It seems like every other day is something-day. On the 10th of August, we had Duran Duran Appreciation Day and World Lion Day, Photography Day on the 19th, Be An Angel Day on the 22nd and Dog Day on the 26th.
Increasingly smaller holidays and events are being used to sell an array of products. An appropriate approach is vital. Done right, a holiday or celebration can be the perfect way to boost sales and create a strong brand association, but done poorly and the effort can appear transparent and tacky.
The most straightforward and most suitable instance of tying into any given x-day is when the product is inextricably tied to the day in question. National Donut Day, the 1st of June, is something of a no-brainer for Krispy Kreme, who mark the day by offering a free donut to every customer. It gets feet through the door and nets a tidy little profit to boot.
Greetings card companies stock their shelves with every kind of Birthday card imaginable, and deck their halls with the pinks of St. Valentine or the greens and reds of the festive season. There’s an undeniable and well-ingrained link in these industries and products. People may complain every year that they’re being inundated with Christmas-this and Halloween-that, but they buy it all the same. You’ll see dad rock albums climb the charts in the run up to fathers day and florists will beam when mothers day rolls around. It depends on the holiday, but when the link is clear and established marketing to a day or holiday can make sense.
In the bigger markets, Christmas in particular, where so many products and services are vying for consumer attention, the question actually becomes less of a ‘should we’ and more of a ‘how do we’. A common marketing ploy is to play on cultural associations. Coca-Cola’s Christmas campaigns have been wildly successful because they so effectively capture classic images of Christmas. Families around open fires, the mad dash for last minute presents … all of it wrapped up in a cosy, wholesome family image. They’ve even helped to define the modern day image of old St. Nick (though contrary to popular belief they weren’t responsible for turning his suit red http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7152054.stm). Coca-Cola though, especially in the cold December climates of the US and Europe, hasn’t got a whole lot of relevance to Christmas.
Whilst Coke have managed it, products being advertised and associated with events that they share no link with can also be a big misstep. Cynical and irrelevant marketing will only cause annoyance. Sticking with a festive theme, the UK-based supermarket Sainsbury’s tied into the hundredth anniversary of the First World War in their 2014 advertising campaign, to a fair amount of scorn from the press and public. Trying to sell groceries with images of one of humanity’s most horrific conflicts is a tenuous link at best and downright offensive at worst.
Here in Australia many will be familiar with Meat and Livestock Australia’s controversial lamb advertising campaign, which utilises controversy around Australia Day to drum up interest. These sorts of controversial campaigns can be very hit and miss, and those that do succeed often do so by means of leaning into more out there and incongruous forms of advertising. Dick Smith Food’s own (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7y6iE0aB5s) Australia day advertising plays off of absurd notions of patriotism and the inherent irrelevance of the product to the day itself for comedic effect. However it does also feature some pretty obnoxious casual racism. If you’re planning to use a holiday to sell something that has very little business being associated with it, recognising this inconsistency and playing off it is the best way to go. Tenuous association and causing offense in a needless and tasteless fashion is not.
Tying your marketing to a specific day, season or holiday can be a great way to drum up interest. If your product or service has a very clear link it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Did you know the 1st of June was Donut Day? You probably didn’t until every cafe had a sign in the window informing you of it. Drawing attention to these fun little events is an easy and relatively risk-free form of marketing. When dealing with the bigger hitters, Christmas, Easter and the like, it comes down to the suitability of the product and its ability to stand out from the crowd.
In an increasingly diverse and ever-expanding marketplace the temptation to go big, better and more in-your-face, can be overwhelming. There’s a time and a place for more restrained and exact branding, and it’s here and now.
When the average person thinks logos, advertising and everything brand-related, they probably picture seas of logos, flashing lights and electronic technicolour. Think Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, Shibuya Crossing. It’s a trend that persists and exists across cultures and continents. From Tokyo to the Big Apple, bigger is seen as better.
It’s an approach to branding that attempts a sort of omnipresence. Being here, there and everywhere as a constant reminder and reinforcement. The Trump approach to advertising, who focuses on a relentless self-aggrandisement. Slapping a name, big and gaudy, on every product and property. Steaks, planes and towers, all under one almighty title. It’s worked to mix success for Trump, and in it’s modern context, this sort of very personal branding will divide audiences. Because it’s so tied up in perceptions around his character and what he represents. Success depends on how he, or his name, is perceived. Regardless of what’s being sold. Trump steaks aren’t sold on meat quality, the brand brings images of wealth and excess from its bombasity. That’s the selling point.
