Yes, you can combine the human impulse to help a good charity along with eretail traffic. The key lies in complete and utter sincerity. Jewelry.com's email letter announcing the campaign is so obviously legitimate that it won despite high consumer skepticism and concerns about email charity frauds and scams. Plus, marketing partners including Macy's and Zales were impressed.
Agency - in-house
Client/company - Jewelry.com
Brand campaign was conducted for - Jewelry.com
Launch date of campaign - Feb 1st 2005
Target audience/demographic - US consumers
The primary goal was to increase the flow of traffic through Jewelry.com to participating retailers (Zales, Macy's, etc.). Raising both consumer and general jewelry industry awareness was also a consideration. The problem solved was the need to do something that would be perceived as a "jump" to the next level. We had complacency on the part of the participating retailers. While incremental gains were made month by month, they had grown "used to" getting 5-10,000 leads a month from us. They hadn't had anything "Wow!" happen in a while, and as we all know, familiarity breeds contempt.
Within the context of a viral email, the strategy was essentially old-fashioned long-form narrative marketing. The letter, cast more as a personal note than a company communication, described how the recipient could trigger a donation to sick and abused children simply by clicking on a web page. The trick here was to enter a world (email chain letters) where a high degree of skepticism exists. Unlike the infamous "South African Bank Transfer" type scam, we needed more than one person to buy in. This was accomplished by creating an email that was quite simply legitimate and beneficial from every angle. The email promotes a $50,000 donation by Jewelry.com to an organization which helps sick and abused children. The organizations were easy to check out. The donation was real. The recipient wasn't being asked for money - just to click and create a "clicks for charity" donation. Measurement in this case was simple: a 1x1 embedded graphic, called from our server, allowed us to track opens. Dedicated URLs allowed us to track clicks from the email, and our own logs showed conversions.
This letter (the one in the link) was sent to two groups. It was sent to all the contacts in my own address book (about 3,000 personal and professional). It was then sent to key media contacts -- not pitching for coverage, but just as if they were part of the chain. As a matter of record (and as hoped), various media (USA Today, TODAY, Trade Magazines in our industry) DID in fact cover it as a news story. The same letter was distributed to employees of the company, and they were asked to personalize and similarly distribute it. Finally, the letter was disseminated (in a more official tone) by our CEO to members of the charity board, key customers, etc. This resulted in a known distribution of tens-of-thousands. The push to "go viral" was very simple: a simple request to click and pass along for a genuinely worthy purpose (we purposely always cast this against the jokes and games which everyone gets for contrast). A request that was very difficult to ignore coming from a known individual.
After only two weeks, I certainly think there is more "buzz" to come. However:
We were picked up by USA Today as a "Hot Site"
We were picked up by industry trade magazines generating crucial awareness among our own constituents:
We had some anecdotal blogsphere/board coverage, but no URLs provided as yet. We've picked up a few on our own:
Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
As of Feb 15th nearly 400,000 visits and 369,000 clicks to our retail partners. Thus $36,900 donated (and counting). Also, the Jewelers For Children charity recorded its first-even direct-from-consumers donations (which we'll match). It took under 24 hours to start seeing results. Peak reached in 4 days, on Feb. 6th. Another equally-large peak on Valentine's Day itself, and we'll see where it goes from there.
Better coordinate traditional marketing push with the viral (the viral was out 3-4 days ahead of traditional press release, video release, TV pitches, etc.) I would tend to reverse it and have the viral start a few days later.