Successful Promotions

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Summer 2004

NEWS : Successful Promotions

The Ten Best Case Histories Ever!

By Michele Bell & Josh Vasquez
They kept employees and clients happy and loyal, generated amazing goodwill and brand awareness and increased sales sometimes by triple digits. We scoured our history books to find the 10 best case histories – spanning a variety target markets and goals – for you. Now take a page out of their book, and do what they did!

Whether the intent was to generate sales, introduce a new product or website, recognize stellar employees or thank loyal clients, these 10 promotions all achieved something that you can too, with the help of your promotional consultant – wildly successful results!

Unilever Fragrance Promotion Smells Like Teen Spirit

When it comes to cashing in on the power of teen and tween sales, you’d better know what the hipsters of the “in-crowd” want.

The Unilever Corporation, the world’s leading manufacturer of aerosol deodorant products, was looking for a way to inform its own sales force about its new fragrance for men, “AXE Essence,” and the “cool” image the company wanted to promote. The point was to motivate the salespeople to convince stores to carry the hip new scent.

The marketing concept for the new fragrance is that the “essence” of what makes a guy appealing is the fusion of good and bad (yin and yang) and the new fragrance’s appeal is based on the premise that every guy has a good and bad side.

To ensure that the initiative stayed top-of-mind with its salespeople, Unilever contracted promotional consultant Mike Sims. He was to conceive, develop and manage a comprehensive sales communication program that would announce the sell-in of AXE Essence to the Unilever national sales force. To do this, his company produced and distributed a comprehensive kit that was sent to 300 Unilever salespeople.

The target demographic of the AXE brand strategy was 12- to 24-year-old males and focused on the premise that was “founded on an insight that’s universal – young men are preoccupied with meeting girls, and looking and feeling good is essential to success.” Considering this, the central part of the kit itself was a custom-designed and imprinted skateboard, along with a backpack made to carry the skateboard and other things a 12- to 24-year-old male might tote around.

The backpack was stuffed with product samples and a CD-ROM with ready-made sales presentations, product images, price lists and selling facts relating to the new product’s initiative. A letter from the AXE brand manager to the salesperson was also included in the backpack. Each finished kit was overnighted to the home of each salesperson.

“Basically, it was given to the AXE sales force to excite, educate, state goals and objectives and provide them with the sales information they needed to present an effective pitch,” Sims said. “And that’s what it did.”

It was reported that upon receiving the kits, many salespersons were applauding the AXE brand team for one of the most impressive new communication tools the company has delivered to the field.

And the promotion company got its own reward in the form of a 2003 Promotional Product Association Florida (PPAF Palm) Award in the Consumer Promotion category.

For Microsoft, A Million-Dollar Mug

Computer giant Microsoft Corp. ran a campaign that pitted it against its arch rival, Oracle Corp. The contest took place in Las Vegas and a promotional product held the spotlight.

Microsoft and Oracle were used to tussling with each other. Oracle had been touting the price, speed and quality of the products it markets in the database market.

The way a coffee mug got to be in the center of the dust-up was a combination of accident and inspiration. Frank Shaw, senior vice president of Microsoft’s PR firm, had been meeting with Microsoft officials. He recalled, “One of them said, ‘One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when we go in and we talk to customers, even if we don’t end up getting the order, we save the customer money because we’ll give them a coffee mug or something else with the logo on it. The next time the Oracle sales guy’s in there, he sees the mug, he knows they’re going to have to compete and [they] drop their prices.’”

Shaw thought it over. “Two days later,” he said, “I literally woke up in the middle of the night and felt ‘There’s an idea here.’ A standard installation for a company for a database product would be something like $5 million on average. If Microsoft could actually do it for a 20% discount from what Oracle was charging, that’s a million-dollar mug.”

