Peperami has never been a brand that’s taken itself too seriously. Its brand mascot, The Animal, is a ferocious, punky little meat stick with the energy levels of the Tasmanian Devil. Its advertising has been loud, anarchic and not a little bit silly.
So, at a time when the news is bleak and when many brands seem to be tripping over their own solemnity and profound sense of purpose, Peperami wasn’t about to mindlessly follow the herd. Their new brand strategy and platform - #GoABitPeperami - created by indie agency Forever Beta, simply wants to make us smile.
…And that’s how they ended up throwing a Peperami-themed wedding.
This new strategy is an attempt to take all that tasty brand equity which Peperami has built up over the decades, and move it into a more social, conversational and even behavioural space. For decades, the brand has been known for its iconic mascot, The Animal, and its anarchic ‘It’s a bit of an animal’ ads. The Animal has been with the brand since 1991, created by Lowe and voiced by comedian Ade Edmonson. The 2010s saw The Animal fluctuate - swingin’ in and out of retirement. The new platform launched in 2022 still has an important role for The Animal and he's the brand's ambassador on social media
- but now the brand's just as interested in enabling our own inner ‘Animals’.
As Pavan Chandra, head of marketing for Peperami and parent company Jack Link's, explains, this new platform represents not a revolution, but an evolution. “The Peperami brand and the Animal are iconic, and we don’t want to lose any of that. But at the same time, we want to make the Animal and the brand the talk of the town for today’s consumer, not the consumer back in the ‘80s,” he says.
#GoABitPeperami is all about enabling those wild, silly, spontaneous things people do - and the hope is that eventually, people might pick up the phrase ‘to go a bit Peperami’ when describing behaviour that’s a bit rogue, a bit wild and, well, a bit Peperami. In order to activate that idea, the team is creating a content series in which they showcase traditional British occasions that have been given a spicy Peperami twist. And a wedding would be the perfect launch event.
Forever Beta CCO and partner, Paulo Areas, reveals that originally the team had imagined a big above the line TV-driven campaign, but as they dug into people’s behaviours and started sifting through what is and isn’t ‘Peperami’, something else began to emerge. With words like spontaneity coming through, they realised they’d have to embody that spirit in their approach.
“We said, if you really want to make it relevant to younger people, we have to shift towards a conversational platform. That’s when we decided to activate things in social, where we could be the enablers of those ‘going a bit Peperami’ moments. But we’re not actually doing anything - we’re just putting some gasoline on what they want to do. So it’s not like we are actually doing a crazy wedding - we just found a couple that wanted to do something crazy.”
Of course, pulling the whole thing off utterly hinged on finding that couple passionate enough about Peperami to wholeheartedly give their big day over to the brand.
Paulo says that in the early pitching stages of the idea, the agency and client were both nervous about finding such a committed couple, and had planned contingencies. However, they needn’t have worried. On the first day, around 25 people responded, and within days hundreds of couples were sending in photos of themselves in wedding attire, posing with Peperamis.
As a marketer, Pavan is used to looking at his brand’s popularity and penetration in terms of data and brand tracking metrics. To witness the pure enthusiasm of a couple so wedded to the brand that they would fight to be chosen, was quite something else. One couple that made it to the shortlist stage had just opened a business in California, and were flying back and forth to castings in the UK.
“We’ve always known that there’s a lot of love for the Peperami brand. But when you do these types of castings where you’re talking to the real public - the fact that they all want to take part and they’d go to such extremes to try and get in there…” he marvels.
Pavan says the chosen couple, Francesca and Luke’s ‘personalities shone through’. On the day itself, Frankie would gamely - and of her own volition - blurt phrases like ‘Peperami!’ and ‘Peperami Chicken Bites!’ in conversation. They were, Paulo agrees, very committed and engaged throughout the journey. “Luke and Francesca were up for the ride. I think there was one thing that was a no-go for the whole process.They were so open to everything, and enjoyed the process so much.”
Couple in place, the next step was to bring the wedding to life. That meant a production team with an unusual addition - a wedding planner. In terms of the nuts and bolts of bringing the project together, Paulo says it was no more challenging than any other ambitious project - but what it did have was an extra level of responsibility and emotional investment.
