Archive for June, 2009

More so than with traditional advertising, employee involvement is a key component of a successful word of mouth campaign. Word of mouth is all about conversation and open two-way dialogue between the brand and consumer, which is kind of hard to accomplish if employees aren’t actively engaged.


Smokey Bones, a small 68-unit franchised barbecue restaurant chain, made employees the focal point of their latest social marketing campaign. Each restaurant has hired one employee as its official social marketer, who maintains a web page for his or her location. Through this page, and its mirror sites on Facebook and MySpace, the “web host” communicates with fans and friends. The pages include events listings, specials, and photo albums for each location. So far the effort has garnered a lot of attention – and a large following. Some restaurants have up to 10,000 fans or friends, overall web traffic is up over 50% and the Smokey Bones email list has grown as well.


So what’s in it for the employees involved? Well, the web hosts do get paid more, and they also get to be the “face” of their restaurant location.

The campaign includes limited print and outdoor media, but its obvious that the real driver is employee participation and enthusiasm. I’ve seen similar efforts, especially from credit unions, but they usually aren’t this comprehensive and planned out. Sometimes it’s just a seldom-updated employee blog or a neglected Facebook page, neither of which ever generate much attention. A successful social media marketing effort needs to include careful strategy and consistent involvement from team members, and the Smokey Bones campaign exemplifies both.



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Financial Times, the publication about all things business and money, wants you to know that they are advertising and you should to. Why? Because apparently, “In every recession of the past 90 years, independent studies show that the businesses who increase their advertising spend are the ones who survive the tough times and thrive afterwards.”

Financial Times took a non-traditional, guerrilla approach to their campaign. While it looks like they just hijacked the abandoned billboards below, in reality they probably bought the space. Regardless, it’s still a great idea for driving their message home. Copy reads, “Global Downturn. What’s the first mistake businesses make?”. Some people will immediately realize the answer is “cut marketing/advertising budgets”, but for others it will hopefully create enough intrigue to visit the Financial Times URL on the billboard (http://www.ft.com/budgets).

Image from Guerrilla Marketing Defined

I think this is a great marketing idea that takes an unconventional approach to a traditional form of advertising (billboards). The creative execution completely drives home the campaign message and creates curiosity among viewers. I’m also pleasantly surprised that it comes from a brand as “conservative” as the Financial Times.


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Tourism Queensland took a great approach in their latest effort to promote the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, by creating The Best Job in the World. The simple, straight-forward campaign was a global search to find a “caretaker” for Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. The lucky winner would make an impressive salary and spend their time exploring for 6 months and blogging about the experience. Needless to say, they got a lot of applicants… 34,000 to be exact. People auditioned for the position through short video clips, many of which found their way to YouTube and other social networking sites.

The campaign was a combination of traditional advertising and viral marketing. Applicant videos were what really got the buzz going and generated free publicity. Many people, myself included, who had never seen a print or television ad for the campaign were still familiar with The Best Job in the World. Overall, word of mouth largely contributed to the campaign’s success.

The Best Job in the World has won two Grand Prix prizes and four Gold Lions awards at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, and has so far generated over “$AUD200 million in global publicity value for Queensland” (Tourism Queensland).

I think the campaign is really timely, playing to people’s dreams and optimism during a time of uncertainty and high unemployment. It also reminds me of Young & Free Alberta, the credit union equivalent of The Best Job in the World for young adults. Maybe the most important lesson from Tourism Queensland’s success at Cannes is that you don’t need something expensive and incredibly elaborate to generate word of mouth for your brand.


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A buzzworthy business card is not difficult or expensive to create, it just takes a little bit of thinking outside the box. I recently came across a really innovative example on Guerrilla Marketing Defined. The business cards below are for Andrea Romani, an environmental consultant, who obviously knows that proving your story extends beyond just what you say. What kind of impression would it create if she handed out cards produced on thick, glossy, unrecycled card stock? Probably not a good one, considering her line of work. Instead, she has opted to simply stamp her contact information on a variety of different recyclable materials… stuff that we would otherwise consider trash.


As a financial institution, what are your options for creating memorable and conversation-worthy business cards? Think about it!


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I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about increased interest in financial education classes being offered and/or sponsored by banks, credit unions and other organizations (libraries, community colleges, etc). A recent article states that, “At Arizona Saves, a non-profit group, class attendance more than doubled last year to 2,448 from 1,138 in 2007, with further increases so far this year.” In addition to helping foster financial literacy – these classes can also great for generating word of mouth.

In general, many people feel that they have been deceived or taken advantage of by banks or credit card companies. They are cynical and it’s difficult to gain their trust. Hosting money management courses with the simple intent of educating, not pushing products, is one way to do this. Think of it like the free knitting classes at your local yarn shop. They provide refreshments and teach you a new skill with no pressure to buy anything. And the first several times you probably don’t. But when it comes time for you to buy some yarn, where’s the first place you go? The shop that provided the classes, because you already have an established relationship with them – even if it’s not as a customer.

Offering money management courses can show your community that you care about helping them keep their homes, pay off their debt and send their kids to college. Similarly, courses geared towards small business owners send the message that you support local business and entrepreneurship.


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Most companies are downright giddy when their emails show a high rate of click throughs. Unfortunately the average is fairly low. So what can you do about it? Well evidence suggests that adding embedded video to your emails might help a lot, increasing click through by 2-3X.

Click throughs are nice, but what’s this have to do with word of mouth? Well, video clips (if good) are very likely to get forwarded on to others. This fits the word of mouth marketing model, which holds that when done right, you can get in touch with many by contacting just a few. “Incremental growth”, “spreading the word”, call it what you will.

If you’re a bank or credit union that sends out eblasts, consider embedding video into your next one. Instead of just listing those “smart financial tips” in the text, create a short video where a banker talks about those points. Deliverability is still admittedly a big issue, but as this blog post mentions, it’s getting better. If embedding isn’t quite feasible yet, linking to video can still be very affective.

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To follow up their free trial membership card mailing, Netflix sent members this email with essentially the same messaging. (I got one too).


The few people I’ve told about the promotion who don’t already have Netflix have all had the same question: Do you have to give credit card information to get the free month trial? The answer is yes, and this has deterred all of them from taking advantage of the offer. They think that it’s one of those deals where, if you forget to cancel your trial after it’s ended, then the company keeps you on as a member and starts charging you without saying anything. I’m not sure if this is the case with Netflix, but if it’s not… why do they need your credit card information?

A friend had a valid point when they mentioned that you can get a week-long trial at a gym without giving your credit card. I think Netflix would get more trial members if they didn’t make you give up your financial information. (And how many people who have tried Netflix have quit? Honestly, anyone?) I also think it would generate more positive word of mouth, because non-members would be less suspicious of the company and their offer.


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