BR ANALYSIS. Communicating the Centenary – companies play it safe

Newsroom 31/12/2018 | 10:43

Only a few brands stood out in the way they communicated the most important event Romania has celebrated in recent years – its Centenary. Although many brands did activations or associated their name in one way or another with the milestone event, experts say the creativity fell short of what one would have expected from a country with Romania’s reputation.

By Romanita Oprea

Heist Industries created and developed the non-ATL experiential and PR campaign for the brand ROM Autentic, during #doartricolor, a campaign built around the Centenary. Starting from the campaign’s ATL conceptHeist Industries took the idea further in real life and created The Tricolor Museum, in which stories about the tricolor flag, gathered on the platform, received an emotional artistic interpretation. The campaign started with a symbolic gesture in which ROM dropped the usual branding on its packaging, therefore becoming the bar that wears #doartricolor (#justtricolor). Moreover, the agency challenged Romanians to share their stories about the tricolor on the website, 100 of which were exhibited in the Tricolor Museum and three were reinterpreted artistically.
“I am very happy that a brand born in 1964 is extremely relevant in 2018 as well, in the view of the line-up of artists that contributed to the story,” said Radu Pilat, creative director at Heist Industries. Meanwhile, Diana Barlan, group brand manager at Kandia Dulce, said that ROM had become in time a symbolic brand for Romania, which promotes national pride in its own authentic Romanian style. “The Tricolor Museum is our way of honoring the Centenary celebration, a special moment in our history to which we also want to pay homage,” concluded Barlan.

The band Partizan, sculptor Costin Ionita and street artist Pisica Patrata are the artists that gave life to the stories, a concept created by famous architect Attila Kim.

Also dropping its usual packaging was Ardealul, a pate brand that decided to change its name to Romania, as a gesture of honor. “Beyond a written brief, it’s more important that the agency feels the brand. Ardealul is for the whole Romania. It’s not just a region or about the Fainosag invented in Ardeal, but about a pate for all Romanians,” said Adrian Pasarica, head of marketing.

For Razvan Matasel, partner & strategy director at Arsenoaiei & Matasel, 2018 was a year full of briefs for the association of different brands with the Centenary. Some of them, the strategist notes, did not even have anything “Romanian” in their DNA. But a brief from the brand Ardealul, asking for the building of this type of association and in an “ownable” manner, was truly an appropriate and “challenging” brief. And that because, accordingly to Matasel, the most important positioning tool is the name of a product and because, in Ardealul’s case, it was directly connected to the Centenary celebration. What was Arsenoaiei and Matasel representatives’ goal with this campaign? “To succeed in building a campaign that would break the category ‘Centenary TVCs’, that would not pass unnoticed in the clutter of brands that started to communicate on this occasion. And we, who believe in the power of Doing versus Telling, proposed a packaging change, an act of education, so those who didn’t know what we were celebrating could learn what happened 100 years ago. Therefore, this is not just a packaging change, but a story of our people, told through a packaging change,” said Matasel.

Razvan Matasel, Arsenoaiei & Matasel

Special bottles

On the same note, in July, Absolut Vodka launched in Romania, a platform that supports and promotes the new wave of artists in cinematography, literature, visual arts, fashion design and music. Moreover, Absolut, which has a long tradition of launching limited edition bottles, this year came up with its first design dedicated exclusively to Romania, honoring the Great Union.

The new packaging, which is white, presents elements that recall traditional Romanian motifs, but it also has the form of Romania’s flagship buildings, such as the National Arena, Athenaeum, Cluj Cathedral and Constanta Cazino.

Another international name, and one of the most iconic and biggest “Lovemarks” in the world, Coca-Cola, also decided to launch a special, limited edition of bottles, designed by young people. The theme for the contest, launched last summer, was the creation of a design inspired by one of the three values associated with Romania’s flag. The Original Taste bottle bore diverse symbols associated with Romania, while Zero Sugar had traditional motifs and Lime illustrated “romanii/societatea secolului următor” (Romanians/the society of the next century).

