Since its launch as a one-day, one-location test in London in 2014, the campaign has generated more than 27,500 subscribers in around two-and-a-half years. More impressive from the magazine’s perspective is that 60% of people taking up the discounted subscription through the campaign remained subscribers beyond the life of the offer. Meanwhile, perceptions of the brand shifted, with 24% more people considering it interesting, and 33% finding it less boring (emr consumer research).
Run by Sense, the key to the campaign’s success is recognising that The Economist is not for everyone and filtering out those people who would find it an interesting and rewarding read. To do this, Sense developed activations inspired by articles from The Economist that offered a vision of the future, but also challenged the comfortable status quo. For example, articles on future food sources led to consumers being offered ice-cream and crepes enriched with insects, smoothies made with ugly food that was rejected by supermarkets, and coffee seemingly made with water fed directly from a portaloo. The campaign set up a challenge for people, with the idea that those who were up for it were probably more likely to be the right fit for the brand.
Sense board director Sally McLaren was delighted the award, saying: “Discomfort Future positions The Economist as an advocate for change, embracing uncomfortable future trends covered in the newspaper. The campaign presents people with provocative ideas, to screen those consumers that fit with The Economist from those who don’t.”
Explaining why they honoured the Discomfort Future campaign, the MAA #DoDifferent awards judges said: “It’s a simple, super smart and clearly effective new brand strategy that has absolutely set The Economist on a ‘new course’. Exciting experiential executions clearly challenged the public’s perceptions and got them thinking – exactly what the publication aims to do. We were particularly impressed by the integration of the strategy into The Economist‘s business. It’s a clear demonstration of how this simple strategy has had massive impact for them.”
Commenting on the achievement, Marina Haydn, SVP circulation and retail marketing at The Economist, said: “This award recognises the fact that Discomfort Future is a powerful campaign strategy that’s helping drive the growth and success of The Economist in our experiential marketing. Many of the people we interact with, particularly outside of the UK, have low levels of brand familiarity and experiential helps them to understand us and improves brand perception. We have seen a clear, positive impact and it has helped to bring our brand to life.”