We’re Thankful For: Out-of-the-Box Thinkers

Marketing Tools & Tips Things we notice

Let’s face it: when your marketing strategy is working just fine, the status quo is a comfortable place to be. However, comfort can lead to complacency, and complacency has the power to render a brand irrelevant in today’s marketplace.

That’s why we have tons of respect for the brands who dared to do something different in 2018. Here are a few of the admirable, out-of-the box marketing stunts and PR campaigns we’re thankful for this year.

Capitalizing on a Generation-Wide Obsession

Look, I’m from Texas and I love a good avocado. Whether it’s guacamole on a chip or slices in my chili, bring on the green. However, my fellow Millennials took the obsession to another level in recent years by ordering an absurd amount of avocado toast. That year, we collectively consumed so much avocado in the U.S. alone that the wholesale price of avocados rose to 125%. Absurd? Yes. Unexpected? Not really.

Virgin is a playful brand, so when their Millennial Railcard completely sold out in the UK (causing frustration among the public), Virgin Trains was quick to think of a lighthearted solution. The social and traditional media teams brilliantly married the popularity of their cards and a Millennial favorite: the avocado. For one week only, if you were between 26-30 years old and couldn’t obtain a discount train ticket of your own, all you had to do was present your ID and an avocado to get a third off your fare (the same discount offered by the Millennial Railcard). And thus, the Avocard was born. Social media exploded as twentysomethings took advantage of the offer, posting selfies with their prized avocado on the train.

This good-natured campaign was designed to help out customers while poking fun at critics who mock the widespread avocado obsession. Additionally, the stunt brought the brand some much-needed positive exposure while customers voiced their complaints about the ticket shortage and website issues. This successful experiment is a perfect example of just how effective targeted marketing can be, and truly speaks to the power of a Millennial’s love for a healthy and tasty snack.

The Right Incentive for a Robust Email List

When 24Slides, a company offering slide deck design and development, wanted to grow their email list in 2017, they came up with a creative way to earn people’s contact information instead of just asking for it. How? By completely giving away their product for free.

Here’s how it worked: 24Slides knew in order for people to opt in for regular communication from a brand, you must provide attractive incentives. So, they created a fully editable, 20-slide corporate PowerPoint template, and promoted it on LinkedIn as a free giveaway. Since templates are a core 24Slides product offering, this was quite the risky move. The company wasn’t concerned about profits, instead choosing to confidently forge ahead by focusing on the immediate goal: growing the email list, fast.

Accessing the free content was simple and painless. To download the template, customers only had to enter their name and email, and share or comment on 24Slide’s LinkedIn Pulse article. The mandatory social media engagement component helped the promotion pick up steam by feeding the LinkedIn algorithm, maximizing post reach and increasing awareness for the campaign.

The campaign rendered very positive results.

Since the first giveaway was so effective, the company decided to replicate the offer multiple times, now incorporating this “experiment” into their regular marketing rotation. To date, the numbers speak for themselves: 24Slides has grown its email list to 130,000 subscribers and counting.

People Feel Strongly About Pancakes

When you think International House of Pancakes (IHOP), you automatically think of pancakes. It’s in their name for crying out loud. There is such a tight brand association with the fluffy, sweet breakfast treat, it makes sense that folks may not know about other options on their menu.

So, when the restaurant released a new line of burgers hot off the grill, they flipped the P to a b, announcing a temporary name change to “International House of Burgers.”

Y’all, customers were not pleased. Emotions spread quickly online as people heard the news. The reactions ranged in a fashion that can best be described as the five stages of grief.

While a few people were excited about the burgers, most rejected the idea. No matter the reaction, IHOb accomplished what it set out to do: get people talking. In the week following the funny announcement, IHOP’s Word of Mouth Score rose according to YouGov.

IHOP confirms that the stunt was designed to get people’s attention. But that still begs the question: did the company expect these intense reactions, or was it simply a happy accident that people cared so much? The world may never know. What we do know is IHOb/IHOP generated some serious buzz with over 500,000 social mentions before revealing the name change wasn’t permanent.

About a month after IHOb was revealed, IHOP flipped back to its pancake roots. The brand took to Twitter to confess to the fake news, offering a sweet 60 cent short stack promotion to bring in more customers on IHOP’s 60th birthday.

It can be very difficult for company leaders to take a chance on a provocative stunt when there’s a risk to upset loyal customers. But there’s no denying that these bold campaigns are effective at the time, in the right place. The next time you’re looking to generate some buzz, consider pulling a stunt that may generate temporary consequences, but BIG rewards.

Katie McCall

Katie McCall is a strategic communications consultant, working with clients to establish trustworthy and engaging reputations, driving authentic communication with fans and influencers. She specializes in branding and positioning, storytelling and online advocacy networking. In addition, Katie is a lifestyle portrait photographer, serving clients in her community in Texas.

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