An Innocent mistake

In 2019, Innocent Drinks, known for their tongue in cheek ads, made a mistake with one of their campaigns.

Thanks to a team that thinks quickly on their feet, they were able to turn this around to their advantage. In fact, they make deprecating references to this ad once in a while, which reminds people that the team is human too and make mistakes.

So what happened?

The brand doesn’t play by the regular rulebook with their quirky, often irreverent & original tone of voice.

In October 2019, to launch their dairy free nut drinks range, the team released a tweet which included a ‘seasonal’ addition – Conker milk. For those who are wondering what conkers are, they are fruits of the horse chestnut tree – not edible and poisonous.

Innocent drinks posted the below tweet, without realising that people may actually try eating/’milking’ conkers.

The backlash was swift, as many people assumed this was a real product.

The reaction

In fact there were announcements and posts about how conkers are poisonous and harmful if eaten.

The team quickly released an apology, deleted the tweet and proceeded to release a series of tweets about their gaffe.

While apologetic, the brand was self deprecating and chose to make fun of themselves instead.

They used this opportunity to reply to twitter users who posted about the ad.

They even referenced other (edible) brands in their tweets, which interestingly resulted in a spike in demand for those brands.

The results

While the campaign started off on an ominous note, the team’s swift and humorous reaction meant that awareness of the increased and brand loyalty was sealed.

The brand also came across as more ‘human’ to everyone. In fact, this ‘human’ element was so good for brand perception and awareness that they still about this gaffe once in a while as you can see below.

Coca Cola & their use of augmented reality in marketing

Coca-Cola is a long-term partner of the FIFA World Cup . The marketing mavens at The Coca Cola Company have created a number of memorable FIFA related marketing campaigns, appearing at stadium events since 1950. In 2018, in keeping with their strategy to appeal to a younger demographic, The Coca Cola Company decided to leverage augmented reality in their 2018 FIFA marketing campaign.

The brand celebrated the start of the 2018 World Cup with a football-themed augmented reality experience outside of Zurich’s main train station in Switzerland.

A unique augmented reality experience was created for Zurich Central Station. It gave passers-by the chance to demonstrate their football skills, using augmented reality to make participants feel like they were playing alongside Xherdan Shaqiri. Shaqiri’s footage was taken in front of a green screen and adapted to allow participants to play alongside him.

Participants watched a show of skill from Shaqiri before he ‘gestured’ to the participant to play a few shots against him. At the end of the experience, the user was prompted to take a picture. The Coca Cola Company then collected their details so participants could receive a copy of the photo and a chance to win a FIFA World Cup official match ball.

By creating a fully-immersive experience in a location with a lot of foot traffic and involving a high-profile and timely event, Coca-Cola ensured passers-by would want to participate, paving the way for social media amplification.

While the campaign itself was not large scale, the experience was set up outside Zurich’s main train station and was only on for 2 days, the campaign was so popular they had more than 1000 passers by stop and engage.

Why is this relevant now?

We have been writing about the current consumer mindset and what to expect in the next few months given the economic uncertainty. Experiential and augmented reality marketing campaigns like this have the potential to generate sales on a much larger scale today. As consumers are having to make choices between major spend buckets, including living expenses, entertainment and travel, an experiential marketing campaign is far more likely to engage your consumer and increase sales as compared to more traditional advertising.

Internet and its influence on sales

On 12 March 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for the World Wide Web.

Sir Berners-Lee proposed a way of structuring and linking all the information (like a web) available on CERN’s computer network that made it quick and easy to access. This concept of a ‘web of information’ would ultimately become the World Wide Web.

The launch of the Mosaic browser in 1993 opened up the web to a new audience of non-academics. By 1995, the internet and the World Wide Web were established phenomena. In 1995, the Internet had less than 40 million users globally. In contrast, Facebook had 2.9billion monthly active users in January 2022.

While in its early days, the internet was structured on the basis of decentralisation (think p2p file sharing sites like Napster), these days, most use the internet for social media (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok etc), entertainment (think Netflix, Spotify) and for updates on current events, whether fake or not.

Why are we blogging about the internet today?

The internet has had an outsized impact on sales and predictability of sales since inception. While its early (negative) impact was on sales of music, books and movies, due to sites like Napster and Bittorrent, its later impact was on sales of consumer goods, both every day and luxury. This is largely due to social media.

Current events(‘news’) have always influenced our buying decisions. Prior to the advent of the internet, this was restricted to watching the news once a day or to the daily newspaper. So the influence was sporadic. These days, there are several websites (some legitimate, some not), that people can go to for their current events update. This has made the world a lot smaller and influences choices.

Influencers

Influencer marketing has been around since Roman times, when gladiators endorsed products (Source: Forbes.com). According to Forbes.com, the first well known influencer collaboration was when Thomas Wedgwood made a tea set in 1760 for the wife of King George III and marketed his brand as having ‘royal approval’.

