Company: Sharp Electronics Corporation
Contact: Matt Picheny, Managing Director, Interactive at Lowe New York
Location: Mahwah, New Jersey (US Headquarters)
Industry: Consumer Electronics, B2C
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 53708
"Change" may well be the buzzword of the year, and one that Sharp Electronics adopted recently to both promote its AQUOS LCD line and generate awareness for its role in LCD (liquid crystal display) and solar-energy innovation.
The campaign, developed by Lowe New York, offered consumers "the power to bring change" and included interactive components such as a Facebook game that gave away "life changing" prizes.
Prize specifics were kept secret until awarded, as was Sharp's involvement in the Facebook application and other online elements.
That "mystery" factor was successful in escalating interest and buzz and gave rise to response rates 15% above target.
Sharp has led the LCD revolution, beginning with calculator displays in 1973, wall-mounted LCD televisions in 1991, camera cell phones in 2000, and the first 108" LCD display in 2007. Also, it has also been at the forefront of environmentally friendly manufacturing since the 1960s; it was the first to mass produce solar cells; and it runs what is considered the most advanced, eco-conscious factory in the world.
Where the company has fallen short over the years is in establishing itself in consumers' minds as the company behind these innovative achievements.
In December 2007, Sharp Electronics Corporation, the US sales and marketing subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, hired advertising and marketing services firm Lowe New York to change that perception among US consumers via the promotion of its AQUOS LCD TVs and solar-electricity initiatives, as well as a Major League Baseball sponsorship.
Lowe developed a comprehensive campaign that included print, broadcast, and online advertising, all revolving around two related themes: "Change Your Power, Change Your Planet" and "Change Your TV, Change Your Life."
This case study focuses on the interactive piece, which was created to extend reach, especially among tech-savvy "progressive optimists," and increase overall consumer engagement.
The online strategy developed by Lowe NY promised something life changing (in line with the change-focused themes carried by the rest of the campaign) without disclosing Sharp as the sponsor. Both a Facebook application and a teaser Web site were launched on June 12, 2008 without any reference to the company behind them. The anonymity, Lowe hoped, would incite intrigue while evading any preconceptions surrounding the brand.
The Facebook application—believed to be the first to offer real-life, high-dollar-value prizes on the networking site—was open to North American residents and ran through July 14, 2008. The application was a unique version of the Hot Potato game, played in rounds that lasted between 30 minutes and 8 hours.
The goal at the end of each round was to be in possession of a virtual mystery box that contained an unknown prize worth between $400 and $14,000 (prizes included 52" flat screen televisions, home theater systems, all expense paid vacations, and exclusive tickets to sporting events). If the box opened at the end of the round, the player in possession won the associated prize; otherwise, it was on to the next round.
Players entered a round by using one of 24 "touches" granted to them each day they played; since up to 48 rounds could take place each day, there was a strategic component, because players couldn't play each round but also didn't know how many rounds there would be that day.
There was also a viral component, as players could increase their chances of winning by inviting friends to download the application. If a friend won a round, the person who had invited that user would win a duplicate prize. In all, there were 10 mystery boxes and 20 potential prizes.
In addition to playing the game, the Facebook application encouraged users to visit an unbranded teaser Web site called LifeChangingBox.com, where they could guess at the mystery box contents and sponsor, and gather clues from the box's reaction to the phrases entered. For example, the box would react positively to words related to the campaign, such as TV, technology, flat screen, solar, and baseball. Non-related phrases triggered the box to shake its "head" and make an "uh-uh" sound.
To promote both the game and teaser site, banner and display ads were placed on Facebook; on specialty sites such as CNET, Wired, and Gizmodo; and on networks with broader reach, such as Yahoo, AOL, and Google. Lowe also reached out to bloggers and provided them with images and a postable widget, in addition to information about the campaign.
A week before the game concluded, Sharp's sponsorship was revealed on Facebook, and the LifeChangingBox teaser site was replaced with a fully branded version that detailed Sharp's contributions to the LCD industry, its MLB sponsorship, and its commitment to energy conservation.
Four videos created by social-marketing firm Abraham Harrison were also released on YouTube and Facebook at that time. The videos, which featured puppets promoting the Sharp-sponsored LifeChangingBox game, averaged 20,000 views apiece.
The online campaign surpassed all metrics targets—including those for application downloads, usage, and click-throughs to the LifeChangingBox Web site—by an average of 15%.
"There was a significantly higher than expected number of people installing the application and coming back and playing on a daily basis," noted Matt Picheny, managing director, Interactive at Lowe New York.
He also said that more people went to the LifeChangingBox teaser site than actually downloaded the application.
The campaign was successful in garnering further exposure via some 100 blog posts—which had the potential of reaching up to 1.5 million readers, Picheny estimated.
The Sharp-sponsored LifeChangingBox Web site (which replaced the teaser site) continues to receive a steady stream of traffic.
Beyond the high-value prizes, Lowe incorporated several elements to help drive interest and participation in the Facebook game:
- Mystery: Like the buildup to Christmas morning, Lowe piqued user curiosity, sparked buzz, and likely inspired more blog posts by keeping Sharp's sponsorship under wraps and not disclosing prize specifics ahead of time.
- Strategy: Lowe ensured that the game was simple enough for anyone to play, yet strategic enough to appeal to its target audience and encourage returning users.
- Viral incentives: Because it multiplied their chances of winning, users were more likely to invite their friends (and given the prospect of winning a $14,000 prize, their friends were likely more inclined to accept).
- LifeChangingBox Facebook application with videos
- Original LifeChangingBox teaser site
- LifeChangingBox campaign Web site
- Sharp Electronics Web site
- Lowe New York Web site
- Abraham Harrison LLC Web site
Note: Sharp Corporation's annual net operating income is 101,922,000,000 Yen