“As a brand that has won the hearts of millions of Romanians, we wanted to take part in the celebration in the best way Coca-Cola could. Our campaigns are targeted at teenagers and young adults – those who lay the foundation for the years to come. This is why we thought that the best way we could celebrate Romania was to offer young people a way of expressing their creativity. And we did it the Coca-Cola way – we transformed the package of their favorite beverage into their drawing board. In the first phase of the campaign, we asked young Romanians from all over the country to enter a competition in which they could imagine the design of a limited edition, Centenary-inspired Coca-Cola bottle. And from the thousands of proposals received, three designs were selected as winners,” explained Miruna Smeureanu, marketing director at Coca-Cola Romania.

A few months later, once the limited edition bottles were out on the market, the company took the campaign further by challenging teens to create a common story about how they envision the next 100 years. They submitted their “chapters” on the campaign’s website and offline – at collection points in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Constanta.

“The greatest collective story written by young Romanians is taking shape as we speak. It’s fresh, bold and positive, just like this generation is, and we will share it in a very special way. With ‘Romania Reimagined by Youth’, we wanted to empower young Romanians: to offer them a platform to express how they envision the future and become aware of their collective strength, which lies in their creativity, optimism, diversity and sense of togetherness. The story they have created is an inspiration for us all,” added Smeureanu.

What does the Centenary celebration represent in this year’s communication strategy for Coca-Cola in Romania? According to the marketing director, it was a great opportunity for a brand like this, which has been in Romania for the past quarter of its history as a state, to participate in this special moment by thanking local consumers. “Our thank you message was sent out through a campaign that celebrates youth, creativity and togetherness for a better future. It was also a chance to engage once again with our target audience and generate awareness of what the brand stands for. We’ve put our efforts into creating a surprising and rewarding experience for consumers at a special time in the country’s history,” concluded Smeureanu.

Special launches and events

Many brands tried to associate themselves with the event, mostly at the last minute. Some positioned themselves in a unique way and proved their creativity. Some even launched special products for the occasion. This was the case with Penny Market, which launched, under the Hanul Boieresc (meaning Noble’s Inn) brand, 100 unique products based on recipes reflecting Romanians’ tastes over the last decades. The new products, available exclusively in Penny Market stores all over the country, fall into in several categories: salami and meat products, cheese, canned food, alcoholic beverages and refreshments, spices, semi-prepared food and sweet. They were based on original recipes or ever present favorites on Romanians’ tables and come from well known producers from several Romanian counties, such as Harghita, Mureș, Brașov, Neamț, Alba, Vaslui, Brăila.

“The products from the celebratory edition Hanul Boieresc are part of the campaign ‘100 de ani de Romania’ (100 years of Romania) launched at the beginning of this year. This range of products, inspired by our tastes and culinary habits, makes us even prouder that we can celebrate the Centenary of the Great Union, not only with words, but also with facts: 100 products to match Romanians’ tastes,” said Cristina Florescu, marketing director of Penny Market Romania.

At the same time, Budureasca, the Romanian premium wine producer, celebrated 100 years since the Great Union with the launch of its collection Centenar (Centenary), while Purcari Winery was named one of Romania’s centenary brands during the Superbrands Romania Gala. 

A peek into the future and real time reactions

Another special project was launched by Lidl and The Embassy of Sustainability in Romania –“100 Romanians”, a radiography-project of Romanian society. Wanting to answer questions such as “If Romania were a community of 100 people, who would they be?”, “How educated or how poor?”, “What would their lives look like?”, “What is good and what is bad in Romania at 100 years old?”, the project is supported by the Romanian government’s Department for Durable Development and contains a collection of 100 infographics, with static data connected with the United Nations’ (UN) durable development objectives and divided into relevant categories for Romanian society.

Other brands decided to focus on the future and how Romania could and should look. For instance, Kaufland developed a campaign under the tagline “Cunoscând trecutul, scriem urmatorii 100 de ani” (Knowing the past, we write the next 100 years), recalling important figures from Romania’s history, such as Iuliu Maniu, Alexandru Vaida-Voievod, Ecaterina Teodoroiu, King Ferdinand I, and Ion IC Bratianu. Moreover, the brand had an activation which claimed a Guinness World Record for the Biggest Map of a Country formed by people, and which featured the number 100 and the colors of the Romanian flag.

