OPINION: Fast-tracking brand building via a slice of Hollywood

Phil Jones
By Phil Jones | 11 June 2013

We all buy products because of ‘intrinsic’ functional product features or benefits to some degree, yet every marketer knows that it is the ‘extrinsic’ brand associations that commonly drive interest, trial and brand adoption - associations that differentiate otherwise identical products.

And we are all in the business of forging and maintaining those brand associations and values. As the marketing director said to the production director, “You manufacture the product and we’ll manufacture the difference”.

‘Manufacturing the Difference’, however, is becoming increasingly difficult. Being old enough to remember how it was done in the 80s in FMCG multinationals, I recall campaign weights frequently involving many thousands of TARPS – using TV commercials as a battering ram to establish and maintain brand awareness and desired associations.

Over the decades however, budgets have dwindled, media has fragmented and marketers typically don’t have the same kind of financial resources to reposition existing brands or establish powerful brands. The creative has to work much harder.

Which is where pre-existing brand associations in the form of licensed properties and characters can often help.

When The Bridge was developing a campaign for Bulla Creamy Classics ice cream late last year, the desired associations for the brand related to comfort, relaxation and coming home – some of the best feelings in the world.

It can take a very long time to establish such associations from scratch but there’s a character that’s already famous for representing and enjoying the feeling of coming home, one that incidentally is a ‘classic’ - Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

The Bridge worked with Warner Bros. and the client to develop a campaign involving Dorothy and a soundtrack based on ‘There’s no place like home’. Approvals were swift and the subsequent campaign resulted in the largest increase in (non-discounted) sales ever recorded by the client – despite very modest media weights.

Advertising recall was higher than any previously tracked TVC by Bulla and 14 percentage points higher than its nearest competitor, even though it ran at half its competitor’s campaign weight. Brand equity measures also increased dramatically, with the number of people ‘recommending the brand’ tripling in size. And this was for a low budget, low weight, short-lived campaign involving two four-week bursts.

In all, the process fast tracked what would typically have been an expensive, drawn out process that can take millions of dollars and very many months.

Warner Bros. had already done all the heavy lifting by establishing the associations desired by the Creamy Classics brand - and Bulla was effectively hitching a ride. It wasn’t a free ride of course; fees had to be paid. But it was much faster than walking and, in the long run, much cheaper when one considers the typical costs involved in forging and maintaining brand associations.

Detractors of such a strategy sometimes say using licenced properties is a lazy way out, and that brands shouldn’t have to rely on borrowed associations from characters or movies.

Far from being lazy however, it can often be inspired. In fact, the people making movies are themselves clearly in the business of prompting emotional responses and establishing associations, much more so than the average ad agency or marketer - and they routinely use ‘pre-existing’ songs and music in their movies. Just look at the extensive music credits at the end of most films.

In the way that Hollywood and movie-makers use famous music to great effect we, in turn, can improve our understanding of how to use licenced properties in building our consumer brands.

Phil Jones
The Bridge Consulting Group

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