As Veganuary ends we have seen a number of FMCG brands embracing the trend for all things plant-based. The calendar is smattered with short-term flashes of marketing opportunity, be it Veganuary, Go Sober for October, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
All these moments offer brands the chance to tap into a zeitgeist and potentially speak to a new audience who may not have previously considered their product.
But there remains considerable skill in these short-term marketing moments. If brands are to make the very most of each and every opportunity, they must adopt an agility that is rarely required in more longer-term strategies. And not only that, they must also know when to act, and when to stay away.
Ed Paine, media account director at agenda21 has compiled his top five tips for marketers and media agencies who may be considering a spot of agile activity.
Think carefully before jumping aboard the bandwagon
Consider carefully if the initiative is one that your brand is fully aligned to, or if it risks coming across as disingenuous.
It is essential for brands to carefully consider whether jumping on the bandwagon around a theme is the right approach for them. All too often in the age of digital and social media we have witnessed significant public backlash against brands that come across as disingenuous around certain topics and world issues.
The most infamous example in recent years is the when Pepsi hastily opted to support the Black Lives Matter initiative in 2017 through their ambassador Kendall Jenner, implying that it was possible to heal deep racial divides simply by cracking a cola drink. And we all know how that ended.
Any marketer that rushes headlong into blindly supporting an initiative without sufficient forethought or emotional investment risks causing untold damage to their brand.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Agile marketing requires as much pre-planning as possible. Sure, some flexibility is needed in the provisional plan but with as many details agreed and signed off in advance. Planning in these instances needs to be far more flexible than usual, and clients need to come with an open mind to the results of such a campaign.
Clever marketing at the right moment can occasionally strike gold but no one plan for a viral hit, and expectations need to be managed with internal stakeholders. But if you do as much preparation as possible in advance, and wait for the right moment, brands can be greatly rewarded with viral earned coverage across major news outlets.
And, in some instances, can even collect awards for their effort, as we saw with Oreo’s ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ work which responded in real time to the blackout during the 2013 Superbowl. In this case the media placement had already been purchased, but some very quick creative production and lightning fast turnaround times in reaction to surprise events meant the brand was able to be relevant, timely and, ultimately, the stand out advertiser of that year’s Superbowl.
Wing it at your peril: Plan your spontaneity well in advance
Of course, spontaneity can’t be planned but it never hurts to have a few ‘what if’ conversations in the bank. Discuss and plan the requirement for a swift turn around on any creative assets that may need to be produced with short notice and perhaps even execute a trial run with your creative agency before putting paid budget behind initiatives.
While the campaign needs to appear spontaneous, the best examples of reactionary executions tend to be at least in part pre-planned: An off the shelf media plan with allocated contingency budget set aside, waiting to be activated at the right moment. The objectives, budget, channels and creative formats should all be provisionally agreed in ahead of time to enable a swift sign off with minimal internal friction.
Then, when an appropriate moment comes along, the brand can focus on delivering the correct creative message applied to the off the shelf media plan, enabling the brand to appear to be reacting swiftly to deploy a smart and well thought out campaign supporting that initiative.
Don’t fall at the final hurdle
So, you have the moment, the creative and the spot but suddenly no one can locate the client who needs to give the final green light.
If you want to really harness short and medium-term opportunities, you need to have everyone reading from the same hymn sheet. Often you won’t know when these moments will present themselves so you either need to have a client who has signed up to being disturbed at any time of day or night, or better yet be given carte blanche to sign off on very short-term executions yourself.
All parties need to be prepared to operate on a hyper swift basis if you are to achieve the spontaneity you are aiming for. During ‘scheduled spontaneity’ moments – such as major sporting events – set up a war room with all relevant parties available for immediate collaboration.
Also bear in mind the ad space available to you as certain media channels are more geared towards a swift spontaneous activation. Digital and social media channels, for instance, can often be booked and activated in under 24 hours. TV, on the other hand, is likely to be subject to late booking charges and the fixed supply of inventory will, for the most part, be fully sold out.
Brace for backlash or celebrate social success
The success of any medium- and short-term marketing moment lies in the public reaction. The public embraced Gregg’s Vegan Sausage Roll through social media, earning untold free publicity for the high street bakery.
A brand will live or die by its bandwagon jumping online. With any advertising work it is essential to carefully monitor the social response but when something has been planned with reasonably short notice, or is an unexpected new direction for a brand, it is essential to carefully monitor the initial results and the social affinity towards the executions. More than anything be prepared to combat any social backlash with a good social media brand management team at the ready. Negative fallout does not have to be disastrous for your brand if it is handled well from the beginning.
So, there you have it. No brand or agency should be without a strategy for an agile marketing campaigns. If you apply these top tips, with a sprinkling of gut feeling and common sense, you shouldn’t go far wrong.
Ed Paine is a media account director at agenda21.