Shock Isn’t All—Your Campaign Needs a Strong Foundation
In order to have a successful marketing campaign, there are four key elements that you must think through and have in place before you launch.
1. Clearly highlight your mission.
TOMS Shoes Instagram campaign, One Day Without Shoes, initially stated that they would give away up to a million pairs of shoes to children who need them so they could go to school and to prevent disease. There’s no ambiguity in that mission, and the goal of the campaign is clear. How many times have you seen an interesting marketing piece, such as a funny TV commercial, then told a friend about it, but when they asked what the ad was for, you couldn’t remember? That’s a marketing failure. You need to be sure that your bold marketing initiative conveys your mission.
2. Educate the uninformed.
When our client The Renewal Workshop launched, they were introducing an entirely new industry. Educating people was critical to introducing the company to the public. Their ongoing marketing efforts continue this theme. Their partner, Toad&Co, wrote a detailed blog post describing their partnership. The feedback is universally positive. The outdoor brand prAna took it one step further featuring The Renewal Workshop in this video and this one. Both of these videos educate people about how new, unsellable garments are sent to landfills while introducing The Renewal Workshop and describing their solution to a wider audience.
3. Show people why your work matters.
Crossroads Community Services in NYC launched the Hungry and Homeless Street Art campaign in 2014. Chalk drawings around potholes, subway floor tiles, and garbage on the street were reproduced on bus shelters, wall projections, kiosks, taxi videos, pavement decals, and social media using over $1.4M in donated vendor ad space. The campaign was designed to get people to think differently about the plight of homeless people. In addition to raising awareness and clearly demonstrating why people should care about supporting their work, it increased donations by 63%.
Each marketing piece had a clever message that let people know why CCS’s work matters. Examples include: “Eating on the street isn’t pretty” and “What some New Yorkers eat is hard to swallow.” They also included the URL for CCS. Once you arrive at the site you’re immediately invited to take action and informed about what they do. They say, “In the heart of midtown Manhattan, there’s a community where everyone’s dignity and humanity is respected as we provide meals, groceries, food rescue, and shelter programs. Join us—we think you’ll like it here.” It’s important that your marketing campaign carries across your website, social media, and any other outreach that you’re doing. The CCS website shows what they're doing to achieve their mission. This gives site visitors confidence that their donation will make a difference.
4. Incite action and drive engagement.
The World Wildlife Fund’s Denmark division’s #LastSelfie campaign leveraged the ephemeral nature of Snapchat to highlight the circumstances of endangered species. When people saw an image of an endangered animal, the text on the screen read: “In _ seconds, I’ll be gone forever. But, you can still save my kind.” There were also Instructions at the bottom of the screen: HELP PROTECT THREATENED SPECIES AND HABITATS. TEXT ‘SAVE’ TO 70060 TO MAKE A $3 DONATION. According to the Just For This website, the campaign quickly spread organically around the world across social media platforms and WWF reached their monthly donation target in just three days.
One of the worst things you could do is spend time and money on an awesomely bold campaign and leave your viewers with no clear call to action (CTA). The WWF campaign highlighted their mission, educated the uninformed, showed their viewers why the work matters, and then gave them a clear CTA. These 4 ingredients helped to make the campaign successful.
You can’t rely on a campaign going viral. No one truly knows what makes one campaign become a cultural icon and another to fall flat. Who could have predicted that a blue and black dress would nearly break the internet? (Or is it white and gold?!)
What is known is that any successful campaign has to be part of a larger marketing effort. These bold actions must support your foundational marketing strategy. That way, if your big campaign gains traction, you’ll already be producing consistent messaging across multiple marketing platforms and you will be prepared to capitalize on the virality of a successful campaign.
Executing an ongoing marketing plan isn’t optional. In order for your major push to be effective, you have to do both—a novel campaign aligned with an established and ongoing presence.
We’ve noticed that a lot of organizations have an annual event as their big push. Some have multiple events built into their annual marketing plan. One of our clients, the Community Foundation For San Benito County, has a series of events including San Benito Gives, the 12 Days of Giving, and National Philanthropy Day.
Look for opportunities to do a standalone campaign once or twice a year—and then do it really, really well.
A self-described “party game for horrible people,” Cards Against Humanity has had a series of Black Friday promotions since 2013. Most of the campaigns have been wacky events consistent with the irreverent tone of the game.
In 2014 they replaced the card game with boxes of sterilized bull feces which were sold for $6 each. Over 30,00 boxes were sold according to the New York Daily News. In 2015 they asked people to give them $5 and offered nothing in return. They told site visitors that "the greatest Black Friday gift of all is buying nothing. We're offering that for the rock-bottom price of $5. How can you afford NOT to seize this incredible opportunity?”
The resulting $71,145 was divided equally between company employees who were encouraged to report how they spent the money. Many donated to charities. The Black Friday events, their philanthropy, and political involvement are all in keeping with the marketing efforts of the company. Fans of the game company look forward to the annual event.