It’s 8pm on 17 June and the team at Arnott’s has learned that the UK Prime Minister, , has produced a family pack of Tim Tams as a symbol of the nation’s free trade with Australia.

Within 12 hours, Arnott’s and its creative agency The Neighbourhood, part of Publicis, had conceptualised and created ‘The British Collection’ campaign concept, inviting Australians to vote for a British-inspired Tim Tam on its Instagram page.

It was an opportunity the brand could not pass up, said Amy Wagner, director of PR, digital and social at Arnott’s.

“We were delighted when referenced providing Arnott’s Tim Tams to the British people and said they could no longer be deprived of the opportunity to have [one],” she said.

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“Many organisations spend a lot of time, money and effort trying to create attention. For us, our focus is really when a world leader, like Boris, suddenly thrusts your brand into a global spotlight, how prepared are we to respond, react and capitalise on that opportunity?”

Some of the flavours Australians could vote for to create the British-inspired Tim Tam included Bangers and Mash, Scotch Egg, Fish and Chips, and Scones and Cream. Surely, I asked Wagner, that set scones and cream up to win?

“I would say the greatest debate in the whole concept wasn’t the idea, or how we were going to activate, it was certainly which flavours we were going to support and share,” she said.

“It was meant to be lighthearted in its approach and certainly play into the classic Aussie larrikin which a brand like Arnott’s and Tim Tam represents.”

Other flavours considered were Yorkshire pudding, haggis, and baked beans.

The activation was meant to be a bit of a joke, but the idea of a scones and cream Tim Tam was so popular that the culinary centre produced a test of the real thing. The two vanilla biscuits sandwich a new cream texture and jam and are coated in white chocolate.

Apparently, they are delicious. But will they hit shelves?

“At this stage, I can’t confirm or deny”, said Wagner. “We would love to launch a scones with cream Tim Tam flavour, but it’s not on the official rotation at this stage.”

This isn’t the first piece of real-time marketing banter Australia has had with the UK. Last year, Marmite invoked a war with Bega’s Vegemite during The Ashes, and creative agency Thinkerbell quickly responded with a full-page ad in UK tabloid The Mirror, saying, among other things, that ‘Vegemite tastes like a come-from-behind victory by 251 runs’. The back and forth between the two that followed caught international attention.

Boris Johnson, top secret recipes, and the evolution of Arnott's marketing

A full-page ad by Thinkerbell in The Mirror in the UK during The Ashes test

According to Wagner, real-time marketing has become a focus of Arnott’s marketing strategy. To her, taking advantage of media attention in creative ways is an opportunity to expand consumer engagement.

“A brand like Tim Tam may get mentioned in the media organically. We see high engagement from consumers, certainly through channels, such as social, but unless we are taking the opportunity to connect with consumers, to listen and learn with them through these channels and react to these stories, which organically come to creation, then we’re missing opportunities to expand and amplify on top of that engagement,” she said.

Arnott’s strategy of leaning into nimble, reactionary, social media marketing, resulting in earned media, has paid off. In the last 18 months, the brand has increased its market share of voice by ten percentage points and experienced a lift in media reach by 800% according to its measurement.

This strategy is also key to the engagement of younger consumers. As a ‘legacy brand’ Arnott’s has a loyal base of older customers ‘who enjoy their biscuit and cup of tea moment’, Wagner told me. But younger Australians and new Australians are crucial to the brand maintaining its position in ‘the national fabric of this country’ and that reaching out to them is a ‘clear opportunity’ for Arnott’s.

At the start of the coronavirus lockdown, Arnott’s watched Australians turn to baking to pass the time and jumped on board, releasing the recipe for Monte Carlo biscuits on social media.

In my humble opinion, Monte Carlos are the highlight of the assorted creams, so why allow consumers to make their own? Even in the darkest of days, would KFC ever release the seven secret herbs and spices?

“At its heart, Arnott’s are bakers. That is what we’ve been doing for 150 years. We have three baking factories here in Australia. And so we wanted to give back something to Australians, which was tangible and that they could enjoy in their home,” Wagner said.

“So we did, we wanted to get people baking together and the answer to that was the most valuable asset we have, which is our closely guarded recipes to some of the nation’s favourite biscuits.”

In the weeks that have followed the Monte Carlo, Arnott’s has bestowed upon Australians the recipes for Scotch Fingers and Iced Vovos, as well as recipes utilising its biscuits including Cheese and Bacon Shapes Parmigiana, Chocolate Royals Cake and Lemon Crisp Cheesecake.

It has become one of the most successful public relations campaigns in the brand’s history. ‘Bake Together’ received almost 700 pieces of media coverage, a 12 point uplift in earned media, and remained in the news cycle for over a month.

Boris Johnson, top secret recipes, and the evolution of Arnott's marketing

Wagner is the director of PR, social and digital at Arnott’s

All of this indicates that Arnott’s is evolving its marketing, and with new chief marketing officer, Jenni Dill, starting just three weeks ago, is there more change to come?

“I think within marketing there’s always change as consumer habits evolve,” Wagner said. “It would be naive to think that the impact of coronavirus on consumption habits and media channel consumption wouldn’t see change within consumer behaviour. So we are certainly looking at the best channel mix for our brands, for Arnott’s, in this new climate.”

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