Marketing WTF: You sent me a shoe?!?

The best marketers in the world are, generally speaking, also the weirdest.  Case in point: the marketing team assigned to last year’s Batman blockbuster built up buzz by defacing its own billboards.  So, as a marketer myself (for Chitika, of whom I speak rather often, because I like them and they pay my rent), I’ve always thought the weirder the better.  Earlier this summer, I may have hit my first real Marketing WTF?!?! home run.

I was trying to come up with a way for an Internet company to take advantage of a traditional direct marketing campaign, but without just sending hundreds or thousands of little envelopes directly to people’s garbage cans.  So, in a fit of insanity, I decided to send out single shoes.  That’s right: I chose a test group of potentially important publishers, and sent each one a single shoe, with a URL paper clipped to its tongue.

Well, truth be told, this actually worked.  It actually WORKED.  The URL clipped to the shoes’ tongues was a URL unique to the recipient of the shoe, which contained a personalized sales pitch, along with a note at the bottom that the other shoe was on its way and to email me if I got the shoe size wrong.  It didn’t matter if they contacted me or not; if the page got a hit, I knew that the recipient had been sufficiently intrigued by the shoe, and had hit up the site.

Sixty percent of the sites got hit.  Think about that: that means that sixty percent of the people I sent a direct mail campaign to not only looked at what they got, but also took the time to actively check out the URL I had sent them.  A quick Google search tells me that traditional direct mail response rates range from 0.2% to 2%, an abysmal number, but one that is acceptable in the industry as it is now.

Not only did sixty percent of the people who received shoes hit up their personalized sale pages, but thirty percent contacted me directly, either to request a different shoe size or to thank me for surprising them with an unexpected marketing tactic.  Twenty percent took action immediately, signing up for Chitika’s advertising network and installing the code on their site, and another one is in the process as I type this.

It’s amazing what surprising someone can do.  Everyone receives solicitations from potential business partners, but the term “junk mail” has gotten so prevalent that most direct mailings go straight into the trash.  But by sending something unexpected – a single shoe – and by inspiring them to act in order to get the other shoe, I caught some fairly high-powered business executives off guard, and made them remember both me and Chitika.

Incidentally, this whole experiment was inspired by a rubber ball my boss, Venkat, had mailed to him once.  The postage and address were printed right on the ball, so the mail carrier just punted it into the office.  Needless to say, Venkat immediately called the guy who sent it, laughing and willing to listen.

  • Very creative! Since I work at a direct mail house we have thought about send potential customers a homing pigeon to show how mail was delivered in the old days. I love to see others be creative with their mail.

  • Dan

    Thank you Russell, it’s interesting that direct mail is such a potential beacon of creativity.