Creating top campaigns on zero budget, part three - data and design

Working with a budget means using every tool at your disposal

In previous articles we’ve talked about focusing on the product and ‘free-jacking’, and in this final instalment we’ll touch on two simple yet underutilised resources – internal design and, firstly, own data.

Research has a bad rap – the dull ‘bread and butter’ of a previous age – yet, done right, it can be far more than a fluffy survey, and free if you’re using your company’s data. Site traffic, sales, messages, etc., can all be turned into news.

You can start with the data first, looking for peaks or troughs and then researching potential causes; or you can have a theory and then look at the data to see if it bears out.

We’ve applied this to clients in every sector – including dating (eg: the impact of Brexit on dating, using site traffic), family history (eg: using birth records to look at the impact of cultural events on baby names, and even proposing the location of a ‘fountain of youth’ using death records to reveal life expectancy by region), and travel (eg: working out which nation is ‘most adventurous’ based on booking data).

Yes, data like this won’t always produce the ‘big idea’, but it helps fuel a drumbeat of press office content, and the insights garnered can inspire much bigger things.

Design is another element of internal resource that is also criminally underused.

Back in 2015, we were working with the print and design company MOO. Its brand mantra was ‘design works wonders’, and wanted design at the heart of every campaign. With the 2015 general election and a new season of Game of Thrones happening at the same time, we worked with a designer to create GOT-style house banners for each of the party leaders on MOO’s new range of flyers. Similarly for its launch of square business cards – which were marketed as ‘perfect for side ventures’ – we created regular and square business cards for famous characters with alter egos – including Walter White, Batman, Catwoman and The Wizard of Oz.

Mark Perkins [W Communications executive creative director] has discussed how the ‘Christmas Tinner’ – Christmas dinner in a tin for gamers – started life as a mocked-up social media prank; and it’s on social media that design-led PR can really thrive.

A favourite recent example is from Balcony Shirts, which mocked up a t-shirt with a Lady-Hale-spider-broach design and put it on sale, just as the Supreme Court president announced that the decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful (and her broach was trending on Twitter).

There are many ways to create a story, whether it’s using the product, piggy-backing on the media, harnessing internal data, leaning on design time, a mix of all of them, or something else.

Each brand provides its own unique opportunity, and if you’re willing to look hard enough and apply some creative thought, amazing things are possible without needing to spend a penny.

Henry Warrington is creative director and partner at Third City

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