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Noteworthy Work: Past Campaigns That Deserve a Second Look

Posted At: May 10, 2010 12:44 PM
by Caroline Beard

In looking at the 2009 PRWeek awards, the diversity of the award-winning campaigns is impressive; they range from touching and heartfelt (“A New Face for Lai”) to humorous (“‘What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar’ Goes Viral”) to wacky and bizarre (“Middlebury College Spring Break Quidditch Tour”). The one commonality, however, is that each of these campaigns demonstrates leadership in the field of public relations. With 2010 nearly halfway gone, Platform takes a closer look at a couple of outstanding campaigns of 2009.

What’s the buzz about? PRWeek’s 2009 Cause-Related Campaign of the Year: Ketchum and Häagen-Dazs: Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees: Let’s Lick This Problem

In 2007, premium ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs noticed a drop in revenue growth compared to 2006 and a decline in consumption for the first time in four years. To make matters worse, Häagen-Dazs brand awareness reached only a meager 29 percent, while competing ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s held 51 percent brand awareness. Recognizing the need for positive change, Häagen-Dazs called on Ketchum to help improve the brand’s image and boost sales.

Why that approach? Bee-cause!

Faced with the challenge of creating a large number of impressions with a limited budget, the Ketchum team led Häagen-Dazs in its first foray into cause-marketing. Research showed a devastating drop in the honey bee population that posed a threat to ingredients in almost half of the 73 Häagen-Dazs flavors. Armed with this information, the brand launched a campaign to raise awareness about this issue while simultaneously improving brand visibility.

Häagen-Dazs launched its “Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees” campaign to help protect the all-important insect. With the creation of a new, limited-edition flavor, “Vanilla Honey Bee,” and a pledge to give $250,000 for research into the cause behind dwindling bee populations, the brand started the buzz about bees.

At the same time, Ketchum charged its Brand Marketing Practice team with the development of a media campaign to connect the Häagen-Dazs brand with the honey bee cause in the mind of its target consumer, 35- to 54-year-olds with kids. Ketchum launched to educate the masses about the disappearing bees. Viral videos on YouTube helped spread the word on the Web about the honey bees’ plight. The Ketchum team formed a “Bee Board” of experts and used Craigslist and to distribute more than one million bee-friendly seeds in “HD loves HB” branded packets to encourage the public to help create better bee habitats.

The results: show me the honey

According to Ketchum, the HD loves HB campaign created more than 277 million media impressions through more than 1,000 different news placements. Of those placements, 93 percent were overwhelmingly positive toward the brand. PRWeek reported a 5.2 percent increase in Häagen-Dazs’ sales during the month the campaign launched; the increase represented the brand’s largest single-month spike in a year. The bees benefited, as well, with consumers planting more than 1.2 million seed packets as a result of the campaign.

What does a PR pro think? Bee honest…

Peter Himler, founder and principal of Flatiron Communications LLC, a PR/media consulting firm in New York, explained why he believes the Häagen-Dazs campaign worked. He said many brands begin cause-marketing endeavors with causes that aren’t relevant to the brand itself, causing consumers to lose the connection between cause and brand and diminishing the effectiveness of the brand’s message.

“I can understand why this program prevailed in the competition,” Himler said. “Many companies sponsor causes that, while worthwhile, often do not relate directly to the companies’ core business or values. This makes it difficult, which in effect, creates a non-sequitur, for reporters or direct-to-consumer communications vehicles to tie back to the company.”

Häagen-Dazs, however, wisely selected a cause that was not only related to the brand but also important to its survival. Himler said Ketchum’s online and media relations tactics resulted in the results sought by the client:

“Ketchum took a 360-degree approach that included media relations, the establishment of a website, the use of socially driven channels like Craig’s List and to drive awareness and consumer participation. It also measured its results, less in media clips (though there’s some of that), and ultimately in product sales.”

According to Himler, the most important ingredient in the success of this campaign was “the client and its willingness to invest in the creation of a new flavor, which made the whole program palpable.”

The “Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees” campaign not only won the 2009 PRWeek Award for Cause-Related Campaign of the Year, but also took home an honorable mention for Campaign of the Year, as well as a 2009 gold Clio Award in the Public Relations Consumer category and a 2009 silver SABRE (Superior Achievement in Branding and Reputation) Award in the Food and Beverage category.

Home Sweet … IKEA? PRWeek’s 2009 Corporate Branding Campaign of the Year & Best Use of Online Media Ketchum and IKEA: Man Lives in IKEA: Citizen Marketer Becomes IKEA Brand Evangelist

With their full room displays, IKEA furniture stores look inviting enough to live in, but at the end of the day most customers go home. From January 7 to January 12, 2008, an IKEA store in Paramus, N.J, was home to comedian Mark Malkoff.

