Brand potency lies in the power of the people

Brands including Blossom Hill, Future Publishing and CBS Outdoor are using specific communities in their research to improve marketing and products.

CBS Outdoor

Market research is no longer just a catch-all exercise in which brands look for the ‘average’ opinion across a broad cross-section of the population. Instead, with the rise of social media and other digital platforms, brands are seeking to engage with carefully defined communities that can inform and support their marketing tactics.

Blossom Hill, for example, is embarking on a new retail strategy that aims to simplify the wine market for casual drinkers. Central to this brand positioning is an approach to market research that homes in on attitudes and emotional responses to wine, rather than just consumer demographics.

Blossom Hill

The Diageo-owned brand believes many consumers lack detailed knowledge about wine varieties and simply base their purchase decisions on price (see Viewpoint, page 28). Working with market research agency The Mix, Blossom Hill has been speaking to customers both online and in person to gauge their perceptions about the wine choices available to them.

Liz Ashdown, marketing manager at Blossom Hill, says the brand’s target audience is “mainstream” wine drinkers – those who drink for pleasure rather than connoisseurs. The market research has therefore been tailored to a community of drinkers who are defined by their lifestyle, as opposed to their age or income.

“Our customers have busy family and work lives so they value ease in their shopping,” says Ashdown. “Wine is their enjoyment at the end of a hectic day so it shouldn’t be something that adds more complexity to their lives. In the market research there was definitely a lot of work to define that audience through attitudinal questions and the like. It didn’t start demographically.”

Using this feedback, Blossom Hill has developed a new ‘flavour map’ concept that is designed to market its products to consumers in terms they understand. The concept, present across a number of the brand’s multimedia platforms, displays a handful of simple descriptive words and a spectrum of colours and images that are designed to evoke the taste of each Blossom Hill variety.

Ashdown explains that this sensory approach was adopted as a result of the feedback generated from consumers. “We discovered that the impact of [the flavour map] was much more down to the visual element and it conjuring up a sense of taste in the mouth, rather than what you read,” she says.

“Consumers would be saying ‘I don’t want to see a lemon or any other ingredient – I just want to get a sensation’. They were very much involved in how we brought it to life.”

Blossom Hill has so far rolled out the flavour map concept on print adverts displayed on supermarket trolleys, its website and a ‘taste match app’ on Facebook. It is also aiming to launch trials of new in-store fixtures, which will feature the flavour map, in the coming months.

Simple and safe

Publishing group Future similarly tapped into a ‘lifestyle’ community when it launched The Simple Things magazine last September. In order to build up the title’s readership ahead of the launch, Future set up a separate Facebook page aimed at people with interests including interiors, gardening, cookery and crafts.

The site made no mention of the upcoming magazine but rather simply grew as an organic community of people with shared interests and hobbies. This meant that when an announcement was made about the magazine, Future had a ready-made readership in place (see case study, page 28). Future deployed similar audience-building techniques in the run-up to launching crafts magazine Mollie Makes in 2011.

Although Future has won praise for its pioneering use of social media to build readership communities, group publisher Katherine Raderecht suggests the practice is becoming commonplace across the magazine business as a whole.

“Online is obviously a huge part of our lives now and it’s a research tool that all publishers are using,” she says. “Looking online for ideas and inspiration and to build communities is nothing incredible. We don’t say we’re a print publisher anymore: we’re a content provider and none of our launches are purely print magazines.”

Raderecht also insists that despite the important role of crowdsourcing in the development of The Simple Things, the magazine is firmly shaped by independent editorial content generated by Future. “We had a very strong idea of what the editorial should be, so to say we developed the product by community isn’t strictly true,” she says.

“The community allowed us to be confident in some of the choices we’d made and perhaps deterred us from some of the things we were going to do based on the reaction. Now that we’re four issues in, more people know about us as a magazine and a lot of our discussions on Facebook or Twitter are about the articles we’re writing, so we’re getting constant feedback.”

Forever Ink

Forever Ink, a new brand of skincare creams for people with tattoos, has also taken a selective approach to its co-creation strategy. Last year, parent company Forest Labs tasked branding agency Anthem Worldwide with creating a marque that would encompass the skincare product and become a trusted brand among people with tattoos.

As part of its research, Anthem visited multiple tattoo parlours and interviewed tattoo artists about the type of brand they felt would suit the market. This feedback informed much of Forest Lab’s thinking about how to distribute the product and raise brand awareness, such as by providing free samples and advice on skincare on the Forever Ink website and app. The brand officially launched in October and will begin selling in Boots this month.

However, in its quest to create a stylish brand for a mainstream audience, it was also important to ensure that the skincare expertise of Forest Labs was not lost. Forest Labs aimed to provide a scientific understanding of how to look after a tattoo and help tattoo artists provide more consistent advice. Through conversations with tattoo artists, it was able to understand the relationship between artist and the people getting a tattoo, and this helped inform how the company delivers the brand. Tattoo studios are a critical channel of distribution and recommendation for Forever Ink, and the company wanted to develop a quality product while helping tattoo artists offer customers a better service.

