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Why marketing in your off-season is the name of the game

Something that’s always intrigued me is how product releases that are irregular or confined to a specific moment in time, like film, TV or tech releases, manage to live in the public consciousness far beyond their launch window. As marketers, how does this help other products or brands sustain such a relationship with consumers?

For the sake of this article, let's take a Byron Sharp view of the world as a given; That share of voice is important in maintaining or increasing mental availability (the probability that a buyer will notice, recognise and think of a brand in buying situations) for brands that want to grow. What does that mean for products that have purchasing cycles that are seasonal or fixed calendar moments? How do you sustain that level of mental availability?

We can look at disruptive TV services as an example of how this might work.

Netflix isn’t adding so many subscribers because they have lots and lots of content people want to watch. In fact their viewing figures are pretty poor if you compare it to terrestrial TV giants, particularly the biggest hitters like Sherlock and Countryfile. Yes, that's right, Countryfile is massive.

What they are doing well is making the content they launch seem like such a massive event that when people do watch it the perceived value they get from that content is exponentially higher and flavours their entire value judgement. So BBC and ITV begin to pale in comparison when it comes to people's perception of value (and worryingly for the BBC, perceptions of value for the licence fee), whilst Netflix’s brand position strengthens.

Key to this is not just being the noisiest show on the block during the launch period - after all, if this was the case, with the amount of free advertising the BBC and ITV get on their own airwaves their brand image would be much stronger than it currently is.

Game of Thrones maintaining their mental availability, even when the show is not on air

What is vital is the way that the biggest brands, like Netflix, manage to maintain their mental availability during their off-seasons - those moments when they don't have as much to say. It's a game the big American hits, particularly on-streaming services, manage to play well, but our terrestrial British shows for the most part are yet to catch up on.

Game of Thrones and Stranger Things are forever in the public consciousness because they drip feed marketing and comms throughout the period that they're not on air. They’re 365 days a year events. Terrestrial have a big bang and then it’s over.

And it's not just true of entertainment. Our data suggests that Apple manages to continue to generate huge mental availability even when they have no news to talk about. They're a world leader in managing must-read PR when they haven't even got anything to say. Compare the amount of page views to articles across the Trinity Mirror Network tagged with iPhone vs. Samsung Galaxy for September 2016 to February 2017:

Now compare this to the top selling mobile devices globally in 2016:

It's precisely Apple's ability to continue to tell stories about themselves during their quiet periods that maintains their share of mental availability and allows them to outsell their rivals, with even previous gen tech leading their sales figures.

So what does this mean for us, a media owner that creates branded content?

We believe there's a crucial point to be made here about the differing roles of advertising and PR vs. brand partnerships. Whilst advertising and PR are typically campaign, event or burst-driven, a partnership allows us to extend the potential for growing mental availability over a longer time frame. And our editorial content is at the heart of this.

Our titles are the mass market echo chamber; our content is fuel that allows brands like Apple and Netflix to sustain their mental availability across the year. We keep brands and products in the social consciousness, amplifying their impact on culture and reinforcing their mental availability, by doing lots of the leg work when those brands don't actually have a lot to say.

And for those challenger brands like Samsung, it's by working with us as partners that allows for that boost in mental availability even when you traditionally would think you haven't got much to say.

Proof, for those that demand it, can be found in the startling results we saw for our partnership with Aldi and their sponsorship of Team GB for the 2016 Olympics. The massive increases recorded for readers vs. non readers of our titles believing that Aldi stocked the freshest fruit and vegetables, demonstrated through the branded content's association with Team GB, all fed into Aldi's growing mental availability for fresh produce purchase decisions. Which had the direct result of increasing sales.

We create stronger links between our audience and brands so that a purchasing relationship extends beyond a single moment. Why? Because our reach amongst 40m people in the UK and a resonance and relevance with those audiences mean we can keep those brands at the forefront of mass market culture.

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