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Apr 25, 2003
Case Study

How Jacob's Creek Winery Used Screen Savers to Boost Brand Awareness and Retention -- 11 Tips

SUMMARY: Can offering consumers a cute screensaver from your brand's Web site really make a difference for offline sales? Lots of retailers have tested this tactic, and we finally got one of them to talk about the experience.

BTW: Our reporter Mark Brownlow had to get up at 3 A.M. to interview Jacob's Creek folks in Australia, so we hope you find this story useful!

"Wine sites are not the highest traffic sites on the web," admits Nick Blair, Marketing Director at Australia's biggest wine brand, Jacob's Creek.

Blair's not selling wine online. Like others at the production end of the marketing chain, his problem is getting people to visit a brand-specific info site, and then keeping them enthused enough to buy offline.

In early 2002, he decided to overhaul the Jacob's Creek old flash-based "brochureware-and-more" site. He went to his web developers, Groundhog, to find new ways of giving website users the kind of value that keeps his brand top of mind.

There is a site revamp in the pipeline, but one suggestion that popped out early on was to offer a screen saver. Screen savers are not exactly rarities these days, so how do you get people to keep yours?

More importantly, how do you get any marketing benefits from something designed to appear on a PC nobody is actually using?

We talked to Nick and some industry experts to get the answers.


Nick and his team followed 11 principles for screen saver success.

-> Tip 1: Be clear about your objectives

A screen saver's form and functionality really depends on what you want to achieve with it. Blair had three objectives:

a. Improve brand awareness
b. Encourage website traffic
c. Communicate brand qualities, news and achievements

John Goslino, Marketing & E-Business Strategist at Groundhog, says, "It's a big brand, with plenty of news of developments, awards etc. and we wanted to highlight these things and thus get people to come back to the site more often."

Which seems like a tall order for the humble screen saver, so how did they do it?

-> Tip 2: Provide value

Gone are the days when a few pretty pictures will suffice. Goslino says, "You need to offer something other than just images. You must offer useful or valuable content, if you want people to keep it and for it to be effective in building a good relationship with the brand or company."

Blair's team decided to build live newsfeeds into the screen saver. The idea was that news about the brand would impact on user perceptions, and stimulate them to take action, such as visit the website or simply go out and buy a few bottles.

Blair says, "If they hear that Jacob's Creek just won a prize, they'll go and take a look at the website or even go out and buy some."

Goslino says this kind of approach is especially useful for communicating with people you need to be in regular contact with, such as resellers, distributors and key customers.

When the screen saver is activated, it connects with the website and pulls in the latest news headlines, which are displayed along the bottom of the user's screen. Typical headlines include notes on the arrival of new vintages, wine awards, sponsored event announcements, etc.

-> Tip 3: Consider screen saver longevity

What you put in your screen saver also depends on how long you expect it to survive on a user's PC. Blair notes, "The nature of screen savers is that some people will download them and they'll be there for years and years. But advertising campaigns come and go."

He decided not to design the screen saver to fit a current ad campaign, but instead to include more generic, "timeless" imagery and messaging. Though he notes they may produce campaign-specific versions in the future (and many companies do choose this route).

-> Tip 4: Ensure brand compatibility

Blair provided the designers with a range of generic images, drawn from previous ad campaigns and their media library. All this imagery is consistent with the way Blair's communicated and presented the brand using other ad vehicles.

The screen saver begins with a glass filling with red wine, before fading into a mosaic of relevant images supporting the upmarket, quality brand image, pictures of vineyards, vines, grapes, lifestyle shots, landscapes, wine bottles, etc.

This then fades into a large single static image (for example, a close up of a vine or a vineyard landscape).

-> Tip 5: Be subtle, it is a screen saver, not a TV ad

If you want people to keep your screen saver active, do not overdo it on the commercial messaging.

Jim Roberts, CEO of ScreenTime Media (who make the software powering the Jacob's Creek screen saver) says, "Customers can be reminded of the source of their screen savers more gently than by having a huge spinning logo. A small badge in the corner of the screen is more effective, because it's more likely to remain installed on the users' machines."

The Jacob's Creek screen saver highlights the core message ("Jacob's Creek: Australia's Top Drop") directly, by occupying a small area of the screen bottom right, and indirectly, through fleeting images of bottle labels, vineyard signs and similar in the opening animations.

