Archive for the ‘Needs Improvement’ Category

FedEx Adds Value on Facebook

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

My good friend and our Chief Technology Officer, Mike Wilson, is one of the smartest people I know. One of the comments he made at a presentation last year is that FedEx should have gotten into the email business long before Yahoo! or Hotmail. His belief is that FedEx should have followed its higher-level purpose—to transfer information with speed and security. Instead of allowing a few guys in a garage to build ad-supported email with all of its limitations and spam, FedEx could have done it right, earlier. At best it might have created a powerful new revenue model, and at worst created a meaningful marketing tool for millions of people. Alas, FedEx thought it was in the physical package delivery business, and now it must pay other people to put banner ads on the websites of Yahoo! Mail. But I recently discovered one way that FedEx is attempting to make up for this miss.

I was recently reading a great paper by one of my favorite bloggers, advergirl (aka Leigh Householder), and William Faust from the Design Management Review. The article, “Get Real and Prosper: Why Social Media Demands Authentic Brands,” is an outstanding read. In fact, there are several case studies that show Marketing with Meaning in action. One in particular that I discovered was that of a FedEx Facebook app that was launched in May 2008. Called “Launch a Package,” this was a value-added way for the brand to engage with the large social-media platform. From their article:

One of the limitations of Facebook is that you can’t attach a document or image to a message the way you can in email. So FedEx built an application called Launch a Package that met that need and fit its core brand perfectly. Members who download the application can add an attachment to any Facebook message in one click.

The results were immediate: 100,000 installs in 48 hours and more than 50 percent of users returning more than 10 times after install. The tool became the first branded app to hit #1 on Facebook’s Most Active page.”

An Adweek article on the tool went on to show that two weeks after launch the app had been installed by 258,000 members and was actively used by 15,000. Steve Pacheco, director for advertising at FedEx, seemed to recognize the need for the brand to think bigger about delivering on its brand purpose through digital communication: “We want to own virtual delivery. It’s the next logical step for FedEx.”

Alas, what could have been a great launching pad for more meaningful marketing seems to have fallen apart for FedEx. According to the app’s page, only a little over a year after its launch there are now only 723 active users of the Launch a Package app. There are only 28 reviews, and the average review is 2.6 out of 5.0 stars.

What happened? I don’t know for sure but can guess a few things. First, it’s not the greatest user experience as a tool. The priority of design seemed to be on marketing experience, with Flash actions, virtual gifts, and a form to fill out that looks like a package. While cool, these bells and whistles distract from the core utility of the tool. I also disliked the limit on file size and inability to send .zip files. So likely many people tried the app a few times, had a so-so experience, and moved on.

The second limit I see is that this seems to have gotten little focus from the core FedEx business. It’s a fun tool from the marketing department and advertising agency, rather than a real “product” of FedEx—and certainly not something that is “owning virtual delivery” today. I’d bet it would be much better if the entire company got behind using digital tools to better transfer important communication.

I hope that this experiment has led FedEx to do more thinking and strategizing around social media, digital services, and meaningful marketing. My fear is that the rapid decline in usage of the Facebook app frightened the company away from doing more. Either way, this makes a great case study for those of us trying to figure out how to make marketing meaningful in the social-media space.

Two Meaningful Campaigns That Fall Short

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

When I first started blogging a few years ago, I read some advice that suggested that you have to be critical every once in a while. You can’t be a cheerleader for your pet cause, and you can’t make friends with everyone. Rather, you must stand for something and produce constructive criticism when it makes sense. I believe this is true, as my favorite bloggers and journalists don’t just spew roses.

I’ve mainly done this through periodic posts under the category “Marketing Without Meaning,” where I blast advertising efforts that completely fail to improve people’s lives. Today I want to do something different. Here I will critique two attempts at meaningful marketing that have missed the mark, in hopes that we all can learn lessons about mistakes to avoid.

Burger King’s Wallet Drop

Burger King is actually one of my favorite meaningful marketers. In my upcoming book I devote several pages to the story of Burger King’s turnaround, which was completely founded on building “connections” with a focused target of young men. An early example, Subservient Chicken, just turned 5 years old.

I learned about this “wallet drop” viral campaign from Burger King last week when I was presenting to a marketing class at Miami University. It seems that in a few cities across the country around November 2008, Burger King purposely dropped hundreds or thousands of wallets in public places for passersby to discover. Upon opening the wallets, people found cash ranging from $1 to $100 and other items such as a map of nearby Burger King restaurants and a fake “The King” driver’s license.

It is a clever idea, but the problem is that it does not seem to have generated the buzz the brand hoped for. I think it’s pretty obvious that the effort and expense of this campaign is a failure if the only outcome is a few thousand people finding wallets and feeling better about BK. Rather, the strategy was most likely set up to have a few finders and journalists spark a blitz of attention to the campaign. Unfortunately for Burger King, the viral fire never seemed to catch. There are only a handful of blog posts about the effort, and almost no traditional media covered the campaign. This is surprising based on the fact that Burger King’s constant supply of edgy advertising naturally attracts extra attention.

I think the biggest problem with the campaign is that it’s just not that interesting or viral. Wallet drop campaigns have been done before, and enclosing a couple of bucks and a coupon is not that clever. I think Burger King could have had more success if it did something to help generate news and make people aware of the chance to find a wallet. For example, create a simple website where people could post where they found the wallets, and where The King could say where he is going next.

KFC’s “Fresh Roads”

I’ll stick with the restaurant business and next review a recent example of cause-related marketing from KFC. The brand recently announced that it would be offering interested cities the chance to have potholes repaired at no cost… well, except for the right to paint a “Re-freshed by KFC” ad over the new pavement. The effort aims to help cities that are struggling to meet budget needs, while drawing attention to the KFC brand’s fresh-chicken campaign.

First, let me say that KFC, like Burger King, gets an “A” for effort. It’s a great first step to move away from another round of annoying ads and actually do something of value to society with the marketing budget itself.

But there are two big problems with the KFC idea. First, it is a really poor link to the brand equity. There’s a touch of cleverness linking KFC and roads (Get it? Chicken crossing the road?), and an attempt to link fresh roads with fresh chicken, but it’s really a bridge too far. A dirty, disgusting street should in no way be linked to a fresh, great-tasting bucket of chicken. I have found clients in the food business to usually be extremely picky about how their product is represented, and I was really surprised to see the brand accept the bad taste that automatically enters people’s minds when you link roads and food.

The second issue really revolves around the placement of advertising in public places in exchange for a donation. Let’s face it: Citizens don’t like advertising shoved in their faces, and they really don’t like government “selling out” public spaces. We don’t look positively on the new trend of selling ad space on school buses or police cars, and McDonald’s was drawn and quartered for a local promotion in Florida where report-card printing costs were covered in return for a Happy Meal ad. These last-resort marketing gimmicks do nothing but remind us of the sad state of government leadership, and suggest that our society is worsening over time. So it’s not appropriate for KFC to remind us of this by splashing a logo across its freshly filled pothole.


I actually find that critiquing other brands’ attempts at meaningful marketing is about the hardest thing I’ve done in this blog. We are at the early days of igniting this revolution, and I hate to pooh-pooh the work of people who are genuinely trying something new. I’m sure that the brand team at KFC had to move mountains internally to try something different, and now they are getting “I told you so’s” across the board.

At the same time, for this next evolution of marketing to take hold, we need to have good, open discussions about what works and what doesn’t. And brands should understand that it takes time and a failure or two to finally figure out what it takes to succeed.