We were ready to pop

Back in the other lifetime that was February 2020 we had fantastic plans. A new UK client had asked Mingle to get their sales and marketing teams better connected with champagne consumers.  With a decent amount of experience in the drinks sector this was right up our street.

One key element of any activity we design for our clients is CONTEXT IS KEY.  If you are expecting business teams to truly engage and empathise with their consumers as part of a connection activity, you have to do it in the right environment. Don’t invite them into your office and chat in one of your boardrooms unless you want the consumer to feel like they’re attending an interview. Get out into their environment, or at least construct an environment in which both you and the consumer can feel comfortable. We’ve had teams out in care homes, restaurants, swimming pools and baby playgroups. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

In the case of the champagne brief this was easy – we arranged to take over the roof top bar of a rather posh London hotel for a couple of weekday evenings. Not only would it be a fantastic location to put consumers in the right mindset to talk about their favourite drink but our ability control of the bar and its menu would allow us to explore how drinkers made their choices and reacted differently to different portfolios of drinks being available. On top of that, we got to spend a couple of evenings enjoying ourself in a bar in the name of ‘work’. Perfect.

Then Covid-19 happened

We’d been developing an online consumer connection tool for a little while – our Mingle Speakeasy.  However, in the context of what we originally had planned for the champagne job did, was it really up to the task?  

Luckily we had a supportive client who was very keen to get their UK team engaged with consumers and didn’t want a global pandemic to scupper that.  So we progressed the idea of a virtual solution. The nagging doubt of whether this would provide the right context for productive discussions was still there so, before committing to the sessions, we ran a few mock interviews ourselves to get a feel for the virtual dynamic, specifically in relation to the category in question.

The results were a revelation. Not only did a simple zoom-based chat work, but it felt extremely natural.

This really surprised us, and after a bit more probing of our trial consumers, it became clear that there had been a real SHIFT IN SOCIAL CONTEXT.   Six months of lockdown had meant every one of our consumers was entirely comfortable with virtual socialising. Indeed, many were socialising MORE because of zoom and had continued to ‘Zoom-booze’ with friends even after lockdown restrictions were eased and many pubs and restaurants reopened.  What would once have been a rather awkward research setting to discuss their attitudes to drinking champagne had become a very relevant one.

And we’re glad to say the roll out of the event to the entire team was a success.  After being welcomed to the Mingle Speakeasy, employees were matched up with consumers in breakout rooms and invited to pour themselves a drink while chatting. And from there the conversation flowed very well – some even complained when the 90 minute chat was up.

So what?  

Our learning? CONTEXT IS KEY BUT CONTEXT IS FOREVER CHANGING. What contexts are relevant to connecting with your consumers or customers? Are they what you expect? How are they changing? Not just because of the current covid situation but longer term.  How is technology in all its forms influencing how we interact with brands and services?  

One of our clients has recently re-briefed us to move a connection event from an instore shop-a-long experience to a virtual click and collect one.   A really interesting one that has meant we’ve adapted our approach to incorporate both virtual connection at the point of purchase on top of physical interaction at the point of collection.  In some ways it’s even richer than pushing a trolley around a store with someone on autopilot.

As someone very wise once said, CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT IN LIFE, and it’s great fun keeping up with it.

Keep connected, keep an eye on changing context. Get out and Mingle.