Where's Clifford? Helping Children's Museum

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The Chicago Children's Museum is using a grassroots and direct marketing effort to create awareness and drive family memberships.

The pro bono DM campaign by Wunderman Chicago uses animated character Clifford the Big Red Dog to target parents with children ages 4-7. The campaign is called "Have you seen Clifford?"

"The strategy is to market the museum and membership drive by touting the arrival of the new 'Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog' exhibit," said Debbie McKean, vice president and group account director at Wunderman Chicago.

DM channels are used to offer an invitation to a party for new members with appearances by Clifford and Emily Elizabeth, the little girl who is the dog's owner.

Homespun-like fliers ask, "Have you seen our dog?" Copy goes on to state: "20 feet tall. 780lbs. Bright red fur. Answers to the name Clifford."

The fliers are taped in areas frequented by parents with young children, such as parks, daycare centers, grocery stores and coffee shops. A telephone number and site at www.chichildrensmuseum.org give prospects information on membership, the exhibit and party. The exhibit began Oct. 16 and runs until Jan. 17.

Classified ads with the same information as the flier will appear in local Chicago newspapers. A supporting mail piece is designed to look like the flier. Copy includes an exclusive invitation to a new members party with Clifford and mentions a reward for new members.

The reward is a special edition of the Chicago Children's Museum newspaper. In it are instructions on how to make a paper hat and an "I spotted Clifford" member sticker. Museum membership and new exhibit information are added. Members will get this publication at the party set for Dec. 3.

The campaign is unique for the museum in terms of the choice of channels and the message.

"This is the first time for a membership drive that the museum has done an integrated marketing campaign, and it is also the first time the museum has used the opening of a new exhibit as the main message in the campaign," McKean said. "The museum [typically] has done the traditional three-tiered mailings to people who have shown interest. It is also the first time they have purchased a list for the mailing."

Wunderman Chicago ran a ZIP density analysis of current members to see where the lion's share came from. It then bought names in those areas.

"One of the big challenges for the museum's membership drives is the 'why now?' in terms of getting people to respond," McKean said. "It is the main reason we developed the new member incentive party as a means to get people off the fence."

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