April 21, 2004
Forget getting past the clutter -- try getting your message past all the doorkeepers and into the hands and minds of C-level executives at the biggest companies in America. It's not remotely easy.
In fact, Pitney Bowes' own VP Research estimated even with a great campaign, the re-branding campaign would take at least two years to sink in.
Instead, it only took eight months. Find out how:
How can you profoundly change Fortune 1000 CEOs' perceptions of your company?
Although Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI) is a $4.6 billion company providing advanced document management systems and services, most people thought of it as "the company that makes postage meters for the mailroom."
And, since the leaders of very large companies and government organizations don't involve themselves in the daily mailroom operations, they rarely thought of Pitney Bowes when they needed help in the expanded areas the company could have served them.
"We had been set up around five different business units," says VP Marketing Matthew Sawyer. "Each was doing a lot of marketing efforts on their own. They were doing a pretty good job, but there wasn't one uniform, clear picture of what the company was."
VP Research Sam Kingsley adds, "We were dark in the communications marketplace for so long -- the last general ads were 15 years ago."
Sawyer says, "We needed to burst on the scene, and knock on the door saying something like 'Hi Honey, I'm home!' We needed to do something bold and different."
First they needed to invent a new tagline that conveyed the essence of the new Pitney Bowes brand in a compelling, short, and snappy phrase.
"We have a 22-page explanation that defined us in our annual report, but obviously advertising has to be much more parsimonious," laughs Kingsley. The team boiled it down to "integrated mail and document management." One problem -- "We can't use that term externally because no one understands it."
The advertising team took a whack at it, coming up with a phrase with more external C-level appeal: "Engineering the flow of communication".
Next they mocked up a few ad concepts and took them on the road, conducting one-on-one meetings with C-level execs to see which creative would work best, while also garnering baseline data on brand perception and awareness.
Then starting February 24th 2003, a full-throttle, multiple-media campaign launched, including:
-> a. Space ads in major business magazines (samples below)
To catch the eye, the ads were brightly colored yellow and blue, with huge headlines, and featured illustrative line drawings rather than photos. (The creative director told us that he noticed most other b-to-b ads were using photos in 2003, so drawings were a great way to stand out at the time.)
The ads ran in the obvious places -- BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, etc., as well as the Harvard Business Review.
-> b. Matching Web banners and landing pages (sample below)
The creative team also whipped up banners and landing pages that matched the look and messaging of the space ads. Because these were for a branding campaign, the team didn't expect or judge results from clicks or leads generated. Response was icing, not the cake.
-> c. Posters in major airports (samples below)
Using the same creative elements a third time for maximum impact, the team also placed giant posters in terminal dioramas and clubrooms at:
JFK and LaGuardia
Newark Liberty Airport
Chicago O'Hare and Midway
Washington, DC - Reagan National and Dulles International
Dallas Fort Worth International and Love Field
In fact the media spend in airports was "definitely significant."
Why? VP Marketing Sawyer explains some of the inspiration for this came from the fact that Pitney Bowes' Chair himself is always traveling, so his peers probably are too. "He's constantly on the road, meeting with customers, meeting with investor groups, doing speaking engagements...."
-> d. Direct mail
How do you create direct postal mail that gets past the doorkeeper to gain a C-level executive's attention? When the marketing team heard that a bestselling business book author was coming out with a new title on business innovation, they arranged to purchase an advance run of 1,000 copies.
Sawyer says, "We sent them out to presidents and chief executives about a month before they hit the newsstands, along with a letter from our Chairman talking about Pitney Bowes being a concrete example of innovation. It was a very nice connection for us."
-> e. Exclusive luncheons
The team also put together a few luncheons at exclusive restaurants with no more than a dozen C-level executives in attendance. The guest star would be either a famous business book author, or Pitney Bowes' Chair.
"I don't want to talk about pure numbers," notes Sawyer. "The question is, are you getting the *right* people? If I only have 12 people who will be involved, that's a success if those are 12 of the right people and we really created a great experience for them."
-> f. Targeted webinars with business book authors
The team also tested offering three webinars, each also with a famous-name business book author as the guest star.
-> g. Two follow-up research efforts to track results
The market research team did a campaign mid-way check in June with one-on-ones with about 120 C-level executives, and a more thorough brand perception check in November, meeting with 230 C-level executives.
While VP Research Sam Kingsley thought the branding campaign was an effective effort, he figured it would take a couple of years for the message to really seep through to the marketplace. "In my experience, unless you have a Perfect Storm with all the elements aligning and new products, brand perception reeducation takes a couple of years."
Kingsley happily surprised to get back brand survey results that were roughly twice as high as he had expected.
In fact, the November study found a 130% increase in perception among Fortune 1000 c-level executives Pitney Bowes was far more relevant than being just the mail meter company, and its recognition as a brand that delivers ROI rose by 390%.
The visitors who did click to the campaign landing pages spent on average more than two minutes browsing the selection of white papers and educational information. The landing pages generated more than 60,000 pageviews in all.
More than 1,685 executives registered for one of the Webinars, including 175 Fortune 1,000 C-level contacts. On average 32-38% of registrants attended, which is a bit higher than the industry average of 20-30%.
The overall campaign was such a success in fact that Pitney Bowes dumped it for 2004. With the brand perception ground so well prepared, the advertising team could move into step two -- more product and service specifics.
Useful links related to this article:
Samples of 2003 ads:
Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates - the research firm that helped Pitney Bowes executive focus groups and one-on-one meetings:
Ogilvy - the agency that created the advertising