We are serious folks here at MarketingSherpa.
We’ve published many case studies about data analysis, marketing technologies, messaging methodologies, and A/B testing.
But we still realize that sometimes you need to throw some fun, creative ideas into the mix to help customers understand your unique message.
So to spark your next creative idea, read on to see how these fun campaigns impacted marketing opt-in rates, impressions, and annual profit.
This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“If you have something unique — even a single dimension of exclusivity — that’s meaningful and significant to the customer, you help them conclude they can’t get this anywhere else,” said Flint McGlaughlin in The Power of Perceived Value: Discover how a well-marketed banana & roll of tape produced a windfall.
While MarketingSherpa, sister publication MarketingExperiments, and parent organization MECLABS Institute are known for serious, data-driven marketing methodologies and case studies, McGlaughlin makes his point in the video with banana taped to a whiteboard.
In other words, he injects fun into the presentation to get his point across.
It brings up a valuable lesson – even the most hard-nosed, data-obsessed A/B testing marketer shouldn’t overlook the role of fun in his or her campaigns.
To inspire your next fun idea, in this article we bring you three digital marketing campaigns that found fun, creative ways to demonstrate unique elements of their brands’ value.
First, Chipotle finds a way to replicate it’s unique in-store Boorito promo through a digital campaign during COVID-19. Next, an online hairstyle shop stands out from the crowd of similar competitors by launching a YouTube channel complete with its own storefront salon studio. And finally, an online fashion retailer leans into its unique collaboration with rapper Quavo by producing a custom mobile game.
Chipotle Mexican Grill has a 20-year-old Halloween tradition called Boorito, where anyone in costume can come into a restaurant and get a free burrito. However, COVID-19 changed all that. So the team designed an email and mobile campaign to replicate the traditional in-store Boorito.
With virtual trick-or-treating as inspiration, the team designed an online experience to distribute 500,000 BOGO (buy one, get one free) promo codes to users across digital communication channels, including email, TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, to be redeemed on 10/31.
The campaign was designed to seamlessly integrate email with SMS (short messaging service, more commonly known as text messages), and also include social channels. The fast casual restaurant created a text prompt baked into the email, which showed the terms of engagement and allowed customers to claim the offer between October 29th and October 31st, 2020 with a simple tap-to-text user interface.
This action automatically pre-populated the message app on a customer’s phone with the short code and keyword so customers could easily claim the offer and go directly into the purchase cycle via their phones on Halloween.
Creative Sample #1: Mobile version of email for Chipotle Boorito digital campaign
The “tap to text” call-to-action only showed up on mobile devices. If on desktop, the email showed a “learn more” button which led to a landing page with the rules. Customers could then change devices from desktop to mobile to participate if they chose to.
“By utilizing time-based targeting, the Chipotle team was able to simply swap out messages after the offer ran out,” said Brooke Schommer, Principal Customer Success Manager, Liveclicker (Chipotle’s real-time email marketing vendor). After each day’s codes were depleted leading up to Halloween, Chipotle dynamically presented a hero image directing fans to Chipotle’s social media platforms to find newly available codes, like a virtual trick-or-treat.
Creative Sample #2: Mobile version of email for Chitpotle Boorito digital campaign after promo codes were depleted, encouraging customers to visit social media to find more
The team also brought Boorito to TikTok as part of a concurrent contest that encouraged customers to post Halloween costume pictures from past years and show how they celebrated the holiday for the chance to win free burritos for a year.
As Boorito had always been an in-person event with no cap, Chipotle did not have previous benchmarks for digital offers at this scale and was looking at overall participation as an indicator of success.
Through the course of the Boorito campaign, the promo codes were 100% distributed to excited fans..
The bank of promo codes allotted specifically for email customers were all claimed within hours, despite the nature of the targeted audience – rather than messaging the entire database, Chipotle decided to target the email campaign to focus only on lapsed and “at-risk” Chipotle customers. Such strong email engagement showed huge potential re-engagement opportunities for the “at-risk” email population.
Halloween day redemptions of the BOGO codes were strong, and the campaign was considered a success.
“Fans loved that Boorito was gamified. This fresh take on one of our most beloved campaigns created a sense of urgency that made our content more shareable across the digital and social channels today’s customers use most. With a seamless integration between mobile and email interactions, our marketing team saw just how well omnichannel offers can drive purchases when they work together. We garnered one billion impressions over the course of the campaign, proving that going big across all digital channels certainly gets the word out and gets people talking,” said Chelsea Meissner, Targeted Marketing Manager, Chipotle Mexican Grill.
In 2009, twin brothers Emil and Rasmus Vilain Albrechtsen launched an online shop in Denmark selling hairstyle products.
“Three months after we opened our shop, we had some sales, but we also realized that we did not differentiate ourselves from other online shops. We had to switch to a more creative approach. Rasmus created a video using his MacBook webcam. The recording was mirrored, the sound was bad, but it was authentic. We launched Slikhaar TV on YouTube and placed the video there. We got a lot of free views from YouTube at that time and soon we started to see international comments,” said Emil Vilain Albrechtsen, CEO and co-founder, Slikhaarshop.
That was the first step in Slikhaar TV's journey to what today includes more than 350 million video views and 2.1 million subscribers. It took 10 to 20 videos for the brothers to see that the videos really resonated.
