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Wrong Brand, Wrong Place

September 20, 2009

The South Bank is a fine place on Saturday morning; autumn sunlight twinkling on the Thames, cafes full with people easing into their weekend and crowds milling around buskers and market stalls. And a very expensive looking sports brand promotion that was failing to sparkle. The crowds were decidedly not being drawn to their street racing and lycra clad energy drinking experiential. Tactical marketing has always been about knowing your territory, your battleground, the conditions. Unfortunately for the big sports brand, their glamorous looking sprint track, staffed by rows of branded helpers with funky security leashes and sound-tracked by some slammin beats and funky MC straight out of CNSKY24SprtsDesk Channel 3, just didn’t work in that cruisey, laid back, arty and cultured environment.

A handful of people (I’d say less than 30) watched the event – whilst thousands purposefully shyed away from the colour coordinated crew and branded flaggery. It was as if Tesco aisle four had suddenly appeared at a little farmers market in Dorset. Imagine the Xtra Factor cringemesiters parking up with their shouty 6th form enthusiasm – at Womad. Sometimes marketing is about managing by the numbers and no doubt the plans and numbers of the pr’s and the agency folk looked good. ‘We estimate 50-75,000 people will visit this area on a Saturday morning and 45% are target demographic’. Unfortunately sometimes marketing is about the numbers PLUS  the gooooey, gut-feel, softee people stuff too. Feel, fit and charm. One of my best bosses often said it was ‘gut’ that helped her make a good decision and thinking like everyday folk, not our agency ghetto. No-one at the fab sports brand had said – ‘Yeah, but isn’t the South Bank an arty river side area full of bookish folk watching buskers and having brunch, maybe you know, we might look a bit, err like McDonalds at a Slow Food Fair?’ . On Saturday the crowds flocked to the cool dancers, the salsa band, the weird martial arts thing. Each of these things complemented the other – yes, in my language they were collaborative marketing partners. The crowd watching the dancers, then went on to watch the band and so on. They fitted with each other, sharing a sense of style, tone and charm – and audience expectation. So, what could have been done? The sports brand did not have to go out with pumping muscle bound Friday night sports. They could have gone with a softer tone and with a  more appropriate sport for a Saturday morning by the Thames. Gymnastics, free-styling soccer skills or free running or climbing walls. Still sporty, still cool, still emotive – but right for the time and place, where they don’t clash with the surroundings.  Saturday was the right place for the right brand to fit in. And realise that sometimes, its Okay to share some of the limelight, not overpower it.

Not the place for mega brand glitz …

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