The Rising Cost of Entertainment

Source: This Is Money/HBOS

The squeeze on family budgets was brought into sharp focus by the publication of entertainment inflation figures for the entertainment and leisure pursuits of ordinary Britons. Some of the figures, particularly the cost of attending live sport are astonishing. When coupled with the rising price of fuel these bring the cost of a family day out up to frightening levels and out of the reach of many.

So what might this mean for brands? Well first of all giving your loyalists some kind of helping hand to have fun these days feels like a great opportunity. In the social sphere entertainment based rewards have got to be a great way to activate your community and to build size and scale.

Secondly it also stikes us that in a world rich with second screens and gaming consoles, creating shared family fun experiences to brighten up time at home is a big opportunity. ‘Gameification’ sounds like made up marketing babble and as such may be an offputting concept. However in a world where the price of fun is rising so rapidly, connecting with people through play looks like an attractive prospect.

With increasing numbers of people watching TV with Zeebox in their hands expect to see branded fun built into many major broadcast campaigns over the next twelve months.

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Coachella 2012: taking sponsorship to the next level

 

Music festival Coachella has recently wrapped up the second of its two long weekends. Taking advantage of the relatively warm climates of the Californian desert, the famous event jumpstarts the summer festival season. This year’s event has seen sponsors step up with innovative marketing ideas, whilst Coachella (itself a brand) has also provided a brilliant example of maximizing social media presence.

Boasting an eclectic line up of artists over the two weekends – none of which are overtly commercial and many of which have gained popularity by the release of free music – bombarding festival goers with brand messaging and products with a lack of relevance to the surroundings could have backfired. It appears that this year’s sponsors were aware of this and delivered innovative solutions for their brands, enhancing consumers’ festival experience.

Heineken launched its cold storage room, allowing Coachella attendees to store up to two cases of Heineken in their own personal coolers accessed via the owners’ thumbprints. Helping to avoid frequent queuing throughout the day and, worst of all, warm beers (the bane of a festival goer’s life!). Meanwhile several fashion brands, such as Lacoste and Guess, hosted after parties near the festival site, with an array of entertainment options, including performances from some artists featured at Coachella, to support the launch of new products.

As mobile phones have become an increasingly popular replacement to a lighter in the air, illuminating the arena at the request of the artist, sponsoring a festival has become a logical choice for phone companies – particularly in light of research that suggests 66% of concert goers nowadays take pictures via their smartphones and about 32% send Facebook updates or tweets from a show. T-Mobile took advantage of this, bringing their ‘Neon Carnival’ to Coachella. This included carnival games and thrill rides such as bumper cars, an enormous Ferris wheel and a giant slide. Again, the reason for this event was the launch of a new product (new beats by Dre sound technology for the HTC one mobile phone) – however, it was placed in the context of a funfair, allowing those attending to receive a memorable, positive brand experience.

In a bid for cultural relevance (topic discussed in my previous blog post) Hyundai presented their Re:Generation music documentary, placing artists from different genres together in creative collaboration. Hyundai’s Advertising Director David Matathia hopes this approach is a “more effective model that appeals to that audience more than pushing ad messages at them”. It would appear these brands have headed the warning of Scott Lucas, executive director of Interbrand Cincinnati, who advised “the experience needs to be carefully planned to ensure not just execution but relevancy”.

 As for Coachella itself, the now infamous Tupac hologram generated a huge buzz across all social media platforms during the first weekend, as mentions of the hologram exceeded 2.3 million tweets during one evening alone. The festival’s embracement of viral output (the whole weekend was streamed live) and notable online presence helped it amplify the buzz. Through developing a YouTube channel, and Tumblr, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, the festival had a presence across 9 social media platforms. As a brand itself, Coachella has laid the blueprint for those in the consumer market to follow when thinking of creating consumer engagement, product content and generating buzz. The only difficult part is coming up with the creative idea to get people talking.

Divided generations: what can generational theory teach us about advertising to the young and old?

Youth Flowers is a 69 year old Baby Boomer DJ. Living it young like the new old should.

Most of us in advertising belong either to Generation Y (born between mid-seventies and mid-nineties, characterised by a sense of presumed self-importance) or Generation X (born between mid-seventies and sixties, those are the ones drinking to avoid going home), and we’re generally aware of our own generations’ needs and habits. However, as Baby Boomers (born before mid-sixties) approach retirement and Generation Z (born later than mid-nineties) start having disposable incomes of their own, it’s worth looking at what these groups are really like, as their views and lifestyles aren’t like ours – or how we’d expect them to be.

