ADVERTISING is usually the most important element in any brand marketing plan, but many companies are finding that other approaches are also effective. Some have pursued these approaches out of necessity, being unable to support national advertising campaigns, while others are just more innovative than most in developing their marketing repertoires.
Following are some examples of nontraditional marketing techniques:
- Word-of-Mouth, Folklore, Testimonials, and Referrals.
- Taco Bell ran a television commercial about dropping a truck from a helicopter in Bethel, Alaska, to bring residents its Doritos Locos tacos.
- In its Global Word-of-Mouth Study, GfK Roper found that consumers worldwide cite people as the most trustworthy source of purchase ideas and information. In fact, it finds that by a very wide margin over advertising, people are the best source of ideas and information for prescription drugs, new meals/dishes, retirement planning, restaurants, saving and investing money, new ways to improve health, places to visit and hotels to stay in. Word-of-mouth tends to be more effective than paid-for marketing communication because it is more persuasive (coming from a third party) and more targeted (only communicated to people who are likely to find the information valuable).
- According to Keller Fay Group research, 93 percent of word-ofmouth occurs offline.
- In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger outlines six things that cause ideas, products, and messages to become contagious: 1) social currency (i.e., people share things to make them look good to others); 2) triggers (it is important to make sure the message is linked to everyday occurrences in the target customer’s market; e.g., the Kit Kat + Coffee campaign increased Kit Kat sales by a third in the first tweleve months of the campaign); 3) emotion (awe, excitement, amusement, anger, and anxiety—coupled with the message—increase the contagiousness); 4) public availability (making things more observable makes them easier to imitate); 5) practical value (people pass on useful information to others, which tends to be highly targeted and therefore more likely to become viral); and 6) storytelling (make sure the product or brand benefits are integral to the story so that they are not lost with the story’s retelling).
- Focus on hard-core users, opinion leaders, and what Emanuel Rosen, in his book The Anatomy of Buzz, calls “network hubs”: They read, they travel, they attend trade shows and conferences; they serve on committees; they participate in best practices benchmarking studies; they do public speaking and write books, articles, newsletters, and letters to editors; they teach courses, they consult, they advise others.
- Expose people to things that make great “cocktail party talk.”
- Give people sneak previews, “inside information,” “behind-thescenes stories,” and factory tours. Let them meet the product designers.
- Give new products to the trendsetters (seeding).
- Ask your employees to spread the word to everyone they know. Give them free products as a perk. This technique will attract people who like the product category and brand. It will also familiarize them with your brand’s products so that they can make better salespeople.
- Shopping Channel. Many companies have discovered that the QVC and other home shopping channels is a great way to promote new products.
- The Neiman Marcus Catalog. In the catalog, BMW once offered a limited edition of its Z3 Roadster with a “Specially Equipped 007” dash plaque. After BMW sold all 100 cars, there were still approximately 6,000 people on the waiting list!
- Product Placement. Featuring your brands and products in movies and TV shows.
- Covert or “Stealth” Marketing. For example, companies pay a) doormen to stack packages featuring their logos in building lobbies, b) people to sing the praises of a specific brands of alcoholic beverages in bars, c) actors to pose as tourists asking passersby to take their picture with a new camera/cell phone product, and d) models to ride their scooters around town. (When companies are caught doing stealth marketing, it may have a negative effect on brand equity and cause consumers to become even more jaded, especially if the tactic is more deceptive than it is creative.)
- The Poison Parasite Defense. Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University discovered that a new way to counter and dilute a competitor’s message is by creating ads that offer opposing arguments embedded in visuals that link to the original ads being countered. An example is a successful antismoking campaign that featured mock “Marlboro Man” ads depicting macho cowboys on horses in the same rugged outdoor settings as the original ads; however, in the mock ads, the cowboys are coughing and showing other signs of ill health associated with smoking, thus triggering this new highly negative association with Marlboro.
- Airline Radio and Television Shows. Virgin America, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, and Emirates provide this opportunity on their in-flight entertainment channels.
- Unusual Advertising Media. Companies have used everything from sidewalks (ads written in chalk), walls above men’s room urinals, and posters on bulletin boards, to the sides of trucks and buses, athlete’s clothes, and crop art (images created by plowing fields in certain patterns). A German company is now printing advertising messages on toilet paper. Evian funded the repair of a run-down pool in London in return for featuring its brand’s identity in the pool’s tile design, which could be seen by people flying into and out of nearby Heathrow Airport. Procter & Gamble placed upscale porta-potties (air-conditioned, with hardwood floors and aromatherapy candles) at state fairs to reinforce the luxury of its Charmin toilet paper.
- Scarcity, Exclusivity, and Secrets. These qualities make people feel like insiders and make things seem more valuable; they may make things more likely to be talked about.
- The Internet. Online marketing (and Amazon.com, in particular) is covered in greater detail later in Chapter 11 of Brand Aid.
- Traditional Marketing Techniques "on Steroids." Here are some traditional techniques taken to an extraordinary level of success:
- Packaging. Method’s line of ergonomically designed, minimally printed household cleaning products; Mio’s “Liquid Water Enhancer” that fits pleasingly into the palm of the hand; Ty Nant’s use of cobalt blue bottles to break into the mineral water category, and Voss’s use of aesthetically pleasing cylindrical glass bottles to do the same; the use of blue bags for home-delivered papers by The New York Times.
- The Product Itself. Never underestimate the power of design to differentiate! Think Apple’s iPhone, and the Smart Car and MINI Cooper.
- Vehicles, Uniforms, and Signage. Coca-Cola, FedEx, and UPS use trucks as billboards. UPS uses its delivery people’s distinctive brown uniforms. Lucent displayed large branded signs in front of each of its offices.
- Point-of-Sale Signs and Merchandising. Mass displays of Coca-Cola cases to bring the brand to the top-of-mind. Signs, posters, and coasters featuring a particular brand of alcohol are intended to accomplish the same in bars and taverns.
- Free Product Trial. Candy Crush Saga and Words With Friends both offered a free app to attract users to their games, with the option of additional features if the customer purchases a low-cost upgrade. Element K provided e-Learning IDs featuring run-of-site (over 800 courses) for free for three months. This works especially well with low variable cost items for which there is some perceived risk of purchase.
Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition available at Amazon.com.