Promo Close-Up - Summertime Self-Promotion

A Sweet Promotion Entices Prospects

Axis PromotionsTop 40 distributor Axis Promotions (asi/128263) has a reputation for breaking the mold, which makes one of the firm's recent self-promotion campaigns all the more ironic. The inspiration for the summertime campaign came from none other than a retail ice cream sandwich mold. The product was added to a mailer that also included sweet treats, as well as rules for an ultimate ice cream sandwich contest that the distributor was sponsoring.

Using products from a variety of suppliers, Axis shipped one thousand clear tube mailers to clients. Each mailer was filled with an ice cream sandwich mold decorated by C&S Hot Stamping (asi/700183), two kinds of sprinkles from Mid-Nite Snax (asi/71685), chocolate chip cookies and a card with a $5 bill folded into the shape of an ice cream cone. A message read: "You can't buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream. And that's kind of the same thing! Have a pint on us." The campaign cost $20,000, including shipping.

The distributor also formed "The Axis Summer Bucket List," encouraging each employee to submit a summer accomplishment along with their favorite summer self-promo. "We numbered the bucket list items and featured them on the mailer, with the ultimate ice cream sandwich at number one," says Katie Smart, marketing manager at Axis. "We added the self-promo items to our Pinterest page."

According to Harvey Briggs, a marketing consultant who's developed campaigns for Chevrolet, Kimberly Clark, Kraft and Pepsi, the Axis campaign succeeded because it went beyond a functional appeal for business by showing off capabilities in a fun and engaging way. "Many marketers make the mistake of assuming that business customers only buy for rational reasons," says Briggs. "Yes, the functional criteria have to be met – price, capabilities, delivery, etc. – but all things being equal, people do business with companies that demonstrate something extra, like creativity. That's what Smart was able to do through this campaign."

Recipients were encouraged to post photos of their ice cream sandwiches on Facebook, with an ice cream social for 20 people offered as a prize. "The project not only received re-orders from clients who wanted to emulate the campaign, but it also inspired many other meetings and projects," says Smart. "Clients were excited to schedule meetings, loved reading the summer bucket list items and had fun getting together to make the sandwiches."

Briggs believes that Smart not only proved that Axis could handle a complex direct mail campaign for its prospects, but also that it can design, develop and execute an interactive marketing campaign. "By including elements like the bucket list and tying the campaign to social media, they extended the life of the campaign beyond the time it takes to open the tube and inspect the elements," says Briggs. "They delivered something that caused true interaction."

When developing a self-promo campaign, Smart says partnerships should be all-inclusive, so that suppliers and distributors are among the recipients. "Without the help of incredible suppliers," says Smart, "this project would have never been a success, but it's also important to remember that as distributors, we're all in this together and there's so much we can learn from each other."

Finally, Briggs notes that timing is also important in self-promotion campaigns, something that Axis clearly took into account. "This campaign used the time of year and the ice cream sandwich idea to create something fun, engaging and memorable," he says.