hen the housing bubble burst in 2007 like so much sticky pink gum, realtors and bankers nationwide worried that their Double Bubble had been laced with cyanide. Since its peak in 2005, home sales in the United States plummeted 80 percent, and today, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are one month (or more) behind on their mortgage payments. For banks trying to scrape the popped housing-crisis bubble gum off their faces, it's a challenge to stay optimistic and creative while forging ahead.
|Exhibitor: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a division of Wells Fargo Bank N.A.
Creative: Bluespace Creative Inc., Denison, IA, 712-263-2211, www.bluespacecreative.com; Live Marketing Inc., Chicago, 312-787-4800, www.livemarketing.com; Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a division of Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Des Moines, IA, 712-668-4866, www.wellsfargo.com
Production: Derse Inc., Milwaukee, 414-257-2000, www.derse.com; Logos Promotional Marketing, San Jose, CA, 408-369-7700, www.logosstore.com;
Matrex Exhibits, Addison, IL, 630-628-3807, www.matrexhibits.com
Show: Realtors Conference & Expo, 2011
Drive 4,600 attendees to the exhibit.
Entice 3,000 visitors to complete all three in-booth activities.
Obtain an average attendee dwell time of 20 minutes.
Attracted 6,339 attendees to the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage exhibit.
Exceeded attendee-participation goal by 33 percent.
Bested attendee dwell-time goal
by 25 to
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a division of Wells Fargo Bank N.A., remained unflappable, refusing to balk under the economy's gloom-and-doom rain clouds. Instead, for the 2011 Realtors Conference & Expo, hosted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in Anaheim, CA, the company planned to give realtors, brokers, and referral agents what it called "a little bit of happy."
Kathleen Gunderson, events project manager at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, had noted that her target audience of realtors was feeling a bit downtrodden and in need of a pick-me-up. If her company could deliver that morale boost, she reasoned, it could forge a stronger bond between client and company than any run-of-the-mill sales pitch. But the Wells Fargo exhibit at NAR had to do more than just pour on the positive energy; it had to render the bank's brand highly memorable. So armed with these criteria, Gunderson began brainstorming ideas for an integrated exhibit-marketing program.
"I asked myself, 'What's iconic? What's friendly?'" Gunderson says. "I grew up with 'Sesame Street,' and for some reason I thought of those cheerful puppets singing about rubber duckies and bath time being so much fun. That little rubber duck really does make people smile, and coming off of a bad economy, a smile or two was just what our audience needed."
And so, with an integrated program bearing the title "Get Your Ducks in a Row," Wells Fargo's dose of happiness would come in the form of a cute, nonthreatening yellow rubber ducky that seemed to say, "What housing crisis?" The duck-themed integrated program would promote Wells Fargo as a single-source housing lender giving realtors the resources they need to approve buyers and sell homes, ultimately helping them to - you guessed it - get their ducks in a row. The goal at NAR was to attach an experience to the Wells Fargo brand and messaging that was as memorable and positive as Bert and Ernie's bath-time song.
"I wanted to make sure our exhibit program hit the three Rs: repetitive, resounding, and not just memorable, but re-memorable," Gunderson says. "And I also wanted attendees to be able to put their hands on the Wells Fargo brand, meaning I wanted engaging, interactive activities in the booth."
All this and more would be accomplished with a basic bath-toy theme. Now some might shrug and say that themes are for 6-year-old girls' birthday parties, but Wells Fargo proved otherwise. Its 2011 integrated program earned the company a Sizzle Award and impressed our judges who praised the program, saying, "Exceptional concept. Effective execution. Success."
If It Walks Like a Duck .
Aiming to achieve expo omnipresence using its many integrated elements, Wells Fargo set to work putting its own ducks in a row. In collaboration with Live Marketing Inc., a Chicago-based integrated event-marketing agency; Bluespace Creative Inc., a Denison, IA-based creative-branding agency; and Logos Promotional Marketing, a Campbell, CA-based maker of custom giveaways, Wells Fargo developed its duck concept, designed its art, and scripted its messaging. Each of the following elements received a ducky twist: interactive games, coveted giveaways, guerilla marketing, cause marketing, and show sponsorships. "The program was so successful because of the multiple touchpoints, the program-wide consistency, and the integration," says Kristin Veach, senior vice
president of marketing and business development at Live Marketing.
| Dancing Ducks
A booty-shakin' duck mascot led a conga line of attendees as they arrived at the convention center. Participants received a duck-themed T-shirt.
