Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Decreasing consumer spend is a reality brands need to face in a global environment fraught with political and economic uncertainty.

Steve Martin. Picture: SUPPLIED
Steve Martin. Picture: SUPPLIED

Amid all the doom and gloom, however, some brands are finding a silver lining. Steve Martin, Global CEO of advertising agency M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, argues that in difficult months or years, people “default to their passions”, and look for distraction and diversion from the tough daily grind.

“In times of recession sports and cinema attendance, for example, tends to go up, instead of down,” says Martin. “People are inclined to spend their cash on experiences that feed their passions, instead of products. This trend transcends the various demographics, and is applicable across age, race, gender and even culture. As a result, it represents a huge opportunity for brands that can tap into global passions effectively, and this can help them ride the downturns in global markets.”

This belief has translated into a very clear business and brand strategy for M&C Saatchi, which recently extended its global stable into Africa with the announcement of a majority acquisition in Levergy, a Johannesburg-based sports and entertainment agency.

Levergy was recognised as the agency of the year at the recent Discovery Sport Industry Awards. The London arm of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment has won the award a record five times.

“Our extension into Africa through the Levergy acquisition stems from a belief that despite the tough economic climate, the market remains attractive and robust because of consumers’ default to passions and experiences,” says Martin.

Passion point marketing

According to a widely cited Target Group Index study, consumers are four times more likely to buy from a brand that “supports something they love”. This has given rise to what Martin refers to as passion point marketing – looking to create impact through the things people love and follow closely.

“We have found that even in a tough climate and amid information overload, people don’t mind being sold to if [the product] adds value to something they are passionate about,” says Martin. “The key challenge is always to find a way to cut through the noise and to craft a message that people want to talk about, listen to and ultimately engage with.”

In today’s era of social media addiction and shortening attention spans this is no easy task. Added to this, more and more brands are recognising the opportunity to cash in on passions, which is making it an increasingly crowded and competitive space, he points out.

For brands, the success of passion point marketing depends on partnering with the agencies and individuals who not only embrace the concept, but understand how to leverage the many channels and tools at their disposal.

“In marketing, it’s far easier to complicate than to simplify,” explains Clint Paterson, Levergy CEO. “Our challenge is to sharpen and simplify the message constantly.”

When it comes to connecting with global and hugely diverse audiences, it’s important to first understand who you are talking to, and then to find ways to create engaging and meaningful dialogues, says Patterson.

“There is definitely a big trend towards putting on experiences to connect with people, and then adding value to their lives through an event or engagement in some way,” he says.

Given the huge influence and power of social media, the eventing and experiential marketing model has shifted, says Patterson, adding that instead of putting on an event for 5,000 people, it’s more beneficial to create a bespoke event for 50 media influencers, who can then share their experience with a social media audience of over 50m highly engaged followers.

“The future belongs to brands that can effectively tap into passions and interests and provide markets with powerful and relevant experiences that speak to those passions directly,” says Paterson.

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