Baby Boomers

For the first time, the under 16s are outnumbered by pensioners, as the Baby Boom Generation are reaching retirement. These Baby Boomers are, despite their old age, maintaining their place as the dominant economic force in consumer UK, as argued by ‘two brains’ Willets in his book The Pinch. They hold more than 80 per cent of the nation’s £6.7trn in wealth, they have been the main beneficiaries of the property boom, and have comparatively decent pensions.

Despite youth culture dominating society, the old are the ones who can afford to live like youngsters, with young people paying for expensive mortgages, university fees, and their parents’ pensions. Our language is infused with terms that capture the enduring youth of older generations – kidulthood, menoporsche, grandboomer, middleyouth – and our technology uptake is now driven by older gadget lovers. In addition, Baby Boomers increasingly opt for partial retirement, slowing the transition from work to full time gardening. When retired, their main priorities are their hobbies, holiday homes, and their financial future – often achieved through “skiing” (an abbreviation for spending the kids’ inheritance). In recent years, we’ve increasingly seen the entertainment industry and popular culture responding to their needs, with the Dome full of bands from the Baby Boomers’ youth, and films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel getting mass audiences in cinemas

A constantly connected generation

Though outnumbered by Baby Boomers, there is a new generation – Generation Z – that is starting to experience the joys of disposable income for the first time. However, unlike Boomers, they appear to have a very conservative set of hopes for the future. A ‘Generations apart’ series for Radio 4 recently conducted interviews with older members of Generation Z and found that the main hopes of those interviewed were for decent work, stable housing, and a contented family life.

This generation has grown up during mass unemployment, economic uncertainty and fear of terrorism, and many argue that this experience has conditioned this generation into rejecting the radicalism of previous generations and focusing instead on working hard to get the basic things in life. As a result, they are becoming servants to convention – less liberal, less experimental and not creating rebellious niche sub-cultures that their parents used to belong to.  We might see advertising targeted at the youth moving to focus more on values such as safety, security, stability, and ‘normality’.

The way this messaging is delivered will undoubtedly change as well. Generation Z have grown with a multi-screen, digitally connected world being the norm. This will impact how advertisers try to reach this new group, with joined up digital messaging increasingly becoming commonplace.

In addition, towns are divided up by age (into old, middle-aged and young areas) more than ever before. For instance, town centres now have no bingo halls, but an abundance of wine bars. Consequently, outdoor advertising could soon be more effective at targeting youth (as well as other age groups).

Even though the generation is less radical, it will have some high expectations, having grown up during the democratisation of luxury; to them, a posh hand bag is a statement that should be afforded by anyone, not just the rich. They’ve also spent much of their youth receiving content and entertainment for free, adding to their heightened and hard-to-meet expectations.

(Sub) Culture Marketing

Brands seek cultural capital by aligning themselves with underground talent

The use of celebrity endorsement has been a long established technique for brands looking to expand, create a buzz or gain some level of fame. However, an obvious disparity between the values or interests of the chosen endorser and those of the brand may lead to public cynicism. In addition a misjudged communication strategy can lead to infamy rather than fame, highlighted by Snickers’ promoted tweet campaign which received an unfavourable response.

Avoiding these concerns, many brands are focusing instead on investment in culture rather than on any one particular individual to endorse their brand or product. Colin Drummond of Ogilvy West argues this approach is ‘established by a brand looking to be a facilitator of culture, broadening the horizons past simply focusing on the benefits of the product alone’. Red Bull have been the pioneers in the way of culture led marketing, establishing a music academy in 1998, involving participants from across the globe and notable artists running seminars every year.

There have been other notable examples of brands looking to connect with consumers in a broad cultural landscape. These include the Smirnoff nightlife exchange project featuring Madonna and Garnier’s pop up salons at summer music festivals. However, recently some brands have been directing their activities outside of the mainstream, as an alternative strategy in pursuit of cultural relevancy. Here are some examples:

In promotion of a new Sportswear range, Nike’s ‘Always On’ campaign included a multitude of vignettes featuring up and coming unsigned artists, creating original tracks to accompany visuals that starred athletes of varying degrees of popularity from a number of sports. The video below focuses on the annual Dyckman basketball tournament in Harlem, New York which is organised by the community and features amateur stars within the sub culture of streetball. The soundtrack is provided by Harlem artist Vado. It features no overt product messaging and integrates the brand into the storyline. The focus is on cultural relevance among a sub-genre and, in a broader context, support of local community.


