Lent. It’s a time for abstinence or self-improvement, but it is also a time for what the deputy editor of the NewStatesman calls “performative piety” (playing the part of the person that people want others to see them as). Social networks are a place for people to show off, show off their resolve, their determination or their achievements and Lent, particularly coming so soon after new years’ resolutions and dry January. Put simply, Lent offers up another occasion for people to show their ‘best self’ to their social networks.
Social listening shows that people discuss online what they intend to give up (or take up) for Lent although trends in recent years have seen fewer mentions online. Some 33 million people in England and Wales claim to belong to a Christian faith, but church attendance has been falling in recent years and a decline in online conversation could point to a decline in observance of this religious period.
A time for building relationships with fans
It is no surprise that chocolate, crisps, alcohol and cigarettes form the stalwarts of Lenten sacrifice and are most likely to be discussed online in the context of Lent. As a result, this 6-week period creates an organic booster window for word of mouth mentions of indulgent brands; Nutella accounted for around 3% of all Lent-related conversations in the UK between 2012 and 2014.
Just as Marmite acknowledged that some people don’t eat their products, indulgent brands shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge that their brands are good enough for people to give up. Brands could use the period of Lent to boost brand awareness without selling their products, finding out what people miss the most, and how much they are looking forward to eating them again.
Plugging the gap for technical abstinence
Social Listening shows that abstinence from technological related activities (such as watching television, playing video games or accessing certain apps or games on smartphones and tablets) accounts for a growing share of conversation around Lent: It accounted for around one in five conversations in 2014 compared to fewer than one in ten in 2012. This presents new opportunities for leisure and hobby brands to help people achieve their 6 week goal of abstinence. For example booksellers could encourage people to read a book as an alternative to watching TV, or to fill the void left by not surfing the web or checking in on Facebook.
Opportunities worth taking up
In an innovative move, on-demand storage service Boxman used Lent 2015 as the time to raise brand awareness with the launch of a ‘Vice Box’ service. The service claims to help people ‘avoid temptations’ in the run up to Easter by putting them into storage for the duration. Good habit brands could lend their support to those trying to give up certain products or activities; using this time to build relationships with people by encouraging them take something up rather than give something up. For these brands, spring time could become a springboard to drive penetration and frequency of use, perhaps even securing long term brand patrons.