“Outside the box” is a horrible cliche’- mostly because it’s the price of entry for any marketing communication effort these days. The number of messages bombarding the average brain every day makes it obvious that bland, “typical” messages simply won’t penetrate. To me, that means that effective advertising and public relations efforts do have to meet one simple standard: they have to be smart.
They have to demonstrate creativity born of insight; the kind that only happens when its creators stop thinking in terms of a particular magazine page or 30-second TV unit. Every project should start with a clean drawing board and a simple strategy that includes WHOM we’re talking to, WHAT we want them to do and WHY we expect them to believe us.
With those as the only parameters, I think my favorite marketing effort of 2013 came from Brazil, and featured Count Chiquinho Scarpa. He is an exotic Brazilian billionaire, somewhat famous for his excentric behavior. He announced on Facebook his intention to, on a given day in September, bury his luxurious Bentley automobile worth $500,000 in his yard – a la the ancient Pharoahs who buried their priceless artifacts, as if to be reclaimed in the afterlife.
The Brazilian population was outraged – and the country’s media channels, and many international ones, grabbed the bait like the starved piranha in the nearby Amazon. The event was discussed and debated endlessly, with talk shows obsessing about it and newspaper editorials calling him out. Scarpa himself appeared frequently to “explain” his reasoning and fan the flames. In all, many millions of dollars worth of media time were allocated to the topic.
On the appointed day, with media everywhere (including in helicopters overhead), the Bentley began the roll into its eternal garage. But Scarpa halted the proceedings and invited all into his home. Once there, he let the cat out of the glovebox. He questioned why everyone was so outraged at his intention to waste $500,000 worth of automobile when thousands of people every day, right there in Brazil, were “burying” something much more valuable: their internal organs. They were, upon their deaths, wasting human organs which could provide life for the many desperate people awaiting transplants.
Yes, the entire affair was a brilliant concoction on behalf of a non-profit organization promoting organ donation. While the media might have felt a bit taken in, the results were magical, in my book. Incredible attention was drawn to a noble and worthy cause. That demonized self-absorbed rich guy instantly became, instead, something of a national hero. And most importantly, organ donation awareness and actual organ donations increased dramatically.
Effective marketing, whether for a non-profit or a client in the no-profit-is-enough private sector, comes down to simply motivating the right behavior from the right people, and using whatever legal and ethical tools you have at your disposal to accomplish it. I’ve admired many different campaigns this year – I’ve talked about some of them on this blog. And in the past, I’ve honored many decidedly commercial promotions, from pizza topping tie-ins to the Whopper Freakout – an older effort that remains close to my heart.
With the brilliant strategic thinking behind this particular concept, and the fact that it was all for such a good cause, I award this organ donation effort my top spot for 2013. Congrats, folks, you used plenty of brainpower on this one – and hopefully it will result in lots of other organs finding their way to people who need them. I challenge anyone to find me a better metric than that.