Did Capital One Just ‘Blow Up’ Its Marketing?
Leveraged a Live ‘Experience’
Now, I’m not a scientist, so I can’t really tell you if an emotion experienced in-person creates a more powerful feeling vs. that same emotion experienced via a digital medium. But I am pretty intuitive, and I’m willing to bet that an in-person experience leaves a more powerful impression and creates a stronger bond.
As an example, attending a concert by a band you love will create a much richer experience than merely watching that concert on your phone. Similarly, the balloon tactic, though shallow, is a "live" experience nonetheless.
Increased Local Awareness, Affinity and Retention
I, for one, have a bank account at Capital One (technically, it’s an online-only account called Capital One 360, but it entitles me to use any Capital One ATM). Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn, via my balloon-toting friend, that there is a Capital One branch near to Penn Station, which I travel through during my daily commute. I was previously unaware of this.
Knowing this may help me in the future, when I need to visit a Capital One ATM or make a bank transaction while commuting. This is added convenience, which I value. It makes me feel like I made the right choice in banking with Capital One, which can potentially lead to enhanced affinity for the brand. It can also improve retention. That’s because switching banks has just become less attractive for me, now that it would mean giving up the convenience of having an ATM accessible during my commute.
Trying to create this same awareness through digital would have been much harder to accomplish. Sure, Capital One can try running a mobile, geofenced campaign to have an SMS triggered when I’m walking near that same branch, but campaigns like these are challenging to execute due to the fact customers are already inundated with marketing texts.
Let's Ask Around
Intrigued at seeing this man with the balloon, I snapped a photo of him holding said Street Blimp and resolved to post it on LinkedIn because I was curious what others would say.
My LinkedIn post about this topic was merely a photo of the man with the balloon and the text, “This is an example of great marketing. Agree or disagree (and why).” The post generated a healthy 2,000+ views and some interesting comments. The digital marketers immediately chimed in with valid, yet predictable, responses. One said “I'd imagine many busy people won't even see this because they are heads down in their phones.”
Another digital marketer said, “For this to qualify as marketing, it would have to somehow sway my decision-making towards spending or brand choice as a consumer. And a logo on a balloon certainly isn't going to influence my banking decision in any way.”
On the other side of the debate, an event marketer said “Unique = Memorable. #Experiential is awesome 10 years ago, and today!” A 3D chalk artist added “The team behind C1 is sharp. C1 is sharp. I think there is a level of trust that allows for successful creative activations.”
I also chimed in and added support for both views. The digital marketer in me perceived this marketing effort as a wasteful, old-school tactic with little impact. The practical, traditional marketer in me appreciated the simplicity, fun feeling and emotional connection this tactic attempted to create in a ‘live’, offline context.
In conclusion, the goal of exposing this tactic was to create some healthy debate around the pros and cons of a marketing effort, which seemed unusual and outdated, as a way of presenting another perspective to today’s marketing conversation, which is highly dominated by digital.
With so much emphasis and investment in tactics like optimizing search engine marketing, buying digital ad units, posting on social media, blogging and emailing, are we, as marketers, missing tactics that are more traditional, yet still beneficial?
This is something that we, as marketers, may want to think about, and even debate, more closely.
In the case of Capital One, it clearly felt that adding a balloon as a tactic wasn’t going to ‘blow up’ its marketing.