November 20, 2013
Case Study

Multichannel Marketing: IT company's zombie-themed campaign increases CTO 3% at president, owner level

SUMMARY: Sometimes, B2B can be fun. Take for instance this award-winning case study from SunGard Availability Services that took advantage of the popularity of zombies in current media and culture.

The concept of a zombie apocalypse neatly fit into SunGard's key business of disaster recovery, and the marketing team was even able to time the campaign with a summer motion picture release.

Discover how SunGard was able to bring direct mail and social media into an email campaign and increase engagement with a target audience meeting very specific criteria, and even included a successful retargeting element in the campaign as well.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


This week's B2B case study is an award winner in MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014, presented by ExactTarget. It is also an interesting look at how one marketer integrated a traditional marketing channel — direct mail in this case — as an essential part of an email campaign.

Christine Nurnberger, Vice President of Marketing, SunGard Availability Services, explained an ongoing marketing issue for her team.

She said, "Let's be honest. Selling managed services, business continuity, production resiliency at the surface level isn't really all that sexy. I was challenged by the CEO when I took on this position last October to find a way to really break through the noise of all the B2B technology clutter that’s out there."

Nurnberger was able to "break through the clutter" and took advantage of the ongoing popularity of zombies in popular culture.

"What better way to convey our message around the importance of having a resilient business infrastructure than to test it by seeing if you could survive a zombie apocalypse," Nurnberger said.

This article outlines the steps SunGard's marketing department took to get that message to its audience.

Nurnberger will also present a deeper look into this case study at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, held in Las Vegas, Feb. 17 through 20.


The overall effort involved multiple marketing channels, and was tied to both the continuing popularity of zombies in popular culture through television shows like "The Walking Dead" and was timed to coincide with a summer 2013 zombie-related motion picture "World War Z."

Step #1. Kick off the messaging with email marketing

The email campaign had two main components.

The first was based around two primary assets the SunGard team was offering:
  • A digital manual about surviving the zombie apocalypse that was focused on SunGard's business continuity disaster recovery services.

  • Another asset was based on migrating to the cloud and how that business option aligns with surviving the zombie apocalypse.

Each asset was clearly tied to the campaign theme of surviving a zombie apocalypse, and at the same time, highlighted different areas of SunGard's products and services.

The target audience for this first component was prospects meeting the following criteria:
  • Revenue greater than $50 million

  • Title of director level or above

  • Company fitting into SunGard's key vertical

Nurnberger described this part of the email effort as a "broadbased awareness" campaign rather than a more segmented campaign. SunGard's nurturing program emails are typically segmented. This campaign was designed to reach people within the selected criteria and inform them about SunGard's products and services.

The second component was a retargeting effort.

Nurnberger explained, "We used this email campaign to do one of our first big retargeting campaigns for companies that had dropped off our radar for a while."

This group consisted of people who hadn't responded to email for six months or longer.

This aspect of the email campaign tied into the theme with messaging including, "We haven't heard from you in a while. Are you among the walking dead?"

For both components of the email campaign, the overarching goal was getting prospects into the pipeline — or back into the pipeline for the retargeting effort — rather than moving people down the pipeline.

The call-to-action was to get the email recipients to a landing page where registrants would enter to win a physical "zombie survival kit."

Step #2. Use direct mail to reinforce the email marketing campaign

"We were thinking about how we can really deliver in a way that cuts through the noise," Nurnberger said. "We had not done direct mail campaigns in a number of years."

The idea behind this portion of the campaign was the understanding that many businesses had scaled back on direct mail. The team also understood there was an opportunity to tie a somewhat stolid core message of business infrastructure with the zombie campaign theme, and that was an opportunity that required a "go big or go home" attitude.

The result of this line of thinking was an initial two-part direct mail piece to enhance the overall campaign.

The first direct mail send was a personal flash drive featuring a message from "a guy in a bunker" speaking directly to the recipient that if they've made it far enough through the zombie apocalypse to view the video, they've "already made it far enough" and letting the recipient know to expect another direct mail piece in the form of a backpack with survival necessities.

The second direct mail piece was the backpack with promotional materials, two tickets to see "World War Z," silly string which was called "zombie repellant," a flashlight and other apocalypse survival materials.

Step #3. Utilize social media to take advantage of the viral components in the campaign theme

"We knew that with the content being so relevant around 'World War Z' and timely zombie pop culture that this had the opportunity to have some viral components," Nurnberger explained.

"So, we specifically targeted a promotion of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter that drove over 2,000 content shares, which for us in our business was pretty good."

The social media aspect of the campaign included encouraging recipients of the direct mail and email elements to share and also get engaged on social media, and the team ran separate social media campaigns apart from the core campaign to take advantage of the popularity of zombies in pop culture.

One of these separate efforts was Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns in which SunGard gave away 25 of the zombie survival apocalypse kits to boost its profile on the social media platforms.


This multichannel marketing effort was relatively simple: emails driving recipients to a landing page, and two key pieces in the direct mail sends. All of the campaign components served to provide the core messaging about SunGard's products and services.

Beyond the formal campaign, there was a social media element to continue engagement and take advantage of viral aspects of the campaign’s zombie theme. This effort produced results within the targeted audience:
  • The "IT Availability Cloud" email campaign achieved 1.2% higher click-to-open (CTO) among director level, and above average rates in global, large and medium enterprises.

  • The "Disaster Recovery/Managed Recovery Program" campaign created a 3% increase in CTO among president or owner titles.

  • The retargeting email reactivated 2% of contacts who had not interacted with SunGard within the previous six months.

Nurnberger said she was surprised at how well the high-level audience — particularly the president and owner level — responded to the campaign, and that the team was very pleased with the resulting metrics.

Finding a tie-in to popular culture for a B2B campaign can be a bit like discovering lightning in a bottle, and Nurnberger said she is challenging the team to figure out the next zombie-related campaign because this effort worked so well.

The key learning from the campaign?

Nurnberger said, "There is no substitute for really focusing on quality creative content that breaks through the noise."

She added over the previous year, the team really began focusing on quality content over quantity.

For this case study, the SunGard team was able to leverage both a popular culture theme and even tie a B2B marketing effort to a summer motion picture release.

Uncovering such a perfect storm for a corporate offering — disaster recovery in SunGard's case — and a cultural meme in the form of a zombie apocalypse made the prospect of creating quality content easier for SunGard's marketing team.

It should also serve as a challenge for B2B marketers to look for similar convergences that tie into different markets and business segments.

Zombies may grab attention, but quality content, arresting creative pieces and a campaign that wasn't only creative but tied into the company's value proposition drove the results SunGard was able to achieve.

Creative Samples

  1. Asset email

  2. Retargeting email

  3. Landing page with registration form


SunGard Availability Services

Related Resources

2014 MarketingSherpa Email Summit in Las Vegas

MarketingSherpa Email Awards, presented by ExactTarget

Email Marketing: 3 award-winning lessons about relevance

Four Ideas on Marketing to Digital Natives Versus Digital Immigrants

Event Marketing: Zombie-themed campaign nets $1.2 million revenue impact

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