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Passion as the new purpose

  • Date:

    12 October 2020

Passion as the new purpose

In a constant war for attention, aligning brands with content that consumers are seeking right now is a powerful way to deliver cut through, writes Elliott Millard, head of strategic planning, Wavemaker

We live in a marketing world where the obsession around relevance has reached saturation in the current Covid-19 crisis. There are now so many brands assuring us that they are “here for you / your family / the country” in this “unprecedented time / time of uncertainty / challenging times” that they have become anodyne.

The net effect of this is that communications become undifferentiated and ineffective.

It is clear that consumers want something more than bland Covid assurances. Entertaining when others are being serious and aligning a brand with the positive consumer interests outside of the crisis can be a powerful way to behave.

The foundation of this belief is that real people simply don’t pay as much attention to advertising as we’d like them to – between 15% and 25% of ads are both remembered and correctly attributed more than 24 hours after exposure*. And – echoing Byron Sharp’s maxim of creating distinctive assets – this challenge is amplified when so many advertisers are saying the same thing.

At Wavemaker, we understand that growth is hard – less than 10% of brands grow more than a few percentage points of market share** – but we also understand that growth is about being meaningfully different. This is what underpins our approach of positive provocation.

And right now, consumers actively want brands to entertain them as we seek escapism in times of uncertainty. That’s why magazine brands – especially home interest and lifestyle ­– have been so successful during lockdown and are seeing such high increases in subscription at the moment.

The desire for escapism and the desire to spend time with the things you care about at a time when so much of our experience has been monolithic and universal is a powerful driver. And it’s one that as advertisers we should be attuned to. In the last economic crisis, the most successful brands were often ones that leant into distraction and emotion rather than reminding us of how bleak it was – the T-Mobile flashmob ad is the poster child for this.***

The same insight was behind our work for comparethemarket with Meerkat Music, creating a moment that brought the UK together around something joyful and celebratory. But huge broadcast partnerships are not the only way to deliver that experience. Magazines offer an extraordinarily positive association in consumers’ minds, with 30% of readers seeing advertising as positive vs 21% for TV in 2nd place. This positivity drives their sense of affinity, uniqueness and ability to set trends – all key drivers of the meaningful differentiation we mentioned earlier – and this in turn makes magazine readers highly likely to pay disproportionate attention and take action post exposure****.

Using these insights has allowed us to deliver brilliant, engaging campaigns in magazines: from leveraging the positivity and influence of monthly magazines to connect with an audience too often overlooked and misunderstood in advertising for Nationwide; to using the trust and connection that magazines offer to transform perceptions of BMW amongst women through purpose-led initiatives to change society for the better; or using the power of cross platform magazine brands to challenge the portrayal of beauty and disrupt the category from within for Schwarzkopf Live!.

As advertisers, we are in a constant war for attention and aligning our brands with the content that consumers are seeking right now to be entertained and escape is a powerful way to deliver cut through in a cluttered market – either by creating that content in the example of comparethemarket or being alongside it and acting as an enabler through the power of magazines.


*Mark Ritson; July 2020
** WPP BrandZ
*** IPA databank / Binet & Field
**** magnetic 2020