And so the seven-figure ceramic piece was born. Microsoft put its logo in black on one side. On the reverse side, in blue ink, were the words: “Instructions for usage:

  1. Place mug prominently on your desk.
  2. When Oracle salesman pitches $5 million of overpriced software, glance down at mug.
  3. Oracle salesman spots mug, offers 20% discount.
  4. Skip steps 2 and 3 and call Microsoft instead. Save millions and get the industry’s highest performance enterprise solution – with no bitter aftertaste!”

The mug also directed recipients to a Web site designed for the promotion.

The real brilliance, however came in the distribution. Microsoft chose the biggest computer show of all, Comdex, held in Las Vegas. Oracle had a large presence there, and CEO Larry Ellison gave a keynote address. Microsoft ordered 2,000 mugs and had temps give them to people going to the keynote. After being tossed by security the temps stood outside and handed mugs to people getting out of cabs. One of the mugs even made its way to Ellison, who brandished – and denounced – it from his podium.

Shaw reported the promotion generated over a million dollars worth of free publicity. It was picked up by trade journals, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He even saw articles in publications as far away as London. Since Comdex, Microsoft ordered an additional 10,000 mugs to give out during sales calls.

Jedi PC Game Uses The Force To Generate Sales

The goal was to increase sales by 20% for a new PC game release of Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, using unique packaging as a collector’s item, in conjunction with a gift with purchase. “The item had to reflect the hi-tech feeling of the Star Wars property, in addition to appealing to the target audience, which is 14- to 35-year-old males,” said Cheryl Cohen-Moss, the promotional consultant who handled the promotion.

At the consumer level, the goal was to exceed 50% sell-through within the first four weeks. “The client asked us to design packaging that could house three PC games and a small promotional piece. The small promotional item included had to relate to activities within the game,” Cohen-Moss said.

She created a tin with a four-color imprint that kept with the futuristic feel of the game. It was also critical that the box take no more space than a PC game box. “Knowing that the Star Wars property carries a huge collectibles factor, we wanted to create an item that could be used afterwards for storage in dorm rooms and on desktops,” she said. She also added a flashing light wand that simulated the Star Wars Jedi Knight Light Saber.

The results: On the internal sales level, sales increased 30% in the first week with over $750,000 in incremental revenue. At the consumer level, the result was an outstanding 75% of the collectors’ items were sold out in the first four weeks, with over $1.5 million in incremental revenue.

Currently, 96% of the collectors’ items have sold out, with almost $2 million in incremental revenue. The game became the number-one-selling PC game for over two months.

’Gator’s Debut Helps Boost Sales More Than 500%

If there’s a single favorite advertising buzzword today, “branding” would be a serious contender. While not a new term, it’s taken on added popularity recently as more businesses have come to realize its strength. When consumers see a particular name (Xerox, McDonald’s, Gillette, Zippo), they immediately know not only the brand, but what it stands for.

Branding also often involves company characters or mascots, which in some cases are far more effective than a logo. Show almost anyone in the world a picture of Mickey Mouse, and they make the connection with Disney despite differences in language or culture. This fact wasn’t lost on School Zone Publishing Co., a publisher of educational workbooks and flash cards, which wanted to promote its new On-Track software series.

School Zone is hardly a stranger to promotional products. The firm has used a range of items in the past, from calculators to postcard books to phone cards, which it distributes to parents, teachers and trade-show attendees. The difference this time was that it wanted to use logoed goods to roll out the branding of a character to support its new software.

After some creative consultation, School Zone came up with a viable spokesman: Oliver E. Gator, or Oli Gator for short. A kid-like cartoon alligator sporting a blue T-shirt and red cap, his image was placed on all On-Track products and ancillary promotional materials. Typically pictured playing sports or some other fun activity, the hope for Oli was to serve as a character children would immediately identify with the company and its products.

