Hallmark’s Biggest Ever Mother’s Day Promotion

The Point: An inside look at the world’s biggest greeting card company’s “biggest-ever” promotion.

Hallmark’s (www.hallmark.com) research confirmed what every son or daughter intuitively knows about their Mom: The most important thing you can do for her on Mother’s Day is to let her know how much you value and appreciate her. But how do you translate that into a marketing campaign? SAM recently spoke with David Smith, director of integrated marketing communications for Hallmark. Here’s what he had to say:

SAM: Can you tell our readers a little bit about the origins of the “One in a Million Mom Campaign?”

DS: When we did our research and when we talked to consumers, they felt that the single most important thing about Mother’s Day is simply to let Mom know that she’s valued and appreciated. It’s really kind of a back-to-the-basics approach. Mom does so many things and has all her many different roles … the most important thing we can do for her on Mother’s Day is to let her know how much we value her and how much we appreciate her.

SAM: Sounds good.

DS: Yeah. It really is good. It comes back to the very simple, fundamental truth that Mom really is this unbelievable die-bolt to the family. There are times where she may be taken for granted, so, especially on this one day, let’s be sure to let her know how much we really do appreciate her. This really led us down the path of the whole theme or idea we came up with of “One in a Million Moms,” [and] how priceless Mom is.

Giving Mom a Hallmark card on Mother’s Day, obviously, is part of letting her know that she is valued. But what we decided to do — and this is the first time we’ve ever done this — is to create a game tied into Mother’s Day where one Mom is going to be rewarded with a million dollars simply because somebody has given her the right Hallmark Mother’s Day card. So with one card, that looks just like any other cards that are already out there, someone is going to buy that card [and win a million dollars]. We will run a commercial on the day after Mother’s Day — during “the Today Show” — and on that commercial we will show what the winning code is, … and that Mom’s going to win a million dollars.

SAM: Great. And will you know where that card is going to be shipped, just in case that person didn’t watch “the Today Show” commercial?

DS: There are a lot of security measures put into the planning of this. Somebody does know where that card was placed. It wasn’t even going to be shipped; it was going to be placed into a card display in a store. We know for sure that it’s in a display, and since with our Mother’s Day cards we sell most of the ones that are put out there, there’s a very, very good chance that somebody will purchase this card.

SAM: Other than the television ad on the day after Mother’s Day, what else are you doing to let people know about this?

DS: Starting April 23, we have national TV running all the way up through Mother’s Day. We have a couple different ads that are going to run. One is about the million-dollar card game, and the second game that we’re also doing for Mother’s Day is for a specially marked box of Hallmark chocolates that you can purchase for $3.99 when you buy three cards. In this box of chocolates, everyone is guaranteed at least of winning a prize. The grand prize is $50,000. There’s also a Hawaiian vacation, cash, and then phone cards. Everybody will win at least a ten-minute phone card. So, we have two different commercials that will run throughout the season: one about the card game and one about the chocolate.

SAM: Wait, are they purchasing three Mother’s Day cards? That’s a lot of Moms.

DS: It can be any Hallmark card. We imagine most of them will be Mother’s Day cards, but we didn’t want to exclude people that had other needs during the season. We are also doing an essay contest where consumers can write in about why their Mom is one in a million and we’ll judge those entries and come up with a winner, and that winning Mom will win a million dollars. So we’re giving away a million dollars to two different winners as well as all the prizes with the chocolate.

SAM: Have you used games before? Is this a new kind of marketing approach for you?

DS: We have used games but nowhere near this extensively and not to this magnitude. It is part of a new strategy. In the beginning of the holiday time period last year was really when we first launched our integrated marketing strategy. We’ll do four major events each year. We are going to vary the promotional tactic between these events simply to keep them fresh and to keep things working for the consumer. While we did an integrated event at Valentine’s Day also, it didn’t really have games included. Mother’s Day is the first integrated effort that’s really driven by games.

Of course, we don’t know what the response will be. We’ve done considerable testing with this contest, and we’ve found consumers just love it. We really feel that it’s a great thing and the right thing for Hallmark to do.

SAM: In terms of promoting the game, you’re promoting it with television. I’m assuming you’re doing some print.

DS: We’re doing both TV and radio. Through our Gold Crown card, which has millions of households, we’ll do direct mail to get the word out to our Gold Crown members. [Editor’s Note: The Gold Crown card is a frequent buyers program.] There will be some PR around this to develop and create awareness. If you’re ever in our stores or in our departments, you’ll see all of the POP that we do. We make sure that when they see it on TV, they also see it at retail.

SAM: Is there a Web component to your promotions for this?

DS: Yes, there is. When you go to Hallmark.com, you’ll be able to see all the details. You also can enter your Mom to the write-in-and-win contest, through Hallmark.com.

SAM: Well, it sounds like a very fun promotion.

DS: We think it’s going to be great. We really think it will catch the consumer’s attention because it is very different for Hallmark. It’s really tied back into that great basic principle: Be sure on Mother’s Day you really let your Mom know that you do appreciate and value what she does.

SAM: In your advertising for something like this, do you target certain ads or certain promotions to any particular demographics, or is it more of a general consumer kind of approach?

