A judge for the Channel Integration category of the 2021 WARC Awards for Media, UM APAC’s Sharon Soh writes about how some of the winners successfully repositioned their brands by adopting comms planning approaches that prioritised relevance.

Technological advancements have brought about unprecedented change to society and the pandemic has pulled forward shifts in consumer behaviour by five or so years. While previous tech revolutions occurred over a millennium or centuries, innovations today happen in a matter of years, with more frequency and less predictability. Businesses now are grappling with disruptions that have far-reaching implications on strategy, new product development and organisational structure. Suffice to say, change is inevitable for many, and certainly for brands and marketers, a need to reposition the brand to remain relevant may be warranted.

Once a brand position is developed, the goal is to sustain it over time; and when a brand has gained traction in its current positioning, repositioning should not be done ‘on a whim’. Repositioning typically takes considerable time and financial resources and, if not done right, could result in alienating the brand’s core users and confusing consumers.

Still, certain circumstances may require the repositioning of a brand and one of the most common challenges faced today is the proliferation of brands and products alongside the commoditisation of categories. When a myriad of competitors is offering the same or a better value proposition, and brands find that they no longer ‘own’ a differentiating benefit, the repositioning of one’s brand to change the frame of reference may be necessary.

Other situations that necessitate repositioning include: a brand’s position being too broad such that supporting key benefits are unclear, or its original positioning has been diluted due to licensing or dealership arrangements, retailer promotions and other growth-motivated activities. Or else, the business is significantly altering its strategic direction and the brand must be repositioned to align itself accordingly, for example to capture an entirely new segment of customers.

Indeed, the task for repositioning is an uphill one and certainly, a fragmented media and marketplace exacerbates the challenge. As such, marketing today calls for the need for media channels to work together with the brand message, and not just be carriers of the messages. With the consumer’s time and attention divided across multiple devices and increasing number of platforms, the role of media should be about relevance as much as it is about reach, or perhaps even more so.

Today’s marketers can orchestrate channels around relevance to aid more effective brand repositioning with three key principles in mind.

1. Focusing on the consumer insight that fuels brand relevance

Chilean telecommunications company, Claro, changed the conversation around home internet from speed to coverage to gain an advantage over the competition, successfully positioning its Wifi360 plan to address real consumer needs. Through social listening, the insight uncovered was that speed was secondary compared to the frustration of not having internet coverage inside the house, all over the house. Consumers talked and laughed about the crazy methods they employed as they tried to get a signal within their homes. This led to a TV-focused campaign that positioned Claro’s new Wifi360 as 'the first plan that reached all corners of the house’ and was aimed at building brand relevance with homeowners to get them to consider Claro over category leader VTR, who dominated with their proposition on faster connection speed.

2. Understanding audience behaviours for contextual relevance

Vitamin supplement, Redoxon, went from category new entrant to number-one selling brand by aligning its immunity-boosting product attribute with an emerging consumer behavior in Vietnam – healthy home-cooked meals. COVID-19 resulted in a flood of vitamin supplement brands touting their health benefits, making it hard for a challenger like Redoxon to stand out. Through analysing behavioural signals across Google, YouTube and e-commerce platforms, it was found that interest in home cooking had increased significantly, and consumers were turning to the internet for innovative recipes. Leveraging this understanding, Redoxon embarked on a strategy to position the brand as an immunity booster that could be used as an ingredient to add immunity benefits to meals, setting it apart from competitors and creating new consumption opportunities for the brand. A series of contextually relevant channels and content was orchestrated to bring the campaign to life, including chefs and nutritionists as content creators and influencers, video recipe tutorials, social content postings on food communities and apps, as well as relevant keyword searches.

3. Tapping into moments that matter to create relevant experiences

For its POWER1 ULTIMATE launch in Vietnam – a new high-performance range of two-wheeler oils aimed at a younger audience – motor oil brand Castrol targeted Gen Z moments and passion points, creating a series of relevant experiences that integrated the brand with a popular Gen Z hangout, e-sports game Arena Of Valour, as well as rap music and the hottest rap stars. The three-phase campaign kicked off with the illumination of Southeast Asia's tallest building, with conversations about the takeover stunt being fueled by top biker community influencers on social media. The second phase followed with a hero piece of content featuring the hottest rap stars in the country – a bold, high-adrenaline rap music video that was first teased to the audience and then premiered as a live-stream. For the third phase, the Arena Of Valour e-sports partnership enabled in-game content integration and engagement mechanics, PR publicity, live-stream mentions and even presence in cyber cafes. Across all the phases, a combination of the most relevant paid, owned and earned channels and tactics were used to create and amplify the experiences as well as engage the Gen Z audience in an authentic way.

As consumers continue to adopt digital and technology at an accelerated pace, the media marketplace will remain hyper-fragmented. Relevance should not just be a metric for creating and evaluating brand messages, it should also be used to cohere media and message with the consumer. As seen in the winning campaigns from the WARC Awards for Media, the orchestration of channels through the prioritisation of relevance over reach can help a brand reposition for different purposes – from finding a competitive advantage over larger players as was the case for Claro, to differentiating the brand from the category as described for Redoxon, to positioning the product with a new and younger audience as seen in the Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE launch.

An abridged version of this article appears in WARC's Report, What's working in channel integration 2022.