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Constructive Criticism

Don’t want your next promotional campaign to get lost in the clutter of marketing messages? Take a cue from the big guys. Read on for three high-profile campaigns and what top marketing experts had to say about them.

Ever wish you could have a marketing consultant by your side, as an armchair quarterback of sorts, to tell you when you’ve hit the mark and when you’re off target? Successful Promotions has the next best thing. We recently had a team of marketing experts study the campaigns of three very different organizations – a small bank, a fast food giant and a nonprofit group – and analyze what they did right and where they could have improved. Take their comments to heart: They could help you boost your next promotion.

TD Banknorth Banks On Free ATMs
The signs were everywhere. Billboards, newspapers, even posters on the subway. To promote its new “no atm fees at any bank anywhere’ policy, TD Banknorth kicked off a multitiered campaign. So the bank launched its “Bank Freely’ campaign – featuring a No ATM Fees Visa debit card – that spread through Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

TD Banknorth ads in popular magazines and TV spots helped snag consumers’ attention. But the campaign’s guerilla marketing had the strongest effect. Bank reps, called “free agents,’ cruised around in customized Honda Elements that looked just like the No ATM Fees card, handing out branded coffee and popcorn cup holders, mock-up newspapers, bottled water, newspaper bellybands and door hangers. “We gave out water at a baseball game and ice cream on a hot day,’ says Thomas Dyck, director of marketing for TD Banknorth. “It was all about giving something free to the customer.’ The popcorn cup holders stole the spotlight at movie theaters and morning travelers who stopped by their local cafes got their daily dose of caffeine and TD Banknorth advertising. Stickers that read, “With the money you save from no ATM fees, you can get more of these’ decorated all the products. “Guerilla marketing gives you the opportunity to actually engage in a dialogue with customers,’ says Dyck. “Customers could ask our ?free agents’ questions about the no ATM fees offer and get answers immediately.’ The goal for the entire campaign is to take a year to interact with customers firsthand and to learn what else they might want in a bank, says Dyck. The buzz surrounding communities who use TD Banknorth appears to have already pushed the campaign in the right direction.

The Experts’ Take
The no ATM fees campaign is right on the money, says Samuella R. Becker, founder of New York City-based TigressPR and a former marketing communications officer for Chase Manhattan Bank. “We all want fast and easy access to our money,’ she says, “and to not be penalized with additional fees for taking our own cash out of the bank.’ The campaign’s timing was also just right, since June marks the start of summer travel when banking convenience is the most important. And our experts say the green theme was genius. “The color green in the print ads reflects the color of money you save while banking at TD Banknorth,’ says Becker. “Green is also the color of the uniforms and Web site of the Boston Celtics who play in the TD Banknorth Garden.’ And the products added warm feelings to the cold cash theme. “It’s not just about the products, but the random acts of kindness regarding where and when they are handed out,’ says Becker. For example, thirsty baseball fans at the hot summer game had a real need for cold water, so the promotion “effectively communicated that TD Banknorth anticipates the customers’ desires and acts on them,’ she says. Robb Hecht, author of MEDIA 2.0 – The PR Machine Brand Trends Business Blog Project, agrees. Hecht is the newmedia marketing communications strategist with New York-based IMC Strategies Consulting and his past clients include E*TRADE financial. “TD Banknorth’s strategy to get its reps out on the streets to establish one-on-one relationships with potential customers is a strategy dealt by a company that realizes that consumers are now in control,’ says Hecht. The bottom line is that the bank is reaching its customers successfully by changing along with them and their needs, no doubt making the campaign a huge success. But how could it be improved further? Eye-opening statistics about ATM fees on the stickers that decorated the water bottles, coffee cups and other products would increase the campaign’s effectiveness, says Becker.

