BITE Focus

“Brands need to act with a conscience”

How Haribo and Quiet Storm kept childlike escapism going during lockdown.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


In the midst of a news cycle dominated by the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic, the difficulties posed by a nationwide lockdown and the pervasive sense of uncertainty, light-hearted moments of humour were perhaps more important than ever to stressed out consumers. Because that is the beauty of humanity, that even when the world feels like a dark and dangerous place, a few grownups talking in children’s voices can lift your spirits and put a smile on your face.

Since its launch, the Kids Voices campaign created by Quiet Storm has become synonymous with the Haribo brand. After lockdown came into effect earlier this year, Haribo invited its audience to create their own version of the brand’s 2014, ‘The Office’ ad break. The initiative was part of ITV’s The People’s AdBreak.

The aim of the invitation was to engage entire households in a creative endeavour, to demonstrate the humour and escapism that the brand has been bringing to its consumers for years. While rival brands went dark on their marketing, Haribo chose to make even more noise, launching its first ever radio campaign and continuing to invest in brilliant creativity.

Quiet Storm’s Founder and ECD Trevor Robinson OBE sat down with his client partner Jon Hughes, Managing Director for Haribo UK and Ireland to talk to Nicola Kemp, Creativebrief’s Editorial Director about their thriving creative partnership.

As Robinson said: “In times like this, brands need to act with a conscience, they need to act with a sense of personality and purpose as well.” Going dark was not an option for a brand like Haribo but nor was it about jumping onto an opportunity to sell. “With Haribo, we’ve just continued with the same antidote to the world as we’ve always had,” adds Robinson; making people smile with a moment of childlike escapism.

That universal truth about the child inside all of us, that never goes away.

Jon Hughes

Providing an escape

Quiet Storm’s work for Haribo is hardworking and well known, an ongoing campaign which is as effective as it is long running. Robinson talks of his pleasure whenever friends of his discuss the brand and its advertising, a moment of realisation around just how much love people feel for it.

The reality is that everyone wants a moment of escape, to become, as Robinson says, “that child again, especially with the horrors that are going on in the world right now.” He explains that the strategy behind the creative partnership between Quiet Storm and Haribo has actually been around for longer than Kids Voices. But, says Robinson, it’s been that campaign that has become “a powerful thing to own.”

“That universal truth about the child inside all of us, that never goes away,” explains Hughes. “As long as we stay true to that and we hang on to that as our universal truth, I don’t think we’re going to go too far wrong.” The brand was supposed to be celebrating 25 years of Starmix this year but when the crisis kicked in, like many brand owners, they had to rethink.

But, says Hughes, they realised that as a brand that puts a smile on people’s faces, it “has a unique place in people’s hearts and we felt a bit of a responsibility to continue to try and support the brand and create a few moments of childlike happiness for people whilst they were in the midst of this dreadful crisis.”

Cinema for the mind

The longevity of the partnership meant that when it came to shifting into a new medium for the first time, there was only excitement at the prospect, at least from Hughes and Robinson. “Radio was something that was quite an ambitious thing for us,” explains Robinson.

The concept of Kids Voices is so audio visual that there was a concern it wouldn’t carry into radio advertising. What the team realised, says Hughes, is that it wasn’t “just about replicating the TV on radio because we knew that wouldn’t work. It had to be changed and adapted.”

Hughes reveals he was passionate about the media and felt that it could work really well for the Haribo brand. “We had that moment where we had to back ourselves, back the team, trust the gut a little bit,” he says. Unfortunately, he encountered resistance from Herwig Vennekens, Global Managing Director of Haribo.

However, after hearing the ad and seeing the creative in situ, Vennekens mind was changed, moving him to describe radio advertising as being “like cinema for the mind.” It was a descriptor that the teams took seriously, wanting to create a slot that, when you heard it, immediately made it clear which brand was speaking to you.

We’re here to develop and look after and love this brand and nurture it for the long term.

Jon Hughes

A cornerstone brand, for the long term

What became apparent as lockdown extended was that consumers were turning to cornerstone brands, to those that felt familiar and offered a degree of reassurance. For those brands it became even more essential to invest more in marketing, to reaffirm their roles in people’s lives.

Hughes reveals that, despite the decline in sweets category by just under 5% since lockdown began, Haribo has actually seen quite a positive performance. It’s something he attributes both to a shift in shopping habits from crisis-stricken consumers but also to the marketing investment the brand has made in brilliant creativity.

He explains: “For us it was about backing ourselves, backing the brand, backing the ideas we had and continuing to invest in good ideas, good advertising because we know it works, and we know it will deliver for the long term.”

Haribo is a brand that has been around for 100 years and, as Hughes explains, “we want to make sure it’s still around in 100 years’ time.” As a private, family-owned business, Hughes believes they are in a fortunate position because it means they have always had a tendency to think long term. This crisis may be difficult in the short term but it’s not that which Hughes is concerned by.

He believes that the longevity of relationship with Quiet Storm enables the team to produce work that stands the test of time. They have trust at the heart of every interaction the teams have. Hughes explains: “We can push each other; we can challenge each other in a really safe way. It would be really hard to do that if you were just starting out on a new relationship.” Robinson adds that the Haribo team, “can be honest with us. They can be quite forthright, and we can have a laugh as well.”

“We could’ve made some short-term decisions that would’ve made our P&L for this year look a little better but that’s not what we’re here to do,” he says. “We’re here to develop and look after and love this brand and nurture it for the long term.”

An opportunity for a reset

Robinson smiles as he’s asked how he has coped under lockdown, revealing that, while some members of his team have thrived, he’s hated it, “because I really like interaction. As a creative, I don’t work in a vacuum…I never really come up with an idea by myself, ever.” He cites the importance of the team around him but also the relationships with his friends and family that have sustained him during lockdown.

Both Hughes and Robinson talk of the time they’ve been able to spend with their families as a glaring positive to come out of a crisis in which so many people have lost so much. Hughes acknowledges that working from home with children around has been a difficult balancing act for many parents and carers. But that it’s allowed the team to learn more about one another than perhaps they would’ve done had normal life continued.

“Everyone’s had to flex that work life balance a little bit harder…and try and work out what’s going to work best for them,” Hughes says. It’s that flexibility that he feels has been an essential part of successful working practices under lockdown. That and a healthy dose of pragmatism. “It’s reinforced for me the need to trust your team, trust the people around you,” Hughes explains. It’s about not over managing the team you work with. Rather it’s about trusting them to find their own way of working.

Hughes does feel however that the crisis will have a lasting effect on the way the business operates, but only for the better, revealing that they’ll definitely operate in a different way as a result. “Sometimes you need a big seismic change to make you reassess a few things,” he says. For the collective team of Haribo and Quiet Storm, with brilliant creativity, flexibility and a healthy dose of childlike escapism at its heart, the brand intends to keep making noise as the world shifts and moves around it.

To watch the full interview, visit the dedicated Creativebrief Explores page.

Tune in at 2pm on Thursday 3rd September to hear how Avon, Refuge and Red raised awareness of domestic abuse during lockdown.

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