Rosetta Stone Seeks to Lift Image With 'Create a Smaller World' Push

Marketer Moves Beyond Direct Response With Narrative Campaign

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Rosetta Stone is learning a new language: Storytelling.

The language-learning company has long been known for direct response advertising, along with its airport and shopping mall kiosks. But now, in a bid to become more relevant and hipper among millennials and digitally savvy consumers, Rosetta Stone is trying a narrative push to show how learning a new language can help consumers form connections with others. The campaign, created by Omnicom's EnergyBBDO, Chicago, with help from a branded-content play from Vice, includes a new tagline, "Create a smaller world."

The TV spot is "heavily focused on the introduction of this campaign, our positioning and telling the story of our brand -- making it clear that it is a new day for Rosetta Stone," said Kelly Poling, VP-marketing strategy and operations for Rosetta Stone. While the brand won't completely move away from direct-TV ads, they're no longer the focus of the company's TV strategy, she said.

Ms. Poling said Rosetta Stone has been known as the company that has the occasional kiosk in an airport or shopping mall. But the company has its share of struggles in the last few years -- in 2013 it reported revenue down 1% -- especially as free language tools became widely available on the internet, and customers became less interested in language-learning on CDs.

In 2012 Rosetta Stone moved away from its kiosk-based strategy and began investing more in digital and mobile. Today, more than 60% of sales are now from digital downloads and subscriptions, said Ms. Poling, and that percentage is expected to increase as the company focuses more on tablets and adding mobile content. In all, it has 33 apps available.

The campaign includes radio and print, though the major aspects of the campaign are the TV spots, digital marketing and social media. A branded web series will live on some of Vice's web properties such as Vice Sports and Munchies, the latter of which is dedicated to food.

The four-part web series will include a different millennial-age host in each episode who forges connections with non-English speakers after using Rosetta Stone to learn a language and travel to a foreign country. The first episode, which launches this week on Vice Sports, features an American soccer player who uses Rosetta Stone to learn German. He later travels to Germany to watch the World Cup with German Fans -- an episode that Ms. Poling ended up being somewhat serendipitous, given Germany's victory in the World Cup. The rest of the videos in the series are expected to roll out in the coming weeks.

The TV spot, which launches today, was produced by by Vice Pulse, a joint venture between Vice and production house Pulse Films, and was directed by director Young Replicant, who has directed music videos for artists such as Lorde.

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Rosetta Stone's "new day" also goes beyond language learning. Through a series of acquisitions, it's moving beyond language learning and Ms. Poling said the brand's areas of focus moving forward will include "brain fitness" and reading tools for kids. "We're looking to become learning company as opposed to just a language company."

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