below-the-line marketing

Summer Brands are Made in Winter: The Importance of Below-the-Line Marketing in Winter

It’s reported that consumers are bombarded with up to 10,000 marketing messages per day. Competing for their attention amidst the noise is one of the biggest challenges facing brand and marketing managers today. Rather than ‘shouting the loudest, finding ‘quiet’ marketing periods can present sizable opportunities to maximise market share for brands willing to question conventional wisdom around consumer activity. In the consumer goods space, winter is one such opportunity. 


In this post, we’ll explore the importance of below-the-line marketing in winter for consumer goods and services brands, and how it can help you build a brand that shines, even in the off-season. We’ll discuss the unique advantages of below-the-line marketing and provide practical tips and examples to help you create a successful winter marketing campaign that will set the stage for a strong summer season. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just getting started, read on to discover how below-the-line marketing (BTL) can help you create a brand that truly stands out.

Summer Brands are made in Winter.

While winter may seem like an off-season for South African consumer goods brands, it can be a valuable time to invest in building your brand through below-the-line marketing to set your brand apart (and ahead) in the lead up to summer’s peak trade.


“Reviewing campaign data for the last few years, we’ve noticed reduced below-the-line activity over the winter months”, says Jabu Shange, Client Services Director at Tradeway Promotions. “Brands tend to ‘hibernate’ from June to August and then ramp trade marketing activity in the lead up to and during OND (October November December) peak”.


However, a look at monthly consumer spend over the last two decades as provided by Stats SA (excluding the anomaly that was 2020) reveals that consumption is pretty consistent between January and October.

The takeaway? even if brands aren’t showing up in trade in the chilly months, consumers are. This means a greater share of consumer attention for the brands who brave the aisles during chilly winter months.

In fact, winter BTL marketing may offer brands the physical equivalent of that holy grail of digital marketing – high-volume, low-competition. 


To illustrate, consider Standard Bank. December is traditionally a “quiet season” for financial services, and marketing activity tends to follow suite. But in 2021, the bank decided to challenge the conventional wisdom and “painted the internet blue”, according to Lesego Ngcamu, Executive Head of Digital and Interactive Marketing.


The results? Standard Bank appeared twice in the top 10 financial terms on Search for the period of October to November 2021 and increased share of voice in the banking category from 85% to 231%. The bank discovered that the assumptions underpinning marketing activity peaks are not always aligned to consumer behaviour – “We learned that even though customers are on holiday, they are still open to your content. Customers want you to talk to them and connect”, said Ngcamu. 

Keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer behaviour meant that the bank was able to capitalise on consumer attention during a time when their competitors were less active. And where high-volume and low-competition collide is where return-on-investment is maximised.  


The below-the-line equivalent of this ideal situation is sustained footfall coupled with low brand marketing activity in-store, typical of winter months. 

How to take advantage of Below-the-Line Marketing in Winter

Below-the-line marketing refers to any promotional marketing activities that are targeted and personalised, rather than mass-market. It’s this targeting that gives below-the-line marketing its potency and yields greater, more measurable return-on-investment than traditional above-the-line advertising.


BTL marketing tactics like in-store brand activations and promotions target by virtue of store demographics, consumer interest and behaviour. They present unique opportunities for consumer goods brands to connect with buyers and decision makers at the point of purchase through the following strategies:


Leverage in-store promotions: 

Dominate shopping aisles while the competition is hibernating with eye-catching displays and specials.


Build lasting consumer connections with brand ambassadors: 

Command attention, drive trials through sampling and build memorable human connections through brand ambassador deployment in-store and out-of-home. 


Take centre stage with centre-court brand activations: 

South Africans love malls at the best of times, but when it’s cold outside, and when loadshedding is rife, malls become a real sanctuary and welcome reprieve for consumers. Warm your way into consumer hearts and minds by entertaining and engaging them with innovative mall activations.

Tips for Creating a Successful Winter Below the Line Marketing Campaign.

Here are some practical tips for creating a successful winter marketing campaign for your South African consumer goods brand: 

Stay on top of consumer trends:

Keep an eye on trends and consumer behaviour during the winter months to inform your below-the-line marketing strategy. In-store footfall trends may shift as consumers adjust behaviour to coincide shopping with warmer parts of the day, for instance, and you should follow suite. Your agency partner should be data-led – able to monitor activity in real time and optimise campaigns accordingly to maximise reach and return.

Offer winter-themed products:

If you represent warm beverages or instant soups, activating in winter is a no-brainer. These competitive categories are particularly well suited to in-store sampling that can both offer warming reprieve to consumers in-store and influence purchasing decisions. But even if you are not a typical ‘winter brand’ there may be smart ways to position to take advantage of a less crowded trade ecosystem and capture consumer attention and imagination. Look for an agency partner who can bring strategic insight and creative thinking to your campaigns for maximum impact in-trade.

Consider collaborating with other brands / products:

Sometimes partnering with other brands (and in particular, ‘winter brands’) to build compelling winter promotions that resonate with consumers can increase reach and drive sales for both parties.

Partner with a full-service, data-led Below-the-Line agency:

Choosing the right executional partner is central to success. Make sure your agency has the in-house competencies to both design and execute campaigns. They should be adept at creative conceptualising, sourcing, and training brand ambassadors, designing and procuring mechanics, and real-time reporting and campaign optimisation.


In conclusion, winter presents consumer goods brands in South Africa with opportunities to stand out in trade through innovative below-the-line marketing strategies. Showing consumers love during a time of year when they are somewhat neglected can go a long way to winning long term brand loyalty and can give brands an advantage ahead of peak trading months. 


Tradeway is Africa’s largest independent below-the-line agency. We offer full-service turnkey services – from concept to conclusion. Our services are underpinned by our own proprietary Trade Marketing Management platform – PromoForce – for real-time campaign management, optimisation and reporting. Call us if you think your brand could benefit from activations that stand out in trade.  


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