When it comes to marketing foods, the power of Occasion Based Marketing, or OBM, has been recognized for a long time. Iconic brand exponents of OBM include Kellogg’s (breakfast), Kit Kat (have a break) & Miller Lite (Miller Time, post work with friends).

Post by Prasad Narasimhan, Managing Partner for Asia, based in Bangalore

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By invoking the brand and the memory structure associated with it at relevant points of time, marketers are able to bring the brand top-of-mind, thereby increasing the chance for its being bought/ consumed – a simple, yet effective method to ‘SMS’, or sell more stuff.

But as brands become increasingly global, multinational brand teams look for more & more ‘higher-order’ values & associations to build their brands around; dismissing OBM as either too limiting or too pedestrian. For e.g., one foods brand we worked on recently had chosen to look at high end fashion tie-ups (Gucci, Prada etc.) to ‘build the right image’, even when there was evidence that 70% of daily consumption happened in a narrow time-space band! Why?

Why Occasions?

For food brands, the answer is simple – consumers eat by occasions, not by demographics or psychographics. The more effectively we link a brand to a consumption occasion, the more we sell. It’s that simple.

Knocking out a global leader

Coke may be the #1 beverage globally, but in Indonesia, it met its match in a very unlikely brand. After 8 decades in the country, Coke sells around 80m cases p.a, as compared to Teh botol Sosro (TBS) that outsells Coke by 2:1. TBS is not even a cola; instead it is an RTD tea that has become the Indonesians’ favorite beverage, all in less than a decade.

TBS positioned its brand on three simple truths which tap into occasion based marketing:

1. Indonesians eat several times each day (3 square meals + 3-4 more snacking occasions).

2. Indonesia has a strong tea culture

3. When Indonesians eat or munch, they feel the need to drink something as well

Putting these together, TBS positioned itself with the tagline “Whatever the meal is, Teh botol Sosro is the drink” (“Apapun makanannya minumnya Teh botol Sosro”). Simple & direct, but it does make the point.

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The campaign started in 2006, TBS has consistently built this message across all brand touch-points. ‘Physical availability’ was boosted by distribution into all popular restaurants and fast food chains such as KFC & McDonalds. And TBS built ‘mental availability’ across all channels (restaurants, hangouts, TV, billboards). Media presence has since doubled, but the message has always been “whatever be the meal, TBS is the drink”.

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TBS’s success in occasion based marketing underlines 3 principles we hold sacred at the brandgym.

1. Follow the Money  

TBS have intuitively gone after the largest business opportunity there is, making the brand the default choice to accompany every meal. This has raised the brand’s everyday relevance exponentially in consumers’ minds. In contrast, Coke is still seen as a drink for special occasions, typically consumed thrice a year – Ramadan, Christmas & New Year.
Another significant move was to shift a large chunk of media spends from prime time to several discrete day parts (~40%), invoking the brand around meal times across the day.

2. Nourish the Core

While the brand has nearly fifteen variants, the core SKU gets a good 55-60% of all investments consistently. They have consistently expanded distribution, benchmarking Coke. And by being very consistent on the core message, they have been able to use shorter edits of 15secs to maximize salience & mental availability.

3. Occasion based marketing is about more than just ‘when’

One reason why OBM has not commanded enough brand success is the shallowness with which most marketers approach it. All marketers address the ‘Who’ & the ‘When’. Some even address the ‘Where’. In order to get the best from OBM however, we need to look at all 5 W’s – including ‘What’ & ‘Why’.Indeed, the ‘What’ (key needs relevant to the occasion) and ‘Why’ (the emotional stakes of the occasion) are crucial to how brands can leverage the occasion.

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In TBS’s case, they have intuitively addressed all 5 W’s, which is why the brand strikes a chord across such a large consumer base.

• Who – Urban Indonesian adults

• Where – Anywhere

• When – Whenever they are having a meal/ snack

• What – Need to accompany food with a healthy drink

• Why – Cool habit to enjoy with friends in a largely affiliative & social market

This is why TBS ensures that all its ads show the brand as the perfect meal accompaniment in the social context of convivial happiness around friends.

Summing up, many people believe that marketing is nothing but common sense. Exploring occasion based marketing is so commonsensical, it sure makes for great marketing.