Ep. 44 – How Crypto.com tried to buy its way to the top, how the NFL is engaging a younger audience, and P&G’s newest challenger brand (that’s actually working)

💸 How Crypto.com tried to buy its way to the top

What they did: It must be a tough rollercoaster to ride inside the marketing departments for some of crypto businesses. A year ago they had more money than they knew what to do with and were throwing it at any advertising opportunity that moved. Crypto.com was the poster child of this feeding frenzy, hiring Matt Damon to do a Super Bowl commercial and buying the naming rights to the (previously named) Staples Center in LA. But now the music has stopped.

Crypto winter has decimated the valuation and cash flow for many of these businesses. This article from Ad Age gives an interesting, insider perspective on their “marketing meltdown” as they call it. It’s worth a read – one of those real-life business stories that seems more like fiction (surely someone has already bought the movie rights to this…).

But the question we want to ask is – what impact did all that spending have? There are two ways to win a market: build a relevant, differentiated, authentic brand through sharp positioning, clear consistent comms, and smart media investments; or just throw boatloads of money at it in the hopes you beat consumers into submission. For 99% of brands, the first path is the one they follow. For the 1% who follow the second path, it can work (see Geicko in the US, Carphone Warehouse in the UK) but only as long as the money keeps flowing. If it stops, you’re left with a deep hole in your pocket and a brand that hasn’t really made a lasting impact in the market.

Of course the ideal is that you have BOTH a strong brand with smart execution AND more investment than your competition. Great marketing and the best brands start with the smart strategic work and push it further than their competitors.

What it means for you: Where are you spending hard instead of smart?

🏈 How the NFL is engaging a younger audience through social

What they did: The NFL is a massive brand in the US (and increasingly beyond). But they’re facing their own challenges attracting and retaining a younger audience that’s pulled towards e-sports and gaming. Plus, pickle ball is coming for them…

So how is the NFL thinking and acting like a challenger with this audience? And what’s working for them that we can learn from?

Check out this article from Digiday that includes an interview with the NFLs SVP of “social influence and influencer marketing” (a bit redundant perhaps? But we digress…).

Now, there are a few things you’d expect.  They’re doing a ton on and with TikTok. They’re focused heavily on influencers, celebrities, and the big name NFL players. Plus, having 136 million followers and a $31 million advertising budget must be nice.

But the thing we think is really interesting about their strategy is buried midway through the article. The NFL is focused on a “helmets off” strategy for their social. They’re trying to show their players off the field during the week, not just on the field with in-game highlights. “It’s all designed to connect fans with their favorite players beyond the weekly games.”

Smart. Both because it creates a more human connection between the fans and players (they’re not just an athlete, they’re a human being) and because it creates a whole new world for fans to buy into and pay attention to – the rest of the week outside of Sunday!

The NFL will own Sundays for the foreseeable future, but there’s a ton of opportunity for them to build awareness, relevance, and equity Mon-Sat as well.

What it means for you: What is your “Sunday”? What is the main focus of your audiences attention? How can you expand into new areas and find your “Mon-Sat”?

⚖️  How P&G is disrupting itself with a new challenger brand

What they did: Growth is a race between challengers gaining scale and incumbents gaining innovation. Most of the time, it’s the challengers who win over the long-term. They’re more focused on the needs of the customer, can move and evolve faster, and can be more long-term oriented and invested than the incumbents. But actually, its the incumbents that have the best opportunity to disrupt or change a category. They have the scale already! They have the budgets, they have the experience, they have the distribution. The reason they lose is that they can’t get out of their own way. They’re not willing to disrupt themselves, so someone else ends up doing it for them.

Every once in a while you see a success story from an incumbent disrupting itself by launching a challenger brand. There are many different ways to do this, but most of the big players go for the ‘flanker brand’ approach. They set up a separate team and give them a budget to operate independently as if they were a start-up. We’ve written in the past about why this model usually fails, but we keep rooting for it to work.

Every big incumbent has their version of this “innovation group” and P&G is no exception. They recently launched a start-up insecticide brand that’s actually gaining some traction in the market. Zevo has all the characteristics of a true challenger brand (relevant, authentic, differentiated, dynamic) but has the backing of the biggest CPG company in the world. TBD whether it will be successful in changing the category long-term, which is really the only thing that matters although we’re sure some people at P&G got a nice pat on the back for getting this article written. Don’t get us wrong, building some buzz and gaining some traction isn’t easy, but it’s the long-term change that we’re interested in and is usually much harder for these incumbents to actually follow through on.

What it means for you: If you were to launch a flanker brand to your business, how would it be different from your master brand? What can you learn from that and apply to your current marketing strategy and execution?

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