Down the rabbit hole of the summer ad campaign
by Ndumiso Ndlela (@ndundlela) The great summer ad campaign idea is not inspired by where you end up in the rabbit hole but the process in the journey. It is the discoveries along the way that will inform one that resonates with your audience or community. After a few trips down the rabbit hole, some key findings remain the same.
The fondest memory I have of summer is eating a banana-boat dessert after a long day of swimming at the Durban beachfront pools. The water would turn a slight yellow colour by 1pm on any given day, because who could be bothered to go to the nearby public toilets and lose a moment of fun? As a toddler, the season was all about sun, beach sand, family time and ice-cream. The teenage years were about how far out I could swim into the Indian Ocean and discovering the bikini was the best fashion item ever created. Nowadays, I look forward to sundowners and enjoying the sea breeze when I go home for the year-end break. These drinks by the beach seem to taste even better after spending months down the rabbit hole of the summer campaign.
The term “rabbit hole” comes from Lewis Carrol’s book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, in which a young girl called Alice falls down a rabbit hole and meets some strange and interesting creatures while having surreal experiences along the way. The fall down the rabbit hole may start from the first brainstorming session you have around the summer campaign. You start on a path with a clearly defined goal but the direction will change several times along the journey.
One road will lead you to old ideas that have been used countless times; you keep falling until you are back to your childhood memories, thinking where can you put the banana-boat dessert in the campaign. The direction changes again until the rabbit hole leads you to somewhere unexpected. In this new unknown place, you might meet Donald Trump in a red Baywatch speedo.
Essence of summer
The childhood memories I have of summer are not exclusive. The feelings and emotions induced by the word itself are similar for so many of us. It’s a time for colour and excitement, a season that comes with a sense of freedom and discovery. We are young again in the summer, and the nights and days belong to us to do with them as we please. Sometimes, it’s about your brand capturing the essence of summer and creating content that authentically speaks to some of these intangibles.
What story is your brand telling the audience in summer? Are we taking a road-trip back home and rediscovering old places? Will your content pillars focus on summer freedom and travel, or trying new things like shark cage diving and encouraging your community to share their moments? Do you focus on one family member, such as mom, and how she can have the best summer with the kids at home? Find that story that is relatable to your audience that you can ride like a wave throughout your summer campaign period.
Important summer days
There are days during the South African summer that many brands may view as an opportunity to really amplify their content and message, whether it’s the end of the school term, 16 December (Day of Reconciliation) when the whole province of KwaZulu-Natal seems to be at the beach front, or the day after Christmas (Day of Goodwill). The content creators and marketers who are looking to take full advantage of the summer season will find clever and unique tactics to align with the standout days of the summer.
I can’t tell you what makes a really great summer campaign but there are things to consider in having a fighting chance to be memorable. You must remember that habits change with seasons. People want to be outdoors in summer so they won’t be in front of their TV screens and laptops. But they will always be on mobile.
What is the state of mind of your audience at that specific time of year? You may need to try harder to get their attention.
Lastly, it might be in the brand’s best interest to jump down the rabbit hole of the summer campaign at the start of winter.
Ndumiso Ndlela (@ndundlela) is a storyteller at heart. As head of digital for DNA Brand Architects, his passion is to help brands navigate the digital landscape and creating ground-breaking, innovative and award-winning content.
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