The Noodle

Oh no he didn’t

Why out-of-the-box marketing campaigns can work

When you’re the oldest water development non-profit in the country and driven by deep-rooted Christian beliefs, it’s easy to see why you might be overshadowed by the more flashy water organizations that have cropped up over the years. That was the challenge for Lifewater International. Not that an organization that’s dedicated to effectively and sustainably serving the world’s rural poor through integrated water, sanitation and hygiene programs is complaining. Its work – training, equipping and empowering local partners around the world to provide their own communities with safe water – stands on its own.

But when Rule29, an award winning suburban Chicago-based strategic creative firm, was looking to refresh the brand, it sought to create a more attractive way for younger, more engaged populations to take stock in the Lifewater story. And there was an added incentive. Rule29 founder and principle Justin Ahrens wanted to help the organization fund its water and sanitation program in Lira, Uganda.

The end result was what would become known as “The Ride.” Ahrens and Brian MacDonald, owner of Wonderkind Studios, decided to create Wheels4Water – a 1,000-mile bike trip that would start in Boston and end in Chicago. The ride surely would get people’s attention – how could it not?

The baseline goal was to raise $40,000 to provide 1,000 people in Lira with access to clean water and sanitation resources for life. The broader goal was to use the ride as a platform for spreading the word about Lifewater and the work that it was doing. And the ultimate goal was to create a campaign that Lifewater could regenerate year after year to continue to raise funds and awareness. So, through a variety of mediums (video, social media, print and digital advertising, etc.), Rule29 launched a multi-faceted marketing campaign aimed at broadening Lifewater’s audience and creating opportunities for its future development as a brand.

“We found the organization to be incredibly compelling, not only because they are so effective at addressing the worldwide water and sanitation crisis, but because they believe so deeply in the importance of the work that must be done,” Ahrens says. “They often had chosen less in-your-face marketing techniques. We wanted to change that.”

In the world of marketing, which runs the gambit from traditional, to strategically sophisticated, and in your face and out-of-the-box campaigns, getting to the end game (exposure, excitement, engagement, etc.) is the goal.

Take what Domino’s Pizza did in 2011. In an effort to leap out of the box, the pizza chain moved its marketing efforts into real time by allowing live Twitter comments from its customers to be displayed on a Times Square billboard in New York City.

The campaign, which ran for several weeks, included customer comments (good, bad or neutral) on a 4,630 square-foot billboard. The comments, filtered for bad language and appropriateness, but not for sentiment, were culled from what was called the Domino’s Tracker. The device allowed Domino’s customers to track the progress of their pizza orders online. Consumers whose comments were used also received a link to a video clip of their comments as they ran on the billboard.

When it comes to billboards, David Cooperstein likes to talk about a Southern California campaign Audi ran when it introduced the A4. The brand put a billboard up with the line, “Your move, BMW.” Shortly thereafter, a Santa Monica, Calif., BMW dealer struck back with a larger billboard that read, “Checkmate,” after the launch of BMW’s latest 3-series. The move escalated when Audi countered with, “Your pawn is no match for our king” above its R8 supercar sign. BMW finally ended the ad-off with a blimp tethered to the Audi billboard that declared, “Game Over.”

“Dueling billboards; it was the perfect set up for ad campaigns to come,” says Cooperstein, the CMO at Simulmedia who has been involved in a number of brand and product launches as both an analyst and practitioner.

Did you see that?

The banner ad. They are hard to ignore. Now, whether you remember what you see is an altogether different story. Macy’s set out to change all of that with a banner ad campaign it conducted for the apparel brand Maison Jules.

The campaign didn’t rely on static images and text. Instead, it enabled users to “scratch and peel” banner ads that revealed 12 different Parisian-themed outfits. Buttons offered options for a variety of activities, including watching a video featuring the clothes and the ability to peruse a lookbook. The ads were set up so that users didn’t have to navigate away from the page they were on to enjoy the content. But, if so inclined, they could head to the Macy’s site to purchase the clothing or share the ad campaign across different platforms (online, mobile, tablets, etc.) on various social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Interactive media advertising company blurbIQ created the 300×600 and 300×250 banner ads. The firm’s strategy was to invite consumers to take part in the advertising, where they are going to touch and discover additional brand material.

“The digital landscape is increasingly fragmented, making it difficult to engage consumers with traditional media executions online, mobile devices and on social media,” says Scott Reese, CEO and co-founder of blurbIQ Inc. “The strategy was to encourage consumers to scratch off the call to action layer, all within the ad unit without having to leave the publisher page. The average time spent in unit was more than 60 seconds.”

Steve Greenblatt has seen his share of unique marketing campaigns. With more than 40-plus years in the advertising world game; his stories are endless. One of his favorites is the Kryptonite-Moses campaign.

By the early 1990s Kryptonite Lock had established a leadership position in the physical security industry – largely in the bicycle and motorcycle markets. To appeal to a broader consumer constituency, they wanted to establish an impactful, quick and universally understandable message. As a theft deterrent, the no-brainer solution was to play off of the eighth commandment (thou shall not steal).

And, as luck would have it, the product had roughly the same shape as the fabled stone tablets that Moses was said to have carried down from the mountain. Suddenly, the product became its own positioning line, and the brand gained overnight traction in many new markets and became the “household term” for U-locks.

Greenblatt, who today works as a senior marketing executive for Think Patented, a cross media marketing and printing company in Miamisburg, Ohio, says that out-of-the-box campaigns should be something every brand strives for. “If the creative isn’t a bit outrageous, the client should be outraged.”

By Michael J. Pallerino