The first touchpoints were an e-mail blast and full-page ad in Realtor Magazine (both dispersed through NAR), which featured a 2012 GMC Acadia Denali SUV for which Wells Fargo would be holding a grand-prize drawing in its booth. The ad and blast featured a graphic of three yellow rubber ducks and text that read, "One lucky duck will win . it could be you! Flock to Booth 407 to turn in your entry form."
On Nov. 11, 2011, attendees migrated to the Anaheim Convention Center. Realtors collected their registration bags and instantly found something to quack about. Nestled inside the 16,000 bags were registration forms to win the SUV, which most realtors recognized from the NAR pre-show e-mail blast and magazine ad. They also found two other key components that would fit into Wells Fargo's cause-marketing and guerilla-marketing activities.
The first item was a roughly 2-inch-long, resin-coated yellow duck sticker. The ducky was affixed to an 8-by-10-inch flier that instructed attendees to write their name on the duck and, over the course of the four-day show, slap it onto the Wells Fargo charity wall, which was located in the lobby of Hall A, just outside the general-sessions classrooms. For each attendee that waddled to the 400-square-foot wall and affixed a sticker, Wells Fargo would donate $5 to the Realtors' Relief Foundation - supporting areas of the country affected by natural disasters.
A 4-by-20-foot banner stretched across the back wall in the registration area urged attendees to "Get your ducks in a row for Realtors Relief Foundation!" The image of three smiling rubber ducks paddled over the words. The donation promised to give attendees feel-good fuzzies as warm as downy ducklings, which they were sure to associate with the Wells Fargo brand.
In addition to the duck stickers and cause-marketing activity, a second item in the registration bag enlisted guerilla-marketing tactics: Mardi Gras-style bead necklaces that dangled miniature yellow rubber ducks and Wells Fargo-branded plastic medallions. An 8-by-5-inch card inside the registration bag informed attendees that if they were spotted wearing the beads on the show floor - or anywhere else in Anaheim after the show floor closed - Wells Fargo guerilla marketers would award them with either a $10 gift card for lunch at Chili's or additional entry forms to win the grand-prize SUV.
Meanwhile, the new SUV was proudly displayed near the registration desks, its trunk open to reveal a gaggle of yellow rubber ducks. A 10-by-20-foot banner was displayed beyond the Wells Fargo's grand prize reminding attendees that "One lucky duck will win a brand-new 2012 GMC Acadia Denali!"
Attendees tossed the necklaces around their necks, eager to cross paths with Wells Fargo staffers for their chance to win a prize. Thanks to the beads, the SUV grand prize, and the cause-marketing stickers, the Wells Fargo booth was already a front-of-mind destination for realtors, who flocked onto the trade show floor eager to see what other quacktastic surprises the company had waiting in the wings.
Birds of a Feather
Wells Fargo's 50-by-50-foot booth manifested as a convivial carnival rather than an ordinary, blanched banker's booth. The island exhibit, fabricated by Derse Inc., offered three rubber-ducky-themed games that were staffed by gregarious hosts (provided by Live Marketing), ready to rib and cajole attendees like barkers at an amusement park. Yellow rubber ducks, of course, were everywhere, transforming the space into a veritable duck pond.
Booth staffers welcomed attendees into the exhibit and informed them that by participating in each Wells Fargo activity they earned an opportunity to win prizes, as well as copper, silver, and gold Wells Fargo tokens if they played all three. Once a complete set of coins was obtained, attendees could redeem their tokens to compete for a chance to win one of the legendary, collectable Wells Fargo ponies. The plush toys are distributed every year at the NAR show and have become, for reasons only NAR attendees understand, the Holy Grail of the show floor.
Shuttle buses featured duck-themed phrases, the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage logo, and the company's booth number.
The first game, dubbed The Get Your Ducks in a Row Show, featured three 8-by-4-foot semicircle tables in front of three 60-inch monitors. Arranged around the perimeter of the waist-high tables were 12 football-sized rubber ducks, each bearing a number, one through 12, on its wing. With a total of 36 attendees able to play at any given time, the game was set up like a multiple-choice-style game show - the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" for realtors. Using an audience-response system, attendees answered four questions about topics like the current
market potential for remodeling and renovation.
Like a high-energy Regis Philbin, a presenter wearing a microphone headset walked amid the tables and posed questions, which also appeared on the large monitors above multiple-choice answers. After each question, Wells Fargo promotional messaging flashed boldly across the screen to remind attendees that Wells Fargo was the bank to help them get their ducks in a row. For example, after the question about renovation, the Wells Fargo logo appeared next to text proclaiming it "The No. 1 renovation financing lender."