After Malkoff approached IKEA to propose living in a store for a week and documenting his adventures online, the Swedish furniture maker consulted Ketchum to weigh the potential advantages and risks of giving control of its image to a comedian. According to PRWeek, “the firm determined the endeavor would be positive and an authentic way to accomplish the brand goals” of reaching the target audience [Web-savvy 18- to 35-year-olds and 23- to 37-year-old mothers] with a new brand message: “home is the most important place in the world.”

IKEA gave Malkoff 24-hour access to the IKEA store and its employees, as well as full artistic license; the brand did not pre-screen or produce any of his webisodes or request he promote certain products or messages.

After executing a similar project in which he visited all 171 Starbucks Coffee locations in New York City, Malkoff was no stranger to the world of bizarre promotional stunts, so he handled a portion of his own media outreach. At the same time, Ketchum and IKEA arranged interviews with store executives and planned a goodbye party featuring singer Lisa Loeb.

Throughout his week in IKEA, Malkoff and his team documented his adventures in the store and posted 25 videos on the website,

The results: A home run for “Mark Lives in IKEA”

Between January 2007 and January 2008, received more than 15 million visits. According to PRWeek, home-related blog coverage mentioning IKEA increased by more than 350 percent during the year. The campaign, with its budget of $13,500, resulted in more than 382 million positive media impressions. With coverage in the Associatied Press, Good Morning America, Today, CNN and ABC World News, the campaign got “lots of bang for the buck,” according to one PRWeek judge. PRWeek said sales at the Paramus store, where Malkoff lived, increased 5.5 percent compared to January 2007, and traffic to the IKEA website was up nearly 7 percent.

PR pros weigh in

Peter Himler approved of IKEA’s decision to allow Malkoff to act as a consumer brand advocate.

“At a time when companies everywhere have discovered that citizens have the capacity to commandeer their brand reputations,” Himler said, “IKEA jumped onto this ‘trend’ by handing over the reins of its reputation to a young man, video camera and Internet access in hand.”

According to Himler, this move was not as risky as it seemed. “On the surface, it appears that IKEA was taking a tremendous risk, but in reality, a corporate-sponsored citizen journalist initiative has a kind of ‘quid pro quo’ feel to it, i.e., ‘we’ll let you do this and even publicize you, but don’t screw us.'” Simply stated, Himler said the campaign’s “media results were impressive, so the client was happy.”

David Kirk, APR, Fellow PRSA, president of thePRguy thePRguy incorporated and past vice president of Ketchum, also gave his thoughts on the campaign. Kirk said, “the videos produced by Malkoff’s team and the website environment they created were beautifully produced,” but he thought, “the judges were so enamored of the creative part of the campaign that they gave a pass to the fact that the goals of the campaign were not expressed as measurable objectives (at least as reported in the several media reports I reviewed).”

Kirk also noted “the results reported were not tied to the goals” of communicating a new brand message and increasing brand awareness and traffic among the target audience.

“I didn’t see evidence that these loosely stated goals were achieved by a small sales increase in one store, a small increase in website traffic or any number of YouTube views or media impressions,” Kirk said.

Relinquishing the brand’s message to a comedian “was a considered choice, not a risky one,” Kirk said. “I assume that IKEA and Ketchum did their homework on Malkoff’s approach and had solid evidence in his body of previous work that his style would work well with the brand’s own quirky, edgy advertising style.”

Kirk said after viewing around a half-dozen of the videos, he thought IKEA’s first message, that the store “has everything you need to live and make a home,” came through successfully. “[It] was well supported though not actually said. The second message, that ‘home is the most important place,’ Kirk said, “was actually undercut by the concept since Malkoff was not at home. He pointedly left home to do this stunt.”

IKEA’s store set-up lent itself to this sort of promotion, according to Kirk: “The way that IKEA displays its products in its stores is nothing short of genius merchandising. So just showing it does the trick. I still marvel at the room and full apartment layouts.”

As for the overall success of the campaign, Kirk said he was “not sure that it was successful.” He said the campaign “was certainly clever, inexpensive and probably a boatload of fun” to produce. Despite the entertainment value, however, Kirk said he didn’t “see the evidence that it produced what it set out to produce.”

Kirk advised PR professionals and students to remember that public relations is more than coming up with creative ideas; measurable, quantitative goals are necessary to be able to evaluate a campaign.

Kirk said, “Don’t become so enamored of a clever concept that you fail to set measurable objectives that are tied to your business objectives. When you set measurable objectives, measure against them.” He also said we must refrain from “pointing to ‘results’ that have nothing to do with — or are not convincingly tied to — your objectives.”

Kirk imparted a final bit of PR wisdom inspired by Dr. Walter K. Lindenmann. He said, “It’s outcomes not outputs that count.”

These examples are just two of the many outstanding campaigns of 2009; the rest of last year’s award-winning campaigns can be found online on the PRWeek website.

What recent work have you seen that you think would be worthy of an award in 2010?

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