At Redmandarin we love storytelling. We tell stories in the office and at home, we even write whole articles about it. It cuts to the heart of what a good campaign does – engaging your audience emotionally and taking them with you on a journey.
Stories capture the imagination. They create anchors in our minds; carefully crafted points of reference, illustrations of behaviour, memorable articulations of values/actions, and they make ideas stick.
We’ve found storytelling a great discipline for developing strong and impactful sponsorship campaigns. A good campaign will have a strong narrative flow that carries chapter to chapter and allows you to evolve and add nuance to your messaging over time.
And a good campaign, like a good novel, is always driving you forward.
We use the O2 as one of our best practice case studies, a lesson in how to reposition a brand and a key contributing factor in O2’s tremendous success over the past decade. It was a fantastic launch vehicle, it spawned Priority which reshaped the sector and led to a hundred copycat briefs from other brands wanting in, and it’s still one of the most widely recognised sponsorships in the UK.
It was brilliant, but it’s been 8 years now and the story hasn’t changed.
It hasn’t changed because the O2 story was never structured as a narrative; it never had a clear moment where the initial campaign came to a natural conclusion and allowed the story to move on. The problem with ‘added value’ offers like O2 Priority is that over time they stop being something special and unique and just become part of what you do. You find yourself constantly innovating, adding new offers, spending more money just to stay where you are and to deliver the same meaning you used to have.
That original campaign needed a defined end point; a target to reach, or an event to serve as its great climax. A clear indicator internally as much as externally that one chapter had completed and now was time to move on. That’s particularly important with naming rights deals where the length of the term can distract brands from the need to be continually adding value through the actual campaigns they run. The O2 was brilliant for its first few years but it’s now living on past glories.
Even the very best campaigns have a natural life expectancy. Orange Wednesdays was a brilliant offer (our work for Orange on their global film platform is still one of our proudest moments) but it worked only because the advertising managed to refresh it every single time. It costs a huge amount of money to keep producing funny and engaging creative work that maintained a sense of relevance. Mother did an excellent job of playing and twisting the format – as soon as they were replaced and the quality of that creative dipped the campaign started a slow decline.
As an industry we tend to focus so much and expend so much effort on the launch of a new idea that we often don’t consider the whole life cycle. Consider Ford Maddox Ford’s page 99 test – continuously delivering something worth reading not just a snappy launch or ending. Whether it’s through setting specific goals, developing characters, evolving audiences, or seamlessly linking to the next instalment, your audience wants to know that they are going somewhere. Or they’ll follow a more interesting story elsewhere.
For every campaign we create we set ourselves a challenge. How is this business, this audience, or this community going to be different in 3 years time? It provides a focus for the campaign narrative that ensures you have a clear narrative in place and you never run the risk of a campaign drifting off and slowly petering out.