After every question, a piece of candy was awarded to the player at each table who had the "fastest fingers," keying in correct responses quickest. And at the end of the game, attention was called to a 6-by-9-foot Christie-Tile video wall, which stood to the left of the tables. The screen was evenly divided into 12 colored squares, each containing the graphic of a numbered duck. With the squares operating like a sort of digital roulette wheel, one of the numbered ducks was randomly selected, and the players standing before the corresponding numbered duck at each table won a $20 gift card.
Because the Wells Fargo giveaways were not your average leave-it-for-the-hotel-housekeeper tchotchkes, and because the realtor attendees at NAR are as competitive as Tour de France cyclists, The Get Your Ducks in a Row Show was soon attracting lines several attendees deep to play. Staffers ushered participants through each round, which lasted roughly six minutes, passing out copper tokens to all who played and gift cards to three lucky-duck winners at the end of each round. Jostling through the quickly amassing crowds, attendees plunged deeper into the booth to obtain their next token and win more prizes.
Attendees wearing the duck themed
beads were eligible to
"Almost immediately, the Wells Fargo booth dominated the show floor," says Diane Ament, executive producer at Live Marketing. "It was a beehive of activity. No other booth could get close to that."
Duck, Duck, Game Duck
At a total of eight desks - arranged strategically along each side of the island booth to bait more aisle-side traffic - staffers beckoned attendees to step right up and fill out a survey (code for lead form). Attendees were encouraged to staple their business cards to the form, and in exchange for their information, they received a custom-made rubber ducky tumbler pen, a small-business strategy book titled "Takin' Care of Business," and a gold token. Staffers then funneled attendees toward an activity where they could play to earn a final silver token.
A 20-foot-long, 13-foot-wide, 9.5-foot-high structure in the center of the booth served double duty: It functioned as a gigantic pedestal upon which another shiny new SUV Denali was prominently displayed, and also as a working hub for Wells Fargo's Rubber Ducky Derby, an interactive iPad game. A total of 21 iPads were loaded with a custom-made app (developed by Matrex Exhibits) and tethered to a small countertop. Instructions for how to play appeared across a total of five 60-inch monitors, affixed to three sides of the centerpiece structure. Reading the instructions, attendees learned that by tilting their iPad to and fro, they could control the speed and trajectory of an animated yellow duck swimming merrily down a winding river on their screen.
Like Nintendo-Wii-wielding kids, attendees of all ages jumped and shrieked with relish, their eyes riveted to the screen and their bodies contorting as they tried to collect golden ducks (extra points) while dodging dangerous logs, and answering a series of five questions about Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Wells Fargo made sure that in order for players to successfully complete the virtual racecourse, they had to contemplate the company's key messages regarding why it was "the No. 1 mortgage lender."
Water Gunnin' It
Attendees lined up to trade their three tokens for a chance to
play The Lucky Duck Water Gun Arcade Game in hopes of
winning the coveted Wells Fargo stuffed pony.
At the completion of the roughly six-minute-long Ducky Derby, attendees were awarded with the final silver token they needed to play the very last Wells Fargo activity. Also, as a fun additional tchotchke for all, attendees received custom-made rubber ducks meant to resemble realtors, with each wearing black sunglasses (a nod to the show's 2011 California setting), carrying "For Sale" signs, and stamped with the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage name.
Realtors' down-and-dirty competitive natures were truly revealed during the final in-booth activity: The Lucky Duck Water Gun Arcade Game. Attendees turned in the copper, silver, and gold coins they'd earned at the previous activities, and at the cue of an excited announcer, four players in each round mercilessly pulled the triggers of their water guns, shooting streams of water at illuminated points on a bull's-eye target. Unless you're a spectator at the Olympic Games, it's rare to observe the kind of naked rivalry and fierce competition that attendees at the Lucky Duck game portrayed. But unlike the world's top athletes who compete for high honors and gold medals, the realtors at the Wells Fargo booth were vying for a white stuffed pony named Snowflake.
"Of course, only one of the four players will walk away with the pony," says Evan Blakely, senior designer at Bluespace Creative Inc. "Then there's a lot of pleading and begging among the losers who want a pony, too. You need to have a steel resolve if you're running that game."
