FORUM PREVIEW: Gifts for the gab

From pigeons to cuddly toys, people will mail anything to get noticed at the Marketing Forum, writes Karen Dempsey

From pigeons to cuddly toys, people will mail anything to get noticed at

the Marketing Forum, writes Karen Dempsey

In the warm-up to this week’s Marketing Forum on the Oriana, delegates’

postbags have been bulging with amazing items sent by exhibitors who are

eager to stand out from the crowd and get their names remembered.

Delegates have been bombarded with all sorts of weird and wonderful


Exhibitors in the past have sent everything from lifejackets and

dressing gowns to seasick pills and shower caps. This is all in an

attempt to make sure they get that 30-minute meeting on board.

Direct marketing agency IMP even sent out its pre-Forum mailing message

on a deckchair to make sure that it was difficult to ignore.

But it was direct marketing agency MSB&K that really went overboard in

trying to get delegates’ attention. It sent out carrier pigeons to

‘people we’d sell our granny to have time with’, says managing director

Ian Maclean.

He included a witty letter telling delegates to send back the pigeon if

they were interested in meeting MSB&K. And if not, there was a recipe

for pigeon pie included in the letter.

The company received a 100% response and managed to meet with 80% of the

targeted individuals. And Maclean insists that everything was done

according to RSPCA guidelines. His efforts were recognised when he won

the best business-to-business mailing in the 1995 Direct Marketing

Association awards.

‘We practise what we preach,’ explains Maclean. ‘We are a direct

marketing agency and we used direct mail to try to get new clients. We

did something dramatic and bold for ourselves as our own client and the

risk paid off.

‘This is rifle-shot targeting, speaking to companies as individuals, and

it is a formula that succeeds.’

However, it is not just below-the-line agencies that use these tactics.

Advertising agency Mellors Reay & Partners was also particularly

inventive last year.

It did a mailing in eight parts using the international code of signals.

Postcards with flag symbols were sent out over eight days to give people

a different message about the agency and invite them to meet the Mellors

Reay representatives.

‘Each postcard had a message in its own right. But they also made up a

set and collectively the message was more impactful,’ says business

development partner Justin Cernis.

Mellors Reay also managed to work round the problem of not being able to

display a logo anywhere on the ship.

Instead of using the black and white header cards provided by the Forum,

it found an alternative solution to get its brand name across to


It branded the tables with merchandise printed with the Mellors Reay

blue and pink logo. This included tablecloths, napkins, place names and

books of matches. And it set up a TV so that it could show its agency

reel to visitors.

Cernis explains: ‘We already knew who we wanted to meet because we had

pre-arranged appointments, but this was an issue of raising the saliency

of the agency.

‘It is about differentiating yourself from other agencies. If you can

brand yourself, then clients will think ‘What can you do for me’.’

Also on board last year, sales promotion agency Roar handed out little

cuddly lions with the Roar logo on them to marketing directors who

carried them around with them on the ship, to the amusement of some.

So what do the clients think about the objects they receive in the mail?

Nicola Peers, marketing director for Sopexa, says: ‘If it is something

you can eat or drink then it goes down quite well. But if it’s totally

silly and you can’t eat or drink it then it goes into the bin quite

quickly, especially if it’s from someone I don’t know.

‘It is nice to see the product and you feel more positive towards the

agency but you can think that it’s a waste of clients’ money, with all

that packaging and postage.’

Chris Moss, head of marketing communications at Lloyds TSB says that he

is ‘impressed with the lack of creativity for 80% of the foreplay in the

warm-up period’.

He puts all the letters he receives in a file which he reads when he is

on board the ship. ‘There are hundreds of mailshots that want to stand

out but they just get lost,’ says Moss.

While on the ship he is more impressed with agencies ‘who concentrate

hard on the proposition and focus on what they are selling rather than

those who hold cocktail parties and buy drinks at the bar’.

Hamish Pringle, chairman of K Advertising, agrees. He prefers to take a

straightforward, non-gimmicky approach.

‘It’s more important to have a strong logo and position yourselves as

brand guardians. It’s all about raising the profile with the people you

are asking to meet and it’s questionable whether pigeons and teddy bears

are the right way to do that.’


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