Gone are the days when you could just fire off a good TV campaign and sit back to reap the benefits. And while the final decision has always been in the hands of the consumer (admit it already), now consumers have increasing control over the entire shopping and purchasing process.
From individual research to personal recommendations, today's technology makes it easier than ever for consumers to seek and share grass-roots information and opinions.
Meanwhile the media landscape is continually fractured, divided and subdivided. As soon as one new media category is formed, it divides. Nothing has gone away, yet plenty of new elements have been added to the mix.
What's going on in the marketplace to drive such a shift? When we do research to learn about what influences purchase decisions, word-of-mouth is always within the top three, regardless of brand -- a clear sign that control has changed hands.
After 40 years of marketers being in control of crafting and delivering mass messages through mass media, we must deliver more customized messaging through more defined channels. We need to talk to consumers how and where it makes most sense to them.
When we look at all of the marketing tools and communications options we have, we rely more heavily on public relations, websites and online media. These areas help us better reach key influencers and thought leaders who, in turn, are more likely than traditional advertising to sway a consumer to make a purchase. While national advertising is still key for our mass brands, there is a definite shift to a more balanced mix of media.
For example, according to the Association of National Advertisers' recent survey of marketers, public relations ranked No. 1 in terms of its overall value. The Council of Public Relations Firms, as well as Labor Department headcount data, supports the fact that the field of PR is growing in response to new demand.
More tools in the toolbox is good. A well-integrated marketing plan, with a diverse mix, has no dead ends; each element logically connects to another.
I am passionate about integration, because this is truly where the magic happens. In our brand planning at Whirlpool Corp., we always start at the same place, with everybody around the table -- advertising, PR, web, media, promotions, research, marketing communications. Sometimes PR will lead, sometimes web or promotions, sometimes advertising.
And when we're all there, regardless of whether one agency is getting more of the glory than the others at a given moment, every agency is an equal. Every agency that works on the various brands at Whirlpool Corp. is respected and plays well with others. It's imperative.
One of the most recent examples of a fully integrated, well-executed marketing plan was this year's search for and launch of the next Maytag Repairman.
Obvious brand equity
When Whirlpool Corp. acquired Maytag in 2006 for $2.6 billion, we set out to revitalize a brand with a 100-year heritage that had not received the attention it deserved for several years. One of the most obvious pieces of brand equity was the Maytag Repairman.
The Maytag Repairman was created in 1967, making it the longest-running real-life advertising character on network TV. Only three people had played the role of this brand icon, and the current actor's contract was expiring.
During the past four decades, the Maytag Repairman has become part of the fabric of American pop culture. To take advantage of that, we decided to conduct a nationwide, open-to-the-public search for the next Maytag Repairman.
The search included union casting calls along with public auditions in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Audition tapes were also accepted via mail.
The "no dead ends" integrated campaign fully engaged candidates and the public throughout the process. Media-relations outreach was supported by mobile billboards, online advertising and print ads in each of the three markets prior to each open audition. All of the promotions surrounding the search played off of one another and drove traffic to the campaign website, where more information was available.
Staying on message
All agencies and their vendors were talking directly to one another to guarantee a seamless campaign. Even the casting directors followed the same branding and messaging guidelines as the PR, advertising and web teams.
All aspects of the campaign followed the same branding guidelines.
The efforts generated nearly 2,000 candidates vying for the role of the Maytag Repairman. The field was narrowed, and callbacks were made in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The last round of callbacks included just a handful of final candidates who participated in more standard interviews and a two-way discussion of the role. The new Maytag Repairman, Clay Jackson of Richmond, Va., was announced April 2 as part of multi-day media blitz that included national print and broadcast coverage, a press conference at the site of the New York auditions and a satellite media tour. The campaign broke in time for "May is Maytag Month" in-store promotions.
The February/March search process and April announcement generated more than 700 stories, including coverage in the Los Angeles Times and Parade magazine and multiple articles in The New York Times and USA Today. Three-minute (and longer) segments ran on "CBS Evening News," "The Early Show," ABC's "World News," "Fox News Live," National Public Radio and ESPN's "Cold Pizza." The campaign also generated three syndicated Associated Press articles, a mention in the opening monologue of NBC's "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' Mother's Day show, where the Maytag Repairman gave away a Maytag Epic washer and dryer to each audience member.
NextMaytagRepairman.com received more than 13,000 page views in a single day, Feb. 20, just after the second AP article ran. According to ABC News, the Maytag Repairman search was one of the "top rising" Google searches on Feb. 21 and again on April 2, the day the new Maytag Repairman was announced. The third AP article appeared on Yahoo's "In the News" and was the site's fourth-most-e-mailed story for the day.
Each agency was charged with specific, interconnected responsibilities. Publicis New York orchestrated the search, worked with casting directors, handled the advertising surrounding the search and created three TV commercials featuring the new Maytag Repairman. Carmichael Lynch Spong promoted the search, selection and announcement through extensive, targeted media-relations outreach.
Arc Worldwide, Chicago, created and continually refreshed NextMaytagRepairman.com, which featured behind-the-scenes footage of the search process and information on the newly selected Maytag Repairman. Digitas executed the online-media advertising, which focused on soliciting auditions in the three markets. ARS Advertising redesigned the collateral for consumer and trade efforts, as well as in-store executions.
What does it take to relaunch a brand icon as big as the Maytag Repairman? Doing it right "took a village" of various agencies and integration on every front, executing a multistep plan that kept the topic fresh for months. The three-month search effort cost well under $500,000, and we estimate its value at nearly $10 million.
While PR played a major role in this campaign, the reason it was such a huge success is because the marketing mix was balanced and integrated and involved the shared thinking, participation and down-to-earth hard work of all agency partners throughout.
Jeffrey Davidoff is VP-brand marketing and communications at Whirlpool Corp. He is responsible for all marketing communications for the Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air and Amana brands.