Be prepared for people to love the brand you were, not the brand you are.

Mumbrella, an Australian media and marketing blog, reported here: http://tinyurl.com/c36gl8 this week that an online campaign for Schweppes called ‘Signs’ produced by Publicis Mojo finally went viral after “online users belatedly fell in love with it”.

The video is below, more from this post below the jump:

Reading that it took around a year for this campaign to become popular and viral,  it got me thinking about a whole bunch of questions regarding branding and brand exposure.  I’ve been asking myself for days ‘are people experiencing the Schweppes experience that Schweppes still want them to be experiencing?’

‘With viral campaigns being dependent on the users to make it ‘viral’ what was it before this? Was it a failed campaign?’ – Did Schweppes classify ‘Signs’ as a failure?

‘What happens if a meme forms around a campaign or brand concept that is no longer relevant or indeed is now shunned by the company it represents?’

In short, ‘what happens if people fall in love with the brand you were, not the brand you now are?’

As a marketing message, as a campaign and as a company, often times the market moves quickly. The campaign is about ‘quick churn’ because of the competitive nature of the business and consumer environment etc. In most cases the message, the media used and the infrastructure around the campaign are finite. They are generally controllable. Rarely, for example, would you have an individual or large group of individuals hold onto a campaign message from a newspaper or magazine for around a year before trying to claim the limited offer, the extra value mentioned or the experience the company was promoting.

But the internet doesn’t work like that. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Forever. It’s never coming back, and as a company you’re now stuck with that message which will be floating around forever, being a part of that company. Like a child becomes to a husband and wife, like an ipod becomes attached to me whenever I’m on public transport and like that half dozen Facebook friends that you finally agreed to have on your profile because it just got embarrassing when they tried to ‘friend’ you for the third time.

Now, obviously in the case of a campaign that was meant to go viral, it’s all well and good, virality and popularity is the goal. But what if by the time the campaign goes viral the company has moved on? What should the company do? What should the people who are now enjoying that message do? Should the company pull back it’s current message to accommodate that one?

In the case of Schweppes campaign, it took roughly one year for this video to become popular. Even then it only really happened after a powerful Youtube user thought it was cool and posted it. But surely Schweppes haven’t been sitting on their hands for a year hoping against hope that it’d become popular. They must have tried different messages between then and now.

I’m not sure if it is possible to stay relevent to your current consumers when you’re trying to appeal to those ones who’re still playing catch up based on an earlier campaign. But nor am I sure that a company necesarily has to. Brands mean different things to different people at different stages in their life and that’s fine. However I’m not sure how it would work if the company has shifted too radically i.e. Porsche moving out of tractors and into sports cars.

As a marketing professional it provides sobering food for thought that now more than ever much of what is produced and put out there is put out there for life and that it may come back and haunt us in the future – this blog post included I guess. And that we as the primary group of people responsible for how a brand and a company is seen, interacted with, experienced, enjoyed and consumed. We need to be aware that just because the focus is on ‘campaign A’ this week, month, season or year, doesn’t mean that when our focus is on ‘campaign B’ there isn’t a core group of consumers, or potential consumers, who are only just starting to experience ‘campaign A’.

What I’m saying here is that campaigns such as the video above clearly have longevity because it’s about a beautiful little story of two people finding each other. But what I’m also saying  is that it is a very good thing that Schweppes didn’t see it as a failed campaign, a lost marketing opportunity and then focused it’s branding attention on attracting the ‘extreme sports drink’ market. Because if they’d written off the ‘signs’ campaign as a failure and gone the ‘extreme’ path that would clash significantly with what the world, their consumers, their target market, is currently experiencing and enjoying.

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5 comments

  1. One thing that puzzles me about this campaign is that I did find evidence on a couple of other sites that the piece was posted at various points over the last few months, than taken down as a user violation just as it was getting popular.

    I do wonder if at one point Schweppes tried to keep it in the walled garden, so users had to go to their Short Film Festival site to view it.

    If that’s correct, it only went viral when they gave up on that strategy.

    Which is of course pertinent to your question of whether they even want it viral now.

    Cheers,

    Tim – Mumbrella

  2. yeah Reevesy I see your point, but at the same time it would have cost at least $150,000 to make that movie – i guess some companies just don’t want to write off that much money.

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