14: You Either Love It Or Hate It

Marmite (1996)
Flintham/McLeod
BMP DDB

Brands are rarely brave enough to point out their shortcomings in ads. Yet, when handled correctly, frankness can be a huge source of strength. Back in the 1960s, the car rental business Avis turned the fact that they were second in the market to Hertz into a positive statement: ‘We’re Number 2, We Try Harder’. More recently, Pot Noodle drew on its lack of nutritional value to create the witty-but-true slogan ‘The Slag of All Snacks’. But the brand that has used honesty about its product to greatest effect has to be Marmite. ‘You Either Love It Or Hate It’ is both a brand slogan and a truism so powerful that the words ‘like Marmite’ are now regularly used to describe anything divisive.

The tagline was the brainchild of Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod, and was created in 1996 when they were a young creative team at BMP DDB (now DDB London). It grew out of the simple recognition that while Flintham loved the spread, McLeod hated it.“There wasn’t a brief specifically to come up with a new slogan,” remembers McLeod. “We certainly didn’t set out to think of one, and in any case I’d say it’s more of a statement of fact than a slogan. All we did was think about what Marmite meant to us. What was the truth of the product…. It seemed obvious to us that Marmite polarised opinion like nothing else … we just thought that was something worth talking about in advertising.”

“You’ve got a truth,” agrees Flintham. “If it was just a purely executional thing, then it would have been awful…. But people who hate a product have a very strong emotional feeling with a product – there’s power and strength in their negative feeling, at least it’s feeling. It’s not created; outside of advertising offices, that’s what the world’s saying, there’s a natural conversation, it’s already a funny thing.”

Despite this, it wasn’t an easy notion to take to the client. But Marmite recognised the strength of the idea and has since fully embraced its possibilities. The initial campaign launched with two ads, one about people loving the product, the other about people hating it, and the slogan continues to appear across Marmite’s advertising today.

It has proved a playful and lively concept for the brand; in its early usage, Marmite even agreed to produce a series of special edition jars saying ‘I hate’ instead of the brand name, with the cheeky aim of encouraging even the haters to make a purchase. For Flintham, such an audacious act clearly demonstrates the courage of the client. “You don’t have to do things like that,” he says. “You can say ‘no’ quite easily. So easily…. Saying yes to that, crikey.”

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