By Ramairo Davis

Cannes. The Colosseum of the Comms Industry, well… sort of. Replace the blood splatters with social chatter and behold! A last man standing contest where Branding Legends slug it out for mere mortals. Watching with anxiety, envy and passion. What can bystanders learn from this year’s champions to help earn their place among them?

Prove why you’re relevant

Nowadays, making good products isn’t enough. Societies demand more from companies, especially the big ones. With so much noise pollution, brands near wage mortal combat to get their messages remembered, let alone engaged with. The Titans of Cannes had several answers to this problem.

Enter: “The Tampon Book”.

German feminine hygiene goods company ‘The Female Company’ (TFC), wowed the world when they sold a box of tampons disguised as a book. The book was filled with important information on the injustice of tampon tax rates. The clever bit? Books in Germany are taxed at a lower rate than tampons

It was an undeniable success. The book sold out within a day, the second edition within a week. And TFC achieved unprecedented brand awareness and engagement.

And the results went even further. By deliberately provoking a wider conversation about the German tax laws, a publicly created petition against the tampon tax achieved 150,000 signatures, female politicians took numerous selfies with ‘The Tampon Book’ and extensive media coverage fueled an ongoing debate. Now the tampon tax is set to be debated within the German Parliament.

TFC presented itself as a ‘constructive citizen’ and started a campaign around a social issue of prime importance to its consumer demographic. Standing out and building trust at a time where the bottom line isn’t always the final word.

The Power of Moments

Hashtags, memes, short video clips. Pick your weapon. Social media has changed the rules of brand engagement. And this year, The Burger King reigned supreme.

Burger King dominated the arena when, in true social media style, they “trolled” McDonald’s. Creating a promotional mobile offer to get a Whopper for one cent, with one condition: unlock their app within 600ft of their rival’s restaurant. They called this the, #WhopperDetour. And … the Internet exploded.

BK gave a masterclass in creating a moment that engages people. Over three billion impressions and 1.5 million app downloads in 9 days took the brand to #1 in both the Apple and Android app store charts and saw the highest store traffic in four years.

And as you would have expected, sales skyrocketed.

Mobile sales tripled during the promotion and remained twice as high as expected in the aftermath for an extended period. Burger King had an optimal understanding of how to engage an audience on social media and made its strategy built around marketing a moment, not a product. Burger King obtained itself countless amounts of earned media. However, the winning blow was when they, effectively, converted a McDonald’s restaurant into BK’s place of business. All hail the King!

Recreate what works

The best marketers always look to affect how their audience feels about the brand. Create an emotional connection with your audience and you can inspire them to action. The messaging needs to be consistent with Brand Identity and the core values they represent. However, when it comes to ideas on how to tell a story, Nike proved you can rework the classics with some original spin.

Nike caused an uproar when they chose Colin Kaepernick as the face of their “Dream Crazy” campaign. It received widespread criticism and heralded a mistake causing a stock value to drop by 3%.

Releasing a new advert on the first day of US sports season silenced all doubters.

Achieving around $160m mentions in earned media, $6bn in brand value and over 30% increase in online sales. What was regarded as a hopeless campaign became a branding masterclass and it changed with one story – “Dream Crazy”.

Nike reinforced its brand identity, honouring athletic achievement with a focus on the idea of pushing boundaries, doing what others deemed “crazy”. Selecting athletes who became known for being anomalies and outcasts, breaking through barriers and changing perceptions of what’s impossible, in a biopic-like narrative, reporting record level stock prices in the aftermath.

But if you look closely, you’ll notice that “Dream Crazy” resembles Steve Jobs’ 1997 “The Crazy Ones” – the iconic ad that began Apple’s renaissance.  Like “Dream Crazy” advert, “The Crazy Ones” had a biographical style, included short clips of key icons and was narrated in the third person. Nike even admitted that the core message was inspired by Apple’s Steve Jobs who, in turn, cited Nike as inspiration for the original ad.

Ultimately, a great branding strategy, takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Newer brands need to learn from the greats to achieve their objectives faster. Whether it is: brand preference, brand awareness, brand credibility or distinction. Arm yourself with these tactics detailed above. Have your story become a legend and claim your place among other titan brands. The crowd awaits.

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