According to Pavan, there was a careful balancing act to master between the brand presence and the fact that this was, in fact, a wedding. While Francesca and Luke were open-minded and eager, the team wanted to make sure they had a wonderful day and would start married life with positive memories.
“We were conscious that this was a wedding. And so, we said, ‘let’s make sure that whatever we do, we do in an appropriate way’. So it wasn’t that the dress was a really ugly dress - it was a really nice dress. Yes it had Peperamis on it, it was green, it had the Animal on the back. She had Peperami packs for earrings, a green tiara and things like that… But actually the end result was that she still looked really beautiful. There was the drama of the reveal and it fitted really nicely with her personality,” recalls Pavan, who was one of two representatives from Peperami at the wedding.
The big reveal...
One compromise was the groom’s outfit. Pavan jokes that the Peperami team could have quite happily seen him turn up looking ‘something like The Riddler, but wearing The Animal head’. But in order to make sure Luke didn’t look like he’d just escaped from Arkham, the Forever Beta worked in some creative compromises: a suit covered in Animal patches, Peperami cufflinks and little emergency protein sticks cached about his person.
Tossing the bouquet (with the help of Yung Filly and a freshly-painted catapult)
Last minute hitches saw the creative director rushing out to buy green paint on the morning of the wedding, when the bouquet catapult arrived in the wrong colour. But despite these sorts of issues, Paulo says the buy-in from every party - from client to agency to wedding cake supplier - meant that the project was buoyed along by a sense of goodwill and enthusiasm. Ideas flew in from all corners of the agency and external suppliers were happy to have Paulo and the agency nip over multiple times. Why? It’s a fun brand and a fun idea.
“It was reminder that when you do something that is fun, engaging, that we enjoy doing, you get people to come along with you. One of the things that surprised me was the availability of everyone involved, from the cake maker to the dressmaker,” says Paulo.
In turn, that enthusiasm was also rooted in the relevance of the brand - when people like the brand, they’ll engage, whether that’s the public on social media or people behind the scenes. It’s something that advertisers can lose sight of. “At the end of the day, that’s what people expect from brands - that they’re like a nice friend that has nice jokes to tell you, and that actually engages with you,” says Paulo. “I think sometimes, advertiser-wise, the whole industry gets lost in finding that serious purpose for the brand and they forget that it’s all about the people. The entertainment side of the idea, that fun part of the idea made it so much more available and so much more achievable.”
That sense of playfulness and escapism is a welcome antidote to gloomy headlines about the worrying crises unfolding across the country, thinks Pavan.
“I think what is really appreciated, particularly now, with so many things like the cost of living crisis, price of oil and all this stuff going on with the Ukraine-Russian war is that people want something that breaks from reality and puts a smile on their face, and that doesn’t cost them anything, doesn’t stretch morality or anything like that. It’s just a bit of clean fun. I think people are really looking for it, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the press and social channels have responded to us so well,” he says. “We’re not trying to be something we’re not.”
And that sense of fun has also seen the wedding fly on social media and across the press. Thanks to the work of PR agency Spider, the nuptials were covered in the likes of The Mirror, The Sun, and New York Post. The wedding was attended by popular influencer Yung Filly, who will be fronting the content series from the brand.
The wedding, though, is just the beginning. In order to really land the #GoABitPeperami and seed it into the popular vernacular, which is the dream, the brand will have to work hard to ensure subsequent activations are as headline-grabbing as Franesca and Luke’s big day. There’s the upcoming content series, and the team are also looking ahead to 2023, planning for ‘social spikes’ and British traditions that are in need of a big shake up.
“That’s not going to happen overnight. We know that. I know that it had a lot of coverage and people were talking about it, but it’s not going to happen overnight. So, it has to be a constant behaviour for the brand, that is going to be mirrored by people. The idea is to keep this conversation going,” says Paulo.
As for Pavan and the Peperami team, the brand’s ambitions are almost limitless. “I think we’ve got a framework and we know what questions to ask ourselves. It’s got to exploit traditional moments. It’s got to, from a consumer’s perspective, make sure it goes that little bit further. As long as we can answer those questions and we feel comfortable with it, then we’ve got a formula which allows us to keep going bigger and bigger and bigger.”