2019 SIA Awards: What’s all the hype about?

The winning strategies behind hyping up No Frills, Big Macs, Doritos and Jack Daniel's.

This story originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of strategy.

Hype culture is spreading faster than butter on oven-fresh bread.

It’s a phenomenon driven by sneaker kids and their obsession with 2 a.m. lineups for exclusive shoe drops. But, as some SIA-winning brands have shown, the trend is not only for the streetwear crowd. Brands of all shapes and sizes – a grocer, QSR, CPG, and a whiskey brand – have built new cred via a mountain of hype.

No one puffs itself up better than No Frills. It snagged the Grand Prix (plus a Gold Reinvention) for not only rebranding its discount self with a degree of exclusivity, but for remaking its shoppers into the best “Haulers” (read: value conscious) they can be.

The retailer is a destination for smart shopping, particularly in the age of low-disposable income. It wanted bargain-hunting millennials to never feel ashamed for being value-driven. Rather, they should celebrate their savviness and wear it as a badge of honour. Working with Dentsu on nonconformist media swagger and John St. on creative, No Frills created a movement to become one of Canada’s hottest brands.

No Frills’ pumped up marketing was seen everywhere. Those looking to get a lot (for less) were first teased with unbranded social content and wild postings on the street. Next, the grocer dropped an album record, music video and clothing collection. And finally, a commercial that revealed the culprit behind the slick drops showed attitude – not prices – through its parkour-happy customers.

No Frills set out to feel more like a lifestyle brand than a grocer, and that it did. As a result, the company increased its traffic by 13.7% and improved sales by 3% just after debuting its hot new look.

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McDonald’s did not drop a hot album for the promotion of its hot burger. However, that didn’t stop the Gold Design and Bronze Integration winner from imitating the delirium that happens pre-launch.

Working with Cossette, the brand targeted younger “trendsetters” for the return of its Big Mac with Bacon. This target gets satisfaction from being the first to discover something, so the campaign was designed to feel like an exclusive album drop.

Purposely unbranded, the “BMxB” logo quietly appeared on wild postings, billboards, and banner ads. McD’s partnered with “hip” clothing stores to tease the mysterious “collaboration” in its windows; while influencers and a TV spot threw to a website that featured only a countdown to the burger’s launch.

All was finally revealed at an exclusive preview event and the original OOH switched to reveal the collaboration between the Big Mac and Bacon. All of which led to a 13% jump in Big Mac sales, with the BMxB meal making up 24% of the increase.

As these campaigns show, the more rare something is, the more people covet it. That’s the credo of hype culture. Silver Path to Purchase/Out of Store winner PepsiCo also wanted a piece of the excitement behind an exclusive collection, so it dropped one of its own.

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Canadians have a deep love and affection for Doritos Ketchup chips. But, in 2017, sales for the limited-time flavour sunk below projections, as fewer people were purchasing the once-adored potato chip. The brand had lost the sense of scarcity that made it so appealing.

So to re-ignite its exclusivity, BBDO treated the annual Ketchup launch like a popular streetwear brand would – with an exclusive branded clothing and accessories line.

An authentic approach was going to make the chip collection a success: because to look like a real streetwear brand, Doritos Ketchup needed to act like one too. The PepsiCo brand released a lookbook with actual artists and fashion influencers as models. The collection was then released weekly at DoritosDrop.ca and promoted across social.

Turns out, the collection was covetable enough to get coverage from style pubs and blogs, earning more than 89 million impressions valued at over $1.5 million. The “Doritos Ketchup Drop” campaign also dramatically increased repeat purchases by 7%, while overall sales exceeded the brand’s forecast by 15%.

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Sponsorship swagger
Celebrating its legacy of being at the heart of pop culture, Jack Daniel’s approached its NBA sponsorship with an idea that brought the swagger of the basketball association together with the coolness of Jack.

The Hive’s Bronze Sponsorship-winning idea was to create an event that was equal parts NBA and Jack Daniel’s. The team embraced a cultural cue that’s common among both brands: tattoos. Ink can be found on almost every player in the NBA, telling the stories of commitment and perseverance – similar values of Jack Daniel’s. The two partners invited basketball fans to celebrate the game and the players at “Whiskey & Ink,” a gallery-style event that boasted photographs telling the stories of seven players and their tattoos. The event also included a meet-and-greet with NBA player Mo Williams, live tattooing, a DJ, and, of course, Jack Daniel’s cocktails. “Whiskey and Ink” also had a presence online, with content featuring interviews with the players.

Going beyond creating traditional branded swag helped Jack Daniel’s exceed engagement targets with the NBA audience and challenge perceptions of it being seen as a dated, rock-and-roll brand.