To Emil and Rasmus, YouTube was not only a media channel, but also a search engine, so in the early years they focused on how-to videos. They rented a store on the main pedestrian street in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-biggest city, transforming the store into a hair salon and an office. That gave them the perfect stage for content production, plus an additional revenue stream from hairdressing. They hired talented hairdressers who would not only cut customers’ hair, but also be part of new video content. The brothers prioritized content production over cutting hair and called the salon Slikhaar Studio.
From here, the content production evolved, and the audience became a growing part of the process. Emil and Rasmus increasingly included the community, asking that viewers tell them what subjects they’d like to see addressed. The feedback gave them ideas for their editorial plan. Armed with audience suggestions, they built a list of the most wanted haircuts, found a hair model, and arranged a cut with one of the hairdressers at the studio.
“We look at user feedback when planning our videos, but we are also looking at things like trending topics and the quality of our thumbnails. When we publish a ‘Cristiano Ronaldo Haircut’ video, we are up against a lot of competition. The algorithm on YouTube will look at the click rate for each of the videos, among many other details. The content game of today is more about knowing the algorithm and finding out what works, so we spend a lot of time analyzing and experimenting,” Emil said.
"Most marketers fail because they diversify too quickly. Slikhaar was successful because they focused on becoming indispensable with their YouTube channel and built a loyal audience there. Only when they had a large enough audience (over years and years) did they diversify to other platforms," said Joe Pulizzi, author, Content Inc. (Pulizzi brought this case study to MarketingSherpa). It wasn’t until 2014, when Facebook really started to focus on videos, that Facebook got Slikhaar’s full attention. Today the company has 2.3 million fans on Facebook and has diversified to Instagram.
“Evolving isn’t easy. The social media landscape keeps changing. Keeping up with it requires an experimental approach where you try out new formats while continuing to develop what you are good at,” Pulizzi said.
For example, Slikhaar could have done more on TikTok, but the brothers believe Instagram works better for their company. Instagram Stories and Snapchat are parts of the beauty company’s marketing mix. So is email marketing, which it primarily uses for staying in touch with customers.
When Slikhaar TV’s audience exceeded 100,000 subscribers, the brothers were working with various hair care brands to expand their business. Their videos helped them increase demand, and they had established good reseller deals with most brands. But after having a fallout with a major brand that had been featured in a lot of videos, they decided to find a local producer and build their own hairstyle brand – By Vilain.
The first product was ready for sale in the online shop nine months later. That had a big impact on the business. Rather than driving demand for hundreds of brands and getting a small margin when someone made a purchase at slikhaarshop.com, subscribers would now primarily buy the brothers’ own products. In May 2013, the first By Vilain products went live, and online sales (and profits) skyrocketed.
The product assortment now includes 10 different hair styling products and 7 hair tools. On special occasions, the brothers launch limited editions with special fragrances and colors.
The limited editions also work well for e-commerce events like Black Friday. Instead of offering a huge discount and devaluing the brand, Slikhaar introduces a limited edition on Black Friday. Subscribers have a one-time chance to buy the limited edition.
“Today the company is focusing on a few key markets, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Vietnam, and Denmark, as well as Amazon, whose unique approach is like entering another country,” Pulizzi said.
Overall, the business is going well and has been profitable since 2013. In some of the best years it had an annual profit of more than $1.6 million. Slikhaar currently has 11 employees.
“Most important of all, the brothers and their team are having a good time,” Pulizzi said.
“We keep going on as long as we are having fun. We have no exit plans at this stage. Personally, I do not find motivation in exiting, and I have everything I need, including a Lamborghini in the garage,” Emil said.
In 2020, online retailer boohooMAN launch a second collaborative clothing collection with rapper Quavo. “When I met the team they were young and represented the culture so I thought, ok, we can collaborate and do something special. I’m happy for it to come around again. This time it’s better!" Quavo said.
To promote the fashion line, the company tried to tap into the culture as well by creating its first-ever video game – Go All the Way – which could be played on the boohooMAN app on iOS and Android devices.
Creative Sample #3: Video game promoting clothing collaboration between fashion company boohooMAN and rapper Quavo
“For us it’s about being innovative and giving narrative to our consumer demands – the game does just that!” said Samir Kamani, Chief Executive, boohooMAN.
The game used an ’endless runner’ format. Players control Quavo’s character, running over the rooftops of Los Angeles collecting coins and items from the boohooMAN x Quavo collection. Scoring points allowed players to unlock promotions and prizes including a chance to win a T-shirt signed by Quavo himself.
Creative Sample #4: Video game promoting clothing collaboration between fashion company boohooMAN and rapper Quavo
“We’ve been working on gaming for a while and now seemed the perfect time to release whilst people are at home in need of entertainment,” said Victoria Pearson, E-Commerce Manager, boohooMan.
“It was also important to release the right quality of game that our users get value from and enjoy. Teaming up with Quavo was the perfect fit,” she said.
Tim Cooper, Director, Peek & Poke (boohooMAN’s game developer), explained: “It’s enabled them to give their audience a little entertainment and a bit of fun during these challenging times.”
The game has an overall engagement time of 11 minutes per player and a 60% marketing opt-in rate.
“Brands are really starting to pay attention to the value of games in engaging and entertaining audiences. As we come to understand the wide player demographic, the old stereotypes around games being a male-dominated pastime are being debunked. According to a recent study by Savanta, 86% of people aged 16-69 have played computer or mobile games and 54% play on most days, while 50% of gamers are women. It’s safe to say that a lot of people are playing games, and done well they can help brands connect with their audience, as well as deliver engagement, loyalty, and ROI,” said Cari Kirby, Marketing Manager, Peek & Poke.
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