HR Company Taps Yams (Yes, the Vegetable) for Sweet DM Success

The Back Story: Driving the right kind of foot traffic to your booth at a massive festival like South by Southwest is no easy feat—there’s untold competition at the annual event, which draws thousands of creatives, developers, and tech companies to Austin, Texas each year. But TriNet, a California company that provides cloud-based HR services to startups, cooked up an unorthodox solution: yams.

In order to raise awareness and develop leads with startup CEOs and founders, TriNet teamed up with Colorado agency TDA_Boulder to serve up a B2B campaign that used humor to attract prospects to the company’s booth at South by Southwest.

The Roll Out: In the lead-up to South by Southwest, TriNet sent 750 boxes of yams touting “”—ostensibly a kind of Web-based online marketplace for yams and yam-related products—to a select crowd of startup CEOs. Each package included an offer: Bring your yam to the TriNet booth at SXSW and exchange it for a $50 American Express gift card.

Those who decided to stop by and see what this YamTrader business was all about were in for a surprise. Nestled amidst the sleek, trendy booths of the other SXSW exhibitors was a booth constructed to look like a massive orange yam manned by YamTrader brand enthusiasts in yam-colored t-shirts. A person actually dressed as a candied yam greeted visitors at the entrance to the booth beside a placard that explained it all: “Some startups are just bad ideas. Others just need someone to help them grow. That’s where TriNet comes in.”

The Channels: In addition to the direct mail piece, TriNet went all out for its yam stunt, including creating a YamTrader website ( designed to drive traffic back to a dedicated landing page on TriNet’s real site, a Twitter account, a Facebook page featuring yam recipes, yam-centric emails, in-booth promotions, SXSW geotargeted mobile ads, and even a YouTube Gangnam Style spoof video featuring a yam dancing—you guessed it—GangYam Style.

The Creative: To keep interest going at the event, TriNet held a mini contest at yam HQ and used Twitter to promote it:

The Results: The numbers are in the yams—18% of TriNet’s CEO prospects jumped on the “YamWagon,” making a point of stopping by the YamTrader booth to learn more about TriNet’s offerings.

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