Thinking Outside the (Mail)box

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David Ogilvy noted that in "the modern world of business it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create." Marketers looking to stand out in the cluttered environment of overflowing mailboxes and unsolicited emails should embrace Ogilvy's insight as they explore alternative ways to reach their prospects. From expressive to experiential marketing campaigns, unique advertising possibilities are endless--but it takes strategy to succeed. Complacency can be one of the biggest barriers to creativity. If marketers are very successful in what they're doing, they're likely not going to want to change, which is a mistake: Ultimately, their response rates will drop and their cost-to-market will increase, according to Arte Levy, director of promotions and marketing for MediaLogic. "The best time to [experiment] is when you don't have a problem, because you're not under the gun and you have the luxury to try things that work and things that don't. You're not at the point of trying to pull something out of your hat to succeed for the next quarter. Consciously budget something to try this stuff to see how it works, because if you don't need to do it now, some day you will." As consumers are inundated by ads, marketers will need to stand out by finding better ways to reach them. Simply put, companies must develop methods that are interesting and compelling to consumers. ABSOLUT CREATIVITY How many marketers does it take to develop a campaign creative enough for consumers to remember? The answer is, zero for spirits company ABSOLUT (one of the largest in Europe), as the firm allows consumers to create its ads. In the summer of 2005 ABSOLUT searched the streets of Tokyo to find 11 of the most eye-catching people to interpret the ABSOLUT brand by creating their own styles incorporating the company's vodka bottle. This represents the first time the company has invited young, creative nonprofessionals to collaborate with marketers on advertising. The motivation for this was to make a stronger connection with customers through individual expression. The project, ABSOLUT METROPOLIS, features a Web site whose opening page looks like a subway map. From that point visitors can navigate various subway stations to see the individual artists' photos, biographies, and personal tastes. The bottle was used in several different ways, from representations of hairpieces, to substitute shirtsleeves. One of the participants, a 25-year-old makeup and special-effects artist, describes his look as cyberfutura. He says his outfits have the ability to spook some passersby. But, it's just that kind of self-expression that ABSOLUT was looking for. "The ABSOLUT METROPOLIS advertising project presents us with such strong and compelling visual statements of identity that it leaves us wanting to know more about the characters behind the clothes. The Web site has been created to satisfy that curiosity," says Sabina Hagglund, director of communication development at V&S ABSOLUT SPIRITS. "The site allows us to get to know the selves that are being expressed, it lets us in on the creators' lives, inspirations, and creative processes. We hope it will inspire others to express themselves through the way they look, too." People want to be self-inventive, to be able to create options for themselves, not just purchase something someone else has created, says Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich. "It's all about reversing the direction of control and creating a tool that facilitates that reversal of control. Put consumers' interests ahead of your own interests." There's a shift in business to create options for people where consumers take power away from marketers, giving them permission to be as unique as possible. "Businesses could open their brands to be able to do what [consumers] want to do with it," Smith says. ABSOLUT METROPOLIS is about positioning the brand with something that fits with this new sentiment of consumers, showing it's okay for them to be as different as they want to be and that they can use brands to do that. As part of Yankelovich's marketing predictions this year, the company cited the growing importance of self-expression and unconventional creativity. "Being quirky will gain steam in 2006 as consumers continue their search for novelty and personal satisfaction, often opting for the offbeat and unexpected," Smith says. "Be different. It will be a reaction against the fact that everyone seems to have everything and stores seem to all be selling the same thing. People want to be different," he says. Sixty-one percent of people select brands because they express unique tastes, according to the Yankelovich MONITOR, which tracks consumer values and lifestyles. BANNING THE AVERAGE
Young people are jaded when it comes to traditional advertising, but they do like ads that speak to them. Kao, manufacturer of Ban deodorant, targeted 12- to 24-year-olds by challenging them. "One of teens' greatest fears is not smelling good," says Steve Thibodeau, vice president of advertising agency Dotglu. "We want to give them confidence that there's a lot of things to worry about in life, but this isn't one of them." The company created a contest asking, "What would you ban?" It generated roughly 50,000 Web-site visitors, about 10 percent of whom entered ads they had created online. Nine semifinalists were selected and given promotional materials to try to get people to vote for their ads. Within two weeks, those nine individuals generated 150 percent more traffic than all the company's advertising had in the previous few months. Thibodeau attributes the roughly 16 percent increase in new product sales over the past year to this campaign strategy. "It surpassed our expectations and showed us how much of a relationship you can have with someone as long as you treat them with respect. People will be loyal to products if they think the value proposition is there," he says. Companies should tap into universal truths as opposed to looking up a demographic and a psychographic to determine certain groups are talking about certain things, according to Thibodeau. The winning ad, "Ban Excuses," features a young woman shouting at and pointing at her apparent boyfriend. "Every day we hear excuses," the winner wrote in her entry. "If people just told the