December 27, 2006
With all the email clutter, it’s difficult enough to make a momentarily positive impression on consumers (i.e., open and read the offer).
But what if your aim is to unveil a personalized experience that intends to generate buzz for a new product? And not simply for the near future but also for the long term?
See how one European automaker synchronized video-messaging and telemarketing in a viral email campaign to create an unforgettable experience for users.
“We were looking for an [experiential] campaign that would stick in people’s minds,” says Stefaan Claes, Internet & CRM Manager at General Motors/Opel Benelux. “While you might say things in that nature have been done before, we wanted to try something that combined online and offline in a way that would be new to prospects.”
Indeed, creating a memorable experience is important in all viral efforts. But it’s even more significant when marketing in European countries such as The Netherlands (population 16 million) and Belgium (10 million) -- where opt-in laws are stricter and marketplaces less dense.
In short, when promoting their new Astra TwinTop convertible, they wanted to get as much bang as possible to break through the competitive noise. Claes wondered if personalized video messages with a simultaneous call to individual hand-raisers might do the trick.
While building a database was certainly not discouraged, Claes and his team focused on a multifaceted advertising effort that would make the car model distinct in participants’ minds. They implemented a system allowing them to create a video/telemarketing combo that was bound to catch the eye of their Web-savvy, middle-class demographic.
Step #1. Teaser campaign
Before test driving the multichannel marketing system, Opel decided to create a separate opt-in file for the campaign. To build the list, they sent an email to their monthly newsletter file of 80,000, inviting consumers to take part in a “surprise event” while mentioning that users had to provide their cell numbers to participate. To add to the campaign’s difficulty, they had to present the offer in two languages: Dutch and French.
The messaging was phrased in a brand-centric way rather than a lead-gen or noticeably commercial fashion, Claes says, because such a tone would have flown in the face of the look and feel of the final campaign.
The opt-in email addresses, phone numbers and names were automatically preloaded into the system, which inserted consumers’ first and last names into the video image, audio playback and telemarketing copy of the campaign, which would arrive only moments later.
Step #2. Personalized video + humor = success
Recipients were sent a follow-up text email with a link to watch a 1-minute video commercial starring a gimmicky character created for the campaign named “Professor Windaloopie.” In the video, two characters were put through a hair wind test that involved having to stand behind a jet engine. Then, the camera turned to Windaloopie, who checked off their names and moved to the next name on his list: the email/viral participant (see link to samples below).
Then, Windaloopie dialed a number as the system triggered a prerecorded telemarketing call to the participant. If he or she answered, they heard Windaloopie ask whether their hair could withstand the wind in an Astra TwinTop. A similar message was left if the call went to voice mail. The only car image was a billboard advertising it in the background.
The system had tracking devices that could tell if participants were likely to be watching the video but not answering their phones. In those cases, the video played a scene in which Windaloopie held up a sign telling viewers to get their phones and push the replay button so the professor could call.
Step #3. Work to make campaign viral
Although Claes and his team seeded landing pages at car lovers' blogs and general interest blogs in Holland and Belgium, email was the primary way to get the viral aspect going.
At the end of the video, recipients were told that they could sign up for a month-long test-drive sweepstakes of an Astra TwinTop or simply email 10 friends and family members about the campaign (or both).
A templated message saying the video was “more about fun than commercial selling” could be included -- or they could write their own words.
Assisted by the fact that the senders input their friends’ names and cell numbers, the video/call system personalized the entries immediately for the next individual who took a look.
Of the 80,000 consumers who received the teaser email, 15,000 accepted and played the video. The viral aspect kicked in almost immediately, as the telecenter was making as many as 900 to 1,200 calls an hour during the first few days of the campaign.
The numbers slowly dissipated until the campaign ended in late July, with approximately 454,000 receiving a voice message from Windaloopie.
Additionally, eight weeks after the campaign was launched, the Web sites http://www.prepareyourhair.be and http://www.prepareyourhair.nl had received 2 million unique visitors, and 12,000 names had been opted in for the monthly newsletters.
“We came in at 50% over our objective,” Claes says. “From that very perspective, it was more than we expected and successful.” Indeed, a second wave of the campaign began last month due to the response.
In terms of the viral nature, each original recipient filled in an average of five names and email addresses of family/friends in the first two weeks. For the entire eight-week period, the average was 2 1/2 names.
The multichannel combination also struck a chord with the audience. Participants ended up being engaged with the brand for four straight minutes by the time the video and phone process was completed.
“Usually with campaigns, you ask people if they saw it and they say, ‘Uh, I think I might have seen it. … Yes, it sounds familiar,’” Claes says. “In all my years, I have never seen the things I have heard from people with this campaign. Everybody remembers seeing it. The content is so unique that I think it’s possible people will remember it the rest of their lives.”
Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Opel’s campaign:
eStara - the marketing services firm that provided the “Call on Cue” service:
Markee - the agency that created the movie clip and managed viral aspects of the campaign:
TWESTC Ltd. - consultancy that provided project management and technology support:
General Motors/Opel Benelux: