Did Capital One Just ‘Blow Up’ Its Marketing?
What can a balloon teach us about digital marketing?
I asked myself this question after observing a marketing tactic that, at first, seemed unusual and trite. Yet, after thinking about it more deeply, it seemed instructive, or at the very least, fodder for healthy marketing debate.
This May Seem Like Bad Marketing
One morning, while commuting to work and exiting Penn Station in New York City, I noticed a man walking around with an oversized balloon — known as a Street Blimp in marketing terms — on which the Capital One logo was displayed.
As a digital marketer and growth hacker, I pay little mind to old-school tactics such as this. So, my initial thought landed somewhere between a scoff and a dismissal. It seemed bizarre to have a man holding a balloon, seemingly trying to get the attention of passersby during the morning rush hour.
After all, what would a balloon do to drive business for Capital One? And how would they be able to tell whether it did or not?
We all know that digital marketing offers tremendous advantages over traditional marketing, including cost-efficiency, measurability, flexibility, testability and speed. Digital marketing is the most effective and efficient means for a marketer to accomplish his or her goals, whether it’s brand awareness, lead generation, nurturing, retention, etc.
Thus, it should be no surprise that, per this GetResponse survey, 70 percent of SMBs increased their digital marketing budgets last year. Furthermore, according to Vital, “many companies — especially those with more than $5 billion in revenue — are abandoning the 10 percent (of revenue) rule in favor of bigger budgets, with a heavy focus on digital marketing.”
The tenets of digital marketing say that, in order to be effective, marketing has to be measured, the path to attribution should be clear, and ROI has to be delivered. In addition, it has to be executed at scale. Obviously, this balloon accomplished none of these things for Capital One.
However, there was another voice inside me that said ‘hold on’. Before dismissing this tactic as cheesy and ineffective, another voice within nudged me to look at the other side. Partly because I was giggling inside, in a fun/sincere way, at seeing this man with the balloon in his hand.
Let's Look at the Other Side
For the spirit of debate, allow me to play devil’s advocate and look at what benefits this isolated balloon tactic may have accomplished (acknowledging that we can’t directly measure this, per se):
Created Brand Association of ‘Fun’
Balloons are associated with having fun and good times. As kids, we loved playing with them. As adults, we use them as decor for our parties. So, at a basic level, combining Capital One’s logo with a balloon has the potential to associate the emotion of ‘fun’ with its brand
Furthermore, and this may be more of a coincidence, the theme of ‘fun’ seems to be on-brand with Capital One’s brand personality. Judging by their cheeky, sarcastic TV spots, which feature Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Garner playing almost satirical roles, Capital One has tied its branding to the theme of ‘fun’ more than possibly any other bank.