Power Pack: Ideas and Trendsetters to Watch in 2013

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros

It’s not that marketing has to be complicated to be good.

Some of the most effective and powerful campaigns are the simplest: the well-crafted email, the carefully tested coupon, or the attention-grabbing live event. But the fact is that consumers are more complex targets than they used to be. They own multiple devices, rely on those gizmos for more of their daily entertainment than ever before, and are almost as likely to research their next purchase via social media as they are inside a search engine.

Given those facts, it’s no wonder that marketers are having to structure campaigns that cross platforms, and to engage prospects with highly integrated initiatives that move prospects smoothly from interest to conversion, reach customers as close to the point of sale as possible, and keep buyers engaging with the brand after the purchase.

Here is a broad selection of recent or ongoing campaigns that tap into trends all marketers will be grappling with in the coming year. Some of the campaigns rely on tech-forward solutions, such as near field communications (NFC) or a flash-sales site for cleaning products. Others simply find a clever way to integrate entertainment into a brand giveaway or streamline a once-complex banking website. But all of them rely on original ideas and strong execution to cut through the noise and get their brand messages to consumers. And that’s the most powerful concept of all.

POWERFUL IDEA: Branding is less important than engagement

QSR chain KFC wanted to introduce its fans, and specifically its millennial customers, to a new menu item, Original Recipe Bites. To do that, the QSR chain built on a TV ad from Draftfcbintroducingthe Bites product, in which a young man proudly lives in his parents’ basement.

“It was imperative to us that we engage [males 18 to 34] beyond all the ‘push’ messaging that happens on television,” says Mindy Welsh, managing partner at agency MEC. “At the same time, we didn’t want to ignore the relevance of what was being said in the TV spot.”

So MEC and KFC entered into a partnership with Comedy Central’s ad sales division to produce a series of five funny webisodes depicting the darkly humorous side of moving back in with one’s parents: the embarrassing hobbies and gym shorts, the oversharing, the awkward meals and chores, etc.

Titled “Growing Up and Getting Out,” the five-minute episodes were generated in conjunction with Comedy Central writers and featured recognized comedy actors such as Dave Koechner, known to viewers from “Ron Burgundy, Anchorman” and “The Office.”

The episodes, posted weekly from July 9 through Aug. 19, then drove viewers to the website FreeRentContest.com that asked them to submit their own humorous stories of life as part of the “Basement Generation.” The five entries judged funniest and most creative and receiving the most voteson the site won $12,000 each in cash (“rent for a year”) and $600 in KFC gift certificates—enough to cater a moving party.

KFC branding in the webisodes was extremely light—often no more than a few shot’s of the protagonist’s best friend eating KFC Bites from a carton. That was intentional, says Welsh, to give additional thrust to the buzz around the campaign.

“Nobody shares content because it’s well branded; they share because it’s funny and engaging. That helped it reach not only men 18 to 34, but their parents as well. It would have cost us a bijillion dollars to target both older and younger adults on TV or in any ‘push’ medium. But the beauty of branded content is that if you build something that’s relevant and engaging, all ages will come.”

And so will the buzz. Metrics showed that KFC’s social media buzz score went from 4 points the day before the first “Growing Up” webisode went online to 26.9 points after the third one was posted. Searches on “kfc bites” also spiked in correlation with the flight of the “Growing Up” campaign.

“Branded content is always about trying to balance authenticity and the sale,” says Welsh. “Luckily, the marketers at KFC Corp. realize that if you’re going to do any content beyond the :30 spot, you need to ensure that you’re being authentic and not just a shill.”

POWERFUL IDEA: Create content across multiple platforms for a rich feel

In bringing back the blockbuster multiplayer shooter game “Halo” for a fourth outing—the first new version in five years—developer 343 Industries made a lot of the expected moves, such as a tie-in with Doritos and Mountain Dew for double experience points with purchase and special versions for the Xbox 360 console.

But for five weeks leading up to the game’s release on Nov. 6, eager fans could go online to watch live-action episodes of a “prequel” to the fighting in Halo IV by watching “Forward Unto Dawn,” a web series running on the MachinimaPrime network, a collection of game-related video sites within YouTube. Theseries was promoted heavily with online ads in Machinima, YouTube and third-party gamer sites.