But probably the most surprising and popular reaction was the real-time marketing campaigns by KFC and McDonald’s, the biggest fast food rivals in Romania, which took a funny, smart and good-humored approach to suggest how they could combine Romanians’ favorite products of theirs. Their social media response came in the meeting of the PressOne campaign #TraiascaCapraVecinului.

Expert view

But how was this communication seen by experts? Did the companies start to communicate at the right time? Should they have done more? “Brands’ actions were mostly concentrated in the last few months. At the beginning of the year, companies were in the process of understanding if and how much to link their plans to the moment and many initiatives were expected. In reality, they decided to adopt a balanced approach and, in general, I would say, we had no big surprises: some brands invested in the moment and created new means to understand what people really feel, expect or desire for the next century and even created benchmarks to be measured against in the future; others followed their authentic voices and just tactically adapted them to the Centenary; still others intervened in the conversation a bit abruptly, trying more to take advantage of the moment than to give something real in return,” commented Alina Damaschin, creative leader & head of consumer PR at Rogalski Damaschin Public Relations. She added that some media brands created valuable content projects like “100 years in 100 days”, mini-documentaries by “Romania, te iubesc”, centered on the people who built the modern country or “100 years for the future”, by Digi24, showing also what we don’t like now about Romania and what needs to change in the next century. Another special print project that offered a chance for Romanians to dig deeper into the realities of the country 100 years ago was “Ziarele Romaniei Mari”.

“Some brand initiatives were just visible, but without ‘bringing a present’, anything new; others had more substance and were less visible. In general, brands took the centenary year seriously and tried to remain relevant, while adapting to the social ‘temperature’. There are brands that are almost the same age as Romania. Others are even ‘older’. I still hope these wise ones will not only mark the moment, but also create something new, a product, a service, a new connection with the people, for the next 100 years,” added Damaschin.

Alina Damaschin, Rogalski Damaschin Public Relations

Therefore, it raises a question: what pieces of advice would you give brands on such an occasion? “To let themselves inspired by the real people’s actions, support them and build from there. At Centenary, there are also strong hopes for the whole society – normal people gathering hundreds of thousands, in order to build a hospital or a solidarity network of homes for families in oncological treatment. Others are building schools for children, local festivals of traditions, or lead touristic paths for those who want to discover the country. All of them are regular people, with no means aside their passion. Brands – not only commercial ones – can help to make their actions louder and stronger, highlight their performances, embrace their spirit, and build stronger communities and examples around,” answered Damaschin”. What about the way the representatives of the State coordinated the events, PR wise? The Rogalski Damaschin representative responded by offering us some examples she considers as being the best ones:’s video – Romania, Portrait at 100 years portrays it the best. In other words, the communication was sporadic and did not seem to be part of a bigger, more cohesive plan, mostly because there were no big public interest projects to communicate for. “The whole discussion around the cathedral and the referendum divided society more. The communication was rather tactical, very old recipes, and seemed dissociated from the realities and needs of Romania in the 21st century. Too much on the ‘now’, too little on the ‘future’.”

So what is Damaschin’s main piece of advice in this manner for the State’s and brands’ representatives? To reunite under one project, relevant to all Romanians, no matter their age or condition. “Several European nations marked different celebrations this year, and many Romanians already live in those countries. Finland gave itself a library as a ‘present’. While already considered the happiest country in the world (in 2018), its citizens are strong believers in the idea that the country would not have achieved its current welfare status without libraries. In Latvia, the largest centenary project was an educational initiative providing funding for more than 200,000 schoolchildren, meant to help them gain cultural experience of Latvia’s natural and cultural treasures. Perhaps we should all reflect more on this common goal, look for more relevance, and care more,” concluded the Rogalski Damaschin Public Relations representative.

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