HFSS Legislation Changes | A New Recipe for Marketing?

Posted by: Megan Harrison - 25.05.22


It’s official. The multi-buy ban and ad restrictions have been delayed, giving families struggling to afford food and the industry more time to prepare. 

Discover what fresh ingredients brands may need ahead of the junk food ad changes and read our three tips for success.

A world of television and online advertising devoid of product visuals is tricky to imagine. But it’s a reality many food and drink brands will face – albeit later than originally planned thanks to the HFSS advertising rules.

If you’re a food or drink marketer who relies heavily on product marketing you could benefit from strengthening your brand in preparation for the 2024 HFSS ad ban. Read on for our simple three-step approach.

Wondering ‘how the new rules affect me?’ We’re glad you asked. 

  • Companies advertising HFSS products (those high in fat, salt and sugar) will be affected 
  • Showing product visuals of fatty and sugary foods will be banned until after 9pm for online paid media and TV
  • In some supermarkets, we’ll see restrictions on price promotions and limitations on product placements

Three brand-strengthening steps before HFSS rules hit

Here’s the behavioural sciencey bit. Ride Shotgun Brand Strategist, Kat McSweeney, believes success lies in tapping into and activating consumers’ system-one thinking (the brain’s fast, automatic, intuitive approach) and system-two thinking (the mind’s slower, more rational side) – without relying on seductive visuals.

Kat says: “To create purchase intent or establish an emotional trigger, businesses need to build brand salience – the degree to which their consumers think of or notice a brand.”

So, here are our three steps for success.

  1. Be clear about the role your brand plays in your consumers’ lives. Build on this to create an emotional connection.
  2. Develop distinctive brand assets that stand out and create mental cues for your products.
  3. Make a plan and stick to it. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Build recognition through repetition and consistent messaging.

Want to know more? Keep reading.


1. Find out how people feel about your brand.

When we know how our customers feel about our brand, we can create an emotional connection. And that’s invaluable.

How do you own a moment, a feeling and an occasion that goes beyond taste and product?

“Think about when your partner gets ‘hangry’ – what snack do you reach for? Snickers, right? Or, when you want to give your kids a little surprise that isn’t just chocolate? Kinder surprise of course.” Kat says. 

“Uncovering insight into an existing consumer challenge or need and demonstrating your product as the solution is key to creating an ownable space.”

Snickers is a great example of this. The product benefit of Snickers is a snack bar packed with peanuts, which are filling and well-equipped to satisfy hunger. But the stronger emotional connection comes from the well-known fact you’re not yourself when you’re hungry.

Addressing ‘hanger’ rather than hunger has been a huge success. The ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign helped increase global sales of Snickers by 15.9% in its first year and won awards at every major creative gathering. 

Kat says: “To create purchase intent or establish an emotional trigger, businesses need to build brand salience – the degree to which their consumers think of or notice a brand.”

Combining what your brand stands for in real-life moments with a tangible product benefit will help consumers think of your brand when it matters most. 

Combining what your brand stands for in real-life moments with a tangible product benefit will help consumers think of your brand when it matters most.

Consider your current advertising; if you remove the product visuals:

  • Does the message still deliver? 
  • Is it focused, simple and compelling? 
  • Does it say why choose this brand? 
  • Is it still recognisable as your brand?

2. Create strong, recognisable brand assets.

Think you make conscious, rational purchase decisions? You might be surprised that it’s often not the case. Lots of different internal and external factors all play their part in making us think about a particular brand when we’re in a buying mindset. 

Think about McDonald’s. Decades of marketing have built visual and audio brand cues that go beyond their products. Now, a slight nod to the famous golden arches or five-syllable jingle is enough to tickle taste buds. 

Big Mac adverts won’t quite be the same without a stack of juicy burgers – but the whistling sonic logo, red visuals and slogan could well be enough to tempt customers. 

If you don’t recognise any existing visual cues in your advertising – it’s time to get started. Ride Shotgun Creative Director, Bew Knox, explains why. 

“Consider the shape of a Magnum ice cream, the sound of biting into it and even the curved shape of the stick in your hand… these cues are instantly recognisable and ownable reminders of the brand cues that go along with the product.

“You may already recognise the visual cues of your brand, but they aren’t built overnight. They need to be central to your brand’s product visual identity and used in playful, entertaining, and surprising ways that make strong connections with your brand’s personality and audience.”

Wondering how to get started? We’ve got you. 

3. Make a plan and stick to it.

Once you have product-free visuals and solid brand cues sorted, it’s time to bolster your brand and product recognition with consistent messaging. 

Avoid the mistake of creating a pic ‘n’ mix of great taste, great ethics, great for the environment, great personality, great to work for. Simple and focused beats confused and diluted messaging every time.

KitKat is the king of consistency. Their tagline ‘Have a break Have a KitKat’ has run since 1958, positioning them as the snack to be enjoyed in a moment of free time. 

Remember though, that influencing consumers’ buying behaviour won’t happen overnight. On average, it takes a minimum of six brand touches for consumers to even remember a brand.

Kat McSweeney says the power of repetition shouldn’t be underestimated. 

“Building up brand and product recognition takes time across lots of touchpoints. Combining consistency with creative campaigns delivered through smarter, quicker content production is the most effective way to do this

“When it comes to the HFSS legislation, brands that already have strong assets or a clear emotional connection to exploit are at an advantage. For those that don’t, time is of the essence to start building those important mental cues now.” 

Although the jury’s still out on the ad ban’s potential impact, marketers are taking proactive steps to retain a healthy slice of the pie. Will you take a seat at the table?

Need a hand with brand-building ahead of the HFSS ad ban and beyond?

We can join you at any point of your brand journey to support with strategy, building brand awareness, creating quality content and much more. 

Get in touch.