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Help Save Direct Mail

Direct mail is only boring if you let it be boring.

Toronto, Ontario based agency Lowe Roche found a way to spice up their direct mail campaign for Pfaff Porsche by taking a Porsche 911 and parking it in front of mansions in the Rosedale, Forest Hill and Bridle Path neighborhoods of Toronto.

Pfaff Porsche Direct Mail Ad

Lowe Roche then took a picture of the car while it was parked in the driveway of each home, and used that picture as the focal point of a custom direct mail piece they created for each home on the fly.

In addition to the car, Lowe Roche also brought along their own photo editor, printer and runner, so they were able to create and print each piece of direct mail right there on the spot, and skip the process of organizing, labeling and mailing each flyer.

The results speak for themselves: Of the homes that received the direct mail ad, 32% booked a test drive online.

What’s surprising is not that this campaign worked. Of course a family that receives a piece of mail with a picture of their own home on the front is going to pay attention to it. And when that picture includes a hot sports car, they’re going to generate some interest.

What’s surprising is how easy the concept was to create. They made a template, they took similar photos of each home, and kept the offer simple. By eliminating as many complications as possible, they were able to create the ads at scale, and give them just enough personalization to be effective.

So considering how easy it was to create, why can’t this same concept scale to something even bigger?

With digital printing, there’s no setup required to create a direct mail piece at scale, so printing costs shouldn’t be a factor. (Sure, each ad is going to cost a little more to print than a typical direct mail ad, but not so much more that it would eliminate the ROI of a reasonably targeted campaign.)

If you wanted to mirror their technique and use an image of each recipient’s house, a technology like Google’s Street View would give you the images you’d need to customize each ad, but why limit the concept to just photos? For example, look at what Absolut was able to do with customizable printing to create a series of nearly four million bottles that were each individual and unique:

So what about using a similar process to create a direct mail ad that’s also a unique piece of art?

This process would be especially effective for companies that have good data about their direct mail recipients, and can customize it beyond just their address.

For example, it’s well known that Target has a huge amount of data on their Target Card holders, and they use that data to customize the types of offers that their customers receive.

So what if, instead of coupons, you sent customers an ad that is customized to the types of things you know they like? Think ad libs for print ads.

The goal here shouldn’t be to create an exact duplicate of the campaign that Lowe Roche created. Instead, the goal should be to get inspired by their creativity, and to think of ways to customize your own advertising to achieve the success that they created.

Just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean there isn’t another way that might work even better.

Lay’s Potato Chip Vending Machine

Lays Machine

Lay’s Potato Chips contain just three ingredients: potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt. However, in a world where ingredient lists frequently cover half a product’s packaging, and ingredients themselves are 20 character contractions that even scientists struggles to understand, it’s safe to say that most people assume a snack food like potato chips must contain a smorgasbord of unnatural ingredients and chemical byproducts in order to taste so good.

To prove them wrong, Castro, an agency out of Argentina, developed a special vending machine the turns raw potatoes into bags of potato chips right before your very eyes.

Lays Machine Detail

Upon entering a store where the vending machine is on display, consumers are handed a potato with a sticker on it that directs them to take the potato to the snack isle and insert it into the Lay’s machine.

Once dropped into the machine (which only accepts potatoes; no coins allowed) a movement sensor triggers a one-minute video that walks consumers through the six-step process of creating a potato chip: Washing, Peeling, Cutting, Cooking, Salting and Packaging. A light-up guide highlights each step, and at the end of the process, a finished bag of Lay’s Potato Chips pops out of the machine.

What’s most impressive is that Castro even took care of the small details, such as a heater that warms each bag so that it comes out feeling like a freshly cooked potato. Details like that are often overlooked, but really go a long way towards completing the experience for the consumer, and helping the message sink in.

While some criticize the fact that a video is used instead of a tiny potato chip factory, because a video doesn’t support the message of being 100% natural, I think most consumers are impressed enough by the experience, and that the added headache of building a real potato chip factory inside the vending machine would not be worth the marginal increase in amazement. (It would just take one wild potato spilling hot oil all over the inside of the machine to cause a cleanup mess big enough to halt the whole idea…) Plus, if Castro wants to make more of these machines and take the campaign global, it’s a lot easier to replicate one that uses a video screen, and creates opportunities to update the message, allowing Lay’s to include things like a coupon dispenser, or social media connections.

While most brands see supermarkets as a place to offer samples or hand out coupons, the Lay’s vending machine is an example of a campaign that thinks outside the box, and will surely leave a lasting impression in consumers’ minds that just might change the way they think about potato chips.

Burger King Lets People Sacrifice Friendships For Whoppers

Whopper Sacrifice

How much would a company have to pay in order for you to publicly denounce ten of your friends?

As Burger King has discovered, there are plenty of people that are willing to do just that for a surprisingly small amount: Less than $3, or the price of a Whopper. (In less than a week, more than 45,000 friends have already been sacrificed.)

Whopper Sacrifice Website

That’s because Burger King’s new Facebook application, called Whopper Sacrifice, which follows closely on the heels of their highly controversial Whopper Virgins campaign, asks users to take on an equally controversial task: ending 10 Facebook friendships in order to receive a coupon for a free Whopper. Faced with low adoption numbers and high abandonment rates however, this type of application may be just what advertisers have been looking for in order to break through the social networking walls and actually see some success. Plus, a reward (even one as small as a coupon for a free Whopper) goes a long way towards getting users motivated to support a branded and/or sponsored campaign.

