Finding A Bone During The Dog Days

We've all participated in the annual rite of passage that is brand planning sessions for the upcoming year. You know the drill -- cross-functional agencies and brand managers sitting together in a room with one big calendar.  

The goal is simple: to identify and allocate the brand's "weight" across the year in a way that will effectively drive business and meets objectives. 

To no surprise, a large portion of the marketing budget is allotted to key sales periods such as holidays, product launches and other relevant moments per the brand's affiliations (e.g., NBA All-Star, VMAs). From there, the focus shifts to the mid-to-late summer period, at which point it is quickly dismissed with the standard "nothing to see here, let’s move onto September.” Yep, mid-July through the end of August has historically been the "no fly zone" for brands. And for good reason: reruns on TV, family vacations, summer camps and general "unplugging" from the usual routine. 

Brands hoping to rally behind a key sports moment don’t have much to leverage. Sure, there are a couple of PGA Grand Slams along with looming NFL fantasy drafts in late August, but they don't call this period the "dog days" for nothing. With the combination of the 24-hour news cycle and social media exaggerating this lull, any dry spell naturally feels prolonged. Recognizing this, the sports media try their best to light some fires so trivial matters become small stories, and small stories become big (and annoyingly persistent) in many cases. 

Progressive brands are starting to come to terms with the fact that they need to throw out conventional wisdoms (and planning calendars) and devise new ways to reach their audience during the dog days.

Over the past month we saw Brand Jordan launch "Blake and Drain," an efficiently executed micro-campaign. It introduced Blake Griffin as a new member of the brand and felt much bigger than it actually was. Why? Put simply, great creative -- simple digital and event extensions alongside a brief TV flight and social media. Plus, there was little out there to compete with.

Not every brand can dedicate those kinds of resources to keeping the conversation going, but every brand can look for opportunities during the dog days of August. So, here are a couple of other ways to manufacture buzz by leveraging partnerships and marketing assets: 

  • Social media: have an endorser? Fire up online activation to keep the brand in the conversation during the slow season. Drive engagement and incentivize your loyal audience for playing along.
  • Summer brand ambassadors: assign summer interns to keep the conversation going by reporting from the brand’s channel while attending summer leagues, events and festivals.
  • PR/Stunts: with the aforementioned dearth of mainstream sports news, an effectively planned stunt has the potential to be picked up by an outlet like SportsCenter. The “PTI” and “Around the Horn” folks need material. Think I’m kidding?  
  • Regionalize: some of your most important markets are going back to school earlier these days. Take advantage by dialing up your brand’s volume in those select areas with geo-targeted digital outreach.
  • Capitalize: despite the summer news cycle slowing down, there will almost always be an inevitable curve ball. Brands that can be nimble and leverage those moments with quick turnarounds can generate a disproportionate amount of attention. If Oreos can generate a social conversation during the height of the Super Bowl blackout, your brand can make waves during the dog days of summer.

So, the next time you are in a room mapping out 12 months of activation, remember that the historical “no fly zones” are just that -- history. You have the tools at your disposal to transform those dead periods into windows of opportunity.

1 comment about "Finding A Bone During The Dog Days".
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  1. Brian Murphy from Conversation, August 20, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.

    August news = injuries and controversies. Leveraging fans' hype and anticipation for the kickoff of football season is a great opportunity for marketers. I hear (or say) "can't wait for Fall" at least once this time of the year!

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