Are you a marketing tease?

LONDON - Unbranded campaigns may grab consumer attention, but they are not risk-free.

The government's obsession with quangos may seem boundless, but a campaign from the 'British Biscuit Advisory Board', claiming that an estimated 25m people in Britain have been injured by biscuits, is, mercifully, merely part of a teaser campaign by Fox's Biscuits.

Fox's unbranded activity follows Tesco's decision to use the same strategy to promote the relaunch of its Clubcard. Both campaigns beg the question of whether these 'teasers' truly connect with consumers, or whether brands are guilty of vanity marketing.

Richard Huntington, director of strategy at ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, says many teaser campaigns are acts of self-indulgence from clients and agencies. While those operating in the 'marketing bubble' may discuss the identity of the brand behind the campaign, the average consumer is unlikely to have the same level of interest. 'The assumption that people actively care about your brand is a gross act of corporate wishful thinking,' he says.

However, there is evidence that teaser campaigns can be effective in the right context and sector. Arguably, the best examples have been those related to film releases. The campaign for blockbuster movie Cloverfield, for example, caught people's attention, through viral teasers featuring shaky camera action and a passing shot of a monster attacking a city. A subsequent viral, showing a decapitated Statue of Liberty, also raised interest in the film, despite there being no mention of a release date, movie title or branding.

The film sector benefits from the web's plethora of movie addicts, who share these masterfully engineered 'leaks' and virals with their peer groups. However, whether this extends to more mundane products such as biscuits or the Tesco Clubcard is another matter.

There is always a danger consumers may not understand the point. Nonetheless, Mike Driver, Fox's marketing director, argues that the 'Biscuit Advisory Board' is more than a mere gimmick.

'A good teaser campaign taps into current feelings,' he says. 'We drew on how you can buy a packet of peanuts these days with a label warning "May contain nuts". There is a natural humour in that.'

As if to confirm that research can be made to prove anything, Fox's study found that 20% of consumers were concerned about biscuit safety.

With marketing spend under tight scrutiny, it is a brave marketer who earmarks their media budget for an unbranded campaign. The question also arises of whether the Fox's activity will drive sales of competing brands. According to Driver, this is a risk run by any campaign, branded or not, that drives consumers to a sector as a whole.

'The objective of the teaser campaign was to get people talking about it and create an environment that will heighten awareness of our advertising,' he says. 'This has been achieved.'

The teaser element of the brand's activity also took a smaller chunk of the brand's £3m budget, and PR activity ensured that the campaign received mentions on TV shows such as Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. An ad campaign in isolation would find it difficult to scoop such coverage.

It is undoubtedly the case that as branding and commercial messages near saturation point, so an absence of branding or a clear commercial intent can achieve standout and raise consumer interest and expectations.

Robin Grant, managing director of social media agency We Are Social, believes that a lack of branding on teaser campaigns is not a bad thing. 'As long as you have good initial creative, you can gain cut-through with consumers,' he says. 'It is increasingly difficult to do that with traditional above-the-line creative.'

Venetia Taylor, a strategist at Mother, which created the Fox's drive, concedes that the public and media have become more cynical about teaser campaigns. However, she adds that consumers are 'more likely to be engaged by something that offers genuine opportunity for discovery'. The key to the strategy, she claims, was not to hoodwink consumers but to get them in on the joke.

Teaser campaigns are not a catch-all solution for brands aiming to create a buzz. Even those brands that manage to grab consumers' attention risk falling flat. While advertising has always been about raising expectations, brands must beware of leaving their audience disappointed.

Expert comment

Jens Bachem, Managing director, Digital Outlook

If you are considering running a teaser campaign, managing the expectations of your audience is key. In a world of accelerated word-of-mouth fuelled by tweets, blog posts and Facebook updates, any sweet anticipation from a teaser campaign can quickly turn sour if the product or service doesn't actually live up to the hype.



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