19.08.2016 Don’t buy this: When brands tell you to do something else

If you switch on any of ITV’s seven channels between 9:30am and 10:30am on Saturday 27 August, perhaps expecting to enjoy a classic Murder She Wrote or a Coronation Street omnibus, you’ll be disappointed.

Instead of a crime-solving pensioner or a dreary northern neighbourhood, all you’ll see is a screen encouraging you to get up of the sofa (or more accurately out of bed, given the time of day) and take part in sport.

For an hour, the entire ITV network will effectively shut down as part of the I Am Team GB campaign with the National Lottery.

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The Bank Holiday weekend event is part of the celebrations to welcome home Team GB from the Rio Olympics.

It’s not the first time a well-known brand has actively encouraged its customers not to engage with it but to do something else instead.

 

E4 and the election

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Last year E4, the Channel 4-owned TV channel aimed at young people, shut down for the entire day for the general election.

On 7 May 2015 ‘Darren’, the man apparently in charge of keeping E4 switched on, finally turned the channel off.

The stunt was done to encourage more young people to get out and vote, or in E4’s own words “to swap Big Bang for the Ballot Box”.

At the time Dan Brooke, Channel 4’s chief marketing officer, said: “Less than half of under-25s voted at the last election so we’ve engaged the most powerful weapon that we have at our disposal to try and boost that number – switching off their favourite TV channel for the day.”

Though the stunt gained much publicity it failed to make an impact on turnout, with fewer under-25s voting than in 2010.

 

British Airways and the Olympics

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Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com

From extra legroom and exclusive in-flight entertainment to special offers and loyalty discounts, airlines will do anything to get passengers to fly with them instead of their rivals.

But in 2012 British Airways actively encouraged people to do the exact opposite and stay at home instead.

The airline was an official sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics, and launched a campaign with the strapline: ‘Don’t Fly. Support Team GB and Paralympics GB’.

Frank van der Post, MD of brands and customer experience at British Airways, said the campaign aimed to capitalise on home advantage.

“Whether it means delaying your summer holiday, finding where to get behind the country with our ‘best sports bars abroad’ guide, or cheering them on at Park Live at the Olympic Park, we are encouraging every extra clap and cheer we can get.”

Team GB finished third in the medal table in its most successful Olympics since 1908.

 

While it might seem strange that well-known brands would stop doing the thing they are most known for – their very raison d’etre – or actively encourage people to do something else, it can make sense from a commercial point of view.

The publicity gained from this ‘anti-advertising’ can help boost brand loyalty and awareness, especially if it is being done to promote a worthwhile cause.

However, brands should be careful not to go too far in this approach and risk alienating their customers or pushing them into the arms of their rivals.