30 Nov Wipe the slate clean for Empty13
National events dominated the agenda for 2012 and most of 2011. Starting with the Royal Wedding we witnessed a steady progression through to the Jubilee celebrations, Euro 2012, Wimbledon and, of course, the Olympic Games. The latter was arguably the greatest British event in a generation: the games engaged people from all backgrounds like nothing we have ever seen before, making a reported £10bn for the UK economy, which was enough to pull the country out of recession for the third quarter of the year.
The games now finished, the Olympic Park stands empty and the excitement is now but a fond memory. The emptiness is felt by everyone but arguably by marketers most of all, many of whom have ridden the waves of Olympic fever with their campaigns – making the most of the games and other events over the past 18 months. If not directly attaching their name to the games, they’ve donned a red, white and blue British pride to suit the mood. Now we arguably have no national event of any significance to focus on until the 2015 Rugby World Cup. We are heading shortly into a new year, dubbed ‘Empty13’, a supposed marketing black hole where there is no wide consensus or agenda. But is this phenomenon a curse, or a blessing? What must brands do to maintain their relevancy and engage with customers without riding piggyback atop national events to exploit the exposure?
This is where 2013 offers a unique opportunity. Companies can use Empty13 to get back to what the Director of UK Sales at Twitter, Bruce Daisley, calls ‘core brand narratives’, making their message company-specific, unique and original without the need to associate with an external entity. With no overall agenda to jump on, brands must at the same time attempt to make deeper connections with the public, and it is conceivable that greater brand loyalty will be the reward.
Yes, the Olympics have gone, but it doesn’t mean it is now useless to marketers. It is a widely held belief that the greatest thing to come from the Games was a general sense of goodwill, friendliness and togetherness. This near-universal sentiment provided by the Olympics can still be used. We don’t need to recycle the same pictures of Jess Ennis and the ‘Mo-bot’, but the simple idea of national cohesion and people being nice to one another can be developed further into a modern idea of ‘Britishness’ that can still be part of an effective marketing strategy.
One thing companies have to be wary of, however, is falling silent after a campaign before suddenly reappearing with a new one. Social Media is still exploding and it is a 24-7 arena of constant brand engagement. In this digital world it is marketing suicide to stop Tweeting the message. Companies must use 2013 to develop more long-lasting and constant strategies with the aim of appearing relevant all the time. One top marketer referred to it as ‘Madonna vs. Rihanna’. The former is well known for coming up with an album and accompanying look before disappearing post-Tour and emerging, sometimes years later, with a completely new look. Rihanna changes theme but without the disappearing act: she is always public and releases new material regularly with no breaks in between. Whilst both women are very successful, in this day and age marketers must adopt the Rihanna approach to keep on top.
Another consideration for us marketers is – have we over-hyped the importance of a national agenda upon which to focus our marketing efforts? Although events have offered a target to focus on, and thus brought opportunities, they have also represented limitations: namely in originality and pigeon-holing. This year’s sporting campaigns tended to be fairly limited and repetitive in terms of the message; many appeared ‘samey’, attaching their name to events without necessarily representing the company’s values appropriately.
Just because there isn’t a general theme for marketers to synthesise around, it doesn’t mean there aren’t customers and products; these things are constant and the potential for opportunities will remain. Brands now have the opportunity to think outside the box and build personal and thus longer lasting, relationships with customers. Above all, brands must focus on good service and fair pricing. Empty13 represents a clean slate and it must be viewed positively and embraced. With no set agenda for Empty13, companies have the opportunity to really differentiate themselves.
By Martin Robinson