Hue Robertson

Featherweight to Heavyweight: 20 Years of Brand Behaviour Marketing

In an era when consumers are calling the shots, positive brand experiences have never been more important. Two of last year’s most defining marketing moments were event-led campaigns: London 2012 and Red Bull’s Stratos Space Jump. This is a ringing endorsement for the power of branded events to connect with consumers in tangible ways and is indicative of how the industry has evolved from purveyors of trailers and roadshows into masters of intelligent marketing strategy.

I got to thinking about how brand behaviour marketing has blossomed because this month marks a personal milestone. The agency I founded, RPM, has just turned 20. And in these two decades, I’ve seen our discipline mature from naive adolescent to erudite adult. Long gone are the days when brands would come to us with a brief to offload a surplus of FMCG samples. Instead, brands now present us with complex challenges that involve longterm strategic thinking and part of our remit now involves finding ways to amplify events well beyond the parameters of their venues.

It’s not only RPM that has had a big birthday this month. January also saw the internet celebrate its 30th birthday. The advent of the internet has been the primary driving force behind the increased marketing potential of brand events. Digital media, social platforms and technology are enabling more meaningful and targeted strategies.

When I started out in 1993, the online world was still embryonic. To understand how far we’ve come, you only have to glance at what can now be done with smartphones, QR codes, AR and RFID: enabling instant event amplification across social media channels. The internet is a hungry beast and its appetite for content has never been greater. Camera phone filmed video clips of events are a prolific source of user generated content that have turned consumers into broadcasters, sharing their experiences with the wider world via the world wide web.

Digital channels have also been responsible for a shift in consumer power. Social media has given consumers more voice and more choice. So brand transparency and authenticity has become more important than ever. Branded events, with their face-to-face mechanics, are a powerful form of marketing. Directly engaging with consumers via positive brand behaviour ensures supportive public sentiment in today’s digitally exposed world.

Brand behaviour marketing’s soaring success, however, cannot solely be attributed to digital. There are other factors at play too; like cultural shifts. When we started in the early 90s, we were following a kickback against the material desires and needs of the Thatcherite 80s. We now live in a society that prides itself more on what’ve done, than what we’ve got. Contemporary social currency is fuelled by what people have experienced… a golden opportunity for brands to play a part in these conversations.

If you need proof that brand behaviour marketing is all grown-up, just think about how the practice can now be validated by sophisticated metrics. Independent research can now evaluate brand behaviour campaigns by the same measures as other channels: brand awareness, advocacy, perception, sales increase and propensity to purchase.

Although much education still needs to be done, brands are increasingly realising that, whilst event-led campaigns may carry a higher ‘cost per contact’, they offer far superior quality of contact and measure-up favourably when compared to traditional advertising’s ‘cost per acquisition’.

These innovations and shifts have put brand behaviour marketing firmly on the map. Ours is a branch of marketing that is fast becoming a central pillar of brand communication strategy across multiple sectors. Observing this transition from featherweight to heavyweight has been like proudly watching your child grow into adulthood. It makes me optimistic about how the next 20 years might unfold…