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Aflac Targets Consumers With Decision-Making Muscles

Aflac is generating a lot of attention among its target audience – female decision-makers – with its Iron Girl series of events. Our experts lay out an eight-step plan to make this gal-friendly promo even more effective.

Insurance provider Aflac knows women are a powerful consumer group. How to tap that contingent, which makes an estimated 80% of household buying decisions, was another story. The company considered ways to target the demographic and ultimately came up with the Aflac Iron Girl series of events, which, this year, run from March until the end of August, says Tracy Martin, corporate sponsorship consultant for the Columbus, GA-based company. The event “is driven out of Aflac’s desire to reach women as key decision makers,” she says.

To reach this important target, Aflac partnered with Iron Girl to create a series of events running, walking, triathlon and duathlon competitions at 10 locations throughout the country and paired them with promotional products that are female-oriented in theme and crafted to tout women’s wellness, empowerment, and the value of Aflac’s services. The events also include a sweepstakes for one winner and a guest to fly to Hawaii for an all-expenses-paid vacation.

The trip includes round trip coach airfare for two, four-day, three-night hotel accommodations, a $600 spa package, a Hawaiian luau dinner and show for two, two fitness passes at the hotel, tickets and credentials to the Ironman dinner and championship, and a $500 spending budget for activities and dining of the winner’s choosing.

Not a bad grand prize, to be sure. Indeed, with rewards like that, the grand prize winner will probably remember Aflac for some time. (Nothing brings home the message of branding like an experience of a lifetime.) Every other participant, however, will have the registration bags and promotional products on which to build their opinion of the Aflac brand.

At each triathlon event, participants receive a goodie bag containing a race shirt with the Iron Girl logo, an Aflac duck imprinted with the logo of each individual race, island leis and lip balm. Close to 2,500 bags are given away at each Iron Girl event via a sweepstakes booth that sits near a general corporate promotional booth which hands out information about the company as well as first aid kits and sun safety kits.

In addition, Aflac hands out race chips with individual race logos that participants can keep and reuse, Martin says. ?Giveaway items, especially at low budget points are a feel-good way of engaging participants,? she adds. In the first three events held this year, Aflac had more than 3,100 participants.

Our Expert: Indra Gardiner

The Aflac Iron Girl promotion is an extensive event that packs an enticing grand finale, says Indra Gardiner, COO and founder of Bailey Gardiner, a branding firm based in San Diego. That said, Gardiner thinks there are steps Aflac could take to leverage the triathlon series and sweepstakes ? not to mention the promotional products involved. ?even further. Here is her eight-step plan.

1: GOING GREEN ENHANCES MESSAGE USE AN ECO-FRIENDLY BAG

For its part, Aflac has been highly focused on the sustainability of the promotional products given out at events. And for good reason. Women are huge proponents of the environment. But the company should also focus on the bag in which the products are delivered. There’s no reason it couldn’t be a reusable, logoed item ? a ?green? grocery bag, for example, in which recipients could use over and over again, viewing the Aflac logo each time they used it. That increases the chance that other people will see the logo as well. ?Not only does it send the right message,? since corporate responsibility is often of great concern for the demographic they’re targeting, Gardiner says, ?but it will get them the right exposure.?

2: CONSIDER DROPPING THE TOY ITEMS WITH REPEAT EXPOSURE SELL A MESSAGE

Unless the women participating have children that they could pass the small stuffed duck onto it seemed ?useless,? Gardiner says, although it could be a collectible if it’s of a high enough quality. Instead, Gardiner suggests that Aflac hand out a picture frame that incorporates the duck into the frame design. Taking that idea even further, an offer of a discount for race photos that could be placed in the duck frame would do a lot to ensure that participants would not only hold onto the frames but display them in, say, their offices where other people could be exposed to the Aflac logo as well. An added incentive from Aflac that could make their marketing dollars go further? Offer to pay for the first photo and include a Web site on the enclosed coupon that drives participants to the company’s Web site to order.

