Twinings’ Ovaltine

Industry: CPG
Size: Global
Challenge: Shape the brand voice to reflect global and local values. 

brand voice framework IP
21 countries

How do you build one brand voice for one brand in vastly different markets? (Hint: you don’t.)

Twinings’ Head of Marketing Excellence, Catherine Coleman-Jinks, made a significant observation about their Ovaltine/Ovo product; yes, it was successful and had international appeal, but, the cultural attraction to Ovaltine varied enormously across regions.

From this, she saw a fundamental problem that the marketing team faced; how can you manage a coherent brand identity when worldwide, the product has an entirely different meaning among customers?

Catherine could see the solution that needed to be executed: give regional market leaders the right tools to develop their local brand tone of voice. To force the use of one global voice throughout the company would be disastrous. It would wreck the relationship between the customer and ‘their’ brand.

As if this wasn’t ambitious enough, Catherine was determined to overcome this problem in 2020-2021. With increasing numbers of channels, many dominated by language, the need for a well-defined brand tone of voice had never been more urgent. And, as the leadership team entered 2020, the situation became critical: Covid-19, social movements from Black Lives Matter, and the undercurrent of a US Presidential election were all having impacts on a global scale.

It was at this point that Twinings approached us with a challenge:

Could we, as a brand tone of voice consultancy, shape the brand voice in such a way that would reflect Ovaltine’s overarching values, but pivotally, also allow regional leaders to maintain their own locally familiar brand tone of voice? 

Don’t let the brand language get diluted

From its 155-year-old Swiss roots, the Twinings-owned Ovo brand has progressed to sell its product in over 100 countries and consistently proves itself to be a market leader in and outside of Europe.

Because of the global nature of the brand people have come to cherish the product in profoundly different ways. In Britain, Ovaltine is a cosy drink to treat yourself to before bedtime. In Brazil though, it’s seen as a pep-up drink to take before bedroom activities of a completely different sort…

It’s clear then, that marketing excellence depends on having oversight from local leaders. Critically, when the regional marketing leads have developed their brand tone of voice, they need an objective framework for being able to discuss their strategic brand voice developments with Central HQ.

How do you balance structure and creativity in a brand tone of voice?

We first tackled this problem by developing our unique methodology of defining the brand tone of voice on three discrete levels of communication:

  • the 10,000ft overarching narrative,
  • the 1,000ft personality of the tone of voice,
  • the Ground Level Details

We used this brand voice methodology to create a tone of voice framework for the Ovaltine brand’s particular needs.

In planning the next stages with the regional teams around the world, we made a key realisation: for Ovo’s circumstances, a framework on its own is not enough.

You need to give people a process for filling out that framework so regional leaders can work more independently and leverage the skills of their in-house teams and agency copywriters.

And, to cement this process, enabling it to work at its best, it’s crucial to have a system in place for self-auditing. This is especially the case here, because it’s an area where many people do not have as much experience in judging the verbal identity as they do with the visual identity.  Fortunately, we have plenty.

We carried out in-depth research with regional leaders at Ovo teams all over the world, speaking to the teams in in Australia, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Thailand.

In 6 weeks, we developed the framework, process and self-auditing module.

Throughout the entire process, we kept local leaders fully engaged and informed by showing them our work in progress as well as the beta version of the framework. Finally, once we’d co-developed the IP framework and had it signed off by central HQ, we worked with local teams to have it adopted.

Better than we can say it

The framework has now been shared with all the marketing leads across 21 countries around the world.

As marketing leaders were consulted about the current performance of their brand voice and the opportunities that improving it would offer their commercial performance, they asked us for individual brand tone of voice workshops to complement the Framework and process IP.

Catherine Coleman-Jinks: Head of Marketing Excellence, International Marketing at Twinings, said:

The work will be invaluable to us as an international team, allowing us to create a best practice approach which we can then apply locally to unlock the power of brand language.”






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