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Why Your Brand Should Take More Calculated Risks

Why Your Brand Should Take More Calculated Risks

Sponsorship & Activation Case Studies Your Brand Must Have on Hand!

5 Minute Read

-         This week’s Roundtable features the following #HumansOfMKTG: Kathryn Grabowski, Stefania Constantini, Justin Hasan and Lisa Lui.

-         When taking calculated risks, brands often look for case studies and proof points to support decision making and/or spark ideas. MKTG’s Roundtable this week will provide marketers with exactly that.

-         Case studies covered: Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, KLM’s activation in Germany, Ben & Jerry’s anti-Trump ice cream and a new piece of technology brought to the World Equestrian Games that enhanced the fan experience.

At MKTG, we are consultants and live experience experts who provide recommendations that at times, challenge our clients to go outside their comfort zones. As marketers, we understand that taking a risk is a big decision for some brands, and is not to be taken lightly for established brands with strong brand equity; but a calculated risk—implementing a new technology, sponsoring an untested property, testing a novel approach for the brand—can potentially payoff big for your consumers and brand.

The Dove Real Beauty campaign is a classic example how a brand can win big by taking a risk and challenging industry norms as Kathryn Grabowski—one of our #HumansOfMKTG—explains:

“In 2006, Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, which has become one of most-talked about ad campaigns of the decade. The campaign featured a series of advertisements that explored the notion of “real” beauty by rejecting the physical standards of female models in skincare, clothing and other advertising.  Dove’s first video spot called Evolution, called out the beauty industry by revealing how much photoshop is used in advertisements. The video became a viral hit and the exposure generated by the spot has been estimated to be worth over $150M. 

The brand then took a risk when launching its billboard campaign by choosing to feature real women (vs models) who reflected more realistic “average” body types, ethnicities, ages and demographics. At the time, no other mainstream beauty brand was talking about how people define female beauty, and the negative effects of false advertisements.

However, the risks Dove took were very calculated and thought out as the brand intended on creating long-term outcomes versus short-term effects. They did their research in advance – conducting a series of studies and focus groups of women to learn about their priorities and interests, they anticipated the campaign would be criticized and created the Dove Self Love Fund to ensure they “practiced what they preached”.

Today, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is one of the longest running beauty campaigns and continues to evolve and break barriers within the marketing and advertising industry.”

When taking calculated risks, we often look for case studies and proof points, such as the one from Dove, to support decision making and/or use in brainstorms to spark ideas. In order to accumulate this best practice list, we brought together the #HumansOfMKTG at our Roundtable to bring forth their favorite example of a brand who has taken a calculated risk. 

Stefania’s Case Study

KLM invests in activations that support their traditional branding in order to increase awareness in Germany.

The Challenge: KLM (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij) is and has been a Dutch airline for almost a century, however, according to a 2018 poll, almost half of Germany’s population doesn’t know what the acronym stands for and rather associates it with a bank, a restaurant or radio station.

The Approach: To solve this awareness problem, the brand decided to launch the “We are an airline” experiential campaign and put its logo onto those three things to reinforce that they are an established airline. KLM opened a pop-up aviation-themed restaurant serving free meals, branded ATM’s across Germany that would give away free air-tickets instead of cash and took over a German radio station to share fun news, commercials, quizzes and release a campaign song ‘We are an airline” (which was also put on Spotify).

The Risk: Embracing their misunderstood brand name—deciding not to invest in a rebrand after uncovering a brand awareness problem.

The Benefits: KLM was able to maintain their loyal consumer base and gain awareness with new consumers – all while being able to stick true to their historical “KLM” branding and design. Brands in a similar position may have wanted to rebrand immediately, changing the logo, name and other aspects of the brand to initiate change. However, the brand leveraged the existing and historical value to their benefit by staying true to their traditional branding and investing in activations that simply reinforce that. The brand was also able to capitalize on a few other benefits from their activation:

·        Using humor to drive general awareness and generate buzz of KLM as an airline option in Germany

·        Extending the brand experience beyond the skies and create a bond with those people who are part of the activation

·        Sparking admiration from consumers—people respect when brands take responsibility for issues and solve them directly and publicly.

