Nick Leonard, ideation director, UM London
Nick Leonard, ideation director, UM London
A view from Nick Leonard

Think BR: How brands can learn from the London 2012 Games Makers

Sometimes nothing works better than a real conversation with a representative of your brand, writes Nick Leonard, ideation director, UM London.

Mixing with the media mavens in the local café on the Monday afternoon following the Games, I spotted a woman. 

She wasn’t famous, but her distinctive red and purple uniform was earning her warm smiles and recognition from all around her. 

Not content with hailing the enormous achievements of Team GB, the British public are also singing the praises of a new set of Olympic heroes. 

Seventy thousand members of the public gladly gave two weeks of their time to be ‘Games Makers’, directing crowds, greeting visitors, answering questions, laying out hurdles with military precision. 

They were one of the most successful parts of the 2012 Games, praised by journalists and commentators around the globe, and their success holds a lesson for marketeers.

It was easy to feel negative about the organisation of the Games in the build up, as we experienced transport delays, worried about strikes and read of the G4S security staffing fiasco. 

Ticket booking online was at times slow and frustrating. The organisers seemed remote, distant and corporate. 

But once the Games started, the Games Makers provided a real and very personal face.  

Although we knew they were volunteers, we also saw them as representatives and brand ambassadors for London 2012, and being able to engage with them personally seemed to lift the cloak off the organisation. 

We the public felt able to talk to them as though we were talking to Locog chairman Lord Coe - to ask our questions, to offer our feedback, to share our fears and our excitement, to pose for photographs.  

Through the Games Makers, we felt connected with those behind this massive event that focused the world’s eyes upon us as a nation. 

Many brands can inspire in their consumers a strength of emotion and a sense of ownership similar to those inspired in the public by the Games. 

Perhaps this is on the increase if you take as an indicator consumers’ willingness to befriend and follow their chosen brands on social media. 

While a good social media strategy is highly effective in managing a brand’s ongoing personal relationship with its consumers, it cannot achieve everything. 

I think the lesson from the success of the Games Makers as brand ambassadors is that often nothing can substitute the power of a real conversation with a human representative of your brand. 

Experiential activity is often only measured in samples distributed or OTS, but the benefit of allowing consumers to express their feelings and feel listened to can be far greater. 

O2 does this particularly well through the use of its O2 Angels, who are used simply to engage with consumers. This is particularly important for those brands without a customer-facing arm to their business. 

How many of our brands can we truly say are offering consumers a real face to listen to them?  How many are missing the opportunity for this level of personal connection?

Nick Leonard, ideation director, UM London