To date, most branded applications have relied on the standard practice of forcing virality through friend requests and gift exchanges, and users are encouraged to grow and nurture their online friendships (a marketer’s dream; ever increasing spheres of influence!) by companies that give them the tools to do just that. Unlike an offline friendship however, which is supported by years of relationship building and has strong feelings attached as a result, many Facebook friendships are formed over weak bonds, and these ‘happy go lucky’ campaigns quickly loose their effectiveness after the tenth random knickknack exchange between part-time friends in order to earn points towards an even more worthless achievement or reward. In fact, it’s these applications and their constant encouragement to build up a friend network by inviting new users that may have caused the condition that Burger King’s app relies on in the first place: A friendship glut where a person has more Facebook friends than they would prefer to, but no easy way to get rid of them once they’re there.

Enter: Whopper Sacrifice.

Whopper Sacrifice Application

By incentivizing an action that many users are looking to do anyways, Burger King is providing a service that may help their application achieve what other branded applications have struggled with: Quick and sustainable adoption. Users looking for an excuse to clean out their friend list of old and forgotten friendships were in need of a little motivation, and a free Whopper from Burger King may be just enough to move them to action.

Whopper Sacrifice Facebook App Detail

As is often the case with Facebook apps, users have a low barrier to entry, but are flooded with so many choices that they have no need to go looking for new applications, and especially ones that feature the branding of a large company. In this case though, Burger King doesn’t want users to stick around, so the success of the campaign is judged by impression numbers and one-time interactions (rather than continued use of the app) much like a typical ad campaign would be. (In fact, once they’ve sacrificed 10 friends and earned a free burger, users may as well remove the app since they will no longer have any incentive to use it.)

According to AdWeek: Crispin Porter + Bogusky thought of the app after many of their staffers were faced with the too-many-friends scenario themselves on Facebook:

“We thought there could be some fun there, removing some of these people who are friends, but not necessarily best friends,” said Jeff Benjamin, executive interactive creative director at Crispin. “It’s asking the question of which love is bigger, your love for your friends or your love for the Whopper.”

Now I know what you’re thinking, and yes, users can probably just remove 10 real friends and then add them right back, or use the app as an opportunity to trim down their list of semi-friends that they once added only to regret at a later time, but either way, sacrificed friends will see a publicly displayed message that their friendship was exchanged for a free Whopper, and feelings are sure to get hurt along the way. (When Facebook says sacrifice, Facebook means sacrifice, and in order to receive your Whopper, the application actually tracks your friends, and only gives you credit towards a free Whopper when you permanently remove people from your list of friends.) In addition, and despite what you might think, Burger King isn’t tricking people into using the app by downplaying the severity of the action. Instead, it says right on the main page and next to the list of potential sacrifices that “Each friend will be notified so choose wisely.”

Whopper Sacrifice App Detail

It’s this no-holds-barred approach that has resulted in a large amount of the press coverage that this campaign has received, so it could be argued that this campaign was a success just based on that fact alone, but even for those that say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, it’s hard to argue that Burger King would want to be painted in the light that many of these articles have shined upon it. However, by commoditizing our online friendships and giving out free food in exchange for morally ambiguous actions, Burger King has managed to spark an intense debate about the value of online relationships, and received more attention than they ever could have imagined as a result.

Update: Apparently Facebook wasn’t thrilled about the way Whopper Sacrifice notified those that had been sacrificed of their sacrificial status, and shut down the notification feature:

“After extensive discussions with the developer, we’ve made some changes to the application’s behavior to assure that users’ expectations of privacy are maintained. The application remains active on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told Inside Facebook. “We encourage creativity from developers and brands using Facebook Platform, but we also must ensure that applications follow users’ expectations of privacy. This application facilitated activity that ran counter to user privacy by notifying people when a user removes a friend. We have reached out to the developer with suggested solutions. In the meantime, we are taking the necessary steps to assure the trust users have established on Facebook is maintained.”

Disabled Whopper Sacrifice

Never one to miss out on an opportunity for some additional free publicity, Burger King altered their landing page for the app to indicate that the Whopper Sacrifice had itself been sacrificed because “your love for the Whopper sandwich proved to be strong than 232,566 friendships”. At the time of the shutdown, more than 82,000 people had used the app to sacrifice at least one friend.

Now I just hope Burger King takes this one step further with a final stunt like a fake press conference featuring The King addressing issues related to the app and its privacy concerns versus people’s love for the Whopper. It might be a risky move, but the potential to blow this up and turn it into a mainstream media story is definitely there and ripe for the picking.

The Good:

  • Unique application serves a pre-existing need of social networking users.
  • Small incentives increase the adoption rate of an online campaign.
  • Low cost of goods related to the campaign (45,000 Friends / 10 Friends Per Burger = 4,500 Burgers * $3 Per Burger = $13,500 in retail costs)
  • Success is based on impressions rather than interactions.
  • Social networks include built-in viral tools that help share the message generated by each interaction.

The Bad:

  • Morally questionable campaign leads to a lot of negative publicity.
  • Limiting the campaign to a single social network reduces the number of potential participants.

The Future:

  • Simple, sometimes controversial social networking applications allow users to interact with a brand while doing what they would normally be doing anyways, and new measures of success emerge as a result.

Whopper Sacrifice

Facebook – Whopper Sacrifice