Starting with a single Tweet by a student with just 329 followers, IRN-BRU racked up a million views of their YouTube ad in a month. Louise Durham, Social Media Director at Blonde, tells us how the campaign evolved
The first step in any social media campaign is to develop a clear sense of purpose. But as channels proliferate and the notion of ‘engagement’ becomes more amorphous, finding and maintaining that purpose becomes harder.
Speaking at Figaro Digital’s Social Media Seminar, Louise Durham at Blonde Digital set out a simple but effective formula to help brands refine their approach. At Blonde, she says, the team begin by asking themselves, “How can we use social media to make a significant, cost-effective contribution to brand health?”
This was the starting point for the agency’s work for Scotland’s soft drink of choice, IRN-BRU. From a single Tweet, Blonde helped the brand’s YouTube ad achieve a million views with only minimal paid-for media.
The line that must be crossed (and the mark that must not be overstepped)
North of the border, IRN-BRU is a brand which commands enormous loyalty. Visit a McDonald’s in Glasgow and it sits alongside Coca-Cola. Fire up Google and you’ll find a clan of super-fans sporting BRU tattoos. From a social media marketing perspective, however, the drink’s popularity represents a double-edged sword.
“This is a passion brand,” says Durham “and in social media that can make it harder. People feel such an affinity with IRN-BRU. It’s fun. It pushes the boundaries. It makes people proud to be Scottish. But if you get it wrong, they’ll tell you about it. Or worse, they’ll ignore it. We knew when we started working with IRN-BRU that we were going to have a tough call translating that sense of humour and edginess into social channels. We also knew we needed a framework to assess each piece of content and work out if it was something good enough to share with our network.”
Delineating that framework were two notional boundaries. On the one hand is what Durham describes as ‘The line that must be crossed.’ On the other is ‘The mark that must not be overstepped’. Effective content, she explains, sits between those two points. In the case of IRN-BRU, the aim was to be as maverick as possible – but no more so. “We push it as far as possible,” she says, “without going over ‘the cliff of acceptability.’ Fine – teeter on the edge. But don’t go over it.”
Brand health requires reach. And reach involves depth. “A social media strategy is about getting people to do stuff for you. If it wasn’t about people, it’d just be advertising. But in order for that to work, you’ve got to understand people. A lot of social media strategies start with the brand thinking about their own objectives and message, while the audience is getting on with their lives. I can guarantee no one out there is going ‘I really want to engage with a piece of branded content. I’m going to go to Facebook and do that right now.’ If your messages and objectives are at the front of your mind you’re not going to get any traction.”
At the heart of IRN-BRU’s campaign was a cheeky video ad created by Blonde’s sister agency Leith. Set in a Scottish maternity ward, a new mum announces to her husband that she’s settled on the name for their wee new bairn. It’s an unexpected choice and dad delivers the punchline: “We cannae call her Fanny.”
“We knew this was comedy gold,” says Durham. “It would really appeal to the audience. Launching a TV ad in the social space for an FMCG brand wouldn’t normally feel right. But we knew this was going to be of real interest so we thought, let’s really make something of it.”
IRN-BRU’s manufacturer A.G. Barr let Blonde have the ad before it launched on TV. Blonde, boldly, decided to launch the ad on social with a single, one-word Tweet: IRNBRUFanny.com. Users were taken to a homepage where they were invited to join ‘Operation Launch Our Ad’. The plan: select one user, give them the ad’s YouTube URL to Tweet and let social sharing do the rest.
The winner was Rachel, a 23-year old student with 153 followers on Twitter. Blonde gave Rachel a little pre-launch love (‘Follow @larachie like she was a yellow brick road with a shiny new BRU ad at the end’) and, with 329 followers to her name, the link was Tweeted.
Within 24 hours the ad had been viewed 100,000 times on YouTube. Using Face’s Topsy API, it was possible to track the spread of activity around the web. “We wanted to test some ideas,” explains Durham. “As part of that we put a message up on our site saying we’re looking for Scotland’s most influential Tweeter. We told people that if they retweeted Rachel’s link we’d create a visualisation of the effect, gauging scientifically who had the most reaction – who was most influential.”
Not only did this gain plenty of traction, it recruited users into the IRN-BRU seeding strategy. Three sharing dynamics emerged. There were a small number of high influence accounts, plenty of small, connected groups and a lot of isolated mentions.
Twenty-one days after Rachel’s Tweet the video had been viewed 600,000 times, and it still hadn’t been on TV. What that demonstrates, says Durham, is that although the initial influencers had a significant impact, what kept the activity going was that people felt the content was worth sharing. Within a month of Rachel’s initial Tweet, the ad had been viewed a million times on YouTube – a record for IRN-BRU.
“It’s the idea of creating content and getting it shared amongst these dense networks that’s important,” says Durham. “That’s what we’ve taken on board as our strategy for day-to-day content. Rather than having a social strategy we have a ‘sharing strategy’.”
Made for interaction
So, the success of a campaign like this hinges on peer-to-peer sharing. That didn’t just happen on Twitter, of course. “Facebook is one of our primary channels,” says Durham. “It’s where we get the most traction. But we do have an issue with Facebook, which decides how many of the people who ‘Like’ your page are going to see your content. Let’s say you’ve got 100,000 people. On average, only 6.15 per cent of them are going to see your content. And according to research by Ogilvy, if you’ve got over 500,000 people who ‘Like’ your page, only 2.11 per cent are going to see it.”
As of October 2014, 302,000 people ‘Like’ the IRN-BRU Facebook page. These users comprise the brand’s ‘actors.’ The full audience, however, is made up of the 13 million people in the UK with a Facebook friend who ‘Likes’ IRN-BRU. “That means sharing and getting people to interact with your content becomes incredibly important.”
So, to return to that original statement of intent, how were Blonde able to determine whether the campaign made a significant, cost effective contribution to brand health?
“People have different views on the importance of different mediums,” says Durham. “Digital can be seen as a poor cousin. So we thought, let’s look at the data and compare Facebook to TV. Now, the only real like-for-like comparison you can do is on impressions. When we looked at the data, in 2013, we saw we had 150 million impressions. With Facebook we had 38 million impressions. So, Facebook gave 20 per cent of the scale at 6.5 per cent of the cost. When you look at those figures and make comparisons with more traditional forms of media – that’s when your CFO could start to understand social’s value and put more into it.”
This feature appears in Figaro Digital Issue 23 – January 2015. Louise Durham spoke at the Figaro Digital Social Media Seminar.
Article by Jon Fortgang