“Forward” is designed both to reawaken memories of past “Halo” versions and to draw a new, younger audience of first-timers into the game’s highly complex universe. The content centers on teen cadets at a military academy in training for combat in the larger “Halo” universe. The actors and sets are live but accurately reflect the costumes, weaponry and sets of the videogame. And the action builds to an appearance by iconic “Halo” super-soldier Master Chief—and then the eventual appearance of one of the “Forward” actors as a character in the actual new game.

All told, 343 Industries generated 92 minutes of live-action video content to promote the game. Early orders of a limited edition got customers access to a non-episodic version of “Forward.” And the first episode has received more than 9.5 million views since first being uploaded on Oct. 5.

POWERFUL IDEA: Make those pages jump to life

Revamping IKEA’s annual catalog has always been fraught with peril; they still talk about the great 2009 customer revolt when the typeface moved from Futura to Verdana. But agency McCann-Erickson went far beyond type to update the 61-year-old catalog last August: It introduced a free smartphone app that can be opened to read the images on the printed pages—no tags or printed QR codes required.

That augmented reality (AR) content currently ranges from short, entertaining films and 3-D models of furniture items to expanded photo galleries of items in other colors and patterns, as well as “X-ray views” of the amount of storage space inside closed armoires or dressers. The 2013 catalog, which mailed in August and circulates to some 211 million customers globally, has about 43 AR content ideas embedded, each teased with a phone icon that lets the reader know something additional is available. But plans are afoot to add other AR extensions to upcoming versions of the catalog—even the ability to stream video cooking demonstrations via pictures of IKEA model kitchens or live music events into depicted living rooms.

While the catalog is available in download form for tablets and smartphones, the Swedish retailer says there was no consideration of scrapping the print version to go all-digital. “If you had a magazine with 211 million copies in circulation, you wouldn’t just end it,” says Linus Karlsson, global chief creative officer at McCann. “That would be crazy.”

POWERFUL IDEA: Put that second screen to work

To energize its presence during Super Bowl XLVI—the granddaddy of all megamedia opportunities—Coca-Cola opted to take advantage of fans’ increasing multiscreen behavior. Coke and agency Weiden + Kennedy figured that about 60% of the game’s viewers would have a second screen open at some point during the four-hour gridiron extravaganza.

So Coke enlisted its iconic polar bears to host a viewing party at CokePolarBowl.com, where fans could check in and watch two animated bears (one in a red Giants scarf one in blue and grey for New England) react to the action on the field in real time, celebrating their teams’ touchdowns with a dance or grimacing at fumbles. Visitors could send social messages to the bears or respond to questions they sent out during slack periods.

The real-time reactions came courtesy of manipulations by live employees at W + K, and included having the bears get up to “vogue” during Madonna’s halftime show—and yawn with boredom when commercials for rival Pepsi products were being aired. Agencies 360i, Framestore and Animal Logic also contributed to the game-day effort.

By all metrics, engagement levels with the Polar Bowl went through the roof. Coca-Cola says 9 million consumers visited the site from numerous devices—enough that the company had to put out a call for backup servers to handle all the traffic. And while Coke anticipated that the average viewer would spend 2.5 minutes engaging with the Polar Bowl site, the actual metric turned out to be 28 minutes.

POWERFUL IDEA: Let your fans feel special

If you’re a girl 12 to 18, chances are you know Lucy Hale or Troian Bellisario—although you may know them as Aria Montgomery and Spencer Hastings, the characters they play in the ABC Family series “Pretty Little Liars.” But if you’re a truly devoted fan of the cable show about four teens solving a friend’s murder, you may feel you know them and their peers especially well. ABC Family has put into play a policy that encourages the stars of “PLL” and its other hit shows to tweet from backstage as episodes are being produced and live when those episodes then air.

That’s because the show’s target demographic, women 12 to 34, are heavy users of social media, and Twitter in particular. And ABC Family has strategized social media around the show so that it feels like those fans are relating to the cast members in much the way they do with their own social circles.

The show’s four leads all maintain strong Twitter presences and use them during the week to tweet clips from the previous Monday’s episode, share photos and insider news from the set, and ask followers about their favorite “PLL” moments.

“Friends don’t only talk to you between 9 and 5,” says network marketing executive Danielle Mullin. “And friends don’t use a corporate tone of voice when they talk to you. So they actually do think they’re speaking to their friend.”

