Rhonda, Ketut, and the need for foreplay

Rhonda, Ketut, and the need for foreplay
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I’m not entirely sure anyone really saw Rhonda’s Balinese romance entrenching itself so heavily into Australian popular culture, or for that matter becoming one of the crown jewels of Australian advertising last year. It lured us into a false sense of security, and perhaps that was the point.

Rhonda’s romance has since entered its steamy second chapter and it’s within this next layer that there is a valuable lesson to be learned on the cultivation of stakeholder relationships, the use of engagement cycles and when exactly the former is appropriate within the latter.

Let me ask this: how much can we realistically ask of a friend we’ve just made?

Many agencies take an incredibly shallow minded ‘if we build it, they will come’ approach to social media, and indeed much of advertising. The harsh truth is that unless you’re willing to be exceptional, nobody is going to eat what you bake.

When it comes to developing valuable stakeholder relationships however, it’s not enough anymore to just be remarkable. You need to be prepared to go the distance.

The initial Rhonda goes to Bali commercials for AAMI were far from exceptional. In fact they were well rooted in advertising narrative normality. The characters were sufficiently shallow and, whilst there was your standard dose of advertising ‘quirk’, there was nothing particularly remarkable about the content.

The exceptional ingredient came as these characters were actually explored. This was the component that nobody was really expecting. It got people’s attention. Romance is frequently insinuated within advertising, but rarely, if ever, developed. The glazed eyes that are automatically employed during ad breaks began to become little more attentive.

Content quality was only the first component. The second was consistency. In short episodic segments, we learnt more about these characters. Interest began to grow, as did stakeholders’ levels of attachment to the characters and the narrative that was the campaign.

Of course, these are television commercials and I work in social media. So what am I doing talking about them?

My point is this: regardless of the medium, it takes both time and intelligence to build a consumer’s relationship with a brand. You can throw your money into an amazing piece of branded content but you need to be aware, when you set out to develop a stakeholder relationship, or even a community around your brand, you’re settling in for a marathon and not a rapid, cash-guzzling sprint to the finish line.

The initial videos of Rhonda and Ketut may have made you chuckle, but would you have engaged with the brand if they’d snuck a call to action into the subject matter? I’d wager not.

So why do so many social media campaigns assume the exact opposite?

Only now, a full year down the track and sandwiched into the second chapter of the Rhonda and Ketut story is AAMI actually seeking to capture some of that audience engagement.

On the back of the relationships’ new conflict, they’ve launched a ‘Who’s right for Rhonda?’ microsite with a view of getting people to vote on which of the two relationships they want to see blossom and presumably by extension, determine the direction of the narrative. If you vote, you are invited to enter a prize-fuelled competition that requires the input of valuable details such as name, email and postcode.

All this is a year on from the very first commercials when the seeds were planted. And whether or not they were planted with the intention of growing into an audience engagement campaign, such engagement is now a viable option.

Had the campaign been social from the get-go, naturally, there would have been differences. But the principles remain the same:

1. Find a way to break through the noise
2. Work to establish a relationship with the stakeholders
3. Only when the relationship has been established can you ask for favours.

Regardless of the medium, establishing a consumer relationship takes time. Don’t just roll with the punches, take a leaf out of AAMI’s book and play your cards accordingly. If you bank on your audience taking time to warm to you, you’ll be able to produce content that better suits the context of your relationship’s status at any given stage.

Better contextual understanding means better tailored content. Better tailored content means better engagement.

Finally, just because the initial campaign existed outside of social media, don’t think for a second that AAMI wasn’t aware of the conversations occurring therein. Listening to its audience would have been a vital ingredient in determining what stage of the consumer relationship it was at and where and how to move in relation to it.

In short: slow down, be attentive and don’t underestimate the importance of quality foreplay.

Matthew Cox is the lead strategic consultant at Dialogue Consulting. 

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