3: MAKE SMART APPAREL CHOICES THINK TECH-SAVVY SHIRTS VS. 100% COTTON TEES

The lip balm, she says, is a better choice, since participants are likely to hold onto it longer. In addition, the race shirt is by far the best promotional product for their purposes, she says, since women will likely wear it frequently. To make it a stronger branding tool, Gardiner suggests that Aflac hand out shirts made of a quick-dry, wicking or sports material that women would be more likely to wear again and again while training, as opposed to a cotton shirt.

4: TIE THE EVENT BOOTH INTO A TRIP MAKE THEM FEEL THE WARM HAWAIIAN AIR

That the trip to Hawaii is so extravagant speaks to Aflac?s ability to deliver big time on their promotional offerings. Putting that same effort into how they distribute their ad specialty products and sweepstakes information is equally as important. At each event, Gardiner says, Aflac should set up their sweepstakes booth as if it were a mini representation of the grand prize. ?It should be like a little trip to Hawaii,? she says. How? Gardiner recommends including a floral display, Hawaiian music, a hammock or other items suggestive of an island theme. Logoed products can help sell the theme. Think imprinted Hawaiian shirts for the staff and leis for all visitors. Creating an experience is a powerful branding tool, she says.

5: PROMOTE WHAT IT IS YOU DO ATTRACT PEOPLE WITH ITEMS THAT REFLECT YOUR COMPANY AND INDUSTRY

As an insurance company, promoting health should be Aflac?s number one priority. And, since the company promotes wellness, they could hand out fresh, all-natural pineapple smoothies or some other healthy beverage or snack, such as dried fruit or a nutritional bar.

?You want to create a situation where people stay longer, so the booth attracts more of a crowd,? Gardiner says. To do that Aflac might hire a performer to dress up as the Aflac duck and hand out additional promotional products or treats.Or, create a huge duck cutout where visitors could stick their heads into a hole and have their photo taken as the Aflac duck. Also, supporters of race participants could be given sheets of Aflac and sweepstakes branded cardboard and Sharpie markers to create race signs to hold up during the triathlons.

6: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE AND PEOPLE LIKE THEM

In addition, the company’s strength as a health and wellness resource would be enhanced with information or even a booth at each event dedicated to health education as it relates specifically to triathletes. That could extend not just to physical health and maintenance but to things like how to change a bike tire or find the best triathlete workout gear. Or, the company could provide sports therapists or medical personnel to answer specific nutritional, training and health questions.

7: MULTI-MEDIA MARKETING IS A MUST CONSIDER ALL ELECTRONIC AVENUES TO DELIVER A MESSAGE

Aflac did a good job of connecting the Iron Girl event with the racing community and the triathlete community online,? Gardiner says. ?But what they didn?t connect with are all the social media outlets for moms, teens? and other female groups. Gardiner suggests that they recruit, say, a mom to blog about her experience during one or more triathlons. That way they’re spreading their promotional message across multiple platforms.

8: DON?T FORGET NEXT YEAR PLAN TODAY FOR TOMORROW?S EVENT

After the event, Aflac would be wise to send out e-mail blasts about next year?s events, which the company says they currently have a contract for, as well as details and photos about the winner?s trip. That way the series of events and sweepstakes become more solidified in the consumer?s mind ? as does the Aflac brand, Gardiner says. ?People see that it really did happen and it was really great,? she says. ?That can create more participants in the future.?

The beauty of an ongoing event like this is its ability to create a community, generate interest and bring in more participants year over year to build a company’s brand, Gardiner says. Aflac?s on a strong course to make that happen. With a few tweaks in their promotional products and product delivery, the Aflac Iron Girl Triathlon series is set to be a branding success even more than it is now. Says Gardiner, once you get heavy event participation, media and blogger interest as well as exposure through strong promotional products, ?then you’ve created your community.?

Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2007

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