Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Are you a LOVER or a HATER? This campaign explained the role genes play in people’s taste preferences! [Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

July 6, 2023

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more.

A Note from Miles Everson:

I love guerrilla marketing!

For those of you who don’t know it yet, guerrilla marketing is an unconventional marketing strategy. Campaigns of this type are usually fun, easy to appreciate and execute, and sometimes, inexpensive.

I personally like reading articles featuring such marketing stunts. They remind me that advertising a brand or a new offering doesn’t always have to be too formal, traditional, or pricey.

Today, allow us to share with you an example of a clever guerrilla marketing campaign.

Read on to know how this British yeast-based food spread made headlines in 2017.

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing

Are you familiar with Marmite?

If you aren’t, Marmite is a popular British food spread. It is made from yeast extract and by-products of beer brewing, and is manufactured by Unilever.

Since the spread is a sticky, dark brown paste with distinctive, salty, and powerful flavor and aroma, consumers have commonly considered themselves as either “lovers” or “haters” of it… and this has been the case for over 20 years now!

So, in 2017, Marmite and advertising agency adam&eveDDB used science and guerrilla marketing to understand why the spread’s taste is polarizing.

The name of the campaign they came up with?

The Marmite Gene Project!

The first part of the campaign was commissioning London-based genetics testing center DNAFit to conduct a clinical trial and scientifically find out if people are actually born “lovers” or “haters” of Marmite.

With 261 participants who provided mouth swabs for experts to study, and 8,760 hours of analysis, DNAFit discovered that people truly do have something in their genes that makes them predisposed to love or hate Marmite’s taste!

After concluding the clinical trial, the campaign team began publishing DNAFit’s findings via a white paper released to the scientific community. They also worked with scientist Thomas Roos to produce a short film that outlined the science behind the story.

The ads that followed the scientific study were classic 21st century TV commercials. These were aired across 120 British TV channels during primetime viewing on Saturday nights.

What else did the campaign team do to generate buzz about the Marmite Gene Project?

  • The Marmite DNA testing kits

Following DNAFit’s clinical trial and the TV commercials, the campaign team made DNA testing kits available for GBP 89.99 on Marmite’s website so that potential bettors could “try before they buy” and test their genetic makeup to decide whether or not the flavor was for them. 

The campaign team also gave away a total of 40 Marmite DNA testing kits for free to top-tier journalists and social media influencers. This enabled the team to have articles written about their campaign AND entertain a few select people in the media industry. 

It’s like hitting two birds with one stone! 

  • The Marmite TasteFace Portal

The campaign team knew the Marmite DNA testing kit was not that affordable for everyone. So, to avoid alienating those unable or unwilling to buy the kit, the team created the TasteFace Portal on the Marmite website as well. 

The portal used facial recognition software and required users to have a webcam or their phone cameras ready. Once activated, the portal determined whether the user was a Marmite lover or hater by analyzing that person’s facial expression while eating Marmite on toast. 

The TasteFace Portal enabled lots of people to join the “national Marmite conversation.” Social media influencers and celebrities were also invited (in both an organic and paid capacity) to try out the portal. 

The result? 

It drove more awareness about the campaign and encouraged the British public—whether lover or hater—to try out the food spread and discover their “fate!”

The Marmite Gene Project lasted for the whole month of September 2017.

Was the Marmite Gene Project effective?

The campaign received various recognitions from different media outlets and award-giving bodies in the marketing industry. In fact, Adam Leyland, editor at the British magazine The Grocer, said:

“It was brilliant. Topical, edgy, and funny. The edginess comes from its ambiguity. The scripts can be read on one level as a reference to simple medical diagnosis but hint at diagnosis on a more complex basis in terms of sexuality, infidelity, and other hidden secrets.”

Below are the results of the guerrilla marketing campaign:

  • Marmite saw a 60% growth in sales at Tesco stores in the U.K. throughout the duration of the campaign.
  • The campaign garnered a total of 1.4 billion media impressions.
  • Marmite’s brand awareness rate rose by 12% during the campaign.
  • The Marmite Gene Project became the brand’s “Most Polarizing Campaign to Date” and “Most Effective Campaign Ever.”
  • Over 50,000 people tried Marmite through sampling because of the campaign.
  • The campaign bagged 7 Lions at the Cannes Lions Awards 2018, 7 Pencils at the D&AD Awards 2018, a Grand Clio at the CLIO Awards 2018, 2 Golds at The British Arrows Awards 2018, 2 Campaign BIGs at the Campaign Big Awards 2018.

Way to go, Marmite and adam&eveDDB!

These figures and awards show the Marmite Gene Project truly made an impact in helping the public understand why the spread’s taste is sooooo polarizing!

It’s not unusual to hear people say they dislike certain types of food. We bet there is at least one type of food you dislike, too.

In Marmite’s case, the spread’s taste is so divisive that it has become part of the brand’s identity and every marketing strategy—“You either love it or hate it.”

That’s why in 2017, the campaign team decided to tap into the power of science to understand the reason behind this phenomenon.

According to Philippa Atkinson, Marmite’s Brand Manager at Unilever U.K.:

“For the first time, we are able to understand the role of genetics in influencing consumer taste preference for Marmite. Retailers can really benefit from the greater sales opportunities presented with the Marmite Gene Project.”

Thanks to the campaign, Marmite increased its sales and brand awareness rate… and not only that!

The brand was also able to put an explanation as to why the British public is divided in their taste preferences for Marmite.

We hope you enjoyed reading today’s guerrilla marketing feature!

Stay tuned because next week, we’ll feature another interesting campaign by another brand!

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers, and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing can be inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Thursday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Thursday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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