A lot of sweet nothing

Don’t bother buying Justin Banks an Easter egg. He says they’re tired and unimaginative and is sick of all-year-round brands just chucked in fancy boxes

Last week I was talking to a confectionery manufacturer who was moaning because people are moving away from chocolate and finding new gift ideas. After wandering around London checking out Easter egg packaging, it’s no bloody wonder people are buying flowers, booze or perfume. Confectionery manufacturers have become complacent and unimaginative. They should stop moaning and take a good look at opportunities to make the sector more exciting.

Take Easter. It’s the perfect chance for manufacturers to offer consumers novelty items, but instead all they do is bang out an Easter egg version of every brand in their portfolio, whether or not it fits in any way with the Easter occasion. Worse than that, it’s usually just a visual shuffle of brand devices, applied to a die-cut format around a chocolate hand grenade.

Some manufacturers just shouldn’t bother bastardising their brand for the sake of having a presence on the already groaning shelves of Easter eggs.

Terry’s Chocolate Orange, for instance, is a perfect Easter gift on its own; why bother turning an orange into an egg? Or Kit Kat, which is presented all year round as a well-loved casual snack. Is there really any gift worthiness in the brand?

It’s easy to castigate manufacturers for their sins; however, I do appreciate that part of the problem is brand managers having their guardianship rights violated at Easter time, when seasonal colleagues and the in-house studio step in. If UK confectioners want to emulate the achievements of their European counterparts by building on occasional gifting opportunities, then they should honour and do justice to the God-given ones.

Maltesers has always said it is, “light, airy and honeycombed”, so why at Easter does it have an attack of schizophrenia and present itself in a box which resembles a sympathy card? There again, maybe it is one of the few brands to echo the gravitas of the occasion. If it wants to get religious, I’d suggest to Mars that it focuses on the resurrection rather than the crucifixion.

And what, pray, do sport and a digital watch have to do with Easter, confectionery or, indeed, gifting? I ask this because one of the most intellectually challenging offerings this year is the anonymously branded but BBC-endorsed Question of Sport Easter Egg. I found this little gem in

Woolworths, replete with a cheap and nasty digital watch. I think this is more a question of taste than a question of sport.

The problem is that manufacturers know they have a captive audience. There is no great urge to put any real effort into this sector. It has become a question of logistics – low-input maintenance.

Creativity has little part in the exercise.

My plea to manufacturers is to be more focused and give consumers a visual treat next Easter, not just a thoughtless token.

I don’t want to be totally negative; there are some notable exceptions. The Cadbury’s

Tazmanian Devil packs are a clever and fun integration of a character and chocolate egg, employing as little cardboard as possible. Going more upmarket, I discovered a beautiful Italian-style egg at Harvey Nichols – but, of course, you do get what you pay for.

As a partner in a start-up company you might be forgiven for thinking I’ve got the begging bowl out when I urge manufacturers to consider the design of their Easter eggs. But when you pay “buttons” you deserve what you get – it’s a shame consumers don’t get what they deserve.

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