Brands are competing to insert themselves into every aspect of our lives. As consumers, we can find this annoying – especially if the offending brands are simply staking a claim to ‘bath times’, ‘the first coffee of the day’ or ‘sunset’ like Neil Armstrong bowling up to the moon and whacking a flag in it. Boom, it’s ours now!
Coca-Cola’s relationship with Christmas is the classic example of a brand becoming synonymous with a moment. Rosy-cheeked Father Christmases, big red trucks, ‘Holidays are coming’: they’re an integral part of the festive furniture. Its ubiquity is the result of decades of carefully crafted brand activity and messaging repetition – a long-term play running since 1931.
That’s 86 years of riding pop-cultural tides and co-opting global events from the depression to Reaganomics and beyond, to forge and sustain a genuine connection with their audience. Despite that, Coca-Cola still needs to reinvent, innovate and invest in brand equity and budget to cut through the Christmas noise.
Let that sink in. Every Christmas, iconic global brand Coca-Cola has to spend millions through just to stand still. Oof.
Given that, should brands even try to own a moment?
The answer is ‘only if they’ve earned it’. People rigorously police the brands they let into their lives, adopting and trusting brands that are useful, entertaining, helpful and so on. It takes significant investment in time and effort to even make it that far – and to become a Coke or a Red Bull that transcends its product to become a capital B brand in consumers’ minds is a whole other thing again.
Most brands fall at the first hurdle, so achieving and ingraining behavioural change presents another epic challenge.
It’s one thing to run a successful seasonal campaign, making a big noise for a short time. It’s something else to return to the same territory every year, gradually wearing a groove into your audience’s subconscious and conditioning them to link their brand with a moment. And if you’re anything other than relentless in your efforts, you’ll vanish from people’s minds as the next brand vying for attention muscles in.
But good news, marketers! When a brand has a genuine affinity with something their audience is passionate about, flags can be planted. Think of it as moving from brand to territory to moment. Nike’s rock-solid positioning in the running world allows them to go deeper and claim the first few strides of a run, for example. They understand the emotion of the moment, and can speak to it with sincerity.
Genuine emotional connections are what matter, until you mean something to your audience, you mean nothing.
And here’s another from our greatest hits album… It’s not about you. We celebrate Christmas, not Cokemas. We go for a run, not for a Nike. Enhance the things that matter – don’t try to make it yours and yours alone. If you can add to the gaiety of the nation, people will remember you.
So whether you pick Bonfire Night or National Hedgehog Day as your magic moment, ask yourself if your brand genuinely cares about it like your intended audience does. No? Forget it – you’ve still got work to do on cracking the emotional connection.
And if the answer’s yes, rejoice! You’re about to make something special even better for your punters. Now you just have to do it again every year, forever, and better each time. But hey, that’s marketing, right.
Fran Elliott is director of experiential and events at Momentum Worldwide.
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