With more agencies competing for bigger slices of the new business pie, PR and marketing budgets being squeezed and increasing pressure to prove ROI, we need to create compelling, fresh new strategies that result in added value, cost-effective initiatives.
PR professionals should be encouraged to approach credible third-party endorsements differently by re-evaluating the traditional paid-for model in favour of the contra deal - going back to a time before cash currency.
Now it is all about developing meaningful relationships with consumers, engaging them and inspiring trust to make them come back for more.
Clever third-party associations that hijack equity work well to resonate with each party's target audience. But traditional paid-for sponsorships can drain budgets and celebrity endorsements can prove high risk when generating brand share of voice.
By adopting a sales-driven mentality, you don't need to look far to unearth intelligent collaborations that are not paid for with cold hard cash.
We're seeing a return to the bartering market-stall contra deal of 'what I can give you in return' rather than 'how much will it cost'.
PROs should devise third-party contra deals based on exchanging mutually beneficial collateral that delivers optimum results over and above the pure sales promotion route. A win-win for both parties can include sharing retail environments; broadening distribution; enhancing publicity; gaining visibility in previously untapped environments; gaining access to fan databases; exposure to unaccessed target markets; borrowing brand affinity and amplifying reputation.
As well as providing impressive cost efficiencies, the knock-on effects of a tightly negotiated contra deal will add value to salesforce and retailers.
Here are two examples we have worked on recently, both of which illustrate the potential of this strategy.
For face mask brand, Montagne Jeunesse, we created a free-of-charge contra deal with the West End's iconic Hairspray the Musical, where the lead character sported a face mask as part of her beauty regime. The integrated campaign was driven by PR in the absence of ad budgets. It engaged consumers and added value to each brand through multiple touch points and a plethora of communications channels. These included POS in pharmacy and beauty retailers with a limited edition dual branded face mask, nationwide competition to win Hairspray the Musical/pampering nights out, social media, in-theatre promotions, outdoor posters, residency on each party's website and direct-to-consumer at the Montagne Jeunesse Clothes Show stand featuring the Hairspray cast. With no money changing hands, it resulted in a campaign award win and 55 per cent sales increase.
To exploit its 'Grown With Love' equity premium apple brand, Pink Lady's exclusive 'Kiss It Better' contra deal with Harrods used limited edition apples (grown with heart stickers on, so when ripe, the sticker was removed to reveal green imprinted hearts).
Sold in Harrods and promoted at no cost through Harrods' in-store theatre and escalator panels, it included editorial and broadcast PR exploitation. The initiative extended distribution, created talkability and enhanced the brand's premium status.
Robust evaluation models that measure outcomes must continue to be integral to the campaign planning stage and with these kind of contra deals, considerations over and above AVE, OTS and readership can include web traffic, social media endorsements, sales, attitudes to brand, competition entries etc - all fundamental if we are to champion ROI and continue to prove the power of PR.
VIEWS IN BRIEF
- Who is your fantasy campaign spokesman/woman? Why?
Michelle Obama - respected, sophisticated, inspiring, accomplished at dealing with the media and being bang on message.
- Which consumer brand most successfully capitalised on the election campaign season?
Marmite's amplification of its 'love it or hate it' comms platform via a spoof election social media campaign featuring the Love Party or Hate Party.