Blair says, "It's not too in your face. It's pleasant and inviting to look at. It's based around making people feel comfortable with what they're looking at."

-> Tip 6: Include change and randomness

Static images do not cut it with today's screen saver user. Blair's team built three different elements of variation into their product.

a. Animation and movement:
As well as the wine pouring animation, the images within the mosaic change every second or two, before settling into the large static image.

b. Version rotation:
There are actually six versions of the screen saver built into the download, and these rotate on a 24 hour cycle. Each version contains different images, though there is a consistent design, look and feel across all six.

c. The drop effect:
Once the animation has settled to a main image, random drops "hit" the screen every few seconds, creating a small ripple effect.

-> Tip 7: Get your message in

Although Roberts advises subtlety, he also says you do need to get your point across. He explains, "Don't be so subtle that customers can't tell what you do."

Blair says you can not expect people to sit there watching the screen saver for any length of time. He adds, "The whole point of a screen saver is that when you're not there, there's something else on the screen."

That is why the animation and brand messaging takes place fairly quickly, within the first few seconds of the screen saver activating. He says, "we wanted to make sure that anything that happened came up quite quickly. It all starts up quickly and then settles down into a fairly standard pattern."

-> Tip 8: Be careful with sound

Screen savers should not be too intrusive, so be careful with using sound, especially if your screen saver is likely to be used in an office environment.

The Jacob's Creek screen saver just features the sound of a drop hitting liquid, in conjunction with the random ripple effect. Blair says, "It happens 3 or 4 times but then won't happen again."

-> Tip 9: Ensure technical compatibility

According to Roberts, OS/PC/Network compatibility is a huge issue for screen saver software manufacturers. The more bells and whistles (and Internet functionality) you give your screen saver, the more care you need to take in using production software that produces an end product that's compatible with typical user IT setups.

He says compatibility's rarely an issue with individual PCs, but large corporate networks with unique or odd settings can sometimes cause problems.

Surprisingly, he says file size is not the issue it used to be. He says, "Concerns seem to have gone by the wayside. Nobody seems to worry about it, especially if file size is less than 2MB. After all, the Titanic Movie Screen saver reached over 1 million downloads, and was larger than 2MB."

Blair's screen saver comes in at around 2.9MB.

-> Tip 10: Account for different user types

Blair actually offers four different versions of the same screen saver. There is a "broadband" version which carries the live newsfeed, and a "dial-up" version which has no live newsfeed. This recognizes that not every user will want a screen saver that automatically tries to connect to the Internet when it is activated.

Both of these versions are also split into PC and Mac alternatives.

In the dial-up version, the text news messages are replaced with generic branding or advertising statements, such as "Jacob's Creek - winner of the 1994 Maurice O'Shea award".

-> Tip 11: Don't just rely on website downloads for promotion

To promote the screen saver, there's a link to the download page on the website's flash splash page, and the central feature of the main site (a large image of a bottle) also has the screen saver link as an alternating bottle label.

Unlike most companies, Blair did not stop there. He burnt 5,000 screen saver CDs and put each in a presentation casing.

He says, "We sent varying quantities of the CDs to our Departmental, Regional and State Managers for them to distribute to staff, suppliers, distributors and retailers." He also kept a few back and uses them in press kits and to give to VIP visitors to the winery.

Groundhog also put out a press release that got the screen saver coverage on some industry sites.


In the last 12 months, visitors to the website have downloaded around 6000 copies of the screen saver. At the moment, the site's getting more than 150 new downloads a week.

Blair's happy with the outcome. He says, "Because it's all about getting our brand message in front of people and getting our brand top of mind, it's done pretty good."

His distributors in particular have reacted with enthusiasm. He notes, "They loved it and thought it was fantastic. There aren't too many of them that don't actually use it themselves."

Some more metrics:

- Of the 6000 downloads, around 3,500 had the live news capability, 2,500 did not.

- Those screen savers with the live news facility activate an average 200 times. Based on this figure, Goslino estimates that users keep the screen savers live for longer than a month, a figure he finds encouraging in terms of increased brand awareness.

- 86% of people download a version for the PC, 14% a version for the Mac. (Do not forget Mac users!)

Useful links

To get a copy of the screensaver:
See Also:

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