Marketing your brand on the absurd, unusual or the extraordinary could create the most memorable campaign – or it could be an expensive flop.
Consumers have the power to punish advertisers and hit them where it hurts most by simply ignoring communication and tuning out. Increased communication, media touch-points and activities in people’s lives mean that advertisers constantly have to find ways to surprise consumers and deliver exceptional products, innovations and services that exceed expectations in order to drive word of mouth.
Stunts, ambient media and innovative attention-grabbers have been around for years. But novelty soon morphs into the norm and becomes viewed as traditional space. Think, for instance, about washroom advertising. A few years ago it was cutting edge; today it is ubiquitous.
The way to break through clutter is not just through identifying a weird and wonderful new media platform, but to take a brand and put it into an unexpected place. Just think of the heights of awareness Red Bull reached towards the end of last year with Felix Baumgartner’s dramatic edge-of-space jump (pictured).
Stunts have been around for years, but some are conceptualised with no strategic purpose other than an approach of “let’s do something bizarre to get attention”. Others arise by sheer luck. But then there are very impactful stunts that drive specific brand objectives.
Whether executing an activation, an ambush or a sporting event associated with a record attempt, the effort is aimed invariably at achieving coverage. Often, when small crowds are targeted in a once-off event, the event is recorded and loaded on to YouTube – on a wing and a prayer.
But how effective to a brand are stunts and doing the extraordinary? As spectacular as they are, do they not merely equate to a bit of pointless fun, while potentially costing the brand megabucks on the execution side? This is where it is important to look at the reason behind ‘the big shows’.
While traditional media have measures in place to ascertain reach and potential opportunities to see, strategically planned stunts and innovative communication do not necessarily have to be about driving purchase. Instead, a brand will undertake such an initiative with other objectives in mind – from building association to establishing a core product benefit, demonstrating innovation, or simply just to remain top of mind. Yes, of course we want to sell, but building brands and preference is more complex than just exposing consumers repeatedly to traditional communications.
So the choice for a brand is: do we ‘go big’, or just stay at home in the traditional marketing space?
There is no doubt that advertising is still not the ultimate deciding factor in a decision to purchase. Consumers make their own choices, research product details and get advice
from friends. However, to stand out and get your brand on to the lips and into the subconscious of consumers, you need to start considering the element of surprise in your communication.
This is not to replace the activity that already drives your brand forward, but to ensure it is remembered over time. By adding an unexpected element to your media mix, consumers will take notice.
Do not expect stunts to ‘go viral’, and beware of doing the brand an injustice by attaching it to yesterday’s news.
But do your homework and understand what result you want a particular activity to yield, and ensure that your stunt will be something potential consumers share and talk about.
If you have a good feeling about it and have done your research, then take the risk. Going big is definitely better than staying cooped up in the ‘same old, same old’ all the time. Be assured that if you do not embrace the future of surprising acts by taking risks, your brand will remain in the proverbial advertising dust.
Ilsa Gräbe is the business unit head at Carat.
This story was first published in the January 2013 issue of The Media magazine.