Building a 400 year old brand is a strategic initiative

Shepherd Neame, the oldest brewer of beer in the UK was established in 1608 or 402 years ago! An amazing heritage and the brewer likes to play on this heritage with its advertising campaigns for brands such as Spitfire, Canterbury Jack and Bishops Finger.

The brewer allocated its entire 2006 advertising budget, which was about £300,000 (US$450,000) to one of those, Spitfire a real ale, and all of the budget was spent on the London Evening Standard, an afternoon/evening newspaper in London. This was considered a radical change of strategy. As well as print ads, content and sponsored supplements, the brand also sponsored the Evening Standard’s football World Cup special feature in May of that year. The strategic agency was John Ayling & Associates and the creative agency was RPM3. Promotional support such as free pint promotions were also included.

The really well executed and edgy “Bottle of Britain” campaign ran over six months and is one of my favourite campaigns. Here are some samples of the award winning creative work that was considered controversial and was investigated by the advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK after complaints about the use of SS insignia. The complaints were later rejected by the ASA. You’ll need to have some knowledge of history, colloquial English as well as WWII jargon to really appreciate the ads.


You can find more examples of their campaigns on the Facebook page here

But Shepherd Neame understands that advertising campaigns are not enough to build and grow a strong brand. As a result, the company continues to invest in state of the art SAP technology and bottling technology, new acquisitions of high turnover pubs and refurbishments of existing properties to create airy, spacious and clean environments.

The company also invests extensively in merchandise including a bottle of Britain book, social media and charity work (Spitfire originated as a charity brew) and will link the brand to the extensive 70th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Britain due to be held in the UK later this year. Also look out for its campaigns related to the 2010 football world cup.

All these elements ensure the brands offer experiential, emotional and economic value to both new and existing customers.

It comes as no surprise therefore that despite the recession and clouds of uncertainty, red tape and increased taxes and shocking weather in the UK, turnover was up 8.2% to £60 million in the last six months of 2009 proving that investing in brands is not just about edgy and controversial advertising campaigns, but a long term strategic imperative to continue to build on a 400 year heritage!


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