Pirates, Volvos And Big Macs Drive McDonald’s Promotion
McDonald’s Monopoly peel-and-win promotion usually eats up Big Mac enthusiasts’ attention each year with its millions of dollars and prizes up for grabs. But this year’s “Are You Mac Enough?’ Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest game made Monopoly look like a small fry. Disney’s Pirates movie hit the box office nationwide on July 7. Disney has paired up with both McDonald’s and Volvo before, but this promotion marked the first time the fast food restaurant and car company united. “We’re two brands that speak to families in a very big way,’ says Linda Gangeri, national advertising manager at Volvo. “What we were trying to do is to create an environment where we’re really being viewed as a fun, friendly brand and not a conservative brand.’ The Pirates game launched on July 4, and for 28 days McDonald’s rewarded diners with Volvo XC90 SUVs and Volvo C70s. “We’re always looking to provide customers with what we feel are the best prizes,’ says Kent Voetberg, marketing director, McDonald’s USA. “The new Volvo has a little bit of sizzle to it and a lot of strength in the brand.’

Thousands of consumers scored other hot prizes, like Magellan RoadMate GPS devices, Sony PSPs, 30 GB video iPods with Pirates skins, action-packed DVDs, wide screen portable DVD players and – for the first time ever – reloadable Arch Cards featuring the Pirates stars’ faces. Gamers simply had to peel off a game piece from a Pirates-branded Big Mac, large fries or a large drink (or a Big Mac Value Meal) to earn points toward the prizes or win instantly. And late-night snackers (between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.) got a special chance for a walk-on role in a Jerry Bruckheimer production. “There’s an on-the-go urban theme here that’s relevant to young adults,’ says Voetberg. But there was still plenty for the kids. Happy Meals featured generic pirate-themed toys that connected with the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park at Disney World.

The pirate fun continued online with an interactive treasure hunt from June through July. Treasure seekers hit up Volvo dealerships to retrieve a secret treasure map that led to a Pirates-themed SUV. The dealerships supported the campaign with pirate-themed cars in the showroom, decals, banners and temporary tattoos. Three finalists (out of approximately 50,000) received a free trip to the SUV burial site where they were webcast as they unearthed their prize. The contest spiced up the lazy days of summer by challenging customers, says Gangeri. And the campaign, combined with the peel-and-win game and the movie, created a unique experience for consumers, says McDonald’s Voetberg. “Our customers benefited positively from this promotion and so did the brands that participated, whether it be through sales or branded experience,’ he says.

The Experts’ Tak
“There’s an awful lot going on in this promotion,’ says Larry Mersereau, a professional speaker and marketing consultant. Volvo is the one maximizing its dollars in this promotion, because the brand is exposed to parents bringing their children to McDonald’s, a place where the Volvo brand would not normally be prominent, he says. “Marketing is all about catching people off guard and exposing them to your product,’ he says.

Rob Frankel, author of The Revenge of Brand X: How to Build a Big Time Brand on the Web or Anywhere Else, has a slightly different take. Frankel’s branding expertise has landed him appearances on NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams and helped him launch, a site where brand builders and brand users share information. “Whenever you have a movie promotion, the movie studio gets the way bigger end of the stick, because they’re promoting their movie on your time,’ says Frankel. “It doesn’t do any good for the host brand, which in this case would be McDonald’s.’ A focused brand-building strategy is a must. “You shouldn’t distract people with things that have no bearing on your brand,’ he says. “McDonald’s is about convenience and they’re about food. They should try and do something that relates to a faster lifestyle.’ For example, the company could include a logoed pedometer with every Big Mac and a 10% off certificate for a pair of Reebok sneakers, he suggests. (In fact, McDonald’s did include a pedometer in a recent salad promotion.) In any case, the key to creating or reinforcing any brand is “getting people to do what you want them to do, instead of just catering to what they are doing,’ says Frankel.

But that can be easier said than done, especially when kids play a huge role. Kids’ “nag factor’ is what gets the parents to bring them to McDonald’s in the first place, says Mersereau. Once you get them there, it’s like a marketing heyday. “If you get kids to believe that Volvos are cool, they’ll ask their mom to look at the Volvo. The kids help make the sale,’ he says. Similarly, the pirate theme of the Happy Meal toys draws kids to the Pirates movie. But cool toys and prizes still may not be enough. “I can’t picture new customers choosing to go to McDonald’s instead of Burger King just because they could win an iPod,’ says Mersereau. On the other hand, the Arch Cards build brand loyalty because they must be used at McDonald’s. “I think if you’re giving something away, it should have something to do with the business you’re in and it should make people come back to you,’ he says.

