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Brand recognition on a budget: How FCB Media turned a weakness into a strength with search

For most, a brand’s name is its strength. For car brand SEAT (pronounced say-at) it was a weakness. This was until FCB Media took the wheel and produced an award- and awareness-winning search engine campaign.

Based on the insight that less than six percent of Kiwis could correctly pronounce SEAT and two out of three had never heard the brand before, FCB Media came up with a clever data-driven solution to overcome this recognition challenge and smuggle SEAT in front of a much wider audience than it normally would have engaged with.

The campaign for client European Motor Distributors, aptly named ‘Edge of Relevance’, received recognition in three categories at the 2022 Beacon Awards including a Gold in Best Small Budget, a Silver in Consumer Durables, and Silver in Best Use of Search Engine Marketing.

Despite working with a limited budget and facing this unique name challenge, Chris Thomas, FCB’s Group Strategy and Product Director says these restraints forced the team to be creative and ultimately ended up working in the client’s favour.

With the word ‘seat’ being easily confused with the everyday item, insight identified that every month over 800,000 Kiwis were unknowingly using this word in unrelated Google searches.

So, the team set about flipping traditional relevance-based search strategies on their head with a search and content solution that smuggled SEAT into seemingly unrelated contexts “on the very edge of relevance” and popping up in searches from car seats to Grabaseat.

The result? FCB Media had harnessed a channel designed for bottom-funnel conversion to build top-funnel awareness and rapidly driven a 50 percent awareness lift and a 1440 percent lift in Kiwis correct pronunciation of the brand name.

“We performed the strongest in Best Small Budget and what worked for us there is what helped us in the other categories as well,” Thomas says.

“As data continues to be increasingly important in the bedrock of strong media performance, we are seeing more opportunities show up for tight contextual, personalised messages and more of those opportunities becoming available for brands to take advantage of.

“In our case we flipped that on its head a bit and we used that data-driven approach to take a different approach. Rather than going really tightly targeted, we used it to smuggle SEAT in front of a much wider audience than what it would normally have, or have the right to engage with, which really drove those awareness uplifts for us.”

He says the tension between brand and performance is becoming increasingly interesting and part of a wider long-term industry conversation around long-term brand building, short-term sales activation and how you can unlock those advantages for clients.

“For SEAT in this case, we had a budget that was so low we couldn’t afford to go out and do both together, so we went into a channel that you’d usually use for performance. That caused us to do a bit of a flip and is different to what you’d usually see.”

However, this level of creativity and risk taking did require trust and a “leap of faith” from the client he says.

“Generally, search is one of those channels that you can usually see immediate uplift and measure success, but brand building and awareness takes longer to see [results]. It did take a bit of faith that it would be an approach that would perform for them in the long run.”

Matt Tohill, General Manager Customer Engagement at European Motor Distributors, says FCB Media was “instrumental in the concept, content and execution” of the campaign.

“We challenged them to somehow raise awareness of our new and relatively unknown brand without the budget to access the traditional mass channels or formats. Their innovative idea leveraged a ‘unique feature’  of the brand name to insert the brand and our products into consumers consciousness in a playful and cost effective way. They nailed a brief we didn’t even really know how to write!”

He says often automotive marketing can be conservative so he was pleased when this innovative idea was embraced by the brand and leadership team.

“The results were fantastic for raising awareness for SEAT in a critical channel but also demonstrated the passion FCB have for our brands and the trust they have with our team to get everyone so engaged in delivering it.”

As SEAT is a relatively new brand and there was no budget put aside for brand recognition, Thomas says there wasn’t the opportunity to invest in prior brand building activity.

“In media when you have greater budgets it means more opportunity for you to really push the boat out, test new approaches, be a bit more creative and create that advantage for the brands we work on.

“It’s the briefs where we have those restrictions, whether it’s the budget or the time frames or what kind of assets we have, where you get cornered into finding a new opportunity and to actually be your most creative in the channels that you’ve got.”

Thomas says this is what drove the advantage for this campaign. 

“Taking something that had a massive restriction that would always hold us back from ever being able to use search effectively as a channel, to being something we used to build our brand.

“Small doesn’t always have to mean small impact.”

About Author

Ayla Miller is a Feature Writer/Sub-editor for SCG Media Business titles, NZ Marketing, StopPress, Idealog and The Register.