Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Promotion. It's not just for stuff.

Contrary to popular perception, promotional activities (advertising, public relations, etc.), are not always about convincing people to buy the latest and greatest [fill in the blank]. Often, promotion objectives include changing attitudes and behaviors. Such is the case with the "Use Only What you Need" campaign launched by Denver Water this past summer. Though summer is a distant memory for Northern Hemisphere-dwellers like myself, the campaign is nevertheless a timely reminder for librarians that marketing has the power to change minds.

Denver Water acquired the services of Sukle Advertising to get customers to do something a bit unusual. Namely, use less of their product by conserving water. An article in the Denver Business Journal describes the campaign, which uses humor to make its point,

"About 50 customer comments have come in so far, McGuire-Collier [community and media relations manager] said, and despite the irreverent tone of the ads, "We've had some real positive responses. ... [Some say] it's not the sort of campaign you'd expect from a, quote-unquote, bureaucratic organization. We're able to have fun and still deliver an important message."
The promotions truly are pretty funny. Check out this YouTube video, "Drunk Flowers," and this one, "Running Toilets Waste Water." You can see other promotional elements at the utility's Web site.

Denver's campaign is a good example of the promotional aspects of social marketing, which is basically a type of marketing that attempts to change people's attitudes and behaviors for the benefit of individuals or society. Sound familiar, librarians? For Denver, striking at the funny bone seems to have worked, as residents cut their water usage by 21%, just 1% shy of their goal.

Here are some of the things I took away from this campaign:
  • Advertisements need to reach people on an emotional level. Sukle did this by doing something unexpected from a government organization (being funny).
  • Sukle's ads communicated volumes of information visually. The "using only what you need" theme was reinforced visually by partially used billboards, for example.
  • Social marketers aim to change behaviors by changing attitudes. To do so, it's important to understand existing attitudes and behaviors that would indicate success (lower water consumption, etc.). These goals should be included in promotion strategies.
  • All aspects of a promotion campaign should be integrated and reinforce one another to have the most impact.
Did this campaign give you any good ideas? Please share!

[For more info: Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on Social Marketing]


Anonymous said...

Since I live in Wyoming, I've seen this campaign, and I love it! It is fun but with a great message. Sukle does great work. It is a great way to show how you can use promotion for a fairly serious subject in a humorous way.

If you think about the advertisements you see in magazines and on TV, the ones that get your attention are usually the funny ones. Just something to remember when we are marketing libraries. It doesn't have to be so serious.

Jill said...

I agree! Like water conservation, there are asepcts of our work that are serious, but using a serious appeal doesn't always work. Done right, as in this campaign, humor can be highly effective and it doesn't diminish the importance of our missions.