Schlage’s Branded Hunt Attracts Few Players, Many Fans

Usually you use locks to keep people out, but Schlage, maker of locks and keys, turned that thinking on its ear. In late June it conducted a digital and experiential marketing campaign that locked a man in a little house and built a game around getting him out. The game was in the form of a five-day scavenger hunt in Seattle, with clues on Twitter and the brand’s website, as well as at the house itself.

Interest grew as the game, called “Key to Strong Challenge,” progressed. By its conclusion, web traffic in Seattle to the Schlage site had increased almost 40 percent.

To drive participation in the scavenger hunt, the company and its ad agency Young & Laramore ran regional online and newspaper ads seeking someone to be locked into a tiny house sitting in a busy Seattle shopping district. More than 120 Seattle residents responded, and Joshua Paul Downs, a young, local improv performer, was selected.

“Although Josh is incredibly social media savvy, it was his personality that ultimately brought us to our decision,” said Tom Denari, president at Young & Laramore.

Over the course of the five-day event, a total of 14 clues were released on and tweeted by Downs via @LockedinaHouse. Competitors and the general public could contact Downs via phone, text, and tweet. Branded signs at the 174-square-foot house promoted the game and drove people to the campaign’s online sites.

To reinforce the campaign’s “strong” theme, the challenge sent participants to a variety of “strong” locations for clues, including a Schlage product display at Home Depot and the local Starbucks for a “strong” cup of coffee.

By the end of the five-day challenge about 30 participants were still in the hunt. The first person who found the hidden Schlage key and ran over to unlock Joshua from the house was awarded $5,000. Prizes were also given to 10 runners-up.

The campaign served to drive people to retail locations and helped them interact with Schlage beyond their TV sets, computers, and mobile devices, according to the agency. More specifically, Downs’ campaign-related Twitter account @LockedinaHouse attracted 172 followers and he posted 213 tweets. A video about the event, released in mid-July, has attracted about 700 views on YouTube.

Beyond the competitive draw of an online-offline scavenger hunt, Downs’ humor fueled interest in the branded challenge. Stuck in his little house, he gratefully accepted gifts of food and drink, held up hand-written signs, and chatted with passers-by. He blogged and tweeted about all of his experiences, in-between posting clues.

For instance, on June 26 he tweeted:

just had the sweetest 23-minute talk with an entire Saudi Arabian family. I understood an accumulative 23 seconds.

@PFChangs! We’ve been neighbors for almost a week and I’d love some food! In return I can give you…. intelligent conversation? ‪#nodeal

The agency didn’t expect that interaction with Downs would extend so far beyond the actual contest and clue gathering. “We were surprised to see that there were many people who didn’t participate in the scavenger hunt that still wanted to interact with him, bringing him food, coffee and chatting with him online,” said Denari. It was a local marketing effort, but “we even had people from Canada following the challenge and tweeting with Josh,” he said.

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