Marmite: either love it or leave it

Marmite, the questionable yeast spread, is returning to a familiar but highly strategic theme with its new marketing campaign. Netimperative (via MarketingVox) reports that Unilever is launching dual websites for their Marmite brand - one for the lovers, one for the haters. Marmite has always prompted wildly differing reactions from consumers. For many Brits the spread continues to be a familiar cultural touchstone, eliciting memories of shared hardship, common food heritage and hearty breakfasts made by Mum. For others, it prompts memories of old trainers and abandoned shipping canals.

Marmite's marketing efforts have long acknowledged this dual identity. In one TV ad from its 2001 "love-it-or-hate-it" marketing campaign,

    "... some young foxtrel drags an unsuspecting gentleman back to her pad. While the young fellow awaits her, the femme fatale guzzles a round of Marmite on toast. Needless to say, he is not overly impressed by her Marmite breath." (Guardian)

Unilever is in the unique position of managing an internationally-recognized brand that faces established and continuing opposition from a significant segment of consumers - without the normally attendant boycott movements, litigation or vandalism.

There must be a Macdonalds strategist, hunkered down somewhere near HQ in Illinois, trying to figure out how to leverage the horrible McRib and McLean Deluxe to similar results.

Back to the marketing campaign. The new website indulges opponents of the fetid spread with alternative sandwich recipes like "musty offal stew with emmental cheese" or "jam, sand and cheese ciabatta." The campaign is also supported by a TV ad showing a giant brown gooey ball terrorizing a small village - until some of the panicked villagers realize that it's only Marmite, and dive right in. (Hint: the ad can only be viewed if you confirm you are in the UK. Hint, hint.)

Still puzzled about the difference between Marmite, Bovril, Vegemite and Promite? The Guardian's centenary celebration of Marmite explains the differences quite well.