Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Borders Group, Inc., the second-largest American book retailer after Barnes & Noble, Inc., adjusted to a trend of dwindling mall traffic by erecting more and more superstores, which tallied 435 by 2003. Hoping to dissuade consumers from shopping for books, CDs, and videos over the Internet, Borders strove to provide at each of its stores a customer-friendly setting equipped with cafe´s, furnished with comfortable seating, and set up so that customers could preview books and music before making a purchase. In April 2003 Borders ended its relationship with the Campbell-Ewald Company, the agency that had created Borders’ ‘‘Find Out’’ campaign. Shifting away from price-oriented advertising and focusing instead on the meaningfulness of gift-giving, Borders released its ‘‘This Season, It’s the Original Thought That Counts’’ campaign for the 2003 holiday season.
Borders awarded Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Venice, California, office its first account, estimated at $15 million, in September 2003. On November 30 Crispin Porter + Bogusky launched ‘‘This Season, It’s the Original Thought That Counts’’ across print and outdoor advertising, with all advertising displaying the campaign’s title as the tagline. The print ads, which appeared as inserts in newspapers nationwide during the weeks before Christmas, featured copy on one side that described the joys of receiving books as gifts. The insert’s other side looked and felt like holiday wrapping paper. In addition to the book-themed newspaper inserts, DVDthemed wrapping paper was placed in Rolling Stone Magazine to suggest that movies made thoughtful gifts. With the same sentiment in mind, images of CD cases appeared in the New Yorker. All inserts could be removed and used to gift wrap a regular-size book, CD, or DVD. The campaign garnered a plethora of ad-industry awards, including a Silver Pencil and a Best in Show recognition at 2004’s ATHENA Awards competition, sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America. Borders saw a 3.78 percent sales growth in 2003, with 35 percent of its sales occurring during the quarter in which the campaign ran.

Prior to Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s involvement, Borders had run a long campaign titled ‘‘Find Out,’’ launched by Campbell-Ewald in the mid-1990s and lasting until April 2003. The campaign, which borrowed from earlier work done by ad agency Perich + Partners, focused on the experience of browsing in a bookstore. During the duration of ‘‘Find Out,’’ Borders held promotional events such as book readings, author signings, lectures, and local-musician showcases. By April 2003 the campaign only appeared across print.
The company also cross-promoted with Children’s Books & Toys, Inc., the parent company of FAO Schwarz. Borders recommended and delivered its books, music, and movies to Children’s Books & Toys stores. In return the toy stores provided products for Borders and Waldenbooks, a mall-based bookstore chain owned by the Borders Group. But Borders, along with other bookselling superstores, tended to lack strong advertising outside the stores themselves. Mike Spinozzi, chief marketing officer for Borders, explained in Adweek that the company’s marketing had in the past depended largely on ‘‘competitive square footage.’’ He later referred to the approach as an ‘‘if you build it, they will come’’ model. Hoping to build the emotional content of its brand, Borders hired the Zyman Group (consultants) in March of 2003. Spinozzi told Adweek that Borders assigned Zyman the task of defining the ‘‘functional and emotional benefits of the brand.’’ A few months later Borders settled on Crispin Porter + Bogusky to handle its advertising, largely based on the quality of the agency’s advertising for IKEA and on its vision about how the Borders brand should be developed. Tim Roper, creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, commented to Adweek that if America’s two book-superstores were on a college campus, ‘‘Barnes & Noble would be the law library, and Borders would be the smaller, funkier, cooler place.’’ Roper, who also wrote copy for ‘‘This Season, It’s the Original Thought That Counts,’’ wanted to convey the idea that there was at least one item at Borders that was a perfect fit for everybody.

The campaign targeted holiday shoppers within all age, income, and cultural parameters. Roper explained that its goal was ‘‘to intervene in the robotic buying patterns that usually result in catch-all gifts like sweaters, toasters or stainless-steel pen sets. We’re talking to virtually anyone who aspires to give a gift that is truly meaningful and can be tailored to the individual recipients’ personality and tastes.’’ Borders hoped to connect gift-giving’s meaningfulness to the Borders brand. To facilitate this connection, the ‘‘This Season, It’s the Original Thought That Counts’’ campaign associated wrapping paper with the Borders logo. Massive retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco could offer CDs, DVDs, and books at lower prices than Borders, which meant that Borders could not target consumers from a price orientation. ‘‘Borders has the opportunity to be a really cool brand,’’ Roper told Adweek. ‘‘They know the need for differentiation and identity. Why buy the Tom Clancy book there rather than 15 other places?’’
Borders offered consumers an informed staff and information centers that provided insight into books, CDs, and DVDs. ‘‘This is the beginning of our conversation with the consumer about the meaningfulness of content,’’ Roper continued to explain to Adweek. He later pointed out that mass merchants did not offer much insight into products similar to those sold at Borders. He also remarked that the giant retailers sold music, movies, and books almost as an afterthought.

In mid-2003 Borders became a member of Echo, a consortium working on the development of technology to regulate the licensing and retailing of digital music. Echo was founded in January 2003 by Best Buy Co., Hastings Entertainment, MTS, Incorporated (Tower Records), Trans World Entertainment Corporation, Virgin Entertainment Group, and Wherehouse Entertainment.

