HOW FEYI OLUBODUN DESIGNED A WINNING CAMPAIGN, USING ‘THE ENEMY’
The Malaria Consortium approached Insight Publicis Nigeria to help them drive the rapid purchase of Long-Lasting Insecticide-treated Nets (LLIN). Ordinarily, this should be easy, given the high rate of malaria cases and deaths in Nigeria — 100 million cases of malaria reported each year, with 300 000 deaths per year. People should buy mosquito nets.
There was just one small problem — in order to stimulate trial of the product, the Malaria Consortium had given away free samples of LLIN — one per household.
Instead of purchasing more nets, families merely put as many of their family members as possible under one net. The Malaria Consortium had unwittingly created a barrier to further uptake.
Here’s what Insight CEO, Feyi Olubodun and his team did: They ran a seven-day campaign promising consumers that they would watch the first live broadcast of a live birth on TV. It was scandalous and earned hundreds of millions in free media coverage. The government even got involved, trying to shut the project down, so the team had to let them in on the strategy.
Social media became heated, debating the morality of watching a live birth on TV.
Consumers watched a woman, Blessing Madaki, for six days leading up to the birth of her baby. On the seventh day, they watched her being wheeled into the labour room. Millions of Nigerian viewers across the country held their breaths. And then they saw an animation of Blessings’ unborn child refusing to be born, unless his father bought an LLIN. The child’s reason was simple: He didn’t want malaria to withhold him from fulfilling his destiny in life.
- 95% of viewers were willing to buy
- Purchase of LLINs went up over 10%
- 42% of traders said it was a result of the campaign, because 32% of buyers mentioned the campaign at the point of purchase
- Usage went up by 12% and remained high, even after the rainy season
- The client’s objectives had been to raise awareness by 20% and purchase by 10% over nine months. The campaign was a resounding success.
What caused the shift?
Consumers perceived on a subliminal level that malaria was the enemy of the destinies of their children and loved ones. Malaria was the enemy; LLIN the solution.
What can brands do with this? It’s simple. Brands must answer the question: What is the enemy of my target consumers, and how is my brand positioned relative to this enemy?
The success of the LLIN campaign was based on a deep understanding of consumer psyches and the fear triggers that will lead to a purchase.
In his book, Mastering the Complex Sale, Jeff Thull explains that successful sales are the result of navigating the psychology of change, bringing your customers from the positive present to a negative future in absence of your solution. In other words, highlighting the risks of not purchasing. The LLIN campaign is an excellent example of this theory in action.
However, as Feyi and his team soon learned, while fear can be an excellent motivator, it isn’t always the best way to approach a campaign.
“We tried to use the same approach for another brand and it didn’t work,” he explains. “The team presented to the client and half the client team started crying. It’s a delicate approach to navigate. Fear is a powerful motivator, but you can also strike too deep. This pitch was for an NGO trying to raise awareness for supporting children and preventing infant deaths. Our idea was to ask parents if they’d like to save money for their children’s tombstones — if you wouldn’t do that, why not use the money for something else that preserves your child’s life? But the response was so heart wrenching, it actually didn’t work.”
So, what can you learn from these examples that you can use in your own business and marketing campaigns?
First, fear is a human emotion that can be used in marketing — but it has to be used wisely. “It’s important to remember that although we all love to use terms like consumers and target groups, at the end of the day we are all humans, and as such we have the full complement of emotions that come with being people — fears, hopes, dreams — we need to recognise that humanity when we market our solutions.”
Feyi understands that everything we do comes from a place of happiness, anger, fear or hope — even the most rational business decisions have an element of emotion, from where we choose to spend our money, to who we want to do business with. “One of the campaigns I’ve always loved was a Volvo safety campaign. As the car hit a barricade, the driver’s family’s hands all reached over his seat to hold him in place and save his life — that’s why we wear safety-belts — for the people we love. It was an incredibly powerful campaign, because it tapped into our emotions.”
Understand your customer
Whether your focus is on consumer products or B2B solutions, Feyi believes too many marketing elements are focused on the surface, pushing products. “We need to start looking deeper at the motivators behind purchases,” he says. “Why does your customer buy airtime? Who do they need to speak to? What’s the emotion behind what that airtime allows you to do?
“Marketers shouldn’t be afraid of tapping into emotions. You’re selling to human beings, and that’s why they will buy your products — not because they are consumers, but because they are people.”
But as Feyi’s own experiences have shown, you can’t just push for emotions without really understanding who you’re speaking to. “Businesses need to really analyse their communities: Who are you focusing on? What are their fears? What do they really care about? And how do you figure this out without making assumptions?”
Another big lesson is that the more you can listen to your customers, the more you can subtly adjust your product until you’re offering something your customers really need.
“If you have a product that touches directly on the humanity of your target, you’ve already gained a lot of mileage — media campaigns only amplify what your product already is. They can’t sell something no-one wants — at least not with any longevity.”
Feyi advises that if you have a clearly defined target audience, the next step is to take an ethnographic approach to really understanding them. “You need that,” he says. “If I want to sell to people in Soweto, I need to go and visit Soweto. How do they consume the products that may or may not exist in my category? What do they care about? I need to get a real feel for how they live and work. You’ll be amazed by what you’ll learn simply by immersing yourself in your customer’s environment.”
But take care. Feyi advises that if you take the time to go and speak to people, you need to do so authentically. “I can’t arrive in a rural area in a suit and expect the community to treat me naturally. Respect the community you’re entering, and blend in. Take a participatory approach. You get non-participatory observation and participatory observation, and participatory observation is always of more value in a marketing environment.
“Participatory observation breaks down barriers. Take language for example. Even if you only try and speak a few words of someone else’s language, you’ve already broken down an important barrier. You’re showing a willingness to learn and a respect for the people you’re conversing with.”
This is as true in a consumer environment as it is in a business environment. “If you’re going to pitch to a client, you need to speak their language. You need to understand their landscape and industry.
“There are so many ways to connect with people, you just need to find your similarities. You need to find what touches you both. Find the commonalities in your humanness.”