, April 13, 2017

Happy Easter to Christians, Pagans, Cadbury and the National Trust

Brand “Easter” – is it really Christian?

Every year, for the past ten years, Cadbury and the National Trust have teamed up to run a joint chocolate egg hunt promotion over the school Easter holidays. A great idea that until this year was called the “Easter Egg Trail”. But after 10 years, a rebrand to keep things fresh and reposition to a wider target market looked like a good plan. Or so it seemed!

It’s just possible that somebody at a PR agency for the National Trust or Cadbury thought it would be a great idea to use the name change to the “Great British Egg Hunt” to generate some extra publicity by getting the media to ask “senior figures” in the Church of England what they thought about dropping the word “Easter”. Some national coverage would be guaranteed! Or maybe this was a pro-active journalist who saw the press release saying the name change was to make the egg hunt “more inclusive” and thought they would see if they could get a reaction.

Either way, the coverage has been extensive: front page press, TV and radio. The Archbishop of York (more a Rowntree/Nestle location) suggested Cadbury’s actions were tantamount to “spitting on the grave” of John Cadbury, their Quaker founder. Then the Prime Minister weighed in to describe the change as ridiculous. At that point, some might say, in secular Britain, this has been amazing publicity for the event and you can expect record numbers of children hunting for eggs this year. But when you look at the overlap between committed Christians, members of the National Trust and readers of the right wing press, suddenly you have calls for a boycott and National Trust members resigning. Maybe this rebrand was not such a good idea.

For anyone involved in naming and branding this would appear to be a salutary lesson. You must conduct the most thorough background research before tinkering with brand associations, particularly when the brands involved are as close to British national treasures as chocolate and stately homes can be. Surely it’s obvious that if you drop the word “Easter” some Christians might be offended? But on closer inspection, this particular debacle becomes harder to predict the more research you do.

Firstly the very concept of a chocolate egg is based on pagan egg sharing fertility ceremonies, timed with the rebirth of the sun at the spring equinox as the days become longer than the nights. Similarly, the imagery around rabbits (famous for their prolific procreation) and egg-laying hare myths have no link with Christianity but instead have their roots in pagan fertility rites. From a branding point of view, even the the name “Easter” is derived from the name of the Germanic goddess of the dawn, Ēostre or Ostara who brought renewal at the end of winter.

It is well established that the early Christian church adopted pagan ceremonies to tie in with Christian ones, and it is almost certainly no coincidence that Christmas falls so close to the winter solstice. But despite the pagan symbols of Yule logs and holly surviving over the centuries, with the name “Christmas”, the Christian branding is absolute and beware any chocolate brand attempting to lose that word from its stocking selection.

However, with “Easter”, despite hundreds of years of close association with Christianity, perhaps the word’s pagan roots mean that the indignation aimed at Cadbury and the National Trust is not quite fully justified.

We note the National Trust website imagery (above) has added the word “Easter” and the Cadbury TV advert and revised promotional material (below) also promotes “Easter” heavily, so perhaps the issue has now been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. In any event, from all of us at Grain, have the happiest of Easter holidays. And whatever your religion, try not to celebrate with too many chocolate eggs!

 

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