Changing advertising agencies regularly, Barnes & Noble, the largest U.S. bookseller, contracted more than four different agencies to run ads between 1999 and 2005. Advertising that appeared during 2003, the same year as Borders’ ‘‘This Season’’ campaign, was executed primarily in-house by Barnes & Noble. For 2002 the company spent a reported $6 million on advertising, undershooting what Borders spent the following year by $9 million. One print ad released in 2003 made the case that the company’s superior size enabled it to provide a better selection. It showed a black-and-white illustration with two stacks of books, one stack grossly larger than the other, and text that boasted, ‘‘Bigger means more, OK?’’ The primary strategy Barnes & Noble employed to bolster sales was similar to that of Borders: to merely build more superstores, some topping out at 60,000 square feet. Hoping to compete with, Barnes & Noble sold a large percentage of its website business,, to Bertelsmann AG, which owned, among other things, the publisher Random House, Inc. By 2003 Barnes & Noble was trying to regain control of its website by buying Bertelsmann’s shares.
The dilemma for both Borders and Barnes & Noble was twofold. One, as a result of waning mall traffic, both companies’ smaller bookstores—Waldenbooks belonged to Borders, and Doubleday was owned by Barnes & Noble—were losing money. Second, even though both companies recorded sales growth quarter after quarter, they continuously needed to provide reasons for people to enter their stores. Many consumers enjoyed the experience of buying books online from To attract consumers inside their doors, Barnes & Noble used promotions similar to those employed by Borders, such as readings, book signings, and lectures. Its stores also featured comfortable seating and in-store cafe´s. In 2003 Barnes & Noble’s sales grew more than 11 percent, surpassing the 3.78 percent growth Borders experienced that year.

To maximize the campaign’s limited budget, Crispin Porter + Bogusky wanted to create print ads that consumers could interact with. On November 30 ‘‘This Season, It’s the Original Thought That Counts’’ appeared in three different executions across print and outdoor mediums. Roper and David Steinke, the project’s art director, were challenged to create spots that conveyed the meaningfulness of certain gifts, especially the kind sold at Borders. The campaign portrayed other kinds of presents, such as purely functional items, as involving less sentiment and as therefore less desirable. ‘‘Price and selection and convenience can only get you so far,’’ Roper told Adweek. ‘‘You have to start with more of a brand perspective. If you think about the offerings in a place like [Borders], it’s a far more personal statement or gift than a sweater or curling iron—if it’s chosen right.’’
The first set of ads appeared in more than 40 newspapers nationwide, including the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post. When discovered by the reader, the insert first appeared as folded wrapping paper embellished with reindeer. Once unfolded, the back of the wrapping paper displayed a life-size image of a book jacket. Copy appeared as review endorsements, such as, ‘‘Ever notice how when you gift wrap a book, everyone can always tell it’s a book? They don’t have to pick it up, shake it or put their ear to it. They look and they know.’’ ‘‘Hmm, a book,’’ appeared below in faded text. The insert was large enough to gift wrap most books. The second execution, inserted in Rolling Stone magazine, was a snowflake-themed piece of wrapping paper with an actual-size photograph of a DVD case on the back. Consumers could place their DVDs directly onto the advertisement and gift wrap DVDs. Copy that mimicked the formatting seen on the back of most DVDs read, ‘‘A lot of other gifts, besides a DVD, can fit in this 5.5’’ _ 7.5’’ rectangle. A small box of monogrammed handkerchiefs, for one. But after wrapping paper and ribbons have settled, nobody will curl up on the couch, belly stuffed with turkey sandwiches, to watch the climactic battle scene between a pair of designer socks.’’ To the left of the photograph appeared the Borders logo and the campaign’s tagline. Wrapping-paper inserts for gift wrapping a CD case were run in the New Yorker. Outdoor ads appeared on mall kiosks and billboards, displaying copy such as, ‘‘If the pen is mightier than the sword, all original ideas can beat the you-know-what out of a toaster.’’ Another image showed a woman catching snowflakes on her tongue, and each snowflake bore a title of a movie, book, or CD. The campaign ran through December of 2003.

Waldenbooks, owned by the Borders Group, was founded in 1933. The bookstore was named after Walden Pond, the Massachusetts pond that inspired Henry David Thoreau to write his renowned transcendentalist work Walden.

The ‘‘This Season’’ campaign made its mark in the advertising industry, collecting awards such as a silver at the One Show, a Bronze Lion award at the Cannes Advertising Festival, and a silver at the Clio Awards. The campaign’s newspaper execution earned a Silver Pencil and won Best in Show at the 2004 ATHENA Awards competition. John E. Kimball, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the Newspaper Association of America, remarked on ATHENA’s website, ‘‘This year’s Best in Show winner, in particular, demonstrates how a little ‘outside-the-wrapper’ thinking can have a tremendous impact.’’
For 2003 Borders posted a 3.78 percent growth in sales from the previous year, and 35 percent of the company’s 2003 sales took place during the quarter that ‘‘This Season, It’s the Original Thought That Counts’’ took place. The industry leader, Barnes & Noble, posted significantly higher growth: 11.62 percent. Borders struggled to define its brand in 2003 and to gain on Barnes & Noble; but as Candace Corlett, a partner at the marketing consultancy WSL Strategic Retail, told Adweek, Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s campaign was definitely ‘‘a step in the right direction.’’

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