In a comprehensive effort, Oli’s on-product image was supported with miniature stuffed Oli’s, phonecards, stickers and more, distributed via the same avenues School Zone had used in the past. Since the program started, the friendly reptile has amassed quite a fan club. “Oliver Gator has become very, very popular,” said Barb Peacock, School Zone managing director. “Everyone seems to relate to [him] in some way.”

But Oli’s popularity has had another benefit. With each On-Track order, School Zone added a small gift: a sticker and card (both picturing Oli) congratulating parents on taking an active interest in their child’s educational development and personal growth. The cards suggested that the accompanying “Proud Parent” sticker be displayed and noted that if they’d like to purchase an Oli or Proud Parent T-shirt or other merchandise, they could log on to School Zone’s Web site and buy online.

“It’s really trying to do a little of everything in one promotion,” said Peacock. “If the consumers know our product line in workbooks and flashcards, then it’s sort of indicating we have something new out there and it gets them to come to our Web site and see what it is.”

The result was immediate and impressive. In August, the promo’s first month, traffic at School Zone’s site increased 135% and sales jumped 538% over the previous year. Things reached an all-time high in November, when traffic rose 175% and sales skyrocketed by 782%. Pretty good for a ’gator in a baseball cap.

Promo Helps Radio Station Pump Up The Volume

Radio spots are always a tough sell, but perhaps not quite as hard as building listener loyalty. Radio audiences frequently identify themselves by their listening choices, so it’s not always easy to make them switch stations.

Los Angeles-based 93 FM faced this obstacle when it wanted to expand its listener base. To do so, it incorporated a cross-promotion using a daily desk calendar as a link to the station and its Web site.

The calendar’s cover bore an image showing a gift card reading, “Comp-liments of Arrow 93 FM. All Rock & Roll Classics.” Pretty standard stuff. But the catch was inside – every one of the calendar’s pages posed a classic rock question such as “Who drew the connect-the-dots picture on the cover of The Who By Numbers album?” or “Who played guitar on the Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’?” The hook: The answers weren’t given on the calendar, only on the air or at Arrow’s Web site.

The calendars were distributed by Arrow at various on-site promotions and by its salespeople as leave-behinds for radio-spot buyers – an especially fickle bunch when it comes to grabbing their attention.

“[The calendars] brought awareness to Arrow 93 FM,” said Kim Kelly, manager of marketing and promotions. “They sit on everybody’s desk, and whatever is in front of you is often the thing that holds the most interest and [creates] top-of-mind awareness.”

That awareness has garnered some definite results. “In terms of ratings, the [overall] ratings remained somewhat flat, but the cumulative went up,” said Kelly. “And the cumulative measures the overall size of the audience.”

Looks like a promo that tuned in its target.

There’s Something About Puffy: 20th Century Fox Dogs It

With so many new films being released – a number of them less than memorable – it’s not easy for a particular film that doesn’t have mega roll-out bucks behind it to get some ink from the critics. Especially when the film in question is as quirky and strange as the summer hit There’s Something About Mary.

While the comedy had several unforgettable scenes, one in particular concerned a rather unfriendly small dog of questionable pedigree named Puffy. During the course of the movie, the little pooch is unintentionally fed some methamphetamines, and encounters a rare doggy accident – taking a flying jump at someone, missing them and sailing out of a window several stories up.

The next time Puffy’s seen on screen, he’s sporting a full body cast, able to move only his tongue. But even then, the incapacitated canine still experiences a few misadventures – such as being accidentally left on the roof of an SUV being driven home from the supermarket – that could leave even the most humorless in tears from laughing.

The makers of Mary, 20th Century Fox Studios, correctly believed the post-trauma Puffy would be one of those standout moments filmgoers talk about long after the movie’s over. It was therefore decided that the dog would be able to generate the desired amount of commotion to help get word of the film out among the public.

Just before its debut, members of the media received an ordinary plush dog, complete with a realistic-looking rubber tongue, wrapped in a real body cast and wearing tags bearing his name and the name of the film. The final touch: The dogs were individually wrapped and packed into imprinted dog cages.