truth, there would be no need for excuses. Truth is better." The ad will run in the March 20, 2006, issue of US magazine. EXPERIMENTAL MARKETING Most people in the market for a new car pick a brand they like and head to the dealership, challenging companies that might not be as well known. One company, Land Rover, wanted to spark sales and awareness of its Range Rover. Executives worked with Julio Campos, founding partner and creative director of Campos Creative Works, a marketing messaging company, to let targeted prospects experience a spirit of adventure behind the wheel. "Range Rovers are beautiful cars, but even the most basic start at $80,000 and can go up to $120,000, so they weren't moving," Campos says. Events were necessary to drive sales. The events were held at six resorts and incorporated other off-road experiences, including wine tasting, orchid displays, and trap shooting. "This three-hour immersion, a combination of the physical and the emotional, created a consumer experience that exceeded all expectations," Campos says. The attendance of 1,324 qualified participants from 939 households surpassed projections, and sales from the experience paid for the program more than twofold. Success was measured through $2,000 vouchers given to participants to use when purchasing the vehicle. Land Rover needed to sell 80 cars to break even, but sold approximately 115. "They got the ROI and also the exposure," Campos says. "Most important, consumers walked away with a true understanding and connection to the Land Rover brand that will continue to build loyalty for years to come." Marketing ROI isn't always as obvious, nor is it always about sales. It's important for companies to keep this in mind and to figure out what they want to measure before launching their campaigns, according to Campos. Sometimes just gaining access to the customers' information can be the ROI. Campos cites Lexus as an example. When it gives away cars at events like the U.S. Open, it does so not to drive sales there, but to build its prospect list. "Lexus feels they own the luxury market," he says. "They're not out to sell cars during these campaigns--they want to collect information to keep in touch with these people." A lot of companies have high aspirations of doing these types of innovative campaigns, but money often becomes an issue. Most of Campos Creative Works' projects are bid on competitively and companies often don't discuss their budget because they don't want to suppress the creativity. Then they get sticker shock. "The first thing that goes is the tracking and the logistics because they fall in love with the idea rather than the process. What falls out the window is how to measure these things," Campos says. "An ideal situation would be for companies to provide [marketers] with as much information about their objectives and the amount of money they have available so the creative company can truly measure what they have." Campos turned down some very large projects, because client companies would not provide him with the amount of money they were willing to spend. "They spread the net really wide and wanted everything without disclosing what they had to spend," he says. "They look at what everybody else is doing and they want to do the same thing." No one has all the answers when it comes to innovative marketing, but new ideas are cropping up all the time. The challenge is, to paraphrase Mr. Ogilvy, giving life to those ideas so that they will sell. Seven Tips for Fostering Creativity Thinking outside the box can be fun and rewarding for companies of all sizes. Following are tips to keep in mind before embarking on the adventure. 1. Stay grounded, but consider alternatives. Alternate channels are a complement to other forms of marketing and rarely can be used as a standalone effort. 2. Get buy-in. Make sure your corporate culture will allow you to experiment. 3. Set goals. Have a sense of what you want to accomplish before trying it. Understand overall ROI versus return on brand equity, which helps build future consumer loyalty or shift customer attitudes. Know how to put the metrics in the context of your company's broader measurement strategy. 4. Budget. Allocate roughly 10 to 15 percent of the overall marketing budget for innovative techniques and alternative channels. 5. Test, test, test. It's imperative to know what works and what doesn't as well as which metrics work and which don't. 6.. Keep watch. Get proof of performance so that you know if things are going according to plan. 7. Think strategically. Don't get caught up in cool ideas. Choose alternate channels that make sense based on your strategy. --A.D. The Money Bunny When Energizer launched its bunny campaign it won several advertising awards, but consumers didn't remember what brand of battery the ad was for. The company had to rebrand its star as the Energizer Bunny. "Yes, you want to be cool, but you have to tie it back to your organization," says Gareth Herschel, research director at Gartner. 65 Roses Greg Fox, chief strategy officer for Merkle, has worked with several nonprofit organizations that are taking innovative approaches to fundraising. A cystic fibrosis group understood that most children with the disease have trouble pronouncing its name--they call it 65 roses. As a thank-you gift to donors, the organization sent long-stemmed roses to a number of generous, targeted contributors. The response rate reached about 50 percent, seven or eight times higher than the average campaign. Living the High Life Virgin Atlantic Airways tried something different when it attempted to advertise its long beds. Research showed that most of the first-class passengers flying in the front of the aircraft, where this amenity is available, stay at hotels and watch pay-per-view movies. Many of those movies are adult films with no commercials, so the company created a commercial in the form of a free erotic video. In three months, one billion people viewed the ad for an average of 7 minutes, 3 seconds. "How you tell a story is just as important as what you tell," says Jeff Hicks, president and CEO of ad agency Crispin Porter and Bogusky. "Virgin Atlantic as a brand has a real [message] that you as a consumer have the right to do pretty gutsy stuff." Contact Senior Editor Alexandra DeFelice at adefelice@destinationcrm.com
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