Patrick Tax – Haribo

Patrick Tax – Haribo

Patrick Tax is the Marketing and Customer Development Director for Haribo. He is responsible for the marketing department, customer development and category management. Patrick: “Haribo has a broad client portfolio, which includes both the consumer side and the retailers. Both the marketing and customer development side are equipped with market research and insights generation.”

Main KPI for growth

Haribo is already the biggest candy brand in Belgium and the Netherlands. “In a category such as candy it all goes back to who is buying it, and we see that everyone buys candy. So, we have an extreme broad target group. Like our slogan says: ‘Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo’, we want to be there for everyone. Driving penetration is key for us. We want to offer an option in our assortment to as many people as possible. At this point in time, one in two Dutch households buys a Haribo product at least once a year. A lot, but not yet two in three or one in one, so there’s still room for growth. Ending up in people’s kitchen cupboards or candy jars is something we are very proud of. And you can’t see these two things separately; when we tempt someone to buy something from Haribo, it naturally transfers to revenue. Penetration and sales go hand in hand.”

“For an impulse-driven category such as candy, people have a very good and consistent idea of what Haribo stands for. That’s important, but it’s worth nothing without a physical presence in the store.”

A competitive market

Patrick explains that candy is well-loved in the Netherlands. “This also means that it’s a very competitive market. It doesn’t grow as much, because there is already lots consumed. So, you try to draw people into buying your product, instead of a competitor. We notice in the data that the figures move fairly similarly across the brands. Sometimes new brands enter the market. But they can have a difficult time in a category where there are so many established names. It’s often the big brands consumers move towards. But candy is also a category with great variation, which is something that translates into Haribo’s assortment and the high penetration we have. For us, it’s about looking for consumer needs that we have yet to fulfil in our assortment. An example is the introduction of sugar reduced products almost 1,5 years ago. Next to that, we want to generate loyalty for the brand, by for instance looking at our packaging and introducing value packs to help the frequent buyer fill up their candy jars instantly against an everyday low price. But at the end of the day, you must make sure you have a strong availability, since candy is something people have to come across in order to consider it.”

“For an impulse-driven category such as candy, people have a very good and consistent idea of what Haribo stands for”, Patrick continues. “That’s important, but it’s worth nothing without a physical presence in a store. With Haribo we choose to invest above the line almost all year around. We believe in building the brand, and repeating that consistently, which is one of the reasons we are the number one candy brand. But if we’re not seen or found in the store, it’s a missed opportunity.”

Two moments in the year

Patrick explains that Haribo uses research to explore entry points and insights to centre their communication around: “Last year we carried out a study on category entry points, and we noticed that these entry points are very closely connected to our brand. An example is when your kids come home from school and need a moment to talk about their day. Having some candy, a little reward, ties into that. We try to connect our brand to those positive connotations by exploring these certain moments and communicating around it. There are two main moments in the year where we build the rest of the programme around: one campaign just before the summer, and the other centred around Halloween and Sint Maarten. These are typical moments in the year where candy plays an important part. So, we go on TV, social, but also make sure to have as much confrontation in the store as possible. This is one of the reasons why marketing and customer development are included in my responsibilities. We believe that the moment you can coincide these things, it will lead to the best results possible. But we also launch campaigns based on insights. Everyone knows some type of candy from Haribo that you used to buy in the canteen back in the day. The cherry, the frog. We revolved a campaign around this very insight and asked respondents what their favourite Haribo from their childhood is. This is an example of a campaign I find to be very creative and am very proud of. We also made sure the favourite sweets were present in the store. We choose to build our brand position through TV commercials and use social to support it. In-store is very much a part of that.”

When it comes to measuring these TV commercials, Haribo looks at brand awareness: “We look at unaided and top of mind awareness against a broad competitor set. Next to that, we continuously measure our performance on key brand attributes. Did you know that our slogan has remained pretty much the same since the early seventies? The consistency of that goes far beyond any individual product, packaging or campaign. So, I look at the brand, and whether it has strengthened the brand or not. Consistency is one of the main drivers for creative development. Haribo is all about creating moments of childlike happiness, and our bestselling products today are very closely connected to that core brand promise.”

Creative development

Haribo works closely together with a few agencies, both on social and more of a day-to-day extended marketing team for design. Patrick: “It usually starts from our own strategy and where we think there are possibilities for growth in our assortment. We also look at best practices from other countries and choose and pick from there. In a few creative brainstorm sessions with the agencies we come to a programme which fits our local market. Something I enjoy, but also find challenging sometimes is that because it’s so clear what our brand stands for, you must find something that fits. Because we want to be a brand for everyone and therefore don’t have a specific target group, it means you need to make compromises sometimes. You can’t always choose the most creative, extreme executions, which is a pity sometimes. But it’s also about holding onto that broad reach. This is something which I feel there are opportunities for us in the future, particularly when it comes to social. It’s difficult to differentiate on TV and in-store. Everyone sees it and everyone comes there. And candy isn’t a category where you should communicate one on one. But looking towards a way where we can target on social, without it being too individual, is something I feel could be quite beneficial.”

The greatest challenge

Patrick: “What I find interesting is the possibility that the changing media landscape offers us. How can we bring Haribo across in a consistent, but differentiated way? We want to be a brand for all ages. The need that you have whilst sitting in your car, stuck in traffic, might be very specific which requires a specific solution at that particular petrol station. We may have to remind you of that, but still in a way fitting of the brand. Within these conditions, still delivering a very specific message. That’s the greatest challenge we have as marketers. We are getting more and more possibilities, but how do you choose the right possibility, and how do you tell a consistent, yet targeted story?”