Jumping On The Bandwagon

If you didn’t catch last month’s cover of Private Eye, then this might tickle you… It says “Man in hat sits on chair”. 

The reason why I love this so much is because it’s the absolute antithesis of all the other mags tripping over themselves with their front covers promising the Coronation lowdown, inside info on all the outfits or the real reason Meghan wasn’t there.

This led me to think about how totally shameful so many brands were in how they attached themselves to the coronation. A quick search through my and I can see Costco, Clarins, Moonpig, Bobbi Brown and Holland & Barrett have all been spamming with reasons why I must use this opportunity of a £100m ceremony involving a philandering new monarch and his suddenly not the Consort but actually apparently now “Queen” to buy new face cream, vitamins and large screen tv’s. Is it me?

On one hand I do get why brands feel the need to connect into the zeitgeist, but I really wish brands were more held to account as to the reasons why they are shamelessly jumping on the bandwagon of everything and anything with absolutely zero connection to their offering or their brand promise. 

Back in 2012 when Eurostar pitched to be a sponsor of the London Olympics, we had to prove meticulously that we were adding value to the games and would have a positive impact on the delivery of the games itself. We felt the benefit of being able to sustainably bring millions of spectators in from the continent seemed a bit bloody obvious but we had to not only prove it, create huge amounts of added value in terms of customer experience and marketing spend and stay very firmly in our lane of Official International Rail Services Provider.

Negotiating that contract cost me 9 months of my life that I’ll never get back but looking at these kind of meaningless brand connections I find myself wishing that this kind of rigour was more commonplace.

Sat writing this in an airport lounge with a client who shall remain nameless but who actually admits they used this kind of promotion and it works and being aware that for many retailers connecting with popular events makes absolute sense, I am soul-searching as to why it bothers me so much and I have come to the conclusion that it’s just downright lazy! 

As brand consultants, we pour meticulously through customer data, run endless workshops, absorb ourselves in the marketplace and diligently peel back the onion of our clients’ culture to really understand what makes a brand unique. And being a brand purist it would be my wish that every touch point with the customer oozes this uniqueness so the shameless plugging of a Royal event, that has zero actual relevance to the brand promise, the customer need or the uniqueness of their offering just makes no sense to me and actually makes me feel less affinity with those brands. 

I imagine brands with the confidence to really know who they are wouldn’t go near this kind of mindless marketing – Nike, Apple, Audi and Lululemon wouldn’t get distracted by event specific planning in this way. In fact, Lululemon’s recent pop-up experience in LA offering “dupes’ exchange is a perfect example of a brand who has confidence and is prepared to put their brand promise where their mouth is.  With relatively low investment in just one location, the PR benefit and the brand consideration this will drive will be worth so much more than any email saying celebrate the Coronation with a yoga mat!

With pride coming next month, I’m already bracing myself for the brands who think sticking a rainbow flag on their packaging makes them a supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights even though they market in countries where homosexuality is illegal. 

If brand owners really understand their customers needs and wants, and have a strong sense of what their brand stands for, their annual marketing plan should be shaped specifically around the creation of culturally relevant, brand relevant moments, not just the pigging-backing of national events where they are clambering for share of voice.

So if you’re a brand owner and you’re reading this and thinking about how your annual planning cycle, start with your brand framework, have a big think about how to create memorable, salient moments with your customers’ and start with a blank sheet of paper, not an annual events calendar!