By Staff writer
Knorr is one of the region's biggest ad spenders and its products can be found in households across the Middle East. But where now for the brand, asks Steve Wrelton
is Unilever's number one brand worldwide. Its range of soups, stocks and sauces have lent a flavourful aroma to millions of kitchens across the Middle East, a region in which the brand made the top 10 list of advertising spenders last year, spending US$20 million according to the Pan Arab Research Center.
Knorr products have been undeniably successful in dominating the dried goods and seasonings segment, and, like many household names, the brand has a lot of heritage.
Knorr has its roots in 19th century Germany where Carl Heinrich Knorr set up a factory to dry and grind chicory for the coffee trade. Following the success of his first venture, Knorr moved on to experimenting with ways of drying vegetables a process that led to the development packet soups.
The rest, as they say, is history. Nearly 170 years later Knorr products, with their familiar yellow, green and red signature logos, occupy space in virtually every hypermarket and cornershop store in the world.
According to Jan-Piet-Van Kesteren, vice president, marketing, food and beverages, Unilever Arabia, Knorr owes its key brand attributes variety and taste to an expert team of chefs who draw influence from culinary traditions from across the world.
"Knorr embodies a truly global cuisine, which began when the globe-trotting sons of its founder started importing new ideas from overseas," says Van Kesteren. "The tradition stands today and Knorr's drive for innovation still centres around its original factory in Heilbronn, Germany, where international teams of chefs contribute to product innovation. For consumers in the Middle East, our recipes are based on the needs of the Arab consumers and we avoid simply recycling products from Europe or the US."
Van Kesteren says that the brand adopts a holistic approach when it comes to marketing the brand to consumers.
"We try to support a few of our flagship innovations within the brand soups, seasonings, sauces with a consistent communication platform that is based on our mission to help address the nutrition of people around the world.
"We implement 360 degree communications on all key projects. All campaigns need to encompass advertising, public relations where needed, an in-store rollout plan and a merchandising strategy."
In the Middle East Knorr employs the advertising services of Promoaction DDB in Saudi Arabia. Media buying is carried out by Magna, while media planning is handled, like all Unilever brands, by an in-house team.
Van Kesteren says: "We try not to over rely on TV but embrace genuine media neutral channel strategies. Our packaging is one of our most prevalent and most effective communications strategies and is based on the brand's traditional colours of green and yellow." He adds: "Particularly in the festive seasons, such as Ramadan, we invest heavily in massive visibility drives which include products from different categories in order to create a massive Knorr 'masterbrand' effect."
So how can consumers expect the brand to develop?
"Knorr will continue to dominate the soup segment of the market driven by exciting innovations and ongoing communication," says Van Kesteren.
"While continuing to rejuvenate our core business, we will expand our presence in adjacent categories such as meal makers and sauces with innovations that delight all the senses - taste, but also sight, smell, sound, colour and feeling."
Knorr enjoys a great heritage, but has it got what it takes to move to the next level?
creative director, OgilvyOne
Who'd have thought it? Right up there among the region's top 10 media spenders, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pepsi, Lipton, Dove and Comfort, you'll find Knorr. Surprised? Me too. But wait, there's more. Knorr is Unilever's biggest global brand. In worldwide sales it's even bigger than the aforementioned Lipton, Dove and Comfort, which are also Unilever brands. Bigger, for that matter, than other Unilever household names like Hellmann's and Flora.
It would be going too far to call it the biggest brand you've never heard of; we all know what Knorr does and I'm sure most people will recall that distinctive signature logo. But for such a massive spender, it does seem rather quiet. I'm told that most of the spend goes on TV, but I've never seen a Knorr commercial here.
Knorr does make decent products. Being a food snob, I would never buy packet soup or ready made cooking sauces by Knorr or by anyone else. But the stock cubes are fine; the flavours are quite authentic. Being a saddo as well as a food snob, I've even bought Knorr's exotic stock cubes in supermarkets in Thailand and the Philippines and brought them home. Their Thai tom yam cubes are great.
So maybe they could be a bit more cross-cultural and start importing those exotic products around other territories. Maybe they could make more of that popularity and get a bit more of the excitement and passion of cooking into their communications. Being a one-to-one man through and through, and bearing in mind that 20% of your customers account for 80% of your profits, I'd end by saying that maybe, in fact definitely, they should try some CRM.
• As I said, more passion, more excitement, more colour in their ads and their packaging.
• A CRM programme. It really does work wonders just ask Nestlé.
• Oh, and more products. They wisely resist the temptation to simply dump their US and UK products on the local market. But the local market might be intrigued by their Asian lines.
• Sponsored events and sponsored TV programming wherever they can find a relevant opportunity.
• Add a Middle East presence on Knorr's worldwide website. At the moment, it's conspicuous by its absence.