Cool Kids Make A Difference In Youth Service Campaign
While people of all ages love music, its influence is the greatest on young people. It’s no wonder that the members of RockCorps have found that music is a good way to get normally self-absorbed youths involved in community service.

RockCorps was formed in 2002 by a group of friends in the music industry who wanted to promote youth volunteerism in collaboration with community nonprofits. Last year, the organization partnered with Boost Mobile, a pay-as-you-go mobile phone company, to form Boost Mobile RockCorps (BMRC). “Boost Mobile as a brand puts an emphasis on its consumers bettering themselves,’ says Jeff Tammes, head of lifestyle marketing at Cornerstone, the firm that promotes BMRC projects. “This relationship was the perfect opportunity for Boost to help its consumers improve their communities.’ This summer, about 10,000 volunteers revitalized parks, cleaned up beaches and schools and painted the homes of less fortunate families.

Last year, more than 6,000 young people logged in four hours each of community service during the summer and were rewarded with free tickets to see Kanye West, Green Day, Coldplay and Mike Jones. To pump up its advertising, BMRC partnered with hip radio stations in cities nationwide. DJs and on-air personalities encouraged listeners to volunteer, and some of them actually volunteered themselves. And an urban guerilla marketing campaign reached youths in their elements. “Essentially, we are creating a credible presence for this program in all of the right cultural touchpoints in the local market and online,’ says Tammes. “We are creating BRMC presence wherever this consumer goes to learn about and experience music and culture.’ Targets include live music venues, lifestyle retailers like record stores and skate shops and youth-oriented Web sites and blogs. People who frequent those places get an eyeful of stickers and posters featuring the show dates of the artists that will perform at the private concerts for volunteers. They also go home with cool giveaways like cinch bags, towels and fashionable army-style hats. “We have created a variety of BMRC branding tools that we knew would resonate and be useful to this audience,’ says Tammes.

This summer, RockCorps kicked off its program tour with a series of projects in Atlanta. It then spread to more than 100 sites at other cities nationwide. The tour will draw to a close in New York City this fall with over 50 volunteer events. Volunteers will then rock out to a lineup of hot musicians at Radio City Music Hall. “Each year, our goal is to add more markets to the BMRC tour list and continue to impact communities nationally,’ says Tammes.

The Experts’ Take
“RockCorps seems to have found an effective approach to deliver their volunteer message to a tough-to-reach demographic by integrating music and lifestyle,’ says Jeff Frumin, CEO of Universal Consulting Group, a full-service experiential marketing agency. Frumin has been involved in nationwide tour marketing campaigns for Clean and Clear as well as event marketing for MTV. RockCorps took the time to really get to know its young target audience. Partnering with Boost Mobile, a company that also ties in strongly with music, was a great way to keep the corporate side of things cool, he says.

The various points where youths encountered the campaign also successfully drew in volunteers. “Driving people online to a Web site and activating them through being at events is a smart way to gain their attention,’ says Frumin. Rewarding youths with music downloads or ringtones when they visited the Web site or handing out iPod covers and cell phone charms could have made the campaign more effective, he adds. But Carrie Voorhis, media director for Bradley and Montgomery Advertising (BaM), a New York-based creative advertising and branding shop, warns that you must choose those products carefully. BaM’s high-profile clients include Chopper Farm Custom Motorcycles, who recently gifted celebs at the Grammys with a certificate for a custom bike. Some people consider their cell phone to be a very personal item and would not want to sport a corporate logoed charm or cell phone holder, says Voorhis, but as long as they were given the option to choose their own charm, the product might ring true. “You don’t want to give a cynical corporate sheen,’ she says. You could also take a cue from BMRC and refrain from overwhelming your target audience with too may logos on the merchandise. “Sometimes when you enter 5K races you end up looking like a race car,’ says Voorhis. “This campaign wasn’t about turning kids into billboards.’

Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2006

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