The Innovation Mill: Best of 2011

Today's guest post by Peppercommer Lauren Begley* (@LaurenBegley)

PepperMill_BannerLike many PR professionals, I found it a struggle to keep up with every latest and greatest social media platform, marketing best practice or slam-dunk communications campaign. Nearly two years ago, I began working with a group of other Peppercommers to form an agency Innovation Team. Collectively, we spend time each month trolling for best-of examples that we can share with colleagues through our Innovation Mill newsletter.

As we approach the end of 2011, I wanted to share a compilation of some of the more interesting, creative and out-of-the-box examples that we found over the past year. If you like what you see (or not), please post your feedback in the comments section. And let us know if there are any other programs you think should have made the list.

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Mammut Reaches New Heights with 150 Anniversary Campaign

This Innovation Mill tip came to us from Steve “RepMan” Cody’s rock climbing guide. No, really. He informed us of this truly creative campaign from Mammut that celebrated the brand’s 150th anniversary. To commemorate the milestone, the outdoor clothing and gear company invited outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world to scale the world’s most beautiful mountains. The Biggest Peak Project in History assembled 150 teams to scale 150 peaks. To enter, brave and digitally savvy mountain climbers created social “peaks” using their online networks. Those who placed highest were selected as team captains and assembled groups to begin the mountainous challenge. Thousands of participants from 80 countries applied to this year-long project that celebrated the passion of the Mammut brand. Talk about climbing to new heights.

Alec Baldwin Wants to Destroy Public Radio . . .

. . . at least that’s what he’s claiming in a fundraising plug for WNYC Radio. We love this promotion for many reasons; mainly because Alec Baldwin is the man. In addition, this commercial uses a celebrity spokesperson that makes sense. Alec is known for his support of the arts in New York, and his personality is well displayed with this self-deprecating sense of humor (which is something we at Peppercom can appreciate).

Discovery Channel Offers Greatest Job in the World: Chief Shark Officer

There is one annual event that brings different generations, social classes and socioeconomic groups together: Shark Week. This milestone on the Discovery Channel involves one week of shark-infested programming that millions sink their teeth into (too much?). To raise exposure of the 24th annual event, the Discovery Channel issued a press release that presented a job description for the position of Chief Shark Officer. Requirements included a willingness to swim with sharks (accompanied by professionals, of course), attendance at the Shark Week premiere parties in NY, LA and Miami (accompanied by celebrities, of course) and an appreciation for the world's most misunderstood predator. The job was filled by none other than Andy Samberg, a favorite cast member of Saturday Night Live, who can now add host of Shark Week to his resume.

Maxwell House Serves Free Drinks and Experiences in “Feel Good” Café

Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you can appreciate the Maxwell House Optimism Café, which opened this past summer in Toronto. The café offered patrons numerous perks – including coffee for adults, cookies for kids, biscuits for dogs, and WI-FI for all – at no cost. The supporting marketing campaign was smart. Social media and paid advertising emphasized the “glass (or mug) is half full” mentality. It anchored around inspiring stories of hope and happiness and encouraged consumers to slow down and appreciate the little moments in life, like enjoying your morning coffee. The execution both on- and off-line struck a chord with consumers who were stressed out about everything from work to kids to the still struggling economy.  Maxwell House was able to show its empathy for the consumer by offering a cup of joe with a smile. We’ll drink to that!

Ad Firms Turned Venture Capitalists 

Don Drapper would be surprised. Advertising agencies are steering away from the traditional, Madison Avenues of revenue-generating practices, toward Silicon Valley. According to a Stuart Elliott’s article, “Some agencies are opening units aimed at selling products to consumers. Others are acting like venture capital firms, offering seed money to start-ups in fields like technology. Still other agencies are taking stakes in client companies and sharing in the revenue of merchandise sales.” For example, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners in New York, a unit of MDC Partners, recently started a boutique division called Spies and Assassins, specializing in developing its own intellectual property and marketing it directly to consumers. Its first product, a free mobile application named Twit Hit, has already seen more than 50,000 downloads. It begs the question, is this the future of advertising?

An Ice Crean Advisory Board; Yes, Please!

Ben and Jerry are putting together a group of “enthusiastic, euphoric-driven fans” to create the first official Ben & Jerry's Advisory Board.  Board members will help the brand develop social mission and marketing programs to create even more brand fanatics. Other than the esteemed title and exclusive access to this elite group, members will receive 52 Free Pint Coupons (that will almost last you a full year!), $1,000 cash prize, and a trip to the headquarters in Vermont. To qualify, ice cream connoisseurs can create a personal video that shows that they are the best person for the job. This program taps into its existing fan base for fresh ideas that will resonate with the target audience at large. Plus, free ice cream. Spoon, please!

*Lauren was named one of "PRNews 15 to Watch" 2011. 

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