There’s only 365 days in a year after all

Get ready folks, for the next couple of weeks there’s a plethora of dates that should be in everyone’s diaries, no I’m not talking about Mother’s Day or indeed Paddy’s Day, but major celebrations such as National Orthodontic Week (22 March 2010) and World Kidney Day (11th March)…whoop, whoop! For all you Fanny Pack fans out there, get yourself State side quick-sharp for International Fanny Pack Day is fast approaching on 13th March. Penguin fans – rest easy, World Penguin Day’s not until 24th April.


Now you may well be asking yourself ‘What’s your point caller?’ Well with everyday of the calendar now seemingly dedicated to one cause or another, what value does the age-old PR-trick of national awareness days/weeks now have in the minds of consumers? Are consumers tired of such events? Indeed, are the media tired of them as well?

There’s no doubt that Awareness Days/Weeks can still provide that all important cut through, especially for charities and good causes; the United Nations’ International Day of Peace (September 21) is a great example of a campaign which resonates with consumers around the world. Where fatigue is often more prominent is with awareness days that appear to offer no value other than promoting a brand’s product. For example, whilst National Doughnut Day (first Friday of June each year) was originally created by the Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women who served donuts to soldiers during World War, its take over by well known (and admittedly tasty) doughnut brands has rendered its cause practically worthless.

So plentiful are these awareness days that unless you can deliver something genuinely imaginative and engaging through your PR and promotional activity, it’s unlikely that these events will even register on consumers’ consciousness. What are the secrets then of executing memorable campaigns? Well, first of all the consumer should come first, not the brand. For the consumer to get involved, they need to feel they’re getting something out of it. Part of the reason why Guinness has become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day (other than its rich Irish heritage and strong brand positioning that is!) is that people can have a right old knees-up when enjoying it. The association between the two, though heavily promoted by both the brand and retailers, is a natural partnership – it’s not forced in anyway unlike many brands that try and piggy-back on events.

Any awareness day that is seen as being too self promotional is again likely to put people off participating, after all no one really likes to be sold to. Cadbury’s recent ‘Big Swap’ campaign in support of Fairtrade Fortnight offered a refreshing reminder of how such awareness weeks can remain relevant, support the brand’s messaging, whilst helping consumers get that all important feel good factor.

So less of the National Cup Cake Awareness Week- esque campaigns and a little more imagination please! In the meantime stock up on the Penguin biscuits for World Penguin Day is just around the corner!

Brands get closer to their customers

Everyone from Vodafone to Ocado and Cadbury’s are busy chatting about how they are going to get closer to their customers. There are the older style tactics of Market research and suggestion boxes that can still serve that purpose for some brands.

And then there are the new methods. Increasingly brands want to be your friend on facebook, your follower on twitter and the keeper of your data through new schemes like yahoo-nectars loyalty that was launched in the USA 5 years ago, but has recently evolved to have more direct contact with brands including Cadbury’s who signed up earlier this week.

But how do consumers feel about these brands trying to get closer to them? Not always very happy it would seem. Gideon Spanier’s article this week in the Evening Standard highlights that consumers are still likely to view the recent developments in targeting and tracking, as they did with Phorm, negatively. The week also started with a company I was involved in as a teenager, Dubit hitting headline for their controversial use of children to help promote a variety of brands.

So the question is how can brands listen and show understanding of their customers, without being accused of snooping or abusing their position by involving children in the process?

Seth Godin recent blog What’s expected vs. what’s amazing contains one suggestion for overcoming this dilemma. Real life personalisation, where a stranger remembers your name, what you like and what they’ve talked to you about before, even when it was months ago is certainly a powerful tool.  Really it is what targeting is trying to replicate, all be it in a much more controversial manner.

Before you say it, I know this is nothing new. In fact Dale Carnegie, in his popular book How to win friends and influence people, written in the 1930s, advocates this in a number of his principles e.g. “Remember that a persons name is to that person the sweetest sound in any language”. But if you think back to an example of someone doing this to you, I’m sure you’ll agree that level of personalisation, is a brilliant form of flattery and certainly makes you more likely to respond positively. The question is how global brands can replicate this on a massive scale… and without using controversial techniques.