Tributes have been flooding in over the last week for Lynda Bellingham who sadly died of cancer. People from all walks of life have been touched by her bravery and dignity in the face of the inevitable. But it wasn’t just because of her courage in fighting her illness that people felt so warmly about her, it was her role as an actress playing parts that many of us grew up with and loved her in. Roles such as wife of James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small and as Mum in the Oxo family adverts that aired on British TV screens during the 80’s and 90’s.
But why did she win our hearts for playing a lead in a TV commercial? Perhaps because the Oxo Family adverts are a great example of a brand story. The adverts featured a regular family, always in and out, bickering and busy with their own priorities but bound together by Mum who dished up regular meals cooked using Oxo. We watched as the family grew up and finally left the dinner table for the last time in 1999. It worked because we all felt akin to it. We could see ourselves in the story. Many of us could put ourselves in the shoes of the characters. It wasn’t about Oxo, it was about the family; the daughter who patronisingly explains the value of protein that she’s learnt from school that day (with excellent punchline – Meatballs to you dear!), the one where Nick takes his driving test (easy as pie!) and of course the last supper together as the family leave home and the house is sold. The journey and the stories are all ones that we can relate to.
The adverts didn’t ever blatantly sell to us, they didn’t say ‘Oxo now new and improved!’ or ‘Oxo the best stock cube for any meat dish’. Instead they put their audience at the heart of the content. They were relevant and they were engaging. We cared about the characters, especially Mum. The adverts made us laugh and they made us feel part of the family. Perhaps Lynda was in a tiny way, a little bit like our own Mum. The Oxo family was her story as well as ours.
Oxo has done well with their brand story over the years so it’s not surprising that over 150,000 people have joined a Facebook campaign to bring back the ad. People want to see it back this Christmas in honour of one of the best loved Mums of the 80’s. Lynda Bellingham, the Oxo family Mum. Rest in Peace.
Meatballs to you dear…