Sara Callanan, Managing Director at Elevator Promotional Marketing, shares how brands should consider marketing opportunities in Northern Ireland.
As the IPM’s only member in Northern Ireland, Elevator is uniquely placed to recognise the opportunities afforded to brands who get their marketing right here. We work with local, national and international brands, and create campaigns that run in GB, NI and ROI so we are very familiar with the subtle nuances that can make all the difference to a campaign.
With differences between GB and NI law making it difficult to run identical campaigns UK-wide – and further differences with ROI law – many brands simply choose to insert the words “excluding Northern Ireland” into their terms and conditions. And with the uncertainties posed by Brexit, this tendency to exclude rather than include NI, may increase.
From an agency and client perspective, this may seem sensible. After all, with a population of 1.88 million, Northern Ireland represents just 2.8% of the UK population. But while it may seem acceptable to exclude NI consumers when devising national campaigns, we would argue that smart brands should avoid this pitfall, and instead consider the size of the Northern Ireland market as a possible advantage
Firstly, NI consumers feel badly done by when promotional campaigns for their favourite brands exclude them. For a consumer to have bought a promotional pack of cereal or crisps, only to then read the small print advising them that they may not enter, is alienating and can damage their relationship with the brand. It’s not just promotions that exclude NI altogether, that are potentially damaging. I see plenty of promotions on packs sold in NI stores where the NI consumer hasn’t been thought about at all. For instance an offer involving a third party such as a cinema chain that doesn’t have any outlets locally, or Free Days Out promotions with literally 1 or 2 locations in NI.
Secondly, it is important to consider the strength of regional brands. This can have a major impact on the effectiveness of national promotional campaigns, and can put a question mark over the decision to exclude NI consumers. Even if you’ve never heard of Thompson’s Punjana or Nambarrie (the two most popular brands of tea in Northern Ireland), tasted the wonders of Tayto Cheese & Onion Crisps, spread your Nutty Krust bread with Dromona Butter, or savoured a Spelga Yoghurt, it is worth remembering that your NI consumers have a very special affinity with these iconic brands and may need more inducement to move away from them.
Where a brand goes out of its way to embrace NI consumers, the brand reaps the rewards in terms of sales. One such brand is Boost Energy. Francine Matthews, Boost’s UK Consumer Marketing Manager comments: “Boost has enjoyed huge success in Northern Ireland in recent years, and as a marketing team we were quick to recognise that in order to build on this success, we needed a regional agency to provide us with a relevant local direction to drive further engagement and give the brand a local tone of voice on some of the most powerful social media platforms. Elevator works closely with us and our GB agencies to ensure all our activations are aligned with national campaigns whilst being dialled up or down where necessary for the NI market”.
This dual approach allows Boost to take into account regional differences and play to its regional strengths – so much so that Boost is now the No. 1 soft drink in Northern Ireland. (Source: IRI Marketplace Data Symbols and Independents 52 weeks unit sales to 19th May 2019)
Dedicated NI pages on Facebook & Twitter were created in March 2017 and they’re been growing from strength to strength with almost 15k followers to date and a consistent average engagement rate of 4.6%.
Our role may be to develop standalone NI-specific campaigns or activations, or to amplify a UK-wide promotion to ensure local consumers and retailers are aware of, and engage fully with, a national campaign.
Our local activation has included social media promotions with regional fascia groups Spar and Vivo, a local retailer display incentive, consumer social media engagement. We have also run a sampling roadshow using a New York yellow cab in partnership with local radio station, Cool FM.
This week, 30 finalists from our radio and social media activation will attend a private film screening where one of them will win a trip to New York (this is a NI-specific prize in addition to the national on-pack prize)
Regional campaigns can also accommodate taste preferences. For instance, Boost Red Berry is the most popular flavour of Boost among NI consumers. In fact, until a month ago, it was only available in NI, but following its success here, it has now been rolled out across the rest of the UK.
Earlier this year, in response to consumer demand, a 500ml Boost Red Berry bottle was launched in the NI market (previously it was available only in a 250ml can format). To optimise the local significance of this new format, we linked up with Air Ambulance NI with 5p from every bottle sold being donated to this local charity.
There are great opportunities offered by a region that has a very responsive consumer base and provides a clearly defined marketing region in terms of local media channels, retail networks and social networks. This makes it an ideal way for brands to test campaigns or NPD and indeed many companies have done just that over the years.
It’s also a great way to really concentrate a smaller budget in a way that makes a brand appear larger and ensures it enjoys a really deep connection with consumers here whose loyalty, once earned, is strong. And having that local knowledge and regional angle can make a campaign really come to life.
So before you “exclude Northern Ireland”, I would urge brands and their owners to consider the additional benefits that may be gained in this market, be it for a pilot campaign or launch, test marketing, regional upweight or stand-alone activation. And of course, we’re always happy to help agencies and brands hit the right the note!
If you would like to find out how Elevator Promotional Marketing can help you, please get in touch with Sara Callanan at email@example.com