Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Business to business business

Well, we always loved the b2b stuff: the print ads, the occasional tv or radio spot and the meat and potatoes of it all - the direct mail. 

Quite possibly our love for direct mail comes from the fact that so much of it is exactly the same, which makes our job easier. Our custom, you see, when undertaking any image management (aka advertising) campaign is to look at what everyone else does, understand what rules they are all following, and then to go off and do something that cleverly breaks a whole bunch of those rules. And in direct mail, the rules are easy to spot and so the sky kinda really is the limit.

The rules seem to be this: write a letter and put it in an envelope. Write something teaser-ish on the outside of the envelope and wait for the business to come rolling in!!! Or, for the e-counterpart, write a big teaser headline and watch your email get opened. Then sit back and wait for the business to come rolling in!!! Naturally, we love these rules; 'cause they're so easy and so much fun to break.

Case #1 - O'Hare + Associates - National direct mail campaign

Well, we went to visit our friendly headhunter in NYC the other day and she said she'd find us some high paying freelance jobs and then she asked if, in the meantime, we might not like to do a little something for them, for the headhunting firm itself. "Sure," we chimed, and here's what happened next.

The boss came in, the big cheese, the head honcho, the guy with his name on the door and it turns out he's a most excellent guy and we totally hit it off. He had a piece of paper in his hand. It was filled with type. He wanted us to take it back to the workshop and work in a few semi-colons and one or two top-shelf adjectives and then he was gonna send it out to drum up business.

Well, after a short discussion, we had successfully talked him out of sending a letter and into doing something a little bit more noteworthy. Phew.

Our point of view on this is pretty simple: if you're engaging in a b2b campaign, your target audience gets a lot of letters exhorting them to use your goods or services, and, honestly, their assistants, the people who actually open the letters, don't even read them. So don't waste a second writing a letter to try to reach and persuade them. Just don't.

Well, the honcho bought our argument and away we went to the drawing board to create an ad that would drum up some business. We pitched him on doing a top to bottom branding of his company, complete with in-house and out-of-house image research, but he just wanted an ad, so that's what we did. A few of them. And some other stuff too.

Now, the client's competition is not just the other recruiting firms, it's also the online job boards and, increasingly, LinkedIn. The job boards are a little impersonal and so is LinkedIn; headhunters, on the other hand, do all of their real business face-to-face. They meet with the clients, they meet with the candidates, they make a match. They are much more like old time matchmakers, while the job sites are akin to online dating sites like match.com or okCupid.com.

We presented a few ideas, but the one we all liked best was a take-off on a poster that was very popular circa 1979:

Created by a student at UVA, Tom Shadyac, the poster was wildly popular and right on the money. Shadyac went on to fame and fortune in Hollywood (more here). And, following in the footsteps of so many other advertising greats, we stole the idea. Got theft? Our version is here below:

Well, this one was so popular, the client decided to do versions poking gentle fun at the stereotypes in each department of an ad agency. Here below are a couple of those:

And, below, a rough version of the next one:

Our client sent out 250 of these in each mailing and over the course of the 6 month campaign, got (he estimates) about 18 calls from ad agencies who wanted to talk with him. That's a respectable 7.2% response rate. Again, far far above the typical for direct mail or b2b.

Needless to say, the O'Hare client was thrilled.

Other details

• The posters are 17 x 11", suitable for hanging on the refrigerator in the common area of each agency.

• Instead of folding, we recommended sending the posters out in 2" diameter mailing tubes, so they'll arrive at their destinations not looking like all the other direct mail.

Case #2 - ClickRadio - National direct mail campaign

ClickRadio was a precursor to Pandora and music platforms such as that. The main difference was that the music "lived" on your computer, not in the cloud. (Which didn't really even exist back in those days.) A benefit to this was that when you purchased a song you heard on ClickRadio, it was already on your computer. Like Pandora, it worked with simple thumbs up or thumbs down interactivity. Once the individual user's likes and dislikes were known, the program used collaborative preferencing algorithms to predict which songs that user would likely like and which he or she would likely not like. Then it brought you "more of the music you like and less of the music you don't like", a promise we made in consumer advertising.

Here below is a trade campaign we did in lieu of a press release. The goal was simple: drive traffic to the website. It was an enormous success. Recipients got a series of 4 mostly "blind" cards, delivered to them in an envelope. "Mostly" because each had a "copyright ClickRadio, Inc. 2000" on the top of the back side. Each card illustrated one of the points of the ClickRadio manifesto ("Personal preferences must always be respected", e.g.) and they were sent out in one-week intervals. The final card contained the manifesto in its entirety (worth a read, if we do say so ourselves) and a simple URL. After the campaign ran, visits to the website were up over 300% and, though we don't have numbers on media requests, we do recall that the client, ClickRadio, was very very happy.

So, here below are the 4 teaser cards and the 5th, the teaser with URL, that kicked ass for ClickRadio back in the day:

Case #3 - Samuel's - Local direct mail campaign

Samuel's is a Rhinebeck tradition. They're our local old time candy store and also the purveyors of the best coffee in town. A big chunk of their business comes from holiday gift boxes and last year, they wanted to drum up a little more holiday business. We created this poster for them that was put up in selected locations around town. It's a simple, sweet message, "Shop local, ship global", helping local clients understand that their local store has a broader reach then their E. Market Street storefront. It worked great, brought in a bunch of new orders and (proof is in the pudding, here) the client is planning on repeating it this year too.

below: holiday gift packaging ideas for one of Samuel's clients.

Case #4 - radio Unleashed - National direct mail campaign


Client radio Unleashed is a nationally syndicated radio program and they wanted to send out a letter to prospective stations that might be interested in picking up their show. "A letter?" we said, with full-tilt maximum disdain and condescension, (we're trying to become more tactful, really we are), "letters are stupid!" (see parenthetical just above) "What you need is something that will cut through the clutter." It's true, it's totally true. Our point of view on letters is exactly that: you send a letter to a prospective client, that client's secretary isn't even gonna read it. (Have we said that before?) Send something fun and funky. Something that makes your point in a way they haven't seen before. Something memorable. And so that's what we came up with.

The creative solution
(Keep in mind, our target audience is program directors at radio stations; they've seen it all.)

Pee. Yup. Pee. Specifically pee stains on a piece of newspaper. Make pee stains on a piece of newspaper and send it out to your list with a little note on the bottom of the paper that says something like "Good radio is no accident." Fun. Different. Gross. Still, it will totally cut through. How many times do people get something like that in the mail? And if your branding is a dog logo and a tagline "music with teeth", then it's perfect. No? Yes! (see rU branding case study here.)

The creative

So here's how we did it. Yellow food coloring in a spray bottle sprayed on newspaper pages, a sticker on the bottom and nice printed letterhead envelopes. Like so:

And just to make sure that: a) the envelope got opened, and b) when it did get opened, people understood what they were seeing (and what they weren't seeing), we wrote on the back of each envelope:

So here's how it went: (sorry, we took the photos and we're gonna use them)

Grossed out? But still think it's a cut through the clutter and bolster the branding direct mail effort? Well our client got a response rate of 10% on this. Pee = the sweet smell of success. (Keep in mind, a typical direct mail effort yields a 2-4% response rate.)

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