The personal touch and its appeal for “PLL” fans have allowed the show to break new records for creating social buzz during its episodes. The Season 2 finale, aired in March 2012, saw 645,000 show-related tweets sent during the hour of the finale; and there were 1.6 million tweets from 667,000 fans in the 24 hours before the finale, during a “PLL” catch-up marathon.

POWERFUL IDEA: Choose platforms strategically

Convenience retailer Dunkin’ Donuts is in the midst of an initiative, launched last August, to encourage customers to pay for in-store purchases by whipping out their smartphones and deducting payment from a virtual Dunkin’ card. An element of the app also lets users send virtual gift cards to friends via text, email or Facebook messaging.

So it made several kinds of sense to float a Halloween coffee promotion that also relied on mobile devices and social functionality. In the week before Halloween, Dunkin’ Donuts stores in the U.S. promoted a contest challenging customers to dress their DD coffee cups for the holiday, snap pictures with their phones, and post those with the hashtag #DressedDD to Twitter or Instagram, the photo-sharing platform acquired by Facebook this year. The five entries judged the most creative on Oct. 31 received $100 Dunkin’ gift cards.

The contest didn’t generate a lot of entries—about 45—but those photos represent about one-third of the content in the brand’s Instagram feed, which had amassed about 95 photos since its launch in early March 2012, most of them big beauty shots of donuts and other baked goods from Dunkin’ itself. And in fact, four of the five judged winning entries were shared via Instagram.

With Instagram users increasing at a faster monthly rate than users of almost any other social medium including Pinterest (from an admittedly small base), the #DressedDD contest served as an important early learning experience about how to run user-generated campaigns in that space—and strengthened the brand’s link to mobile in the process.

POWERFUL IDEA: Go old-school for new media impact

Many of today’s most avid young Twitter users may have never even seen, much less used, a manual typewriter. That’s what made it such an interesting tool to help cell phone accessories retailer Cellairis demonstrate the features of its Shell Shock phone case.

To demonstrate how much protection the case provides, the company created the Tweet Punisher, a device crafted from a 1940’s typewriter, with keys intricately wired to type out the characters of any tweet posted with the hashtag “#tweetpunisher” onto the screen of an iPhone protected with a Shell Shock screen protector. Users can watch via a live video feed on the Cellairis Facebook page to see how the protector and the phone stand up to the pressure of the typewriter’s keystrokes. 

Justin Bieber was engaged to send the first tweet with the hashtag, helping bring the product to the attention of his own large and rabid Twitter following. So far, over 30,000 tweets have been submitted, more than triple what the company had hoped for, says Joe Ciardullo, CMO of Cellairis, who describes the Shell Shock as “an airbag for your phone.”

“Everybody is trying to monetize social media, but there aren’t a lot of brands that can demonstrate their products socially,” says Ciardullo, noting that the first 100 Tweet Punisher users got free cases. “It’s important to get your potential customers to engage with you as a brand, even in non-buying times, to build trust.”

POWERFUL IDEA: Be fun, but stay true to your brand

We’ve all seen campaigns that seem like loads of fun, but leave consumers wondering what the heck the scheme has to do with the product or brand being promoted.

Fox stayed true to the brand of the TV show “Raising Hope” with a sweepstakes dreamed up by one of the programs stars, Martha Plimpton. People are always trying to come up with creative ways of engaging the viewers,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “And I thought well, I play a housekeeper on a show, what if I went and cleaned the house of the show’s biggest fan. In my uniform.”

To enter, fans were asked to submit an “Awkward Family Photo” and explain why their family is just like the show’s eccentric but loving Chance family. The contest drew fans to the show’s Facebook page and its official Twitter feed. Plimpton plugged the contest in both print and online interviews, and during appearances on talk shows like “Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.”

Her TV husband, Garret Dillahunt, was also game—he would come along and mow the winner’s lawn.

Were there any restrictions as to where they would go? A few—“No crime scenes, hoarders or cat collectors.”

POWERFUL IDEA: Embrace unexpected product placement

After a blitz of promotion during this summer’s comic book movie blitzkrieg, one would think there wouldn’t be anywhere else for a superhero to sling his marketing web.

