Heinz Doesn’t Mean Beans and Gorillas Don't Sell Chocolate

How Kraft Heinz is digging deep to find a purpose that sells

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Food-maker Kraft Heinz is jumping on the so-called ‘purpose bandwagon’, with its newly introduced “Beanz Meanz More” brand platform. As part of the campaign, three million limited edition cans will be sold, with Kraft Heinz donating a meal per can purchased via a partnership with charity Magic Breakfast to help reduce child hunger in the U.K.

Skepticism around the move is somewhat understandable. Kraft Heinz is the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world, with significant environmental and social responsibilities to be held accountable for. A bit of surface-level rebranding isn’t going to get them off the hook for their carbon footprint, palm oil sourcing, workers’ rights or public health responsibilities. We should never stop demanding better from the organizations we buy from.   

But this ‘bandwagon’ is, undeniably, rolling in the right direction and given the commercial success Kraft has seen in purposeful strategies elsewhere in its portfolio, it’s a smart move.


When Cadbury tried something new

Remember confectionary brand Cadbury’s Gorilla ad? Of course, you do. A big, hairy gorilla drumming along to Phil Collins is something that’ll stick in the mind.

The ad grabbed global attention back in 2007 when it first appeared on our screens and is still highly regarded to this day, picking up a ton of awards along the way.

The spot is lauded for good reason—it’s iconic, joyous and bold. What’s more, despite being 90 seconds long, it doesn’t have any chocolate in it. But what it lacks in product placement, it more than makes up for in emotional, drumming delight. 


Phil Rumbol, Cadbury’s marketing director at the time, said his brief was “Eating Cadbury’s chocolate makes you feel good”. 

It’s about making the brand as fun and enjoyable as the product. In the wake of the very serious salmonella scare the year before, it brought some long-overdue disruption to the category.

“Gorilla” is something special—a bar of chocolate for the eyes and ears. The problem is, people don’t buy chocolate bars for their eyes and ears. Fast forward 10 years and it seems people weren’t buying Cadbury’s chocolate full stop. 

Following a hostile takeover from Kraft Foods and with public health conversations gaining momentum, in 2017 Dairy Milk suffered a 4.2% slump in value, the equivalent of £19.9m in lost sales. This is in spite of investing almost $15 million in media that year. Meanwhile, competitors—including Lindt and Kinder Bueno—grew 14% and 10% respectively. 

The cultural climate of today

In 2017 several other things happened that may have made it a little harder for Cadbury’s fun and carefree tone to hit the mark. The #MeToo movement shone a light on the exhausting and pervasive problem of sexual harassment, while Trump was sworn into office and within a month had signed dozens of executive orders to protect oil companies, alienate people from Muslim-majority countries and ‘expedite’ environmental reviews. 

2017 was, in no uncertain terms, a dumpster fire and that’s—unfortunately—a state of affairs we’ve become rather accustomed to. Of course, the weight of the world doesn’t rest on one chocolate bar, but there’s an increasing expectation from consumers that big business steps up and contributes to wider society—especially when they are part of a global corporate empire.  

This ‘selfish activist’ consumer wants a chocolate bar that tastes good while also conveniently helping them do good.

Amy Williams, CEO of Good Loop

Given this context, “Gorilla” feels more like a distraction than a relief.  

The simple truth is—as we fight for racial justice, brace against a pandemic and watch our rainforests burn—we as consumers know a significant part of our individual power, and salvation, comes from our wallets. 

Don’t get me wrong, not every consumer is an activist. Quite the opposite. I’m certainly lazy and selfish at least 90% of the time. But I do know bad news surrounds us—much of it out of our hands—and we dutifully turn to consumption to salve our conscience. 

Selfish consumers and brand purpose

In an attempt to do good—and feel good—we buy brands that serve our needs while simultaneously acting and advocating on the societal issues that affect our lives. In fact, a recent Edelman study found consumers are four times more likely to buy from brands that take a stand against climate change and three and a half times more likely to buy from brands that take a stand against inequality. 

This ‘selfish activist’ consumer wants a chocolate bar that tastes good while also conveniently helping them do good. So, when Cadbury announced a pivot in its brand positioning in 2018, its timing was perfect. Shaking off its “Free the Joy” persona, it re-centered the brand around its philanthropist founder: John Cadbury. 

The brand’s recent ‘Donate Your Words’ campaign is a faultless execution of this strategy. We all know we should visit our grandparents more and the heartbreaking reality is, in the U.K., 225,000 older people often go a week without speaking to anyone. 

So Cadbury empowered people to do something about it, harnessing the ‘glass and a half’ of generous instinct inside every one of us. They removed all the words from their packaging to highlight the issue and encouraged the public to reach out to older people in their community. 

Crucially, the campaign was underpinned by action, with Cadbury donating to Age UK and funding its Advice Line, so people don’t have to suffer in silence and isolation.

The results speak for themselves. YouGov’s brand tracking data shows Cadbury’s Buzz score grew 26%, while hundreds of thousands of people ‘donated their words’ through gestures of kindness. Today, Cadbury is once again Britain’s fastest-growing grocery brand. 

In response to its investment in charities and local communities, Cadbury was listed in YouGov’s ‘Best Brand Improvers’ for 2020, with a 6-point increase in Value, Reputation, Recommendation and Impression scores.  

So what can we learn from the meteoric rise and fall of the Cadbury Gorilla? Well, the product is certainly joyful, but isn’t all chocolate? 

Cadbury returns to its brand purpose

The Cadbury brand is much more than that, with a unique heritage in investing in British society. The brand purpose they’ve identified is rooted in the DNA of the Cadbury business and has been brought to life through action. It has enabled them to elevate the conversation from product benefits to create a deeper, emotional connection about issues close to consumers’ hearts. 

Heinz is now taking a similar path, which bodes well for a brand so deeply and emotionally rooted in our collective memories. There’s a ‘selfish activist’ within all of us and it’s the brands that help us to make a difference—while joyfully eating delicious chocolate—that’ll be the ones who’ll win our hearts and our wallets.