Tears from plush-pony nonwinners aside, there was no denying that the positive energy and enthusiasm in the Wells Fargo booth was contagious, snagging attendees left and right. The space filled up like an overflowing
bathtub, brimming with those ubiquitous smiling ducks.
Unfazed by the already jam-packed booth, Wells Fargo staffers hit the aisles to promote the brand with a guerilla-marketing strategy in hopes of pushing even more attendees in the direction of the exhibit. Armed with dangling strands of Mardi-Gras beads with yellow ducks attached, staffers dispensed the necklaces, promising attendees that if they wore the beads both on and off the show floor, they were eligible to win either a $10 gift card for lunch or another entry form to win the SUV. At the mere mention of the word "win," competition-crazed realtors snatched the necklaces and put them on, thus providing Wells Fargo additional advertising in the
convention hall and all over Anaheim.
A Worthy Cause
Wells Fargo promised to
donate $5 for every sticker
attendees placed on the
400-square-foot Realtor Relief
In addition to the bead hawkers, Wells Fargo added
another dollop of happy to its program at NAR by arranging for a staffer in a full-body, bright yellow duck suit to greet attendees at the convention-center curb as they arrived. A total of four buses, stamped with Wells Fargo messaging (e.g., "Stay afloat in any market," and "Let's get quackin'!") would alternately pull up to the sidewalk, where a duck mascot with a penchant for dancing waddled over to meet passengers. If attendees joined a conga line with the "Wells Fargo Dancing Duck," they won a T-shirt that read "I got my ducks in a row." The conga-line schedule was promoted via Twitter, a social-media maneuver that helped to generate a plethora of smiling, photo-snapping crowds.
When attendees got back to their hotel rooms the first night of the show, they were met with one more ducky surprise. Resting on 5,000 pillows in hotels all across Anaheim were sets of Wells Fargo-branded ear buds affixed to an 8-by-10-inch sheet of cardstock that read, "In tune with your buyers' needs." The room drop added one final sound bite worth of the banker's messaging before bedtime.
Spreading their wings to fly home at the end of the
four-day show, attendees were still quackin' about their positive Wells Fargo memories: the arcade-like activities, the cute rubber-ducky-themed prizes, the Dancing Duck that got them to boogie on the curb in front of the convention center, the feel-good charity wall covered with yellow rubber-ducky stickers, and more.
Our Sizzle Awards judges were impressed, too. One judge said, "The brand awareness and memorability had to be off the charts after a program like this." Another added, "This approach was unexpected for a financial institution, but utterly on target with the audience."
The metrics tabulated confirmed the program's success. Wells Fargo set a pre-show goal of wrangling 4,600 attendees into the booth, hoping to persuade 3,000 of those visitors to play all of its games and stay in the exhibit an average of 20 minutes. Instead, the company attracted 6,339 attendees to its booth (exceeding its goal by 37 percent), convinced 4,000 visitors to play every single in-booth game, and captured an incredible 25- to 35-minute dwell time from attendees.
During the Rubber Ducky Derby, attendees
guided a yellow duck down a river on an iPad, learning about
Wells Fargo along the way. Participants received a branded
rubber duck and a silver token at the end of the activity.
Additionally, Wells Fargo aimed to collect 7,500 entries for the SUV grand-prize drawing, distribute 20,000 Mardi Gras necklaces, and hand out 500 $10 gift cards to attendees sporting the branded plastic jewelry. Again, expectations were blown out of the water when the company bagged 9,942 entries for the SUV (more than a third of which came from second-chance entry forms attendees earned by wearing their Mardi Gras beads), passed out 28,250 sets of beads, and gave away 1,200 gift cards.
The Realtor Relief Fund charity wall was a splash, too. Even though it was Wells Fargo's first year incorporating cause marketing in its NAR promotional campaign, the company managed to obtain 4,627 (out of a possible 5,000) duck stickers from attendees. Ultimately, Wells Fargo donated a total of $25,000.
If there had been any residual doubts in Wells Fargo's mind about its program being a success, the results of a post-show survey it commissioned obliterated them. The survey, which was fielded by a Henderson, NV-based marketing company called Sunrise Marketing LLC, revealed that 96 percent of show attendees said the Wells Fargo booth taught them something specific that could help grow their business. Another 95 percent admitted to having a more favorable impression of Wells Fargo (where improvement was possible) following their visit to the booth.
In the end, the troupe of rubber ducks did more than bestow "a little bit of happy" on the housing market - they ensured that Wells Fargo Home Mortgage would stay afloat for
a long time as
a leader in
its industry. E