Since we’re all dreaming and planning for 2014, we thought we’d discuss three recent marketing campaigns from the Big Guys and see what small business owners can learn from them.
Lysol’s “Healthing” Campaign
What it is: Lysol launched an educational campaign that aims to teach consumers about “healthing” as part of its “Mission for Health.”
The message: As seen on the Lysol website, “Cleaning is hoping you’re killing germs, Healthing is knowing it.”
How it communicated the message: This campaign is an example of a brand living and breathing its new campaign. Its website, its social media, its resources (including ebooks), and even its trucks all reflect the Healthing and Mission for Health messages, colors, and themes. Lysol also has a social outreach element, where it brings the healthing concept to the classroom and to disaster relief efforts. This improves its reach and potential PR. Lysol also reached out to mommy bloggers by providing products for reviews (like this blogger talks about here).
Buzz & Reaction: Google “Lysol Healthing Campaign” and you’ll find some buzz and reaction, but nothing over the top in either direction (unlike Panera’s “The Hard Road” campaign, which we’ll be discussing below). You’ll also find plenty of blog posts from those mom bloggers we mentioned before as well. This was a smart SEO strategy, since these blogs seem to dominate the first few pages of Google (and most of them provide positive feedback on the healthing campaign).
That said, the campaign is not without some criticism. The Healthful Mama outlines why she feels the campaign is fear-based and ineffective, and the Environmental Working Group discusses whether Lysol’s “crusade against germs is ‘healthing’ or hurting.”
Takeaways for small businesses: When you come up with a marketing campaign, think of all the ways you can embrace the campaign’s core message. Sure, you’ll involve your website and social media, but think beyond the obvious.
- Is there a core audience of bloggers you can reach out to?
- Is there a PR aspect you can promote?
- How can you tie this campaign into existing initiatives?
- Does setting up some sort of sampling program make sense?
- Is there a social outreach program that you can tie into?
Panera’s “The Hard Road” Campaign
What it is: Launched earlier this year, Panera decided to share its decision—or its “journey,” as it calls it—to offer more antibiotic-free menu items.
The message: Panera cares about giving its customers quality, healthful ingredients, even if it makes things harder and more expensive for Panera on the back end. “It was a hard road but worth the journey.”
How it communicated the message: In addition to the typical updates on the website, menus, and social media, one of the main vehicles Panera used was interactive media. People could go on the “journey” in an interactive film that outlines how Panera came to its decision. Throughout this interactive event, sharable facts pop up, and the first “chapter” culminates in a 30-second video, which we’re embedding below.
Two other “chapters” follow (including one where Panera talks about how it cultivated farmers into going antibiotic free), and the film ends with links to all the antibiotic-free menu options.
Panera also created a Twitter account with the handle “EZChicken,” but this proved problematic for the company. You’ll find out why below.
Buzz & Reaction: Food production has become an increasingly volatile topic in recent years, one that results in “louder” debates, thanks to social media where everyone can easily share his or her opinion. Reaction to Panera’s campaign was mixed, but the real problems began with the launch of the (now defunct) “EZChicken” Twitter account. Some farmers felt Panera was implying that “any farmer who uses antibiotics is lazy, uncaring, and looking for the easy way.” The hashtag “#PluckEZChicken” started as a result.
One dairy farmer—Dairy Carrie—wrote an open letter to Panera on her blog. At last check, it has garnered over 160 comments. Dairy Carrie also received a personal phone call from Panera’s Chief Marketing Officer, which she blogs about here. While she appreciated the CMO’s call, she states in her post, “The problem is that even after my conversation with Michael [Panera CMO] the company doesn’t seem to understand that the problem isn’t them using chicken raised without the use of antibiotics, the problem is using a marketing campaign that uses fear to sell sandwiches.”
And it didn’t help Panera’s cause when Dr. Scott Hurd—a vet, PhD, and associate professor at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine—commented about the situation on his site. Hurd said Panera’s “antibiotic advertisements are terribly misleading.”
Takeaway for small businesses: No marketing campaign is without risks. Panera isn’t a startup that got its messaging wrong. No doubt, countless people worked on this campaign and believed they were putting forth something creative and compelling.
We’re not here to judge the campaign’s claim (we’ll let you do that). As for the campaign’s effectiveness, Panera had the right idea by creating interactive media and using Twitter. Unfortunately, the latter is an unstable medium, since you get responses in real time, responses that are public and can go viral quickly. If your message and/or execution is at all flawed, people will pounce and things can unravel quickly from there, as Panera learned. (And Panera is not alone: other companies have suffered from epic Twitter fails…McDonald’s comes to mind.)
When you’re creating a marketing campaign, ask yourself the following:
- Is your message as clear as possible?
- If you’re making any claims, have you not only fact checked your sources, but also considered the other side’s arguments? Part of your company’s talking points should include the counterclaims and tips for dismantling them. Regarding Panera’s campaign, PR Newser noted, “The clear message here: don’t insult the people who supply your product—especially when your claims aren’t quite airtight.”
- Have you run your campaign by some objective folks OUTSIDE of your organization who can give you some honest feedback? When you’re too close to your “baby,” it can be easy to lose sight of some major flaws. Bringing in an outside PR or marketing consultant can prove extremely valuable.
- Is your message worthy of its own campaign? One of the issues Dairy Carrie and others had with Panera is that Panera made it sound like it was doing something unusual. But Dairy Carrie pointed out that there are other chain restaurants that “haven’t offended farmers and ranchers, although they also use poultry that hasn’t been given antibiotics.”
AT&T’s “Away We Happened”
What it is: A six-part YouTube series that begins with a twenty-something man and woman mixing up their AT&T smartphones. In their effort to swap them back, the two fall in love. Five parts of the narrative were crowdsourced, meaning viewers submitted their ideas about what should happen next to the characters. AT&T’s goal was to engage the Asian American community, specifically Asian Youth.
The message: It’s a subtle one, but the smartphones very much end up as characters in the narrative, suggesting to people that smartphones are more than “just a phone”—they can become an essential player in your own life’s story, depending on how you use them.
How it communicated the message: Each video installment served as a vehicle for the message, and the classic “show, don’t tell” directive was also at work. Viewers weren’t told all the things they could do with the AT&T smartphone; they were shown. We’re embedding the first installment below.
Buzz & Reaction: The campaign won an Effie Award, which has been celebrating excellence in advertising since 1968. The campaign was also a success with its target audience. As this press release states, “[t]he six-week series reached more than 12 million people – becoming a sensation in the Asian-American community with significant crossover appeal with mainstream audiences.”
Takeaway for small businesses: Get innovative with your marketing campaigns. Video has always been an engaging medium, so consider how you could use video to get your message across. While putting together a six-part series might be too daunting and cost prohibitive for small businesses, think about creating a different type of videos series:
- Maybe you solicit questions on social media from your fans and customers and then each week you do a video with your answer.
- Maybe you videotape client testimonials.
- Maybe you solicit videos from fans as they use your product (and perhaps you turn it into a contest).
- Maybe you do a video walk-through of your plant, warehouse, or headquarters.
The great thing about video campaigns is that you can re-purpose them and use them in a variety of places like your blog, email newsletter, and social media. And thanks to the high quality cameras that today’s smartphones come with, you can record professional looking video on your own.
What do you think of these three campaigns? Have you seen any other interesting ones recently? Share in the comments.