Company: Wacom Technology Corp.
Contact: Diane Economaki, Marketing Manager, Direct Response & eCommerce
Location: Vancouver, Wash.
Industry: Retail, B2B, B2C
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 100

Quick Read:

Wacom Technology Corp. is one of the leading manufacturers of pen tablets, interactive pen displays, and digital interface solutions used to create digital art. Working with creative-oriented software applications, the cordless and battery-free Wacom pens offer photographers and artists pen-point accuracy. The products are particularly useful for inputting graphics and freehand characters into computers.

Wacom's pens are already popular in the fashion, film, and art worlds. But to keep growing, Wacom recognized that it needed to reach the consumer market of home-based personal and professional artists—an audience that might not be receptive to a hard sell.

Working with an outside marketing agency, Wacom created a Web-based campaign around the holidays, inviting artists to create monthly wallpaper for a 2008 calendar. By showcasing the artists' work—and the Wacom products they used to create that work—the company was able to subtly increase sales and engagement with its target client base. Moreover, the campaign spread virally, effectively providing free advertising for Wacom products.

The Challenge:

Wacom's pens and their capabilities are well-known in the business world. For the company to keep growing, however, it needed to also address the consumer market, since home-based businesses and freelance artists look for ways to communicate more personally.

The company needed to find the most effective way to reach this artistic community. It did so by designing a contest over the 2007 holidays that would, ideally, keep Wacom products top-of-mind in their homes throughout 2008.

The Campaign:

In 2007, Wacom hired Portland marketing firm eROI, Inc. to help design a campaign that would connect established artists, who would use Wacom products, with new artists. The resulting awareness of the Wacom brand would hopefully turn into product adoption.

The campaign was designed around the concept of a PC-wallpaper calendar. Established artists, using their specific talent, created the months for the calendar. Their work was showcased on a Web site set up for the effort:

Wacom and eROI chose artists from 12 areas of expertise they knew would produce visually interesting work: graffiti, animation, flash, poster art, illustration, photography, air brush, graphic design, apparel, motionography, toy design and Portland's Cut & Paste winner (a Wacom-focused art event).

As evident during the selection process, the resulting work was diverse—all of it produced using Wacom technology.

Along with highlighting the artistic potential of its products and their connection to the artist community, the campaign aimed to increase direct sales via Wacom's online store. To do so in a subtle fashion, the site not only displayed the 12 pieces of art created but also highlighted the making of the art and the wide array of tools used.

"This allowed us to work the product in for each artist without seeming pushy, but rather informative and helpful," said Diane Economaki, Wacom's marketing manager for direct response & ecommerce.

The varied products in each artist's toolbox and the soft-sell allowed Wacom to send an email for 12 straight days (a nonstandard practice) without losing the interest of recipients. Instead of consumers receiving calls to action, which can feel overwhelming during the holiday email push, they were receiving interesting content with attractive artwork. This artwork drove consumers to the site——where the wallpaper calendar resided.

The marketing was subtle, with the wallpaper highlighting the art allowing only a small Wacom logo next to the calendar, in the upper right. Nevertheless, downloaded wallpaper calendars display the logo on someone's desktop, ensuring up to a year-long exposure.

Using Wacom's house list, the campaign was promoted to about 300,000 Wacom subscribers, including those who had opted to receive newsletters and product updates. A banner ad was also placed on the Wacom America home page. Overall, the overt marketing was limited, because the concept was to have the community create publicity by discussing the calendar on blogs and message boards.

The site did produce a community, spurred on by a glimpse at the professional artists, their process, their work environments, and, perhaps most of all, by a user-generated independent digital art gallery. To wrap up the campaign, the user-generated artwork with the most votes was selected to win Wacom's latest product, the Cintiq 12WX interactive pen and tablet display. That effort led to free advertising as artists embraced the site and encouraged others to vote for their work.

The Results:

At the end of the two-week campaign, more than 61,000 unique visitors from all over the world had come to the site. Although almost all of the campaign emails that Wacom had sent were to US users, the news spread virally, ultimately attracting visitors from more than 100 countries.

Moreover, more than 2,000 user-generated images were uploaded and 150 comments were left for the 12 Wacom artists and their art. Equally eye-opening was the level of engagement that potential customers demonstrated.

"The campaign's response exceeded our expectations in terms of the level at which users were engaged—how many times they came back to our site, for example, and how much they blogged about it," said Economaki. "There was a small core group that engaged in a higher level than we thought possible."

Sales improved by more than 200% in December vs. December 2006 on Wacomdirect, the company's US e-commerce site. "The campaign was one of the major reasons for the sales increase," Economaki said. Other factors for the sales jump included holiday gift buying and a key product launch around that time.

Lessons Learned:

Be subtle with pushing products over email. The Power of the Pens Web site and campaign did not focus on Wacom's pen products. Instead, it focused on art created with the pens. In doing so, email recipients were much more likely to open the email, read it, and pass it on to their friends. Information about the pens used to create the art was showcased in a helpful manner, rather than in a sales-oriented manner.

Don't underestimate your audience. Once the campaign took off, the company was surprised both at how far the emails were spread and at how much interaction their customers wanted with other Wacom users. "We learned that our customers want to be more engaged. They want to be able to talk to their peers and be able to share tips," Economaki said.

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