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What change do you wish to see in the world? Or, what change do your customers and followers wish to see in the world?

Great communication starts with understanding people. The particular group of people that make up your audience. Understand their wants and needs. Their hopes, dreams and fears. And then look to establish if there’s a way you can align your business and your message with what they want.

Then flip it. Create their worst nightmare. Announce it, watch the storm grow, then flip it back to your original plan, making yourself look like a trailblazer and everyone else look out of touch and boring.

Paddy Power have once again shown the way with their innovative ‘unsponsorship’ of Huddersfield Town Football Club. They initially launched a garish new strip with their logo plastered right across it, dominating the jersey and actually breaching league rules about the amount of space sponsorship is allowed to take up on football shirts. All it took was an angry backlash on social media for MailOnline to run an article on it, which of course led to more angry backlash and debate from the sheep in the mainstream media.

With the fury at its peak, came the big reveal.

The original shirt was a hoax; in fact, when the new season kicks off Huddersfield Town will be one of the few teams playing in beautiful shirts entirely unspoiled by a corporate sponsor’s logo. It’s not even required because by now, everyone knows Paddy Power sponsor, or ‘unsponsor’ Huddersfield Town. And to rub it in even more, they’ve launched a campaign urging all football fans to reclaim their club’s shirts as their own and remove sponsor’s logos from them.

Another win for Paddy Power.

What’s in it for them? They have a pretty simple model and it’s largely based on reach and an association between their brand and fun. But it’s more than that, it’s about proving that they understand their audience. Getting alongside them, inside their heads, saying ‘we’re the same as you’, ‘we get it’, ‘we’re the good guys’.

Your business and your mission will be entirely different. You’re probably not in a market as huge as the betting industry, you don’t have an audience as passionate as one that follows a football club and the thought of being considered a trailblazer might have your management running for cover.

But you still deal with people everyday who want to see a change in the world. A big change, a small change, but a change nonetheless and it’s a change you could stand for and then communicate in a powerful way.

Let’s be clear because you’ll see washed up marketing clowns writing blogs saying the opposite in the next few days: Paddy Power’s marketing team are not ‘geniuses’. They’re people like you and me, with the same amount of hours in the day. They’ve simply taken time to understand the people they want a relationship with and then asked what they could do to bring about some positive change for them.

You could do that too.

But you need to work backwards. Don’t just announce ‘we’re sponsoring Huddersfield Town but we won’t have our logo on the shirts’ – you need to create a stir. So work backwards, create a huge problem first (the entire shirt dominated by a logo), educate people that their club’s shirt should be scared, and then introduce your solution. Understand your audience, yes, but also understand the social media mob and how easy it is to whip up MailOnline and all the clickbait clowns.

You can do it. But it can’t be reach and outrage for the sake of it. There needs to be a change people want to see.

And it starts, as it always does, with understanding your audience.

Categories: BrandSport