What Staples Just Did

Earlier this week, Staples sent me one of their mass emails with their weekly sales flyer attached. This article isn’t about how Staples is the best place for purchasing your business supplies. It’s not up to me to tell anyone where to get their business supplies, but I will share with you something that stood out in Staples’ marketing this week.

Staples_January 2014_IMAGE

See the red square with the misspelled business name, and the question below that misspelled business name? THAT’s clever marketing. It’s engaging. It’s humorous. It’s simple. And it compels email recipients to click the “FIND OUT NOW” button to find out “what the L is happening.”

It works.

Marketing what you do and what your business does isn’t about always about money. Sometimes the understated is the best approach for garnering attention and creating a successful Call To Action.

What makes this example of particular interest is that it doesn’t follow any of the pointers that marketers insist must be part of a successful Call To Action or CAT campaign.

Be Authoritative

Marketing Experts tell businesses and entrepreneurs that for a CAT campaign to be successful, the copy must be authoritative. It must tell their target market exactly what to do, and to do it with great conviction so there’s no doubt that this is exactly what the target market must do. While it could be argued that “FIND OUT NOW” meets that standard, it’s a very low-key version of what marketing experts mean. And yet, this low-key version is effective as the people receiving this message feel compelled to click through … not to buy something from Staples, but to find the answer to the question: What the L is happening?

Be specific

Marketing Experts tell businesses and entrepreneurs that their CAT must be specific otherwise it will alienate their target market. One could hardly claim that the Staples CAT is specific since it is predicated on a question: What the L is happening? Nothing has been spelled out for the target market. Instead a mystery has been created.

Urgency Is A “Must Have” Element

Marketing Experts tell businesses and entrepreneurs that their CAT must drive their target market to take immediate action or risk missing out on an opportunity. The fact of the matter is that the Staples CAT has no limited time only component. Either you’ll click through or you won’t but regardless, at some point, you’re bound to find out “what the L is happening” with Staples.

Make The Right Offer

Marketing Experts tell businesses and entrepreneurs that their CAT must have the right offer otherwise they will alienate their target market. They insist that a CAT must offer something the target market really wants and the CAT must also deliver how the businesses intends to get them what they want and when. The Staples CAT isn’t tied to an offer. It teases its target market into finding out “what the L is happening” which makes it all about Staples, not about the target market.

Offer Tangible Benefits

Marketing Experts tell businesses and entrepreneurs that a CAT must sell benefits, not features, and those benefits must be tangible benefits. They insist that your copy must help readers to vividly imagine how much better their situation will be once they take action on your CAT. While that’s oftentimes true, the fact of the matter is that the Staples CAT only offers to answer the question of “what the L is happening” and doesn’t offer any wild and crazy, brilliant solutions for anyone’s business. In fact, the gamble is that the target market’s business or personal situation won’t improve one iota by clicking through to wherever the button will take them.

Communicate Value

Marketing Experts tell businesses and entrepreneurs that a CAT must communicate value to the target market. They claim that people want to know what they’ll be getting in return for clicking through on your CAT. They claim that the size of the prize (or what’s behind Door Number 1) must be visibly greater than the barrier. The Staples CAT makes no mention of the prize, never mind the size of the prize. It banks on customer loyalty that will let their target market feel confident that they aren’t going to regret clicking on that button.

Reduce Anxiety

Marketing Experts tell businesses and entrepreneurs that a CAT must reduce anxiety for the target market. They suggest a money-back guarantee or a free trial offer. Now I’m not sure “what the L is happening” at Staples, but there’s no money-back guarantee and there’s no free trial offer. The reason for this is that the CAT relies on past experience and customer loyalty to ally any anxiety or fears. Either you feel comfortable clicking the button, or you don’t, and if you don’t feel comfortable, there’s nothing to lose as eventually, everyone will know “what the L is happening” at Staples.

So What The L Is Happening?

If I told you that, you wouldn’t feel compelled to click through on your own. All I can say is that I wasn’t disappointed when I click the button and found out “what the L is happening” at Staples.

The point of this article is to share that once you know the rules, there are times when you can break the rules and be successful by doing so. It’s not about hoodwinking your target market, but rather, it’s a case of understanding your target market and delivering your message in a way that will compel your target market to follow through on your CAT.

Elyse Bruce

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