Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 14:10 UK

A curious thing called Cillit Bang

The chief executive of a consumer goods company is in the news for making £90m last year. But while the firm produces a slew of household names, one really sticks unpleasantly in the memory - Cillit Bang.

Cillit Bang
Cillit Bang has been sold in the UK for six years

Cleaning products often have quite traditional names. Cif (formerly Jif in the UK) sounds safe and normal. So does Flash.

But Cillit Bang, pronounced with a soft "c", sounds like the alter ego of a bassist in a Turkish punk band or an ineligible Scrabble contribution.

Bart Becht, the boss of household goods company Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Cillit Bang and various other household goods, has been awarded a £90m pay package. But when Cillit Bang made its debut on British shores in 2004 the name alone was enough to baffle British consumers.

Now a range of four cleaning products, Cillit Bang's adverts quickly gained cult status. They featured a fictional man, Barry Scott, cleaning a penny. The tone of the adverts appeared to be deliberately cheap.

He spoke in a slightly shouty manner and finished off his retro presentation of the product's amazing cleaning powers by saying: "Bang and the dirt is gone."

The product claimed to be deadly against limescale, rust, and something called "ground-in dirt".

But soon Cillit Bang's marketing attracted the wrong sort of attention. As part of a digital marketing strategy, comments from Barry Scott would appear on random - and occasionally serious - blog postings. Here was a place where Barry was not welcome.

Those in the blogosphere suggested that Cillit Bang's marketers had got the wrong end of the stick and been rather annoying.

Cillit Bang is no weirder than anything else
Mark Choueke
Marketing Week

"That didn't work out at all well," says Mark Choueke, editor of Marketing Week.

And some people are still not fond of the name.

Whereas many Reckitt Benckiser products have explicable names - Vanish makes stains vanish, Finish gives your dishwasher load a sparkling Finish - Cillit Bang does not exactly trip off the tongue.

In January this year branding consultants G2 said Cillit Bang was the UK's most disliked brand name. It seemed particularly grating to women, with 25% of those surveyed saying they disliked it.

But, argues Choueke, the name is not a great deal stranger than other Reckitt Benckiser brands like Calgon or Harpic, and ultimately its sales tell the real story.

"Cillit Bang is no weirder than anything else. It probably helped the marketing. It made a really boring sector into something special because of the name.

"It hasn't stopped it being an incredible brand with incredible success. Brands are more than just a name. The idea at first was to get memorable."

Frightening instructions

Go on the Cillit Bang website and you see its credentials as a tough cleaner emphasised, even in the frequently asked questions section.

One customer asks: "The instructions appear to be quite frightening and imply that this is a very harsh product. Is it suitable for use as a household cleaner?"

The brand got the kind of publicity that money cannot buy in August last year.

It was revealed it was being used on plutonium stains at the defunct Dounreay nuclear power plant in Caithness.

The clean-up project manager said: "One of the guys suggested Cillit Bang. He remembered seeing it dissolve the grime on a 2p coin in an advert on TV and thought it was worth looking at."

But even that episode wasn't all good news for Cillit Bang. Great rival Mr Muscle had been used in another bit of the clean-up.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

I always found it strange that Jif would rename themselves to Cif. Cif sounds just like Syph, the nickname of a sexually transmitted disease. Not something you really want to smear round your bathtub.
Adam, London, UK

Two things I've noticed about Cillit Bang. 1) Barry Scott doesn't shout anymore, and 2) on a recent advert, they bragged that the cleaner even cleaned 'Stainless Steal'.
Steve, Tenby

In New Zealand it's called "Cillit Bam" - same tagline though.
Tracy, London ,UK

In the USA, Cillit Bang is called "Easy-Off Bam!" - still not a pleasant name, exactly, but rather nicer, and a little more descriptive... Curiously, the American adverts for it also featured a fictional British man called Barry Scott, but curiously, it was a DIFFERENT fictional British man to the ads in the UK! I have no idea what was going through the marketing people's heads!
Jon, London

My 4-year-old insists I buy it as he likes saying it and loves the loudness of the ads. If I do buy it, he cheers. It's expensive, but seriously, some things it shifts as nothing else can.
S Walmsley, Southport

Cillit Bang is certainly a stupid name, but more to the point it's no better than anything else. It's highly priced and best avoided
Reuben Matthews, Nottingham

Cillit Bang gained cult status among students a few years back mainly due to a rave remix of the advert on Youtube. Legendary.
Scully, Glasgow, UK.

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