By Chris Walmsley, Founder and Head of Planning at Cubo

The best ideas in marketing make a genuine contribution to people, offering something of value, on their terms, but also to your brand, driving fame and buzz metrics, and to your business, ultimately driving growth. Contribution isn’t just a nice creative thing to talk about – it’s proven business fact.


The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) databank empirically shows that one of the keys to price sensitivity is to get people emotionally engaged with brands. It’s not just about selling people a product, it’s about making them feel stuff too. The brain finds it easier to recall good times, so memorably positive experiences become self-reinforcing, and feelings towards brands have been shown to outlast memories of facts and figures about them.


To achieve this level of engagement, don’t just talk at people about your brand; try to use marketing budgets to do things that contribute to people’s lives, whether that is directly or societally. Contributions can be emotive or functional; for example you could entertain people, inspire them to feel proud, or save them time or money and help them to navigate the world around them.

When developing a new idea, we continually ask ourselves – is this really contributing? Could it contribute more? This approach is just as useful when creating functional in-store shopper signposting as it is for generating big integrated creative ideas.


Many brands make great contributions already. Two best practice examples include Budweiser in Argentina and V/Line in Australia.

Budweiser installed Bud Jukeboxes in popular bars throughout Argentina, allowing people to pick whatever song they liked, for no fee. The catch was that to play a song you had to insert a Bud bottle cap in lieu of money. The Jukebox is a simple idea that contributed to people with music and increased consumption of Bud (at participating bars) by 20%.

In Australia, parents living in small country towns wanted to get their kids to come visit, so V/Line created prepaid train tickets for parents to send their children -- along with a healthy dose of guilt. Parents were given guidebooks, while how-to videos on YouTube showed the most effective way to make kids feel guilty. The Guilt Trip campaign increased ticket sales by 11% and saw a 400% return on investment.


The absolute key across these examples is appropriateness to the brand in question – they are all pitched just right. When applying contribution thinking to your own work, be realistic about the role your brand can acceptably play in people’s lives. Is it credible to behave in this way? Is it acceptable for your brand to get involved? Whatever you do needs to be relevant to people’s perceptions of your brand.

Contribution isn’t a trend, it’s a mindset that helps planners and creatives stay on track and helps brands command a price premium, withstand forces of price competition and ultimately drive saleability. Contribution is not a new idea, good marketing has always done this, and as Howard Gossage said, people read what they find interesting, and sometimes that is an ad.