If someone had told you on New Year’s Eve what 2020 had in store, you might have asked them to ease up on the dystopian melodrama. But here we are in the midst of two pandemics: one Covid-19, the other obesity.

Benriach Original 10

If someone had told you on New Year’s Eve what 2020 had instore, you might have asked them to ease up on the dystopian melodrama. Bu there we are in the midst of two pandemics: one Covid-19, the other obesity. 


The two issues are colliding to create a unique public health dilemma in the UK. Data published in 2019 by the Lancet Medical Journal has come to light once more to explain why preventable diseases like obesity is fuelling the Covid-19 pandemic, with the risk of death from Covid-19 rising by 48% if you are overweight. Scarfing down that packet of custard creams isn’t such a wise move after all...


Boris Johnson and his Cabinet Ministers are holding no quarter and have introduced tough new measures in the shape of the Government Obesity Strategy.


They include draconian restrictions, as reported in The Times this month, with a proposed ban on all online advertising of food and drink with high fat, salt and sugar content - aka HFSS items. Companies who flout the rules will be fined, sending shockwaves through the industry. 


Here are the headlines on the new laws: 


A proposed wholesale ban on all online advertising of HFSS foods. No longer allowed are 2-4-1 offers, selling junk food at the checkout, and in-store promotions will be restricted. Calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and bars is now mandated, and this move is in consultation for alcohol brands too. 


The full scope of what the advertising ban actually means is outlined by the government here, and the list of what not to do is long and imposing. The government has opened up a six week consultation with the industry, and food suppliers are quite rightly up in arms this week about a consultation which is poorly timed - what do you think this means for your brand and what would you tell the government?


If nothing changes, food and drink brands must pick their way through tough legislation yet continue to reach a frustrated and anxious general public. Fat chance of doing that... 

Wrong. Here’s where you should focus on to make your brand heard. 



Five Ways To Beat The Advertising Restrictions


1 - Lift The Pressure In Tough Times


Thanks to a semi-permanent state of lockdown, our homes have been transformed into schools, office spaces, gyms, places of convalescence, and so much more. That’s a lot of pressure on limited square footage and our mental health. How can your brand give people some solace? Over 40% of people globally like to relax and look after themselves by cooking from scratch, with more than 50% believing that eating in moderation helps them stay healthy. This year, Chinese social platforms like Weibo and Douyin have become quarantine cookbooks, with users sharing food preparation tutorials described as ways to stay calm and cope. Give your audience useful ideas that are mindful too - like digging in vegetable beds, recipes for tasty and healthy meals, or making a simple herb box for the window ledge - to keep your brand relevant. 


2 - Make Food Information Easy To Digest


Injecting behavioural science into your strategy is proven to ‘nudge’ consumers into healthier choices. Researchers have found calorie counting doesn’t impact our choices, but plate and portion size adjustments make big strides in the battle against the bulge. Can your comms strategy incorporate ‘chunking’ - breaking complex information down into smaller, easier to understand blocks - to encourage eating or drinking just a little less here and there? Instead of calories, reflect your product in terms of what it contributes to a healthy day’s food, to make choices informed and easy for your audience. For example, one of your five a day, or a percentage of good fats.


3 - Think Bigger Than Your Product 


Since 2012, there has been a rise globally in the number of people saying they want to eat healthily while still occasionally indulging in food they know isn’t good for them. If your product is HFSS and should really be an occasional treat, then leaning into your Achilles heel and balancing things with something purposeful could be a wise move. Papa John’s partnership with some of GB’s most impressive Paralympians strikes us as a smart off-setting exercise. Consumers can enjoy a pizza while being able to donate to athletes as they prepare for the postponed games. It’s a valuable way for people to appreciate your brand for what it gives them (and others), over and above a fattening product. And for those times when the treat is well deserved? At Southpaw we use our proprietary science of emotion tool to understand what consumers love, hate and are motivated by. This is a key tool in understanding what a new treat occasion might look like. Baileys continue to do this so successfully; you could too. 


4 - Be Generous To Be Remembered 

In a time of crisis, it’s not ads that cut through: it’s acts of generosity. At least that’s the findings of an Australian consumer survey. While respondents appreciated brands showing empathy towards their struggles, generosity is what really wins them over. Consider how your brand can launch a loyalty scheme - or extend an existing one - to encourage smart choices and repeat purchase. Or turn your attention to random acts of generosity that can generate PR and goodwill. Ocean Spray did just that when they donated a cranberry coloured truck to the guy who filmed himself longboarding his way to work to the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ while drinking the cranberry drink, and it went viral on TikTok. It sparked a flurry of sales, so Ocean Spray stepped in and capitalised on it. A customer’s act of devotion could be your next headline - and sales - generating tactic.


5 - Reward Those Who Shop Online 


During lockdown, you can’t go very far. From supermarkets to your local pub, brands and businesses have been rushing to set-up or grow their existing e-commerce arm. Subscriptions also play a part in this. In June this year, Foresight Factory research showed over a third of shoppers would like to receive a discount for shopping online, instead of going in-store. Razor brand Estrid has changed the subscription game, sending new blades every two months. Razors are important, but food is vital. Delivering a box of balanced foods for the week is going to make it hassle-free for people to eat smarter, so think of ways your brand can sneak into a repeat purchase weekly food parcel.