·        Demonstrating the brand’s personality, boldness, and willingness to educate and provide unique experiences


Justin’s Case Study

Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor - “Pecan Resist,” promotes progressive politics and angers Trump Supporters


The Challenge: Keeping Ben & Jerry’s relevant in market while maintaining the brand’s essence: supporting progressive issues and social justice.

The Approach: On Oct. 30, 2018, Ben & Jerry’s unveiled their newest ice cream flavor—"Pecan Resist”—to “create a more just and equitable nation for us all and who are fighting President Trump’s regressive agenda.” Regardless of sales from “Pecan Resist,” Ben & Jerry’s has committed to contribute $100,000 and partner with 4 different not-for-profits which include:  Honor the Earth (supports Native environmental issues), Neta (voice the needs of residents along the Texas – Mexico border), Color of Change (fights racial injustices) and the Women’s March – all of which are organizations that fight against Trump’s agenda.

The Risk: Considering the controversial results of the October US Midterms, this statement risks offending a significant portion of the U.S. population. As stated by Ben and Jerry’s Activism Manager Chris Miller: “Some people are going to disagree … but the flip side is you do create a consumer base,” supporting Ben & Jerry’s belief that “It is better to be loved by some than to be inoffensive to everyone”. There is also a risk of offending the investors of the Vermont ice cream maker’s parent brand—Unilever.

The Benefits: As per the reaction on Twitter, some Trump supporters will no longer buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but for those with progressive views, taking this stand helped the brand build a relationship with customers that goes beyond a sales transaction.  From supporting the protestors of Occupy Wall Street in 2011 to Black Lives Matter in 2016, Ben & Jerry’s consistent commitment to the progressive causes that they believe in offers an authenticate advocate and the tastiest of ice creams for its fans.

Lisa’s Case Study

As the Official Fan Engagement Sponsor of the World Equestrian Games 2018, SAP (software company) leverages new cloud services to revolutionize the equestrian fan experience.


The Challenge: Through tradition and by design, equestrian fans traditionally play a passive spectator role at events—resulting in lower fan engagement/satisfaction.

The Approach: To improve fan engagement, WEG partnered with SAP to elevate the fan experience. The SAP’s “Spectator Judging App” empowers fans to co-score competitors in real time.  Crowd scores are immediately displayed in the app and on arena scoreboards so that fans and commentators can see how the public’s assessments line up against those of the official judges.  Further, “Stories Behind the Numbers”, provides fans with key stats, insights and analysis based on six decades of Olympic and World Games data.

The Risk: Given the new technology and real-time nature of the app/activation, there is a significant risk that technical glitches. Also, the activation may alienate those that aren’t tech savvy or the new/casual fans that find it difficult to follow and judge the rounds. Finally, co-scoring can also present a serious challenge if the crowd’s scores significantly or consistently diverge from the official scores.  By shining a light on scoring disparities, fans may call into question (rightly or wrongly) the integrity of the judging.

The Benefits: SAP truly elevates the fan experience by transforming traditionally passive spectators into fully engaged (pseudo) judges that intensely watch every stride and test their knowledge and love of the sport through scoring.   The posting of the crowd’s scores vs the official scores also sparks passionate fan debate and commentary that adds yet another level of engagement for those in the stands or watching online at home. From a commercial perspective, the partnership also serves as a real-life case study that persuasively illustrates the power of SAP’s products and services in an authentic and tangible way.

The case studies brought to you by our team will provide substantial support in brainstorming new ideas for your brand to be bold and make decisions that may be considered untraditional!

Have a favorite case study?

Tweet us @mktg_canada.

Want to take a risk in your brand strategy?

Shoot us an email at: infocanada@mktg.com  We can help.

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