How Discovery UK’s Make Your World Bigger campaign helped transform perceptions of the channel

Speaking at TV marketing conference PromaxBDA in Barcelona today, Robin Garnett, VP of creative at Discovery Networks UK and senior marketing and communications director Rebecca Diver-Phillips discussed how the channel’s Make Your World Bigger positioning has led to record viewing figures and commercial deals and a 3000% increase in followers on social media

Make Your World Bigger was launched in 2014 and has been used by Discovery’s in-house creative teams to create on and off-air advertising, social media campaigns and new content.

Prior to launching the concept, Garnett said Discovery Channel UK had built an identity based on the notion that ‘content is king’ – “But we were only talking to our viewers about individual content, and never giving them a message about the brand as a whole,” he said. With many of its shows originating from the US, this content-focused approach also meant that many UK viewers felt the channel’s programming wasn’t relevant to them.

While Discovery is one of the world’s biggest entertainment brands, Diver-Phillips said audience research revealed that viewers were struggling to pinpoint what Discovery Channel UK was about. She also said that many viewers weren’t aware of its broad mix of factual content (shows range from David Baddiel On The Silk Road, in which Baddiel traces the history of the world’s oldest trade route, to to Misfit Garage, about a group of mechanics who run a hot rod shop. “Being a much admired household brand isn’t enough anymore. People want to know what you stand for,” she said.

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Discovery offers small tips in between shows and online for users to make their world bigger – for example, by learning new skills or taking on new challenges. Lead image (top): Discovery’s Make Your World Bigger. Image via doand.co (Federico Gaggio)

The idea for Make Your World Bigger came out of focus groups with viewers: in an attempt to get to know its audience better, Discovery asked viewers what they would do if they could step out of their normal lives for a year and do anything they wanted. The question led to an excited discussion among participants about the places they would go, experiences they would have and things they would learn – “men who had not been very talkative [in focus groups] became filled with childlike wonder,” said Garnett – and Discovery realised there was a “burning need” among core viewers to see these kinds of experiences being reflected on TV.

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Ad for Sean Conway: Running Britain, which uses the brand’s Make Your World Bigger tagline

Describing Make Your World Bigger as “so much more” than a tagline, Garnett said it created a promise and invitation to viewers: “Sit on your sofa, watch our content and we will make your world bigger,” (for example, by showing audiences an amazing new place, an extreme adventure or a particular skill or craft), he said.

Having such a clear statement immediately created opportunities for new types of advertising, said Diver-Phillips: Sky was so inspired by the idea that it paid for an off-air ad campaign to promote it, something it had never previously done for a third party channel, she said.

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Sky’s campaign in partnership with Discovery UK promoted its new positioning

Since launching Make Your World Bigger, Discovery has created a range of content, from teasers and bumpers to social campaigns. (The original concept and art direction was devised by Federico Gaggio, Garnett, Lee Healy, Matt Beese and Ceri Payne, but it has been used by staff at Discovery Creative London as well as sister teams in the US and abroad).

In between shows, the channel offers small tips for making your world bigger, from learning a new joke to going skinny dipping and flying a kite. It has also created a series of videos with stars from Discovery shows about why they do what they do and what inspires them. A #mywbpledge campaign, meanwhile (which launched in 2015 and is running again this year) asks viewers to pledge what they will do to make their world bigger in the next year. Viewers can then vote on the most inspiring pledges and the top three entries will have their pledge granted (with Discovery supporting them to fulfil it). Campaigns have led to greater engagement with viewers and boosted the brand’s presence online.

Since Make Your World Bigger was launched, it has proved a huge success for the channel: Garnett said Discovery UK had its biggest May ever in terms of ratings in the year that it launched, and individual shows including Gold Rush have also reported record ratings. Peak viewing has increased by 50%, “bucking a trend in the UK where the factual category is generally declining” said Garnett, and Diver-Phillips said Discovery Channel UK’s digital presence had grown by over 3000% (it now has almost 3 million followers on Facebook).

It has also led to new shows being commissioned – Garnett said Idris Elba contracted Discovery with the idea for his No Limits show after seeing the Make Your World Bigger campaign – and Diver-Phillips said advertisers and sponsors had responded positively to the brand’s new mission statement.

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Entries to Discovery’s mywbpledge campaign

“It’s not only increase brand credentials, it’s making money for us. Having a strong proposition has really resonated with advertisers and sponsors, and opened the door to numerous new clients and two of our biggest deals ever,” she said.

Diver-Phillips and Garnett were speaking at PromaxBDA Europe in Barcelona. 

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