Burgers, beer, and vaccinations: the time is ripe for marketers to get bold 

Adrenalin Marketing Solutions partner Paul Rogers wants to see more from brands in a time when the playbook can, and has, gone out the window.

Marketing budgets have been shrinking since long before the pandemic, but the advent of COVID-19 has only resulted in even greater penny-pinching. Companies are operating with significantly reduced marketing budgets, often with reduced staffing levels on reduced hours.  

At the same time, inefficiencies in the sales and marketing process have resulted in far too much box-ticking, leaving bold, brave ideas on the cutting room floor. We are left with reactive change and campaigns that just add to the noise. One look at the plethora of identical marketing reactions to the pandemic will show you exactly what I’m talking about.  

Over time, marketers have become increasingly risk-averse at the expense of proactive innovation. Instead of great ideas with huge impacts, marketers would rather rely on the easy option: namely, spray and pray digital ads and saccharine ‘we’re here for you’ messaging.  

As a result, we’re facing a serious lack of long-term impact and connection. Agencies need to compete on much more than simply trying to outgun each other on PPC, SEO and social media. 

The only thing worse than trying new things and being risky is staying the same – just ask Kodak, Blockbuster and Nokia. Testing, experiments, and trials are almost always positive. You always learn something new, even if the ad, product, service, or rebrand doesn’t ultimately make it into the mainstream market.  

Let’s take Burger King as an example of advertising that certainly wasn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers. Burger King is well-known for owning the ‘flame-grilled’ positioning. Flames come from fire, which goes some way to explain why Burger King holds the record for the highest number of restaurant-related fires than any other fast-food chain. Back in 2017, it decided to own this fact and create a series of ads that showed real-life Burger King chains on fire. 

Another burger-related example comes from Hungry Jack’s, which McDonald’s inevitably thought was just a little too similar to the iconic Big Mac. McDonald’s sued Hungry Jack’s, which then responded with an ad disputing the legal challenge. Hungry Jack’s knew it would create far more noise driven by McDonald’s legal suit, than by their media spend alone. It was a saga that probably made a fair few lawyers richer and benefitted both companies overall.  

Even more recently, we’ve had marketers promoting getting vaccinated via a series of unique promotions. It was super important that, as Australian brand icons,  Qantas and Telstra got on the front foot with some really strong messaging around the issue. It was also good to see Telstra take a truly integrated approach with below the line offerings including Telstra Plus points and prize draws. It was also good to see relatively low-key brands like road toll brand Linkt using vaccinations as an entry to a prize draw to win a car. 

Back in July, The Prince Alfred Pub in Melbourne offered a free pint to patrons who were vaccinated. The TGA told them to stop, but then the Prime Minister backed their idea. Now search the web to find out how many pubs and brewers have offered the same deal. 

Simply put, the more interesting the creative idea, the more it should stand out and less you may have to spend on reach and frequency because you win on memorability. A ‘viral’ idea will grow organically and will stick in the mind simply by being memorable.  

Truly integrated campaigns backed by new ideas might require more time and planning, but the budget won’t be stretched anywhere near as far. For those marketers suffering from continued budget cuts, this is welcome news. As Victor Hugo once said: “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” 

Paul Rogers is partner at Adrenalin Marketing Solutions.


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