Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
This week's picks find a rare misstep from a brand well-known for offering quirky, holiday-themed merchandise, along with two marketers tapping into the '80s nostalgia craze to boost their brands — one through a "Stranger Things" tie-up, and another that looks to translate Atari-styled, 8-bit games to Snapchat:
Schwinn calls the '80s with a 'Stranger Things' bike and infomercial
The rundown: Schwinn, the 122-year-old bike company, is cruising on the success of "Stranger Things" with a new bicycle and promotion that appear to be straight out of the 1980s, when the hit Netflix series takes place.
The company released a print ad for "Mike's Bike" in the June 3 edition of The Chicago Tribune, which was styled to look like it was published in the decade known for MTV and big hair, per a press release. Schwinn also released an infomercial-type ad urging people to dial an 800 number and order the $379 bike — but only the first 500 callers could snag one. The infomercial was shared on Schwinn's social media channels.
The bike itself pays homage to the one ridden by one of the show's main characters, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), complete with retro high-rise handlebars, headlights and rear pegs for carrying passengers. It comes packaged in a special-edition "Stranger Things" collector's box, and there are other Easter eggs from the show hidden on the bike.
The results: Schwinn's campaign hits on a heavy dose of nostalgia that gels with its positioning as a classic bike brand and rides on the popularity of "Stranger Things" — a favorite among marketers, as well as viewers.
The bike brand keeps with the '80s theme of the show with the replica and an infomercial evocative of the era. While it's a bit incongruous that the creative lives on social media rather than, say, daytime TV, people still had to pick up the phone and call an 800 number to place an order.
As a brand-building exercise, the effort was a clear success for Schwinn. The campaign generated more than 127 million media impressions — 4 million of which were on social, according to Ad Age. Schwinn saw a 16% jump in Instagram followers in the first 12 days of the effort, and the limited-edition bike sold out within a week.
KFC helps dads carry their 'bucket of joy' with Bucket Björn
The rundown: KFC Canada is celebrating Father's Day by selling the KFC Bucket Björn, a parody of the popular Baby Björn baby carrier. Available for $50 on KFC Canada's website through Father's Day, the Bucket Björn is ergonomically designed and features "a one-of-a-kind sauce pocket and napkin dispenser," in addition to the usual support straps.
"Whether you're sitting on the dock, playing a round of golf, or taking in a ballgame this weekend, the KFC Bucket Björn keeps fathers close to their bucket wherever they go," Danielle Ruggles, associate manager of digital media and advertising at KFC Canada, said in a statement.
And just to make things clear, a disclaimer notes that the Bucket Björn is not intended for actual babies — just fried chicken.
The results: When it comes to quirky, seasonal merchandise, KFC is proving itself to be the king (or the colonel?), whether giving away chicken-scented scratch-and-sniff cards for Valentine's Day or Colonel Sanders-shaped floaties for Memorial Day. The company has also had success selling non-food items, like it did with a chicken-scented sun screen.
However, the KFC Bucket Björn might send the wrong message by suggesting a dad would rather carry a bucket of fried chicken than his child. This runs contrary to what fathers, and particularly younger parents, are looking for in marketing messages. Last year, a Saatchi & Saatchi NY survey found that 74% of millennial fathers think marketers are out of touch with modern family dynamics.
"The Doofus Dad just isn't good for anyone," Ruth Bernstein, co-founder and CEO of Yard NYC, told Adweek in a report this week. "Sons need to grow up recognizing they can have an expanded sense of purpose."
So while the Bucket Björn is yet another wacky gimmick in a long line of such stunts, it may have missed the mark by playing off a tired trope.
Tic Tac gamifies chewing gum with retro-themed Snapchat games
The rundown: Tic Tac this week introduced what are possibly the first video games powered by the act of chewing, according to Ad Age. The Ferrero-owned candy brand, working with the agency TBWA/Chiat/Day New York, created two retro-styled games for Snapchat as part of a "Chew and Play" campaign around its new sugar-free gum offerings.
The 8-bit experiences are accessed via Snapchat lenses and include "Spearmint Jungle," a riff on the Atari classic "Pitfall!," and "Cool Watermelon Water Ski." Players can give them a spin by swiping up on Tic Tac's Snap ads or scanning the special Snapcodes below:
The results: Tic Tac has in recent years ramped up marketing targeted at the millennial crowd, and the latest campaign touches on a few favorites of the age group: the image-sharing app Snapchat, retro-flavored creative — sometimes referencing an era most millennials either don't remember too well, or weren't even alive for — and mobile gamification.
Having the games be controlled by the act of chewing is a fairly novel way to add a layer of interactivity into the experience, and is natural fit to promote, well, chewing gum. However, the chewing mechanic does risk making the player look goofy, or at least like they have some dental problems, which might keep people from trying the games out in public.
Other recent, youth-targeted efforts by Tic Tac, which is celebrating its 50th year this year, have more closely blended real-world and digital elements. The brand this month opened an experiential "open house" activation in London featuring flavor mixing stations, a cocktail bar and a photo booth for creating GIFs to be shared on social media.