I’ve been thinking a lot this week about a couple of things: ‘truth’ and ‘enough’.

We’ve had a powerful reminder of our instinctive desire for truth with the recent UK election result (clearly not yet powerful enough but..), a clear indication that over the course of a few weeks the Labour party managed to connect with a huge number of people with practical, truthful & hopeful messages about a system that those same people had been confused into believing was oh so complex & impossible to change.  Despite a dense, biased media landscape and the mind-numbing drone of a political class that increasingly seem like a Chris Morris designed caricature people resolved to see it differently. 

Then I saw this Milky Bar ad:


“Milk is now our no.1 ingredient”


Two thoughts immediately sprang into my head.  The first was “Wow, so what was it for all these years?” followed by a knee jerk counterintuitive thought that suggested they may have wanted to keep that to themselves!  Then, equally as quickly, I thought, “Why do they feel that information is important? 

I have two kids aged 7 & 10 and I’m partial to a Milky Bar myself but at no point do I choose a Milky Bar for my kids in the misguided belief that it will get more good old healthy milk into them.  I buy it because it’s a treat.  It is sweet – it’s not even chocolate its milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter & fats.  That’s why its bloody delicious!

A quick look at the historic & new ingredient panels shows that sugar remains in second place and I have no doubt is a very close second too.  So, it begs the question why bother?

NEW: Whole and Skimmed Milk Powder (37.5%), Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Vegetable Fat (Palm/ Shea/ Mango Kernel/ Sal), Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin), Natural Flavouring, White Chocolate contains Vegetable Fat in addition to Cocoa Butter

OLD: Sugar, Whole Milk Powder (26%), Cocoa Butter, Whey Powder (from Milk), Vegetable Fat (Palm/Shea/Illipe/Mango/Sal), Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin), Flavouring, White Chocolate contains Vegetable Fat in addition to Cocoa Butter

I can only imagine that some piece of research has been interpreted as an opportunity, that re-positioning Milky Bar to be about Milk and not white chocolate would in some way offer the opportunity for growth.

For me, they’re missing the point.  The truth about a Milky Bar is that it’s a remnant of another age where Mums were once convinced by Nestle that it offered milk solids and was partially healthy * but fast forward to the context of today’s nutritionally aware parent and that’s a story that will not be bought. 

Instead pitch me a reminder of the Milky Bar Kid and re-think the MB Kid for the new generation, stir up memories of the rosy glow of the school pick up with Mum, the shop after school and the unwavering intra generation appreciation of a sugary treat and maybe I’ll introduce it to my kids over and above a Kinder but you’re having a laugh if you think I was just waiting for you to let me know that it fits my healthy eating agenda!

Do me and your customers a favour: make sure that what you say and do matches what your service or product is for. Be truthful and if you can’t be truthful, be quiet.

I can recommend what I call the ‘Shadow ad exercise’.  It’s a rapid way to understanding how much bullshit you’re spouting.  Very simply you write the ad you’d never want your customer to see: tell the unvarnished truth, use truthful imagery, use vocabulary that people can actual understand, don’t hold back on judgments.  Really tell it like it is.

Then put that side by side with what you’re currently saying & showing.  Your job is to then work out exactly what the work is that you’re going to do to fashion your business and your marketing to reflect what it really should be.

Keep the shadow ad as a reminder of what you need to address.

* MILKYBAR was created in 1937 as a non-vitaminized variant of Nestlé's new pharmaceutical milk product, when the company almost exclusively manufactured milk products. Such sterile milk products were trusted by parents to help their children's development without the bacterial risks of fresh milk. Even though it didn't contain vitamins, MILKYBAR was still designed to offer the goodness of milk.