Secrets from the Sofa – What can brands in any category learn from the successful ‘Secret Sofa’ campaign?

Jim Carless, Head of Brand Experience at Space, explores what brands in any category can learn from the recent Häagen-Dazs ‘Secret Sofa’ at home experience.

The global pandemic and subsequent lockdown obliterated Ice Cream brand Häagen-Dazs’s planned summer campaign. Their #HaagIndoors pivot stayed true to a belief that little luxuries uplift the everyday and was consistent with their brand mission, to bring moments of joy and real connections over an ice cream. This mission was reframed with a simple message to stay safe, stay home, and keep sharing little moments of joy.

During late spring and early summer, thousands of people across the country hit play together to take part in a reimagined, social, multi-platform film event. Secret Sofa presented by Häagen-Dazs brought communal cinema experiences into the home, using social channels, email and Zoom to draw participants into the stories and worlds around some of our best loved films, as they unfolded each week to culminate in mass, shared social screening events. The work achieved unprecedented positive sentiment, brand buzz and a dramatic sales uplift for Häagen-Dazs, creating new ‘cultural moments’ that brought multiple communities together.

There are several lessons learnt from this activity that are relevant to many brands in different categories.

Act with Agility

Secret Sofa presented by Häagen-Dazs was a hugely effective collaborative pivot that created moments of joy and togetherness in tough times. The agile partnership was formed at a pace not often seen in pre-Covid times with the campaign going live in just three weeks from the start of lockdown. This agility and mutually supportive ethos drove the narrative forwards without restraint, resulting in households benefitting from a bigger, more in-depth at home brand experience that was representative of the here and now and not one that had been incubated for months in an agency’s planning, creative and production departments. An agile approach to collaborative working is both cost effective and a source of energy for all involved, it is not without risk, but those risks can be largely mitigated with a tightknit team working on a single objective in a short timeframe.

Extended The Narrative

The campaign sought to get a little closer to the rounded immersion of real life and communal experiences by building a narrative over several weeks across different social channels. Rather than focusing on a specific platform, numerous platforms were in play, just like they are in real life for the average consumer. This meant that the campaign narrative was extended beyond the live delivery of the at home experience. An engaged audience chose to spend an increased amount of their time with the partner brands which deepens the emotional connection between brand and consumer. This emotional connection will drive brand consideration and positive sentiment for partners, in this case Häagen-Dazs and Amazon Prime Now.

Holistically Blend in Real Life and Virtual Experience

The evolution of brand experience is perfectly evidenced by this campaign, resulting in an ‘as real as life’ experience across multiple touch-points.
Jim Carless, Head of Brand Experience at Space

Screenings were preceded by live content, film narratives, serve ideas and associated ice-cream flavours. Through these the audiences were encouraged to dress up as key characters, learn choreographed dances, make props, and create playlists, and in turn share their own content around events. Virtual after-parties and interactive performances were streamed live, extending engagement, and encouraging people to connect. Baking social into the campaign, rather than just using it to amplify the live event provides a heightened experience that is valued by consumers who were seeking out human connection and excuses to engage with each other around a common point of interest.

Make Brand Partnerships Connectors of Community

The campaign introduced a new kind of shared film experience with a collective of complimentary partners bringing communities of film lovers together. In this context, brands can collaborate and look forward to new ways to connect with communities and share experiences beyond four walls. From Zoom to Fortnight to livestreamed gigs, there are many creative uses of platform and channel that can inspire and bring people together. The best of these will connect multiple channels and produce a layered and nuanced socially led brand experiences.

Partnership marketing is nothing new, with partners coming together for mutually beneficial purposes. Whilst Häagen-Dazs was the presenting partner there was a stable of likeminded partners connected with the campaign. The Amazon Prime Now partnership brought rotating ice cream flavours, serves and challenges, inspiring households to create their own at-home content with the brand at the heart. Collaborations with Sipsmith, Piper-Heidsieck Champagne and Jack Daniels brought continuously inventive ways to engage.

Gamify The Experience

The best socially baked campaigns look to extend two-way social interaction, this drives additional brand consideration vs a passive social audience. Participants in the Secret Sofa campaign received a weekly code to order the Häagen-Dazs flavour of the week, exclusively delivered to their living room. And they were encouraged to share their best #HaagIndoors images on social media with the best one winning a week’s supply of ice-cream.

Consider The Value of Nano Influencers and Influencer Collectives

The weekly content drive was Häagen-Dazs’s longest and first multi-platform influencer marketing amplification, and a global debut for the brand on TikTok. Twenty-four nano -influencers came together to produce creator-led content and actions around each film and the corresponding flavour: including special recipe creations. Friday became the day of celebration of all the user generated content from across the week, celebrating the creativity of our participants. All of this combined to create a series of extraordinary, shared events, which Facebook has highlighted as a best-in-class case study, following more than 115,000 reactions including over 20,000 and 64,000 shares of #SecretSofa and #HaagIndoors respectively.

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