Well, look out true believers, because here comes “The Amazing Spider-Man”—as a wedge on the iconic spinning wheel of “Wheel of Fortune.” To promote the film’s Blu-ray DVD release in November, a clip from the film was shown during the game show, which reaches 11 million viewers nightly. Contestant prizing included a Sony Electronics package comprising a Sony 55-inch Internet TV, Sony Full HD Handycam Camcorder, Sony 3D Blu-ray Home Theater System and, of course, a copy of the film.

Other tie-ins included a sweepstakes for a trip to Universal Orlando Resort (where visitors can ride on “The Amazing World of Spider-Man” attraction); coupons printed on Skippy Peanut Butter jar wrappers; and collector’s cups and trick-or-treat bags distributed at 2,900Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s restaurants. Overall, the campaign was expected to get more than 2.75 billion impressions.

POWERFUL IDEA: Take advantage of unexpected opportunities at live events

There are a lot of brands one would expect to see exhibiting at a comic book convention: action-figure sellers, T-shirt vendors, power tool manufacturers.

What? That last one seems a little out of place? That’s what a lot of comics fans thought when they saw Craftsman on the exhibitor list for New York Comic Con in November. But the brand viewed it as a unique place to showcase the capabilities of its new Bolt-On Modular Power Tool System.

“Accomplishing a DIY project can make you feel like a superhero in your home, and the tools you use are a big part of that,” says Michael Castleman, president of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard and senior vice president of Sears Holdings. “With the switch of an attachment, the Bolt-On tool system can transform into nine different tools to tackle any task.”

A tie-in comic book featuring DC Comics’ Justice League was available for download and was also given away at the show, where a replica of the team’s headquarters, the Hall of Justice, was created using the Bolt-On system.

Craftsman also found an unexpected use for the tool at the show, and probably gained some lifelong brand advocates in the process. Comics podcaster John Siuntres reported that Craftsman did repairs for attendees whose costumes needed a bit of on-the-spot patching up. For cosplayers who want to look their best, that’s a truly heroic bit of relationship building.

POWERFUL IDEA: Increase business by getting customers to buy less

Charlotte, NC-based Duke Energy knew from customer research that customers who received information on energy efficiency programs and cost management were 20% more satisfied—and more receptive to cross-sell offers of other products and services, like LED lighting.

This led the company, which operates in six states, to encourage customers to use less energy. Overall, it made good business sense for Duke. The population of North Carolina had grown 18% in a decade, which left the company with two options. It could spend billions of dollars on building new power plants, or it could educate customers on ways to save energy, which is better for the environment—and more cost efficient for Duke, to boot.

Duke created models to predict customers’ likely energy usage, combining its data on household energy consumption with Experian household data. “Using a combination of data sources was more accurate than self-reported data,” notes Joe Cunningham, manager of market and customer insight of Duke. “For example, when it comes to the square footage of homes, that was often inaccurate in self-reported data. And most people don’t know when their house was built—the error for that figure was 30% in self-reported information.”

Customers’ usage was compared to their neighbors, to give them a picture of what they were using and how they could save. Feedback on how customers’ are doing is given during the monthly billing communications, and they can see if usage has gone up or down. “It’s almost like gamification,” he says.

POWERFUL IDEA: Timing is everything, in humor and marketing

Admit it: You probably said it yourself during the run-up to the November presidential election: “That’s it. If [insert name of candidate here] wins, I’m moving to Canada!”

JetBlue capitalized on that theme with Election Protection, its latest attention-getting campaign. “It was a great opportunity to get in on the joke,” says JetBlue CMO Marty St. George of the contest. “It completely seized a Zeitgeist issue.”

On the brand’s Facebook page, fans would choose who they wanted to win—or who they thought would win. A “grassroots” component had JetBlue handing out posters, T-shirts and other swag at campaign stops, such as New York City.

The campaign prizes were, naturally, flights out of the country if a winner’s candidate lost the election. JetBlue gave away 1,006 roundtrip flights (2012 tickets), assuming that folks would actually want to return home to the U.S., even if their guy wasn’t living on Pennsylvania Avenue come January 2013.

POWERFUL IDEA: Give consumers a hub to interact with your brand

The Frito-Lay brand has gone through an evolution, says Stephen Springfield, senior director, marketing strategy and analytics, PepsiCo/Frito-Lay.

“We had to understand how to engage people about chips—remember, they’re a product that leaves your life quickly,” he says. “We needed to know how the brand interacted with people’s lives.”