“We wanted to showcase the dog as the main attraction of the movie by creating a limited-edition collectable piece to be sent out to all of the press and publicity broadcasters around the country prior to the release of the movie,” said Jim Davidson, the promotional consultant who handled the promotion.

Preparing the mailing, however, was no walk in the park. “To make the dog was a nightmare,” said Davidson, “From the time I found the dog to the time I found the manufacturer who could actually hand-wrap each one took probably 60 to 70 days. The initial run was 600. There was a follow-up run when people saw them and they started getting out; we just became inundated with requests.”

When all was said and done, the supplier had run out of dogs and others had to be found as replacements. The second run produced 350 Puffys, most of which went to overseas press.

The results speak for themselves: “We generated about an 80% response from all of the recipients requesting information on the movie and looking for additional Puffys,” Davidson said. Even competitors were in awe of the promo. “Twentieth Century Fox had people from Disney, Sony and Paramount calling them to get the dogs,” he noted. “Puffy was a star.”

Sheer Triumph For Shears Promotion

Don Sanders, a promotional consultant, was looking to expand his client base back in 1994, and he knew how he wanted, and how he didn’t want to, market his company. For one, he knew he didn’t want to do it over the phone.

“I hate when people I don’t know anything about, call me on a sales call,” he said. And so, he believed, do others. So he decided to use what he uses best: promotional products.

He decided to use a direct mailing to solicit responses from potential clients and he chose a pair of high quality scissors as the bait. The shears were imprinted with Sanders’ company logo and phone number on the handle and accompanied by company literature and a response card. At first he sent the scissors with the initial mailing but found the response rate unacceptable. Then he sent only the response card as the second mailing. Still he was unsatisfied; people were returning the card to get the scissors, but not making time to meet with him. Finally, he decided the only way responders would receive the scissors was through hand-delivery by Sanders himself.

“That’s part of the deal,” he said. “The only way you get the box with the scissors is if you let me come see you. Don’s got to come with it.”

And the new strategy worked wonders, netting Sanders’ a 10% response and personal meeting rate. With just one particular client it bumped sales up $40,000.

PhoneCard Express’ Self-Promo Campaign “Kicks Butt”

Building stronger name recognition isn’t just for promotional consultants’ clients, you know. Companies within the promotional products industry have to do exactly the same thing to set themselves apart from the competition. And since self-promotions are usually going to folks who creatively use promotional products for a living – the product, packaging and presentation had better be memorable.

In one product manufacturer’s case, it definitely was. It used a unique, effective method to get its business message across to current and potential promotional consultant clients.

Wishing to showcase its creativity as well as its humor, the company used an extra-large pair of Fruit of the Loom men’s briefs, imprinted with the words, “Our PhoneCard Promotions Really Kick Butt!” and, on the rear, the image of a footprint in color. Accompanying the illustration was the company’s logo and toll-free number.

“Imagine the brainstorming meetings for this promotion,” said Jennifer Gannon, who handles the marketing for the manufacturer. “Needless to say, more than one time we laughed so hard our faces turned red. We knew we were taking somewhat of a risk by sending the most intimate of apparel, but we were willing to do it to show our clients how creative we are.”

The targeted recipients of the dimensional mailing were current customers and people with whom the company had developed relationships over the years. Shipped via first-class mail in September, the Fruit of the Looms were packaged in a box that had a liner on its bottom displaying the company’s product line. Lying on top of the underwear was a printed yellow-lined piece of notepaper with “A brief note ...” written in script. Nearly 700 packages were sent out, at a cost of approximately $6 apiece.

Gannon says the company is committed to doing two self-promotional mailings a year because of the high company recognition value, and because it reinforces the firm’s image as an integral creative partner. “From doing these, we’ve definitely seen clients become very comfortable coming to us to brainstorm ideas for their campaigns,” she said. “Also, we’ve become known in the industry for our funny mailings. Many people now recognize us and say, ‘So what are you guys going to do next?’” The added benefit to that kind of notoriety, noted Gannon, is that it definitely sets the company apart from its competition.

