Lyons: A Very, Very British Institution

A sleeping giant, Lyons is a heritage brand with a vast untapped, latent potentiality. Any British consumer from the age of 40 up will have strong associations, even fond memories with the brand. That is a huge market – a generation far more resistant to change, but erstwhile in constant search of the familiar.

But to make the most of it, Premier Foods need to define Lyons’ portfolio: this brand has a rich and diverse history behind it: from tearooms to game-changing computer hardware, it has been on quite a journey. Today the Lyons brand clings on to the remaining threads of its Tearoom heritage: Battenburgs and Swiss Roll cakes, jostling for space at the far end of the supermarket bakery shelf, relying on a passing consumer to recognise the name.

This teatime function has been seen as a dying ritual. Yet its longevity is a testament to the British love of a die-hard habit. Furthermore, afternoon tea is a British institution – it’s what people the world over think. Lyons therefore has massive export potential. Also, the potential to be position itself as a brand that gives permission to the masses to be indulgent.

Premier Foods need to identify where the strongest Lyons memory lies: does this include the tea rooms? – There is no equivalent chain today but possibly EAT has studied the template. Lyons offer expressed a richer character and the restaurants were revolutionary at the time – a bright and clean look with a white fascia and grand gold lettering, exuding a wonderfully British personality. Here you reliably could get the British staples: a bowl of soup or a shepherd’s pie; a cup of tea and a slice of cake, cheaply, without eschewing quality. Possibly the fondest, quality memories exists with the Lyons Corner Houses, where a family could affordably and in some comfort, dine as a special treat before going out on the town or to the theatre.

If Lyons became a chain once again, it would benefit from taking its heritage of the past, and reworking it into a completely contemporary context – the old and new working together – to create something fresh and British that is so right for a nation whose high street is daily losing stable reminders of our heritage and the individuality that was once prevalent.

Some could argue that Lyons is a brand right at the end of its journey, but there is a strong emotional resonance that if tapped into, could revive a loyal consumer following. Lyons should examine leveraging their brand via a thorough audit to capture its Past, Present and Future. It should rigorously examine what’s been lost, what’s merely here for today, what remains useful in its armoury and most critically, distill the integral brand truth of what is sacrosanct about the Lyons brand?

With such a wealth of memories and brand ideas at his disposal, if Premier Foods’ brand manager Dean Lavender is really intent on giving Lyons “a bit more focus and love”, (Marketing Week) then perhaps with the right advice and the vision to say, ‘let’s go for it’, there could be a huge future for the return of this family brand. So we’ll ‘meet you at Joe Lyons’…


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