While Frito-Lay had found great success crowdsourcing ads for Doritos, it had a challenge in that there was no central lifestyle point for the Lay’s potato chip brand. But, what the company did know was that people enjoy talking about chip flavors—which ones they like and which ones they wish someone would create.

Thus was born a Facebook app where people could share their dream Lay’s flavor ideas and vote “Yeah, I’d eat that.” Actress/restaurateur Eva Longoria and Iron Chef Michael Symon appeared in spots promoting the “Do Us A Flavor” campaign. The creator of the winning chip flavor will receive $1 million, or 1 percent of the flavor’s net sales when the flavor is released in 2013.

The social media component was vital to the campaign, says Springfield. “When you self seek, you’re more likely to trust the information than if it is pushed to you.”

POWERFUL IDEA: Take CPG messaging outside the Wednesday insert

Consumer packaged goods have always had a problem selling directly to consumers, since they rely so heavily on either brand advertising when a customer’s not shopping or merchandising on crowded store shelves when that same buyer is in the aisles. But some consumer brands have been testing innovative ways to boost sales of their everyday products by messaging in places and ways that set them apart.

For example, in February Clorox tested a limited-time flash sale of its Green Works line of eco-friendly cleaners on Alice.com, a Facebook storefront that specializes in household essentials. Facebook fans of the Green Works brand were able to click on a “Buy Now” button and buy a bundle of products worth $21 for only $10.

The offer, a first for both Green Works and Alice.com too, sold 285 bundles on the first day and 146 bundles on the second, and sold out entirely within 30 hours. The test also boosted sharing, hiked Green Works’ “likes” by 1,000%, and greatly enhanced favorable conversations around the brand.

“As social media extends into every corner of our lives, we saw an opportunity to innovate the shopping experience for our Green Works consumers,” brand manager Amy Hsiao said in a release.

At the opposite end of the purchase funnel, another test by a CPG brand showed that consumers will respond to innovative messaging in the store aisle. Kraft’s Nilla Wafers brand ran tests in selected grocery stores using shelf talkers equipped with RFID chips, whose signals can be read by smartphones equipped with near-field communications (NFC) features. By turning on the NFC function and tapping their phones against the signs, shoppers could access recipe content, download Kraft’s iFood Assistant app, or share content to their Facebook pages.

The month-long test found that 12 times as many shoppers engaged with the signs via NFC than snapped the QR codes also on the talkers. More than 36% of shoppers who accessed the NFC function converted to some action such as saving a recipe. And the average NFC user spent 48 seconds engaged with the brand in the store, compared to 5-10 seconds for the average customer.

Kraft believes the technology shows great promise for getting shoppers to engage with CPG brands in the store—although a breakthrough may have to wait until Apple finally builds NFC capability into the iPhone.

POWERFUL IDEA: Build apps that combine fun and function

What would you do in this situation? You want to use a mobile app to trumpet your brand’s sponsorship of a huge, long-running, co-branded news and entertainment event; but you’re up against numerous other sponsors, including many with deep access to entertainment and others contractually named the “official” source for news results. What content do you build into your app?

If you’re Samsung, the official wireless phone maker for the 2012 London Olympic Games, you reach for augmented reality and socially linked handheld games. The free Samsung Take Part 2012 app, available only for Android, let users play Olympic-themed 3-D games like sprints, hurdles, swimming or trapshooting or their phone; Samsung Galaxy phone users could also play penalty kick or archery in AR with hi-def graphics. Players could challenge their own social groups or view game leader boards from around the world.

The Samsung app also offered 360-degree tours of the Olympic venues and daily digests of Olympic news that users could filter by their favorite sport. And, oh yes, some promotional content about the Galaxy S III phone, in case attendees wanted to upgrade their equipment.

In a further branding move, Samsung partnered with fellow sponsor Visa to send out S III phones equipped with Visa’s trial payWave mobile payment app to 800 influencers, including Olympic athletes and media. Game attendees could then use the apps to spend money in the Olympic Village simply by waving their phone at special kiosks in stores. 

While the campaign was aimed at earning media coverage, Visa has released that the contactless payments made up 10% of all Visa transactions in the Village at the games, and 20% of all transactions worth less than 20 pounds. If you’re Visa or Samsung


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