Anthem points to the difficulty of conducting market research among tattoo artists who often belong to an alternative, ‘underground’ culture and are suspicious of brands or big business. The agency believes that gaining access to tattoo studios in order to conduct thorough research was one of the biggest challenges in developing the brand.

Brand goals

By contrast, outdoor media company CBS Outdoor has access to an extremely open online community of more than 6,000 people via its forum, which launched last March. This is an online research panel of people aged 16 and above who ‘work, shop and play’ in UK cities.

Members participate in three short surveys or online discussions each month and are incentivised by prize draws and discount vouchers. The insights from the community, which is run by market research agency Vision Critical, are used by CBS Outdoor to respond to briefs from advertisers.

Beyond this traditional market research function, also provides a platform for co-creation in outdoor advertising. Last October, for example, CBS Outdoor launched its Look for Longer campaign in which it challenged commuters on the London Underground to identify the 75 stations hidden in visual clues in a poster that appeared across the network. Commuters were encouraged to submit answers online or share the game on social media while they waited for the next train.

The competition was designed to demonstrate the benefits to advertisers of the average three-minute dwell time on Underground platforms and the presence of Wi-Fi connectivity at Tube stations. Gemma Proctor, research manager at CBS Outdoor, says the company intends to do many more of these kind of interactive campaigns in 2013.

“We’re recruiting more people [to] so we can help to form future campaigns that drive forward user generated content,” she says. “This means getting consumers and commuters to input directly into what we do and how they want to be communicated with in their day to day lives.”

Communities, then, are not only providing valuable market insight to brands: they are also increasingly creating the content behind new products, services or campaigns. In December 2012 for example, charity launched its first TV advert in partnership with its community of donors.

Rather than follow the traditional charity model of focusing on the people receiving aid, the charity put its donors at the centre of the advert after launching an appeal for people to appear on screen and talk about their reasons for giving.

Tracey Horner, head of Lendwithcare, says the advert reflects the ethos of the charity as a whole and its aim of creating an engaged and active community. This sees people in the UK lend money to entrepreneurs in the developing world, get their money back and then lend again to someone else, allowing them to play a central role in how the charity works.

“Often, people are never really sure what’s happened to their donation or where the money’s gone,” says Horner. “We wanted to give a sense of community to the people who are lending so they feel they are connecting with an individual on the other side of the world.

“That’s why our website not only showcases the entrepreneurs that are being helped by the microloans – it also gives people a forum to put up a photograph of themselves and talk about why they lend with care.”

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Case Study

Simple Things magazine

The Simple Things

When publishing company Future launched lifestyle magazine The Simple Things last September, it already had close to 2,000 subscribers signed up for the first issue. This impressive result was not down to a sudden rush of interest in the magazine, which promotes ‘a simpler way of living’ by focusing on topics like urban gardening and thrift store shopping. Rather, it was due to Future’s efforts in building up a readership community for the magazine many months prior to the launch.

The publisher set up a Facebook page and blog which encouraged people to share these interests, but it gave no indication of its plans for an upcoming magazine as it looked to grow the community organically. When it was unveiled, The Simple Things became Future’s biggest launch in terms of registered subscribers.

Group publisher Katherine Raderecht says Future had spotted a “gap in the market” for a title for women interested in simple living and had carried out market research independent of its prospective readers in order to develop the idea. For example, the company points to the rising demand for allotments and increasing sales of sewing machines and baking products in the UK as evidence of the demand for the magazine.

But Raderecht adds that since the launch, The Simple Things’ readership has proved to be highly engaged with the magazine across its various multimedia platforms, providing feedback on articles and helping to refine its content. This, she says, is a sign of how much the community is already invested in the title.

“Lots of people contact us now because they want to contribute [to the magazine],” she says. “By having a strong online community, you attract people within that community who want to be part of the brand.”



Liz Ashdown

Liz Ashdown
Marketing manager
Blossom Hill

The wine market is probably the most promoted category in a grocery store: around 70 per cent of volume is sold on promotion. There are a number of reasons for that but principally, the category itself is not at all consumer-friendly. If you look at any other category in a grocery environment, it’s designed to help the consumer find what they’re looking for so that they can make informed choices and won’t always resort to price.

In wine, though, the category is confusing and as a result consumers will often not go down the aisle. Instead they just buy from the gondola end. For years retailers have perpetuated that situation by offering the ‘three for £10’ deals and deep discounts that have encouraged consumers to accept that their only option on wine is to pick up a deal.

At Blossom Hill I’ve been doing some work to define what the brand stands for: since it launched 20 years ago the brand has tried to talk in the consumers’ language rather than the highfalutin, complicated language of wine. So we wanted to make it easier for consumers to find a wine that they like. Consumers know what they like, they just don’t know how to find it.

We had a hypothesis that approaching wine more visually might help consumers shortcut to the taste of the wine and so through the market research process we designed a ‘flavour map’. We’ve been working with various consumer groups to understand how consumers can find the taste that’s for them – we began by presenting ingredients to them but have developed that into something that’s more visual, sensory and about the actual taste experience. We’re now working with retailers to bring the flavour map to life through in-store activations.