Value exchange and the rise of culture marketing


Inkling will be exhibiting at YMS17. David Proudlock, Co-Founder and Strategy Director, shares his insights into authentically connecting to culture and communities by providing genuine value exchange.

Try and think of the last great TV ad you saw. There’s a wealth to choose from, especially as the big festive offerings from retail heavyweights like John Lewis, Sainsbury's and Lidl are still fresh in the memory. Yet all these examples, as well as other Ad of the Year contenders like the McVitie’s kittens or Moneysupermarket twerkers are well-known, well-established brands slugging it out to remain front of mind. In recent years the fastest growing and most exciting brands, from Airbnb to Uber to Deliveroo, were all being built away from the glow of the TV screen – and they were doing it by authentically connecting to culture and communities by providing genuine value exchange.

PR Redefined

The pace of change within marketing and communications in recent years has been dizzying. With the media landscape evolving at the pace of Moore’s Law, it has become increasingly difficult to place audiences into neat little demographic boxes – and as such, traditional PR mainstays such as the single picture moment yielded by a one-off stunt are delivering diminishing returns. And yet PR remains one of the most effective and trusted channels in the marketing mix: a study by Webbed Feet found 92% of consumers trust earned media such as word-of-mouth over and above all other forms of media. So the key to success lies in implementing PR built on targeted, strategic and high quality messaging and placements that offer value to audiences – all underpinned by a laser focus on metrics that actually deliver business success, rather than the old fluffy metrics such as AVE. It’s what we’ve always both practiced and preached at Inkling – whether that’s meant carving up news angles to best cater for key media titles for Wilderness festival (delivering an ROI of 96:1 in the process), collaborating with hugely relevant emerging and established influencers for the likes of Bacardi and Wrangler (selling out a brand new collection in four weeks in the proves) or managing to forge relationships with leading-edge tastemakers like Buzzfeed for Four Winters to deliver maximum bang for minimum buck.

Experiences shared

In Inkling’s UK Millennials report, created alongside our research partners Censuswide, Inkling discovered that 53% of 16 to 34-year-olds in the UK would rather spend money on experiences rather than possessions. At a time when traditional media is struggling to provide the same value to advertisers that it has previously, the rise of the experience economy offers brands the opportunity to reach audiences in a relevant, meaningful and authentic way. The statistics bear this out – 98% of people exposed to a product will recommend it to others after a positive brand experience (SPLASH Research), and 80% of all word of mouth activity for brands come from consumers having first-hand experiences with a product or service (McKinsey). The challenge, however, is making such events scaleable: in silo, experiential marketing can never deliver ROI. Instead, campaigns need to be built from the ground up with social content and PR channels front of mind – 81% of attendees will share a photo of a branded event on social, and by identifying and engaging influencers activations can reach an audience far beyond the few hundred who get to experience it in person. As an example, Inkling launched Star Wars: Battlefront for EA Games by transforming a studio in Wimbledon into the war-torn deserts of Jakku. Hosted by comedian Rufus Hound and live streamed on Twitch, 40 influencers and competition winners were invited to play the game in front of a live studio audience. By leveraging the online reach of star YouTube gamers such as Ali A (8.2 million subscribers) and Vikkstar123 (3.2 million subscribers) we were able to break far beyond the 300 event attendees, culminating in the most successful Twitch stream in EA history with over a quarter of million viewers watching live.

Effective content

Rather than simply engage and entertain, content now needs to shift product in order to justify its place in the mix. The key to this lies in understanding just who your audience is, and what they want – whilst the sheer number of people who can be reached through digital channels is vast, if you’re not delivering something they care about it’s going to be very hard to move them to action, The good news is that when you get this right, content is more effective and can deliver greater ROI than traditional advertising. Consider our work for Wrangler. At the outset of the campaign, we took pains to understand exactly who it was we were talking to: an educated, media-saturated older Millennial who wanted to lead a more adventurous lifestyle - but one that needed to be balanced with ever-increasing work and family commitments. Understanding this, we were able craft a content series that showcased ways to experience the great outdoors with adventures no more than an hour from their front door, and engaged influencers with both the reach and gravitas to ensure our audience was engaged. By combining entertainment with product truths we were able to deliver Wrangler’s highest ever number of referrals from social media (7.5 times more than its advertising) and broke e-commerce sales records four days in a row.

In summary

We are driven by the simple belief that the fastest growing and most exciting brands are no longer built through traditional ad channels, and instead, they’re creating mutually beneficial value exchange by connecting to culture. Yet marketing to Millennials isn’t easy – young people have always had an innate ability to sniff out insincerity, and brands that attempt to cynically ape their style without making a contribution to their lives are destined to fail. Success comes from a true understanding of an understanding of and a genuine commitment to the nuances not just of Millennials as a whole, but the communities in which they exist.

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