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Innovation: Engaging “Raging” Consumers

A Sea of Red and Green Not having gone to a big football college, I was excited to get a ticket to this year’s 96th Rose Bowl game, a classic match-up between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Oregon Ducks. Almost 100,000 college football fans descending into the Rose bowl parking lot for what they consider a 16 oz. cup of cold frothy heaven and a January football game on in 72 degrees sunny weather. Marketers salivate at a moment like this–what an opportunity to engage consumers with your brand message and turn them into shoppers for your products and services!

A Sea of Red and Green

Not having gone to a big football college, I was excited to get a ticket to this year’s 96th Rose Bowl game, a classic match-up between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Oregon Ducks. Almost 100,000 college football fans descending into the Rose bowl parking lot for what they consider a 16 oz. cup of cold frothy heaven and a January football game on in 72 degrees sunny weather. Marketers salivate at a moment like this–what an opportunity to engage consumers with your brand message and turn them into shoppers for your products and services!

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I began to get a funny feeling on New Years Eve when I was at Century City Shopping Mall catching a movie and I saw huddles of red-outfitted Hawkeyes and green draped Ducks in the various stores and restaurants. Interestingly, there were no “Welcome Hawkeyes” signs to be seen but we were more than a few miles from Pasadena. This spirit display was nothing compared to the parade of cars at 8:00am that were trying to get into the Rose Bowl parking lot (for a 4:30 kick-off!). Apparently, we were late, as the tailgating had started many hours before and we were several beers and burgers behind. There I was, dressed in blue, an obvious rube amidst the churning sea of Red and Green. And these fans were not just dressed for their team, but their cars, vans, trucks and SUVs were decorated; they had tents, tables, coolers, banners, even satellite TVs in team colors so they could watch the Rose Parade and of course their band. Did I mention that the band is as important as the football team?!

Raging Consumers

These are what I call “raging” consumers. They are excited, aroused and ready to have a full-on game experience–and they are buying everything they see: food drinks, t-shirts, hats and anything else with their team’s name on it. What an amazing opportunity for an astute brand to capitalize on this feeding frenzy by aligning themselves with the activity in a way that engages the shopper and creates a lasting relationship once the game is over.

Aside from the various entrepreneurs selling their wares throughout the parking lot there were several national brands there to sell you something as well. One fast food franchise was handing out free samples of their McLatte’s to anyone who was interested and since many of us had started early in the morning, this was a welcome treat. I only wish they had tried harder to be part of the game experience. Yes, their brown cart stood out in the crowd but could we not have sampled the warm treat in red and/or green cups to build a bond with our consumer? Would that have really hurt the brand equity too much or might it have made that “raging” consumer feel like this brand is really here–they get what this game means to me! THAT is an emotional bond. Even better, while the sample is great and gets me to consider the brand in the future, how about giving me a reason to head to my local store for a visit so I can make an actual purchase? I did not see any coupons at the stand where I was but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that perhaps they ran out.

A Missed Opportunity to Engage?

The other big marketer I noticed was a certain bank, which apparently sponsored the entire party. They had their name on the tickets and signage everywhere and ran a really fun spot on the big screen throughout the game. I actually do business with this bank and thought that their sponsorship was pretty cool, but then I thought, “why didn’t I know about this before hand?” As a “gold account” holder, wasn’t I entitled to some inside information, or something a little extra? I wondered if they knew which of their current consumers were Oregon or Ohio fans, and might be interested in the game and had done any targeted marketing efforts. Once I got over myself, I considered the greater missed opportunity. I admit that the big screen spot was funny the first time you saw it but here you are with 100,000 screaming, shouting and cheering fans all hanging on every second of the game. What a chance to engage this captive audience in an experience that could start a relationship. Something simple like a poll or contest using text messaging to one of the 100,000 cell phones in the stadium? How about taking a picture on your mobile phone and sending it to be featured on the big screen? How about an approach that celebrates the competitive spirit that was pulsing through the crowd. How many Ducks fans would know the answer versus how many Buckeyes?

ABC had a promo for the new show “Modern Family” that actually welcomed fans from both teams and used a Rose Bowl trivia question to create interest but rather than engaging the audience they just gave you the answer in a subsequent spot. Now I realize, that this was playing to an audience of millions on national television but it still does not excuse the missed opportunity to engage. After all, how many of those folks are actually going to switch banks because they saw a funny ad?

When are marketers and their agencies going to recognize that they are dealing with a new kind of consumer and that brand awareness is only one part of the equation? When the Buckeyes stormed the field in victory at the end of the fourth quarter, it marked the end of a great game. Unless of course you didn’t get enough ROI to justify your spend … or you are a Ducks Fan.

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