Secret Lemonade Drinker – old brand assets never die

We hear this week that R Whites are bringing back their ‘Secret Lemonade Drinker’ – perhaps their most memorable brand asset, for their new ice lolly range. It is wonderfully serendipitous how an advertising concept, created to be tactical and have a limited life, turns into an asset with real longevity.

I use the term serendipity advisedly, because we only have to wander through the history of advertising to find it strewn with ideas, concepts, characters and personalities that simply did their job and at the end of their alloted span, quietly faded away. I’m sure those that have endured were not created with that intent. They just touched a real nerve with the audience for whom they turned into a familiar acquaintance and then an old friend.

Tony the Tiger, the Dulux dog, Captain Birdseye and the PG Tips chimps all transcended the world of the ad to become brand real estate.

I’ve said that you can’t plan for it or second guess what will catch the public’s fickle imagination, but if you don’t use brand personalities you will not even be in the game. Geers Gross was one advertising agency which focused on this approach making use of the Homepride flourgraders, ‘Your Flexible Friend’ the Access card, Countrylife buttermen and the Yellow Pages walking fingers.

The interesting thing about the ‘Secret Lemonade Drinker’ is that is a concept rather than a particular character. It does not rely on a specific personification. Some folks as old as me may remember Julian Chagrin’s masterly TV ads, but they made use of the actor’s versatility to keep the public entertained with multiple representations of the concept. The good news is that they are bringing Julian back, together with Harriet Philpin, who played his wife in one of original campaigns. The visual assets may be less relevant however, than the great jingle – perhaps the real brand asset.


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