It’s another Friday night, and you’re at a local speed-dating event. As you wait patiently for it to begin, you ponder the best approach to take in order to become a lucky suitor by the end of the night. You consider all the things you could say that will make you successful in this endeavor, including whatever it takes to make it seem like you don’t go speed-dating every Friday night (you don’t, right?). After considering the options you decide there are two dichotomous approaches to achieving your goal. On the one hand you can be bold, brazen, confident, and arrogant, and start off by talking about your general awesomeness; alternatively, you be more indirect and engage your speed-dating counterpart through humor and good conversation, instilling an insatiable desire within the individual sitting across from you.
What would you choose? This situation is not unlike what you could face as a company trying to market your product through an advertising campaign, as the goal is to woo your consumer. The first option (talking about how awesome you are) can be likened to a traditional TV campaign that touts the advantages and distinct highlights of your product. The second option (cultivating interest) is a more interactive and substantial approach to generating positive reactions from your target audience, albeit more complicated than the former. Recently there have been campaigns that have harnessed this method in a mix of advertising, PR, and social media savvy to engage their audience and encourage interaction with their brands.
One such example was devised by MINI, the automobile brand. At the beginning of June, they issued a bold challenge to automaker Porsche that dared them to compete against a MINI at a particular race course on a particular day. Naturally, one company issuing a challenge to another piques interest, particularly when it’s a cheeky brand like MINI calling the shots. After issuing the challenge MINI had a constant stream of multimedia to maintain interest and was documented on MINI’s Facebook site, like an open letter to Porsche titled “Bring It, Porsche”, a video parody of Rocky IV at funnyordie.com showing the two cars training for the title fight, an image of MINI flying a taunting banner over Porsche’s headquarters, and later on the official letter from Porsche declining the challenge. Ultimately despite having no official challenger to speak of, MINI held the race itself pitting a MINI Cooper S vs. a Porsche 911. Despite the MINI actually losing their own race, they clearly were the winner.
Here is why: MINI’s ability to blend candidness of PR with the irreverent tone of their advertising really got people interested and encouraged them to follow a developing story rather than having their audience take a more passive role. Spectators had an organic interest in following what happened and that certainly raises the brand’s exposure and gets people talking, particularly when you mix in MINI’s playful humor. Additionally, with the MINI Facebook page as the locus of information and interaction, a strong social component was built in from the get-go. Automotive enthusiasts and the general public alike could easily spread the story on and off the internet to others and spark lively debates in a public forum. Despite the actual challenge itself being largely irrelevant from a consumer standpoint, since nobody walks from a MINI dealership to a Porsche dealership when deciding to buy a car, the underlying message was that MINI makes fun, sporty, youthful cars that belie their cheap prices. As MINI’s challenged appealed to the emotion of competition within us, it was a message that was delivered with ease. Better yet the campaign was a win-win PR situation: regardless of outcome, countless conversations about MINI were initiated and more expensive and “serious” brand came out looking like a bad sport. Unlike Volvo, MINI knows how to construct some fool-proof PR.
Brands selling big-ticket items aren’t the only ones with clever mixes of PR and social media. Ogilvy & Mathers, the marketing communications company, recently held a contest searching for “The World’s Greatest Sales Person” in homage to its founder and namesake David Ogilvy, who started his career as a salesman. The underlying message was a reassertion of their company philosophy that a knack for selling is at the core of marketing, branding, and communications. In the contest, the entrants must be creative in making a hard sell – convincing viewers (and the judges) to buy a typical red brick by submitting their best attempts on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were integrated in campaign as well. The winner of the contest got a job at Ogilvy.
Similar to MINI, this is a PR and social media strategy success. Again the focus is on fun and creativity, and generates a lot of attention. The overarching theme, that spectators are interactive, is elemental to that success. Furthermore Ogilvy finds an attention grabbing way to reiterate their dedication to maintaining the unique salesman acumen of yore that has been lost in the “pursuit of art or dazzle of technology”. Ogilvy gets to spread its message, people get to share creative productions, and a lucky individual is offered a position during high levels of unemployment. Win, win, and win. People genuinely enjoy being involved with Ogilvy’s PR.
Good examples of utilizing the tools of PR, advertising, and social media are becoming more common, and they represent something that equals more than the sum of its parts. Companies slow to realize this are lacking an easily accessible asset in their marketing repertoire and are likely missing out on big opportunities to shape and build a strong brand. And if you chose option one in the speed-dating analogy…well, don’t be surprised if you find yourself dateless.