 

Moving further away from any kind of product placement (besides a not-so-subtly worn baseball cap), Reebok have recently partnered with unsigned New York artists Action Bronson & Party Supplies. Part of Reebok’s classic sessions campaign. They financed an entire project available for free download, establishing Reebok’s investment in music and the creative process. Again, there is an absence of any product messaging, besides casual references dropped into conversation in the below video. As you will note, the only overt branding is the Reebok logo at the beginning and end of the video. The focus is on entertaining the consumer’s cultural interests, creating a greater possibility of sharing the content.


 

Besides simply investing in the normal activities of an artist, some brands are looking to involve cultural figures as creative directors. Expanding on the role of simple endorser and providing a platform to put their talents to work on behalf of the brand. Again, there are examples of this on a grander scale, such as Lady Gaga designing a product for Polaroid or Jean Paul Gaultier for Diet Coke.

Contrastingly, Sony, in their bid for cultural relevance, has looked towards underground personalities enlisting Prodigy (New York rapper), Mike Posner (singer/songwriter) and Steve Aoki (electro house musician) to curate a cover for their new Sony S Tablet, in a social media tie in with fashion magazine Complex. The interviews featuring each artist involve both the product and personality in equal measure; the value created is in the selection of those individuals, helping to leverage cultural respect and authenticity. It will be interesting to see if other brands follow suit and value cultural marketing as a key component of brand promotion in the U.K.

Plato, Aristotle and the art of telling brand stories

Just to show that insights and inspiration can come from any source, I’m going to transport you back to the intellectual cauldron that was ancient Athens.

Sam Leith’s recent book on the lost art of rhetoric, ‘You Talkin’ To Me?’ draws heavily on the the principles of public speaking and framing of persuasive arguments from an age before Gutenberg let alone Google.

He isolates the three key elements of a persuasive argument:

Ethos – my credibility

Logos – the rational reasons for my argument

Pathos – my emotional appeal to you

These approaches and their combination are basically what we build for brands when we tell their stories, either via crafting content or working out how to build a plan to fit the consumer journey.

I saw a really inspiring presentation from an M&C Saatchi planner this week that also suggested that in combinations of two, these principles are great foundations for building brand positionings. His argument was that by using all three there is a danger of being all things to all men.

Anyway there you have it. Check out Sam Leith and his search for the perfect rhetorical argument and get a different perspective on your planning issue.

Tanning of the UK?

1986, Madison Square Garden, New York City: The whole crowd take one shoe off and proudly hoist it in the air at the command of the nights MC’s, rap duo Run-DMC, creating a visual intro to their record ‘My Adidas’. This was an early indicator of the influence of hip-hop culture on consumerism and what Steve Stoute would coin ‘a tanning moment’.

Steve Stoute is a former music executive turned marketer, who made his success by ignoring barriers traditionally drawn around demographics and ethnicity, identifying today’s generation “as a generation that grew up listening to music that wasn’t necessarily the music their parents listened to …  a generation that doesn’t see through color, but rather through shared cultural experiences”. This is what he identifies as ‘The Tanning of America’, the title of his recently published book which documents the rise and influence of hip-hop/urban culture since the 80s.

Some examples of campaigns developed by Stoute’s marketing firm Translation

“Consumers want to connect, believe and immerse themselves in the experience. They want to see themselves fit into the story”

Although the book provides insight and examples of the US marketplace, the message delivered rings true across the Atlantic, with urban artists achieving huge chart success in the last 12-18 months in particular. Artists such as Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder, Professor Green and Wretch 32 have been busy creating their own scene, sound and style but share a common thread with their US counterparts. As Tinchy’s manager Jack Foster commented in a recent Guardian interview, “rap is aspirational. It’s always been about bettering yourself.” Stoute suggests that brands which successfully convey similar messages of ambition and success will attract people who want to show ‘the world they’re moving forward, that they do have aspirations in life’, tapping into a universal language.

Despite the evidence, there is a noticeable lack of brands looking to take advantage of the influence wielded by rap artists and the appeal of the urban scene in the UK. The only notable success to date is the Lucozade sports campaign featuring  Tinie Tempah. This original TV ad quickly received over 350,000 YouTube views and was eventually released as a downloadable single. Tinie Tempah became the first non-athlete endorser of Lucozade, a milestone which can be compared to Jay-Z’s deal with Reebok in 2003. At the time, Jay-Z became the first non-athlete to have a signature athletic footwear collection, which would produce some of the company’s best-selling shoes.

With everything from bottled water ads featuring breakdancing babies to contestants rapping on the X-Factor, it could be the time for the multicultural dimension of thought to be embraced just as it was by the Adidas marketing execs who were in the crowd on that night in 1985.

Will marketers in the UK begin to understand the modern generations shared likes and interests, and will they be brave enough to break from the status quo and embrace this cultural shift?