Quicken Loans’ CMO Todd Lunsford and Qtopia project manager Catherine Buzzitta
“This is a relatively flat industry, and the results were significant,” says Kennedy. “Little that we had done moved the needle the way this did.”
But the goal of promotions isn't always just to gain new customers and build brands — there is often a social responsibility component as well. Promoting causes that companies and their customers support is all the rage, according to Bonnie Carlson, president of the Promotion Marketing Association. But important factors like differentiation, credibility, and relevance to the consumer are lost when everyone gets on the same bandwagon, she says.
To be an effective cause-related promotion, the cause must be relevant to the brand. “You can't just slap a green label on a bottle and call it a day,” Carlson cautions.
For pet food company Pedigree, helping to get dogs adopted is a cause that “is inextricably linked to our product,” says John Anton, the company's marketing director.
What began as a series of television ads has evolved into a multichannel campaign in which Pedigree relaunched its Dogsrule.com Web site and then launched the Million Dog Mosaic, an interactive online experience for dog lovers that has generated more than one million page views. Every time a consumer uploads a favorite dog photo to contribute to the mosaic, Pedigree makes a $1 donation to the Pedigree Adoption Drive foundation. At last count, more than 37,000 dog photos had been uploaded. To raise awareness of the promotion and the brand, Pedigree set up a temporary store and adoption center in New York's Times Square during the Westminster Dog Show.
“What's nice [about the Web] is that we've been able to see the change in consumer behavior — they're participating with us now,” Anton says. “Going forward, the online element will become a larger percentage of our marketing and an important touchpoint with our consumers.”
Integrated promotions build rapid awareness
Even with the rise of the online channel, the ability of multichannel, integrated promotions to build awareness rapidly among target audiences hasn't changed. In fact, a single, well-orchestrated and well-funded promotion can result in instant market share and leadership.
For example, executives at The North Face, a major brand long associated with winter sports, recently sought to expand into the running space. VP of marketing Joe Flannery called on Merrill Squires, president of Dallas-based Hawkeye Sports and Entertainment, to develop the strategy and promotional platform to launch the company's new Flight Series product line and running shoe, the Arnuva. “His idea was to take an elite athlete to every state — to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days,” says Squires. “That had never been done before.”
To launch the new product line and promote the company's expansion, Squires developed The Endurance 50 program, a massive promotion that merged public relations, event marketing, and online marketing with an athletic expedition. “The logistics and execution were larger than the international Olympic program I ran for a year,” recalls Squires.
Endurance 50 generated more than 241 million impressions via online, national print, mobile, retail, and other PR efforts. The North Face gained immediate market share and credibility in the endurance running segment.
Whether online or offline, the allure of creating one's own advertising channel through promotions is attracting more and more spending, say Borrell's researchers. Its online promotion study reports businesses no longer must rely only on a traditional media company to get the word out to millions of consumers.
“Our clients are frequently looking for new and different ways to engage with their customers, be it online, in-place, or in-store,” Upham points out. “Instead of looking for traditional mass advertising ways to communicate brand messages to consumers, we look for ways that our clients' brands can cohabit with customers.”
But simply building promotions doesn't mean consumers will automatically participate. Marketers still need to drive people to the promotion through other channels with an integrated marketing campaign, says Squires.
“The Internet is not a field of dreams,” he warns. “Promotions are great parties, but if you don't send out the invitations, nobody's coming.”