DS: Traditionally, it’s always been very female-focused. We have with the integrated program skewed some of our buying toward a younger Mom. We’re really trying to focus in on young Moms with kids that are under 12. We’re not doing that at the expense of other Moms; we’re just saying that with these programs we are more inclusive of the younger Moms as well.

Originally published in SAM Magazine

Niche Marketing (Re)defined

Conventional marketing wisdom — from the 80/20 rule to any kind of ROI analysis — tells us that focusing on a target market is necessary for achieving success. “We sort of use the bed of nails theory of niche marketing,” says Pattie Garrahy, CEO of PGR Media (www.prgmedia.com), the strategic marketing, media planning and buying agency for companies such as Tommy Hilfinger, Hathaway and Keds. “It’s a painful theory,” jokes Garrahy. “If you try to be all things to all people, you can’t succeed. You can’t feel the nails. However, if you lie on one nail, you can really feel that one nail. You need to focus to create success.

But where to focus becomes a challenge. “The challenge in choosing the best target markets comes from two directions. First the target market needs to be narrow enough to allow us to efficiently market, to get the most bang for our buck. At the same time, it needs to be large enough to have sufficient sales potential to support the company, reports ClickZ’s (www.clickz.com) Cliff Allen, coauthor of One-to-One Web Marketing (ISBN: 0471404004). ” Many companies, in an attempt to appeal to a large audience — thinking that doing so will increase revenue and profits –dilute their marketing message. Selecting a narrower target market allows a company to focus marketing communications on specific customer needs. As a result prospective customers have more confidence that the company understands their needs; that confidence, in turn leads to a closer relationship and increased loyalty,” continues Allen.

There are, of course, many ways to define a niche market, but the experts agree that focusing on a narrow target remains the key ingredient to finding your best markets.

Focus on Product Applications

NASA has been marketing commercial technology since the early 1960s, however according to Michael Weingarten, Director of Marketing for the Commercial Technology Program, “up until recently it was kind of a passive marketing program.” All that changed with a direct response program launched in mid-January. Developed in conjunction with Kern Direct (www.kerndirect.com), the campaign is about bringing NASA technologies down to earth, and capturing the attention of the business world.

It All Starts With Research

Research is the first layer of a niche marketing program. As Garrahy describes it, “target intelligence work” is about identifying and defining your target customers and then using that information to develop a messaging and media plan that appeals to them based on their purchasing motivators. The targets for NASA’s direct response campaign were “the industries where NASA’s research would be considered cutting edge” according to Weingarten. “We used external lists of R & D Managers and Presidents and new Product Developers from a wide range of vertical industries that NASA services,” says Russell Kern, president of Kern Direct.

Let a Niche Emerge From a Product Line Extension

Research was also a key component in the formation of Gettyworks (www.gettworks.com), a new line extension from Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com). The original company is a large supplier of photography and commercial illustrations to professional graphic designers, while the spin-off is a B-to-B venture aimed at enabling businesses to produce professional looking materials in-house. According to Kim Freeman, Vice President of Getty Images, “the decision to form and market Gettyworks came about because we noticed a trend in the market.” The research backed up their findings, and a new product was born.

Find an Emerging Niche for a Leading Edge Product

“Technology was enabling an increasing number of users to take advantage of the graphics products that are out there,” says Freeman. “There’s about 30 million businesses on the internet today — 45% of the people we talked to believe they do more of their own business materials than they did just one year ago, and about half of them believe they’re gonna do more in the next year. There seems to be a real opportunity in the market.”

An opportunity in the market was also a motivator for NASA. “Most people don’t even know that technology is available,” says Kern. “What we’ve done is create a direct response lead generation campaign to help let people know that if they want to develop new products or new ideas, there are resources available to them.”

Both NASA’s direct mail campaign and Gettyworks’ initial marketing efforts were aimed at driving traffic to their websites. This will continue to be a trend, predicts Don Eperson, CEO and Founder of Hook Media (www.hookmedia.com), an interactive media planning and buying firm. “We firmly believe that as advertisers continue to grow more comfortable with the media and as the media grows up a little bit, you will see that shift to a higher percentage of total advertising budgets going to online. There are just simply too many people that are using the computer all the time to get their media.

Use Multiple Forms of Media and Promotion Channels

Whatever the core audience that you’ve determined for your product, the marketing plan should derive from the unique characteristics of that market. In targeting teens, for example, Garrahy says that based on their research, they will select “the most highly used or consumed media form, probably something like an MTV and certain vertical titles and certain radio stations in certain markets and geography. We put those pieces together and form plans that are certainly media based but they also include everything from promotions at point of sale through those channels. In today’s world there’s also usually a very strong online piece.”

In the case of NASA, one of the key tools is a magazine called “Spinoff” which features successfully commercialized NASA technology.

“Another marketing strategy is to use education — workshops and seminars — to tell the business community about the 25,000 different technologies that NASA has developed over the years” says Weingarten.

Whether the niche you’ve targeted is demographic, geographic or psychographic, your best markets will emerge if you focus on your product applications, do your research, and stay on top of emerging trends. Whether your niche market develops as an outgrowth of your core business or as a product line extension, flexible, multi-channel marketing strategies are your ultimate keys to success.

Originally published in SAM Magazine in May 2001.