The results of the “Kick Butt” campaign were, by any standard, impressive. “Based on the quantity sent out and the phoned in responses, we logged a response rate of approximately 10%,” Gannon said, adding that a number of its top clients took the time to call and commend the company for its humor and ingenuity.

Almost as impressive as the high rate of response, a few promotional consaltants even paid the company perhaps the ultimate industry compliment, asking, “Can we use your idea to promote our company?”

Farmer’s Scraper And Almanac Reaps Rewards

Promotional consultant Jerome Golfman was looking to help his company stand out in the melee of the holiday gift-giving season and give more than a happy holiday/thank you gift but also one that demonstrated the company’s talents and ingenuity with materials.

“Sending holiday gifts to our preferred 3/4 of clients is something I do every year,” Golfman said. But this particular year, 1996, he had more to work with due to having more in mind.

The product choice was a 1997 Old Farmer’s Almanac and a mitten scraper. Imprinted on the ice scraper was the copy “The weather outside is FRIGHTFUL … So stay at home” and the company’s logo. The almanac included a special message on the back titled “1997 Promotional Forecast” and included several clever lines such as “Promotional product demand throughout the year will be high.”

A thousand promotional sets were sent out to current and potential clients with timing on their side.

“The great thing is that probably more than 50% of them were mailed the day before the first frost of the year, and that night we had our first significant frost and ice,” said Golfman.

The promotion was such a success that his phone started ringing just minutes after clients received them. And many clients were ordering the same mitten scrapers.

“It was a total fluke,” he said. “You can’t plan that.”

Opus’ Disappointing Gift Yields 200% Increase

With the Christmas-season holidays rapidly approaching, Opus Stuff, the merchandising division of Opus Event Marketing, was faced with an interesting dilemma of sorts: Opus develops and supplies merchandise for marketing promotions. The company prides itself on a proactive approach using market research, state-of-the-art technology and a vast network of associates to find unique products that meet clients’ objectives.

With that in mind, Opus needed to, via its own holiday gift, convince its clients that it was the most creative corporate gift source – better than Santa Claus’ North Pole Compound. Opus wanted something with a definite twist. The result was an unpredictable direct mailing that was the ultimate in predictability.

The mailing was sent to every one of Opus’ clients nationwide via UPS. These clients included several high-profile firms. When clients received and opened their packages, they found a letter and a fruitcake. That’s right; fruitcake. Perhaps the most joked-about holiday gift – perhaps worse than socks or underwear. A “gift” that, largely through its reputation, many see as offensively lifeless.

With fruitcake carrying such a heavy social stigma – perhaps undeserved – for years, imagine the disappointment one would feel opening this gift from a valued business associate. But disappointment was precisely the sentiment Opus was gambling on. The firm actually built its message around it, mentioning in the letter that it had “over 460,000 ideas better than fruitcake.”

The sales pitch in the letter was delivered with inventive cheek, mentioning how “holiday gifts used to be pretty simple ... but do you know what ‘10 lords-a-leaping’ go for now a day? ... And where is Bob in accounting going to put a partridge in a pear tree?’” Playing on the fruitcake’s projected disappointing effect, it added, “Look how it made you feel to get it, and multiply that by everyone on your gift list.”

The mailing yielded fantastic results. “Our Christmas sales increased over 200 percent,” said Robb Pair, Opus Stuff CEO.

Much of the mailing’s success may be due to the fact that Opus sent it to both the employees it normally dealt with, as well as the executives. It received numerous phone messages and emails from clients, and a couple of letters from their CEOs, commending them on the creativity of the idea.

Michele Bell is editor of Imprint and Josh Vasquez is a contributing writer to Imprint.