Stories that consumers find exciting and relevant will be shared time and time again on social media and – crucially – it’s the consumer that judges whether a story is interesting, says Mark Sandys, global head of Beer and Baileys, Diageo.
This means brands need to have high creative standards.
Sandys was speaking on the future of advertising and viral videos, primarily from his experience with Guinness, at Canadean’s International Beer Strategies Conference in Brussels last week.
It’s not just about changing technology
“The changes that are taking place at the moment through technology, mobile and consumer behavior are going to dictate the way all of us communicate with our customers over the next few years,” said Sandys.
“Those changes put more power into the hands of consumers, so they have more power over what they see than ever before."
TV is still important and a good way of reaching a lot of people at once, says Sandys. But he adds that it is expensive and hard to target a specific audience. In addition, in European countries 87% of viewers watch TV with another device in their hands - for example a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
And it's these devices that show the other opportunities to connect with consumers.
The key difference between TV and social media is that it’s consumers who judge the value of advertising.
“Great content is rewarded: things that people find interesting get higher up your Facebook feed, the more people click on it, read it, like it, the higher up it goes," said Sandys. "And the next time the same publisher produces work, it will automatically start higher up the feed. So it challenges all of us to have our creative standards high.
“Imagine this on TV beforehand. You just bought a slot, and reached lots of people, and the media owner didn’t make a judgement on whether the ad was good.
But now, the consumer judges the quality of an ad, said Sandys.
“So, it puts a premium on being interesting, relevant and, critically, in being unique in this world.”
And the good news for the beer industry is that beer aficionados and consumers are ready and willing to share and engage in stories happening in the sector – giving beer brands a great audience to talk to, added Sandys.
Research shows that it is soon evident whether a film will go viral: in fact, half the shares of a film are done within the first three days, said Sandys, when it’s fresh, new, and exciting.
“There’s a fundamental motivation on why people share things. They think it’s interesting to you, relevant to you, and at some point shows that I’m pretty cool because I’ve seen this film and [I'm] helping you discover it.
“If you have a film all over TV why would anyone share it? Everyone’s seen it anyway. That’s why sharing only happens when its news.”
And social media activity can help a story become the news, said Sandys. In February this year, American NFL player J.J. Watt visited Dublin, and Guinness and the Open Gate Brewery created and packaged a bespoke beer for him.
“We didn’t publicize at all, but he was blown away by this and therefore tweeted it and posted it on Facebook,” explained Sandys. Both Guinness and Watt have a lot of followers and as a result it was shared widely across social media and journalists picked up on the story.
It was the fact the story was valued that made it so successful, said Sandys.
“At the heart of it was because it was a really interesting story, a story you couldn’t tell without describing Guinness, a story that captivated him, and therefore he wanted to tell the story,” said Sandys.
Power of the story
So while the fast evolution of technology is fascinating to watch, it’s the power of the story that ultimately counts, says Sandys.
“These changes aren’t just about technology: they’re about the power of going to consumers and rewarding interesting stories,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if those stories are told with multi-million TV budgets or tweets, it’s the power of the story that will get it picked up and have people respond to it.”