We honor our 2012 Hall of Fame inductees—campaigns or initiatives with outstanding communications programs that have not just made an impact over the past several years but that we feel will likely be referred to in years to come. These Hall of Fame campaigns and initiatives have had a larger cultural impact than even its creators might have imagined.
Blendtec – Will It Blend?
What do you do when you are selling a $400 blender with a miniscule ad budget? You go viral. Blendtec was known as a manufacturer of high-end restaurant-grade blenders. Looking to widen its customer net, the company created a $400 version of the Blendtec’s Total Blender. To demonstrate the power of the blender, the company produced a series of videos called “Will it Blend,?” featuring company founder Tom Dickson “blending” a variety of bizarre objects (from iPhones to toilet plungers to golf balls).
The videos became a YouTube sensation. With over 100 episodes generating over 150 million views, sales of the Blendec Total Blender for home went through the roof, (over a 700% increase in just a few years). The WillItBlend.com Web site has become a popular destination and the company’s Twitter account has over 11,000 followers. Where did such a brilliant idea come from? It turns out that Blendtec had been putting odd objects in its blenders for years to show the public their quality and durability. Not too shabby for a blender company, is it? —JG
charity: water is an extraordinary organization that raises money to build wells that bring fresh water to places in Africa where fresh water is scarce. Fresh water touches every aspect of people’s lives, their diet, their health, even their education. Moved by a personal visit to Africa, founder Scott Harrison set up the charity, beginning in a simple way. Instead of getting gifts for his birthday, Harrison asked his friends to donate to build wells in Uganda. He raised $15,000.
“The Birthday Pledge” has become the centerpiece of charity: water’s public relations and fundraising. Thousands have pledged their birthday money over the years. A 9-year-old girl had hoped to raise $300 in birthday money, but was disappointed only to raise $220. Shortly thereafter, she died in a car accident. Her story reached thousands. In her name alone, over $1.2 million was raised for charity: water. In five years, charity: water has raised over $60 million and brought clean water to over 2 million people. —JG
Geico – The Geico Gecko
How do you make an insurance company all warm and cuddly? How do you get 288,000 people to “like” an insurance company on Facebook? Simple. All you need is an adorable animated Gecko, a cockney accent and some creative, hilarious messaging. When they say that necessity is the mother of invention, they may have been speaking about the GEICO Gecko campaign. It was created during the Screen Actors Guild strike of 1999.
Since GEICO wasn’t allowed to use live actors on screen during the strike, it was forced to come up with an alternative. The animated Gecko turned out to be PR gold, a campaign that is still going strong after over a dozen years. The campaign has evolved over the years—Kelsey Grammer’s original voice for the Gecko was upper crust, but now the accent (with a new voice behind it) is more working class.
The campaign also made the leap to social media beautifully, with a hilarious Facebook page dishing up everything from cute kittens to a travelogue of the Gecko’s journey across America. —JG
IBM– Smater Planet
Launched in 2008, the IBM Smarter Planet initiative was conceived as a business idea to capitalize on the “Mandate for Change” sweeping business, governments and institutions. The initiative promotes the way in which IBM technology and know-how helps industry, government, transportation, energy, education, healthcare, cities and other business work smarter and contribute to building a “Smarter Planet.”
It later evolved into a multiplatform communications program involving all marketing channels and disciplines, with a special focus on cities. In 2010 IBM rolled out the Smarter Cities Challenge, a three-year, 100-city, $50 million grant program in which IBM’s top technical experts provide actionable advice to urban centers. The Smart Cities program gets further amplification from Twitter chats with IBM execs. —JG
Oscar Mayer/Kraft Foods – Oscar Mayer Weinermobile
Since 1936, people across America have anxiously awaited the arrival of the Wienermobile—the Oscar Mayer car shaped to look like a hot dog on a bun—in their hometowns. The Wienermobile has been one of the longest-running PR “vehicles” in history. In fact, it took gas rationing during World War II to temporarily take the Wienermobile off the road.
Among the PR milestones for the Wienermobile was the creation (in 1988) of a competition among college graduates for a one-year job as a Wienermobile “pilot.” Out of more than 1,000 entrants, a dozen are chosen. Each “pilot” (as they are called) spends two weeks in training at Hot Dog High and is given a “Hotdogger” name. In 2004, a competition drew 15,000 applicants looking to drive the Wienermobile for a day. —JG
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Through its network of local chapters in 57 countries and regions, Ronald McDonald House Charities creates and supports programs that improve the health and well-being of children. The nonprofit serves more than 8,000 families each day, saving them over $257 million a year in hotel costs. Comprised of three different segments—Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald Family Room and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile—RMHC relies heavily on its network of corporate donors, community leaders, individual donors and volunteers.
At the root of its establishment as one of the most recognizable nonprofits in the world is the localized events promoted by the various chapters, such as the upcoming Oct.13 Pulling for the House event benefiting RMHC of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana. —BM
Self Magazine – Pink Ribbon
Fifteen years after SELF introduced the Pink Ribbon awareness symbol, thousands of lives have been saved thanks to the focus on early breast cancer detection. Early in 1992, Alexandra Penney, then the editor in chief of SELF, was designing the magazine’s second annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue.
She worked with breast cancer survivor Evelyn Lauder, the senior corporate VP at Estée Lauder, to create a ribbon for the cosmetics giant to distribute in stores in New York City. The symbol soon went nationwide, and has become a wellness icon. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised behind the Pink Ribbon symbol. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the U.S. Postal Service’s Breast Cancer Research stamp are just a couple of the notable boosters of the ubiquitous ribbon. —BM
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital – Thanks and Giving Campaign Now in its eighth year, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Thanks and Giving campaign has helped raise more than $64 million for finding cures for kids battling cancer and other deadly diseases.
The campaign features a multimedia approach to unite celebrities, media and corporate partners during the holiday season in support of the research and treatments that takes place at St. Jude. Led by Kmart, CVS/pharmacy, DICK’S Sporting Goods and Kay Jewelers, nearly 60 companies and brands have launched holiday fundraising campaigns featuring online engagement programs, in- store giving opportunities and merchandise to help raise funds and awareness among their customers for the hospital. In 2011, online engagement and fundraising was at an all-time high, garnering $7.9 million in donations. —BM
Target – Take Charge of Education
Since 1997, Target REDcard holders enrolled in Take Charge of Education have helped schools fund everything from field trips to books to computers—$324 million worth. Target donates 1% of participating customers’ REDcard purchases at Target and Target.com to the K-12 school of the customer’s choice.
With each donation, Target helps fund book donations, field trips for students, education programs, school supply purchases and more. To help with the fundraising, Target provides downloadable tools—flyers, Web site banners and more—to help spread the word. In November 2011, Target announced free shipping on Target.com purchases when guests use their REDcards. —BM