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Viral Hall of Fame 2007

Viral Hall of Fame 2007
#1. Sunflower Market

MarketingSherpa Summary:
Here's a colorful online-offline viral combo that introduced an organic foods retail brand to suburban moms. We loved the downloadable desktop plant that needed watered and fertilized (and forwardable) on a daily basis. Media outlets were snail-mailed sunflower pots, and the guerilla team *seeded* neighborhood lawns in a three-mile radius with store-branded cardboard sunflowers. Did it succeed? Bloggers picked up on the sunflower app, and they beat their first month's sales goals by 18%. Oh, yeah, and Whole Foods' plans to build a competing store were put on hold.

Agency: OLSON
Client/company: Sunflower Market
Brand campaign was conducted for: Sunflower Market
Launch date of campaign: 2006
Target audience/demographic: "Everymoms" who, for good reason, were intimidated by organics. These were mid-tier shoppers who wanted to buy more organic and natural foods, but weren't pleased with their options.

Campaign Goal:
At the time we launched Sunflower Market, the United States was up to its phytonutrient neck in natural and organic food stores. The category was dominated by strong brands (e.g., Whole Foods and Trader Joe's). In fact, the boom had been so immense that experts would soon predict that it had quite possibly reached its peak. Even category killer Wal-Mart had entered the organic food market -- perhaps the surest sign that this retail trend had reached its maturity. Amid all of this, who in their right mind would ever think of entering the organic food market? Not to mention on a marketing budget of (insert gulp here) less than $200,000. Our challenge was to make yet another organic player become, well, anything but another organic player.

If our mission was to let intimidated suburban moms know organics were finally refreshingly fun, friendly, simple and affordable for all, we knew -- given our budget -- we had to design a Sunflower Market movement that would (pun fully intended) self-pollinate and reach all corners of our market with holistic, viral and relationship-building strategies and tactics.

Seed Strategy:
Online, we created the "Amazing Growing Virtual Sunflower," a viral tactic Sunflower Market used to spread the word of its arrival. Users could grow the downloadable desktop plant or kill it depending on how much water, sunlight and fertilizer they used. Friends could email friends with what they grew to brighten each others' days, and, of course, spread the word for us.

Offline, we sent key media contacts branded sunflower pots six weeks before the store opening (the amount of time it takes for a sunflower to germinate), along with soil and seeds. Instructions were to "plant the seeds in the pot, and, by the time it sprouts, you will have been introduced to the sunny new face of organic food."

As we moved within a week of the store opening, we continued with our guerilla theme with "lawn-vertising." Fields of sunflowers began to pop up in the front yards of homes in the three-mile radius of the store. Ultimately, payoff messages went up the day of the grand opening, telling the community to "see what just popped up" in their neighborhood, Sunflower Market, the sunny new face of organics.

With regards to measurement, we set out to achieve the following objectives:
1. Meet our goal of forecasted sales for the opening week of the store launch.
2. Achieve the forecasted sales commitment for the first month of operations.
3. Achieve average "basket-size" sales of $15 per ticket/receipt.
4. Establish ourselves as a leader in the critical area of fresh produce with sales accounting for 15% of total store sales.
5. Create a database of loyal customers for future marketing initiatives.

Buzz Generated:
The organically-grown cherry on top is that our efforts received coverage by all four local Indianapolis TV stations as well as print and online media -- garnering more than 1,631,862 impressions. Bloggers also picked up on the virtual growing sunflower feature on the website.

Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
Not only did we meet forecasted sales for the opening week, we exceeded them by 24%. We met and surpassed our sales goal for the first month by 18%. On a per-ticket basis, we blew our goal out of the water by achieving an average of $25 per ticket (a 67% increase over projections). To date, produce sales have accounted for 24% of overall store sales (9 percentage points above forecasted). Of all of the customer registrations obtained during the launch week, over two-thirds of the registrants opted in to receive emails for future marketing initiatives.

In addition to exceeding our metric goals, signs of our success were evident in other ways. In Indianapolis, after the launch of Sunflower Market, plans to open and build a new Whole Foods were put on hold. Since the flagship Indianapolis store opening, three more new Sunflower Markets have opened in two other states this year, and the company plans to open 50 more stores over the next five years.

Biggest Learning:
We're surprised just how many people have digital green thumbs.