Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winner of the John Fenton Award for Audacious Marketing

OFD is proud to announce a new annual award that recognizes audacity in marketing practice.

Named after John Fenton, the legendary English salesman who is able to craft the most compelling pitch in the sale of the almost unthinkable (sand to Arabs, ice to Eskimos) the 2008 award goes to Red Envelope.

What garnered the 2008 accolade is its promotion of love notes embossed on collar stays, those thin rectangular, removable strips that fit in the underside of shirt collars in order to keep them straight and firm.

It is a stroke of inspiration to identify this unused piece of real estate. It is a stroke of genius to create utility and value for space that overcomes the medium’s biggest challenge – it remains permanently out of sight.

Red Envelope does it by using the affection-expressive ritual of Valentines Day. This is a context in which the value in sharing personal sentiments is only heightened by being hidden from others. It succeeds in transforming what was a purely functional accessory into a medium of communication that carries meaning.

The spin that the salesmanship takes is an interesting one:

“Why settle for tucking love notes in his briefcase when you can deliver a message of love from much closer range?”

If it’s proximity one is going for, one wonders why Red Envelope does not also promote love notes on underwear. This would seem an ideal opportunity to create a line of merchandising targeting women: “I wish I was here” for example on a thong would give a girl a lift to wear all day. Women do after all intimately understand the psychology of wearing something no one else knows about: the entire lingerie category is grounded in this principle.

Our advice for Red Envelope: make the love notes customizable. This is the age of consumer sovereignty and personalization. The raciest of the pre-defined messages – ‘That tie will be useful’ - is really too tame in today’s age.

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