In the early 2000s, mommy bloggers were the influencers sought out by various brands to popularise and talk about their products. But the term ‘influencer marketing’ was popularised by social media.

Social media

Of all the websites and apps on the internet, social media has the biggest impact on sales. This is not just owing to the influencers on the internet and what they post, but also due to what regular people like you and me post. With content now going ‘viral’, it is viewed not by 100s of thousands of people, but a few million or billions of people.

In June 2021, Musk tweeted a heartbreak emoji and a Linkin Park referenced meme while talking about Bitcoin. The result: The price of Bitcoin dipped 3.6%.

Another, rather infamous twitter post, was by Weetabix and Heinz. The post was polarising enough that other brands, retailers and even foreign embassies got in on it. Within just a week of posting this, Weetabix sales was up by 15% in Sainsbury’s alone (Source: The Grocer)

Increased information on brands/companies

As information has become the new currency of today, any actions taken by companies are fodder for news, which eventually makes its way to social media.

With Gen Z & Millennials now forming the bulk of shoppers and given how their views on purpose have influenced how Gen X and Baby boomers think about consumption choices as well, this increased availability of information has the power to change brand preferences, based on the information on decisions taken by these companies.

Following the start of the conflict in Ukraine, when Unilever, Pepsi & Coca Cola did not initially pause Russian operations, consumer responses influences sales enough that they then decided to pause operations in the country.

How can sales people predict changes in preferences and prepare for it?

  • Make it a point to stay updated on current events through legitimate sources.
  • Check social media sites regularly to keep an eye on what posts are trending.
  • If your view or preference has been impacted by a particular event, news or a social media post, you can be sure that there are several more whose preference has changed as well.
  • Join different social groups and ensure you regularly talk to people across different generations. Each generation reacts differently (or does not react).

People have always been influenced by the opinions of others. This has been so since times immemorial. Technology has magnified this and will continue to do so as people search for human connection on the internet instead of ‘in real life’.

Procter & Gamble or Coca Cola?

Did you know that Procter & Gamble pioneered soap operas? While ‘Painted Dreams’ is considered to be the oldest soap opera program (on radio), it wasn’t until P & G launched ‘Ma Perkins’ on radio in 1933 that the term was coined. 

In case you are curious, the story revolves around a widow forced to juggle financial and family problems, while at the same time promoting Oxydol, P & G’s laundry detergent. 

This was just before WWII. By the start of the war, P & G was producing more than 21 different radio soap operas EVERY WEEK. Another significant event in 1939 was the launch of the TV. Within 5 months of launch, P & G aired its first TV commercial. They also continued producing soap operas for TV. By the end of the war, P & G’s revenues had reached nearly $350m. 

(Interesting fact: Neil McElroy, one of the marketeers behind these innovations, later became the US Secretary of defence. He also pioneered brand P & Ls in the CPG industry.)

Getting back to ad spend, very similar to P & G, Coca Cola launched one of its most effective campaigns around the same time, during the Great Depression – The pause that refreshes. During the first year of this campaign, sales is said to have doubled. And then WWII happened. Coca Cola continued its ad spend during this time, and the then company president, Robert W. Woodruff even declared that any American soldier could get a coke for 5 US cents, regardless of its actual price.

Coca Cola’s ads during this time focussed on the softer sides of conflict; on Coke’s ability to bring people and nations together. The ads showed American soldiers drinking Coke and laughing with British, Soviet, Polish, Brazilian & Chinese soldiers, with a caption around ‘ Have a coke’, with messaging around solidarity.

Fast forward nearly 80 years, we have another crisis and the two companies have diametrically opposite strategies for ad spend. 

The Coca Cola company has decided to suspend all its marketing activity in several of its markets during Covid. 

Here’s a direct quote from The Drum on what drove this decision, “We’re being … mindful about the right level of brand marketing and new product launches given the consumer mindset across market,” Quincey told investors yesterday (21 April). “We’ve developed and determined that in this initial phase there is limited effectiveness to broad-based brand marketing.”
“With this in mind, we’ve reduced our direct consumer communication we’ll pause sizable marketing campaigns through the early stages of the crisis and reengage when the timing is right. These plans will vary from market to market with our earliest reengagement focusing on the recovery in China.

At the same time, Procter & Gamble is investing in marketing during this period. 

Again, a direct quote from The Drum, “We need to work hard to ensure that we maintain mental and physical availability to the greatest extent possible, so that those consumers return to their beloved and trusted brands – which are ours – as they’re more fully available.”
“There’s a big upside here in terms of reminding consumers of the benefits that they’ve experienced with our brands and how they’ve [met] their family’s needs, which is why this is not a time to go off air.”

We, at Salesbeat, think P & G’s approach is more likely to succeed in the medium to long term. Once lockdowns ease and Covid passes, consumers will remember who have been with them through this crisis. As the saying goes, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. 

What we are going through currently is a war after all, only this time with an invisible enemy.