Relentless branding, and its relative effectiveness, comes down to the extent to which the brand is tied up in the success and essence of what’s being sold. Hello Kitty, whilst very different to the Trump brand, operates with a similar ethos, albeit one that is arguably more effective. The image of Hello Kitty herself is inexplicably tied to the brand and target audience. She is visual shorthand, aesthetic and selling point all in one. Overbearing and ever-present but also highly targeted in terms of audience.
It’s about knowing the product and the brand, the extent to which they exist synonymously, and what one says about the other. Targeted digital advertising allows any brand an omnipresence if done correctly. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the right approach. More subtle approaches to branding are becoming more numerous, and more importantly, are reaping the rewards.
Recent years have seen even the biggest brands; Coke, Durex, McDonald’s. Move towards a more minimalist design aesthetic with a focus on simplicity and stark design. There’s also been the rise of brands such as fjallraven and Paperchase, which tend to focus on simple elegant design acting as branding.
This trend is also present in larger scale retail and businesses with wide product ranges. General Motors shrunk its brands from eight to four, and saw a 16% increase in sales within the year. Head and Shoulders reduced it’s product line from twenty-five to sixteen and saw a 10% bump in sales. You can get even more mundane. Aldi, which has a far lower number of brands (and very little focus on brand recognition for individual own-brand products), less intrusive imaging and choices on offer, has seen a surge in popularity for exactly this reason.
Take a long hard look at your product(s), and how you want to brand them. It’s all a balancing act, and your approach to branding should reflect the core design ethos. In being too brash and boisterous a brand can drown out its own appeal. Any recognition becoming lost in its own noise.
Watch this video, a Coke campaign case study, to see what an integrated sensory brand engagement experience can look like.
By the end of it, even if you don’t drink Coke, you are thinking about it. And that’s just watching the video. Imagine if you are the customer that experiences all these touch-points? It’s next level infiltration, and you have no idea, the effect it’s having on you.
The magic of this campaign is in the journey:
- TV (Sight, Sound)
- Phone (Sight, Sound, Touch)
- Outdoor events (Sight, Sound)
- Social media (Sight, Touch)
- Print (Sight, Touch)
- Shopping centre where you experience the product (Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, Taste).
The engagement of more than one sense, creates a compound effect, as you continue along the marketing funnel to the conversion point – where you receive/buy the product. One versus all sense interplay – is the part versus the sum. The sum is a lot more powerful.
This is poetry in motion. And we haven’t even mentioned the effect this has on your consciousness or subconscious. Messages coming through, via different channels (Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, Taste). Creating stored memories and emotions. Imprinted in your psyche for the rest of your life. Wow. Sounds a little scary, when you say it like this. The power of sensory marketing!
Coke does have big brands and big budgets, and whether you do or not, the learning’s you can definitely be taken into your marketing campaigns. Look at your activity and ask yourself how many senses are we engaging? How can we engage three? Is it possible?
Some ideas that can inspire your team:
- Promotional Products – Whether it’s a t-Shirt, cooler bag, notepad or pen – have fun with this. There are lots of ideas, but what will make your idea unique to your brand?
- Scented Printing – The candle industry leverages the scent of smell to create nostalgia, relaxation, passion, etc. Is extending ‘time on page’ through incorporating a second sense experience, something to think about?
- Events – What event can you create for your customers? If you can get your customers in a room, you have access to all 5 senses, and an opportunity for the highest level engagement. If you don’t wish to run your own event, can you collaborate with a partner?
- Sound – We all know the sounds of milk being warmed at the coffee shop, and the sound of opening a Coke or packet of Pringles. Is there a sound that is unique to your brand that you can leverage through your communication?
- Signature Scent – Could you create your own signature scent? Who says you have to be a fashion brand to have your own scent. If you had to create a scent for your brand what would it smell like?
If you are looking at your marketing activity and investment, keep asking yourself how you could extend the life or the engagement with the customer, beyond 20 seconds, 3 minutes, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months… This is the magic that well-thought through promotional products provide. Your customers end up loving them so much, that they promote your brand for you in a way that you couldn’t do yourself. And there is nothing more powerful than third-party endorsement.
A logo on a notebook, umbrella, is ok, but you can do so much more. Your customers will be grateful for the effort you put in and reward you with free advertising as a result.
Good business and good brands make sensory marketing both seamless and mutually benefiting.