I was sitting in a half-empty cinema when an attendant called out “Is anyone here from Heineken?”, which was met only by silence and the shaking of heads. “No, nobody?… They should have an attendee list” he tailed off, and left the room. Beside me sat the friend who had invited me after winning two tickets to a preview screening of Northern Soul courtesy of Heineken’s Open Your City Campaign. As she munched on a random, but delicious, brand of popcorn that had been placed on each chair, the screen crackled into action and an amusing ad played in which a man experienced a whole range of brilliant activities delivered exclusively to him by Heineken.
The ad went on for two minutes, then the film started. And that was my brand experience done and dusted. My cup holder stood empty, bereft of even one bottle of Heineken, and I looked around enviously at those who had had the foresight to buy a Stella Artois from the cinema bar.
Before you call me ungrateful, I know I got a free night out, but – albeit speaking as a selfish Millennial with high expectations – is that really enough? A complimentary cinema ticket is lovely, but it is not a brand experience per se. In fact, a free beer was the least of my expectations. Maybe it is because I have been spoilt in the past by being at some great events – such as a pub quiz run by Converse last year (about which I blogged enthusiastically at the time) and a Williams Martini Racing event run by the team here at Synergy, where fans had the chance to play table football during the FIFA World Cup with F1 drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. However, the fundamental reason was that, this being my first real exposure to the campaign – as mentioned, my friend won the tickets not I - we both left the cinema wondering why Heineken had actually done the activity.
— James Masters (@JamesEFMasters) July 2, 2014
Naturally curious, as someone who works in marketing would be, on my return home I looked up the Open Your City campaign online and re-ran the ad. Strategically, the idea of Heineken being the hero through which you discover varied experiences in your home city is a brilliant one. Both the website and content are incredibly slick, and the six-month media partnership with the Metro, promoting the campaign in London, is smart.
In short, I know why my friend and all those in the cinema with us were drawn to apply. But if a campaign fails to apply the same level of quality to all aspects of activity, it is an opportunity lost. Arguably the experiential moment is the most important part here, as it is the climax of the brand engagement. Moreover, as these consumers are actually interacting face to face with the brand and its values, they must be treated as VIPs; they are, after all, the people who will share, both on and offline, their experiences with their social communities.
We should never underplay the importance of word of mouth. Only yesterday I chatted to two colleagues who had a spot of lunch at Virgin Media’s TV Diner, a one-day only pop-up restaurant where celebrity chef Neil Rankin was creating dishes inspired by cult classics – including Pulp Fiction’s Big Kahuna Burger – to demonstrate Virgin Media’s huge entertainment library. In this case my colleagues had made the effort to book a ticket for this brand experience and thus expectations were high. Half a glass of cola and some (admittedly delicious) food later, however, they left not feeling any more affinity to the Virgin brand.
There was, for example, no explanation of why the pop-up existed, no encouragement to engage with the event socially, and criminally, no cult classics playing on TV screens to add some much needed atmosphere, not to mention product placement. In fact, the activity felt like a PR stunt in which they were nothing more than the photographer’s props – a sense reinforced by the lack of pre-promotion for the event, which was another missed opportunity. Clearly, at this pop-up more could have been done to truly enhance the consumer impression of the brand; something we have stressed is vitally important in previous Synergy blogs.
It is vital to approach integrated brand campaigns through an holistic lens; however, both of these case studies appear to have been led unequally by different disciplines. A media and TV perspective seems to be leading Heineken’s Open Your City, whilst the Virgin Media Diner was led by PR. A bias towards particular angles can cause other equally, if not more important elements (such as the consumer experiential experience) not to be exploited to their full potential.
A great campaign is the sum of its parts – if one cog isn’t quite right, the narrative machine will falter. At Synergy, and in the wider world of sponsorship, we take a media neutral approach, the emphasis being to focus a campaign around a core passion point which must be enhanced through all touchpoints of our brand activation.
I must stress that this blog has been based on two very personal experiences and perhaps these are isolated examples – since my trip to the cinema I’ve seen some Heineken Open Your City events that look truly engaging and, maybe, better reflect the expectations set by the ATL campaign. I am a marketing geek though – I enjoy delving into these things and evaluating them objectively.
But we must not assume everyone is the same, why would they be? A few minutes of a bad or disappointing experience can taint our otherwise positive views of a brand. Campaigns must provide a consistent level of experience and be truly holistic, otherwise opportunities to truly engage consumers may be lost and people may go home disappointed.
I was certainly left thirsty for something more.
By James Masters on October 16th, 2014
Tags: Alcohol, Brand marketing, Branded content, Consultancy, Default, Event management consultants, Event management service, Experiential marketing, Formula 1, PR, Public relations, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultancy, Synergy, Twitter