Tag Archives | ROI

BMW Makes Direct Mail Exciting Again With The M Press

BMW Print Ad

When I wrote about the need for better direct mail campaigns, one idea I mentioned was to “create a direct mail ad that’s also a unique piece of art”.

No doubt inspired by that idea (probably not) Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners created a direct mail campaign for BMW that included a series of unique art prints, along with the typical sales material, that was mailed to perspective buyers.

To create the prints, they turned a new BMW M6 Coupe into “The M Press”, with a custom rig that would dispense ink above the M6’s tires.

The plan was simple enough: Matt Mullins, the Chief Driving Instructor of the BMW Performance Driving School, drove the car around Blackhawk Farms Raceway in Illinois, and when he drove over areas of the racetrack where pieces of paper had been taped, he would flip a switch to activate the custom ink sprayer, which inked the rear tires and allowed them to leave their mark on the paper below.

To make sure the printing process would deliver the intended results, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners worked with Classic Color out of Chicago, a digital printing shop that helped mix the inks and create the printing rig that brought the idea to life.

BMW sent the resulting series of “M Prints” to existing M owners and potential owners via a direct mail campaign, and along with the printed ad, recipients could visit a personalized website that would show them the video of how their print was made.

As with most modern campaigns, a crew was also there to create a behind the scenes video, which they then used to tell the story to a wider audience. This helped to not only increase the ROI of the original campaign, but to create a second wave of interest out of a single idea.

By taking a traditional direct mail campaign and finding a fun way to add something special, BMW and Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners were able to create an ad that’s sure to stand out from every other ad that gets delivered by the USPS.

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.

Skittles Embraces Social Media In A Big Way

Skittles

Most brands have at least dipped a toe into the waters of social media, but earlier this week, Skittles sent the online world into a tizzy by being the first brand to jump head first into the deep end. They did so by turning Skittles.com into a social media portal, and turning their brand and brand message over to the fans through the user generated content that’s been placed on various social media channels.

Skittles Pop-Up

After confirming your date of birth (which seems a little silly since you can see everything that appears behind the pop-up window before entering a date anyways, and because all of the individual channels are available freely to anyone of any age) you’re taken directly to one of the Skittles channels (Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter or Wikipedia) where you can view it in all its glory, plus an overlay to help you get from one channel to the next. As can be expected, some people used the opportunity to spam the Skittles fans with NC-17 messages and randomly tagged junk, but eventually the novelty wore off and things returned to normal. (Or normal, plus the tons of extra traffic and chatter from the increased awareness that the campaign created.)

Skittles YouTube

For a brand that had little to no online presence (admit it, you hadn’t been to Skittles.com in the last six months either) they managed to go from zero to hero in less than 24 hours. Sure, they have done some fantastic TV spots recently that garnered a few views on YouTube, and people occasionally uploaded a picture of a design they created on their counter with a bag of Skittles onto Flickr, but there was no compelling reason for anyone to visit Skittles.com. After this campaign went live however, every blog, every news channel, every pundit, and every person with an opinion about the campaign and the Skittles brand was sharing it with others, and Skittles became not only the hot topic of the entire Internet for a day, but a buzzword for the rest of the week as well.

Skittles Comment Moderation

Now obviously this isn’t a model that would work well for any brand, since no one wants to visit the Wikipedia page for Joe’s Finger Traps and Staple Removers, but it does show that with a little effort, you can take the conversations and interactions that are already happening about a brand and amplify them through the use of social media. In addition, Skittles realized that these conversations and interactions are going to happen anyways, so they could either try to ignore them, or they could embrace them and participate in them as a way to regain some control over them. (Ironically enough, they gained back that control by going through the motions of giving up that control all together.)

In addition, when you look at the Return on Investment for a campaign like this, the numbers are phenomenal. The overlay itself doesn’t cost a lot to design and implement, the buzz spreads the word automatically, and Skittles was creating and designing their own social media channels anyways, so this just gave them a chance to show off their work and share a bit of the spotlight. Plus, once everything is in place, the users are the ones making the content, so Skittles can just sit back and relax with their hand on the moderation key for the occasional fan mis-step.

(This does bring up a good point however about moderation and a brand’s willingness to let go. For Skittles, they made the choice, either intentionally or accidentally, to give users full control, and I think it was the right choice to make. If you try to control the message, anything that slips through will be blamed on the brand, but when it’s obvious that the fans have full control, the message gets attributed directly to the creator and doesn’t send shrapnel towards the brand if anything off-brand makes it through. Plus, users tend to police themselves, so the detractors eventually get bored and move on while the true fans stick around to create content and promote the brand.)

So what are the lessons to be learned from the Skittles campaign, and how can a brand begin to adapt them into their own online strategy?

  1. Stop worrying so much about controlling the message. Users are out there talking about your brand anyways, and they’re doing it in their own words and their own way and without your influence, so trying too hard to control the message is only going to upset them and discourage their contributions. Instead, embrace customers that are evangelical enough to talk about your brand with others, and encourage and motivate them to do so through rewards like the social justification of appearing on your website or the physical rewards of a contest or giveaway. If you do need to retain some control, do so by supporting the positive and ignoring the negative, because the system will naturally monitor and correct itself over time.
  2. Integrate user generated content into your website. Rather than trying to segment everything into its own little area (Videos go on YouTube, Photos go on Flickr, etc.) create a central location for customers and potential customers to see it all together. Potential customers are going to seek out the opinions of current customers anyways, since we naturally trust other people the most when making a decision, so brands might as well embrace that exchange of opinion and make it happen on their own turf. Plus, it keeps development costs down, and helps keep a site relevant and fresh.
  3. Focus as much attention on the leading social media channels as you do on you own website. Gone are the days when a user went to a company’s website to find out more information about that company. Instead, they’re looking for that company in the places that they’re already visiting, and chances are, if the company’s not there officially, they’re finding someone or something else that’s there in its place. To capitalize on this, embrace the power of social media, and put simple and cost effective work into creating a place that people want to be and that motivates them to share.

The Good:

  • Total integration of social media encourages participation and consumer interaction.
  • Novel approach increases buzz and drives huge spikes in traffic.
  • Development and upkeep costs are kept low, increasing ROI.

The Bad:

  • Users can abuse the privilege with spam and inappropriate messaging.

The Future:

  • Companies put some (or all) of their brand into the hands of their fans, and let social media shape their message in a public way.

Skittles