and over 350 staff.
But what they’ve really bought is an idea.
It all starts with Sunday lunch. Producing one is a feat of logistics. Somehow you have to get multiple meal components cooked and onto plates at exactly the same time and temperature.
In most homes the one thing that has, has, has to be there is the Yorkshire pudding. Not too soggy, not too crispy.
Making Yorkshire puddings is a lost art and a big part of this is down to Aunt Bessie. Thanks to her, anyone can now produce perfect Yorkshire puddings in 4 minutes. You can even buy her frozen batters so it feels more like you’ve made them yourself.
But either way, as you bring the plates to the table there’s a little glow of satisfaction.
That’s what the brand has tapped into with its new TV campaign, ‘Bring Out the Bessie in You’. The first ad is called ‘Glory Awaits’ (watch it here) and shows a working dad using increasingly unlikely modes of transport to make it home in time to serve his children a roast dinner.
It replaces the Margaret & Mable campaign that had run since 2009, in which two curtain twitchers spy on the mum across the road as she manages to produce a roast dinner for her family on a school night.
I must admit I was never a big fan of the campaign, although I admired its consistency. I didn’t feel it created any real emotional connection with the brand, mainly because the focus wasn’t on the mum, it was on these two strange women.
Mind you, I have something of the inside track here. In the early 2000’s I did a lot of work on the brand with what was then Tryton Foods. So I know the story of how the brand was developed, the name, the figure on the pack that looks like Mrs Doubtfire. I know how she’s never appeared in ads, because she’s your secret weapon.
The striking thing I discovered at the time was that in any brand world exercise, with consumers or clients, everyone always imagined the same character (warm, loving, dependable, generous, knowledgeable) in the same situation (quietly helping out in the kitchen and then sliding out the back door to leave you to take the credit).
Fundamentally, it was about the need to nurture and the sense of fulfilment you get when providing your family with good proper food. But it was also about what gets in the way of that - what Roger Munby of SMRC (and Norwich City) used to call “time, skill and will”.
So in 2005 we wrote down the Aunt Bessie’s promise as “always there to lend a hand with making great tasting home-made food”.
The idea behind that, we decided, was ‘home-made know-how’.
Good to see the recipe remains unchanged to this day.