How Social Media Is Reviving the Teaser Campaign

One of the most noteworthy marketing campaigns of the year couldn’t have happened without Twitter. In May, musical group Coldplay promoted its forthcoming album “Ghost Stories” in a most mysterious way: by hiding lyrics from its new songs in libraries located in nine countries around the world. The “international scavenger hunt” started with a tweet that set fans in Mexico City searching. Handwritten lyric sheets were found in books of – what else? – ghost stories, one of which included a ticket to watch the band perform in London.

Fans could track the lyric-hunters’ progress on Coldplay’s site as well as with the hashtag #lyricshunt. Coldplay posted clues on its Twitter feed, and according to Twitter the campaign resulted in “significant new follower growth” for the band.

Teaser campaigns are a marketing strategy mainstay, but with social media to drive them, they’re getting a lot more interesting. Brands are taking a multichannel approach to delivering their teaser messaging by blanketing both owned and paid media, and it’s reviving a strategy that some have deemed dead. The teaser campaigns of old – out-of-home ads, print, and the like – didn’t produce much of a return on investment because they weren’t easily shared. Social media has changed that, and brands are taking notice.

Make Your Message Visual

If you’re a fan of the Jurassic Park series, you know there’s a new sequel coming in 2015. Details have been spotty, but on the first day of fall Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow tweeted an image that launched a digital firestorm. With the simple caption, “Autumn” and a photo of a fallen sign partially covered in leaves, the Jurassic Park brand managed to be both mysterious and seasonally relevant.

The sign is instantly recognizable to die-hard fans of the series, and was cause for speculation about the role it would play in the new film. The same image was posted to the Jurassic World Facebook page with the alternate copy, “Fall is a good time for repairs.” Prior to its release Trevorrow posted several other photos from the film set, all designed to generate buzz. This kind of imagery has become the modern teaser campaign’s mouthpiece, saying more than a text-based message could by inviting the audience to extrapolate. Teaser ads, after all, are best left blurred.

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Tell a Multi-Platform Story

Having access to – and a presence on – multiple social media sites creates an opportunity for brands to tease over time and in a variety of ways. This past summer, fashion brand Chloe launched its Fall-Winter 2014 collection and related campaign by feeding photography and video to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Clips were posted over the course of several days, with images varying from site to site. The effort culminated in the release of the Chloe campaign video on YouTube.

A single hashtag, #FW14, was used across all platforms to allow consumers to follow the story online. According to IPG Media Lab, “Of the 107 million U.S. adults who use two or more social platforms, more than half use four or more,” so it behooves brands to extend their reach to all of the social sites on which they maintain active accounts. Because an advertiser’s audience on these sites can overlap, it’s also wise to mix up creative. In the case of Chloe, the brand alternated campaign imagery with behind-the-scenes photos from the on-location campaign shoot, pulling its multi-platform delivery together with a site page that details the campaign narrative and how it ties back to the Chloe brand image.

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For brands keen on drumming up interest in a new product, social media-based teaser campaigns can familiarize would-be customers with the goods and motivate word-of-mouth online. In the bold and often brash world of digital media, where both advertisers and consumers are known to over-share, this strategy gains its strength from its dissimilarity to the messaging around it. Where most ads are blunt, teasers are elusive – and with good reason.

Everyone loves a good mystery.

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