The following interview is an excerpt from the marketing book Stick This – Using Promotional Stickers To Build Identity, Create Word Of Mouth and Grow Sales. It is one of several interviews with businesses and organizations using stickers effectively in their marketing campaigns.
Yes, I believe every business can benefit from the use of promo stickers in some way. I also believe that with just a little creativity and the power of “asking” those benefits can be substantially magnified. Here is a great example that proves you don’t need to be a big company or organization to effectively launch a sticker campaign and with a little creativity, the right plan, and a small incentive the results can be dramatic.
I asked Akhil Garland, who at the time was the director of The Well School in New Hampshire, some questions about his effective sticker campaign, which utilizes all the P’s of effective sticker distribution; Place and Promote, Pass and Play, and Prod and Profit
Jeff: Akhil, let’s start with the results of your campaign. What did you accomplish?
Akhil: Well, we nearly doubled the enrollment of our private, Pre-K through 8th grade school in a few short years.
Jeff: And you did this entirely with promotional stickers?
Akhil: We used a combination of bumper stickers and yard signs… and of course had an excellent product (the school).
Jeff: What led you to this unique and interesting marketing idea? I don’t think for most schools it would even cross their minds to build enrollment with stickers and yard signs.
Akhil: We were looking for an inexpensive way to grow our enrollment. We did not have money in our marketing budget to do any significant advertising, so we were really stuck. Of course, if our enrollment were higher we would have had the cash flow to afford a robust marketing campaign. But as some say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and so out of necessity we brainstormed other ways of getting our name out and building enrollment that might not be expensive.
When we thought about our organization we considered that while maybe we were cash-poor, we had a number of families that owned homes with yards on main roads in our community. We thought they could potentially put up yard signs advertising The Well School. And, everyone has a car. We ended up coming up with a “We Love the Well School” campaign, created yard signs and bumper stickers and asked school families to get involved.
Jeff: So, the design on the stickers and yard signs said, “We Love The Well School?”
Akhil: Some did. But, we also made the signs customizable utilizing additional stickers. The signs and stickers articulated different aspects of our school that families appreciated. This led to many different bumper sticker and sign options; “We Love Kindergarten at The Well,” “We Love Spanish at The Well,” “No Child Left Inside,” “Ask Us Why We Love It,” “95% of Success Is Attitude,” “Small Classes – Big Difference,” etc., etc.
Jeff: I understand having the different slogan selections for the bumper stickers, but you also produced larger stickers with different slogans and event announcements for the yard signs?
Akhil: Yes, in this way we could personalize the signs, which were ordered with one basic design, as well as alter the signs later. There are local ordinances that don’t allow for yard signs to stay displayed by the road for extended periods of time – by having stickers that announced special events and could be changed we could maximize the longevity of the campaign… and the amount of impressions.
Jeff: How fast did you start seeing results from the Campaign?
Akhil: Before long, traffic to our website was increasing, and when we asked families who called for tours how they heard about us, most said “Oh, I saw your yard sign” or “I saw your bumper sticker.”
Jeff: Why do you think this campaign was so effective?
Akhil: I think the reason this was so effective was the use of a slogan that was truly from the families. In their yards and on their cars they chose what they wanted to say or support. It was not an advertisement from The Well, it was a personal endorsement of The Well. These are very different things. The larger community was constantly seeing families professing their personal love for the local Well School – creating a VERY powerful message and starting a lot of conversations.
Our enrollment at the school nearly doubled, and we expanded our campaign into more bumper sticker designs emoting the same love for The Well. This created a ‘community’ or ‘club’ of parents who, by design, would put the stickers on their front bumper as well as their back bumper, so when they passed each other on the road they did the ‘Well School Wave’ – feeling connected. It is amazing how many times a day I pass someone in the area with a front-placed Well School bumper sticker.”
Jeff: These stickers are fairly large (3.75” X 15”) and you had people put them not only on the back bumper but the front as well? There must have been some incentive involved?
Akhil: Yes, these are large, red stickers. Obviously, people needed to have a very strong attachment to our community and the value of our school to be willing to take part in this.
As far as incentives, I’d rather not talk specifics, but yes. We did offer some discounts to encourage families to take part. We gave people that extra nudge to be a bit more obvious and vocal about their relationship with our school – a relationship and a community they were already very proud to be a part of. But, perhaps not proud enough to put a giant, red sticker on their front bumper.
We made it worthwhile for them to proclaim their love and affiliation. And, the results were very worthwhile for us – more than compensating for any small incentives.
The Take Away:
• Increasing impressions, building identity, encouraging conversations and referrals, and “endorsements” not advertising – this is the power of a well-executed promotional sticker campaign and prod-and-profit distribution.
• Having multiple design/slogan options and offering people a choice, further solidifies and encourages the personal proclamation for an organization they are proud to be associated with.
• Though I often promote sticker tips such as “bigger isn’t always better,” and it might seem unorthodox to place stickers on a front bumper, this campaign shows that with proper planning there are exceptions to the rules.
• By utilizing the unorthodox technique of putting stickers on the front bumper, the connections and relationships with the school and each other were strengthened. It became easy to identify other community members as “part of the club” and give them a knowing wave as they passed on the road. Others were intrigued to perhaps find out what made the club (school) so special.
• This case study obviously employs Prod and Profit distribution techniques, but it also is a strong example of Place and Promote. Through strong design and incentives The Well School found an effective way to claim prime real estate throughout their community promoting their message and identity over an extended time frame.
• When you are dealing with a dedicated group of community members, employees or fans, with creativity, a strong plan and an added incentive, very effective, low cost marketing is possible.