You don’t have to study sushi making with a Japanese master to serve up an astonishing banquet of fresh delectables. But you do need to possess some serious creativity.
To tout her company’s services and extreme creativity, Cindy Gibbs, owner of Erie, Colorado-based distributor Big Fish Branding, tapped into her company’s unique name as inspiration for a self promotion that so closely resembles a takeout sushi platter that it causes those who see it to do a double take.
“I wanted something that tied into fish because my company name is Big Fish Branding,” says Gibbs, who has worked in the industry for nine years and owned her own distributorship for seven. “I always kind of tossed around the fishing thing and other things to do with fish, and for some reason I kept coming back to sushi. When you think about sushi, one of the main things is that it’s fresh and current. And that was a good way to associate my company with fresh ideas.”
Gibbs devised the promotion to attract a list of Denver-area clients in the nonprofit and hospitality sectors. To save money, Gibbs divided the list into two tiers—one for big corporations with large-order potential and another for smaller business. The latter group received sushi platters that, while still eye-catching, were less costly to produce.
Tier one included a compressed tee with an insert printed with an image of a California roll, two fortune cookies, packets of sunscreen disguised as soy sauce and recycled pencils tucked into a sleeve to look like chopsticks.
“I wanted to show that I source eco-friendly products as well,” Gibbs says.
The second tier used mints in boxes printed with images of sushi rolls instead of a compressed tee. “The reason I went with these little mint boxes by Admints & Zagabor is because you can do full-color graphics on all the sides, so I could be really creative as far as what artwork I used,” Gibbs explains. “The other component of using the mints is that the package rattles when you shake it. It makes you wonder what the heck is in the box.”
Finishing touches in both tiers of mailings included a printed menu of rolls, which cleverly communicated Big Fish Branding’s roster of services, an FDA-style listing of ingredients and nutritional information (again, touting the company’s services) and a slip of green, printed paper “grass”—a ubiquitous item in take-out sushi packs. All the items were collected in a black paper tray and shrink-wrapped.
A disclaimer magnet on the bottom of each pack was a play on typical legalese and explained that the mailer was just an example of what Big Fish Branding can do. “I didn’t want people to think that if they weren’t into sushi, fish or that particular piece that I wouldn’t be able to help them,” Gibbs says.
Her favorite part about putting it all together was writing copy for the sushi promo. She says she treated herself to sushi as a means of collecting ideas. “I love sushi,” she says. “When I would have a brainstorming session, I would go out for sushi, get ideas and try to take things that were in my surroundings and incorporate them into my piece.”
Once they arrived at people’s offices, the pieces received a lot of positive attention. Gibbs says this attention turned up the heat on cold calls she made as follow-ups. “The hardest part is cold calling and talking to somebody who is not reactive to you,” Gibbs explains. “When I called and said I was with Big Fish Branding, they were excited to hear from some random, strange person they had never talked to because they wanted to talk about the piece. … It was refreshing to be able to call up somebody I didn’t know, tell them my name and have them be really thrilled to talk to me.”
While Gibbs’ sushi mailer was an eye-catching way to get prospects’ attention, she says the main thing she wanted to convey was how it’s possible to use promotional products in an unconventional way. “You can get amazing results just by doing something totally different and unexpected, and I wanted customers to see this so they would come to me for ideas,” she says, “kind of the whole creative package.”
Client Big Fish Branding
Objective Design and develop a buzz-generating direct-mail piece that would bring in 20 percent of all new business from August 2009 to August 2010
Target Audience Prospective clients working in the nonprofit and hospitality sectors in the Denver, Colorado, area
Delivery Method The kits were either mailed or hand delivered
Campaign Duration Ongoing
ROI Response from the mailers brought in 30 percent of new business for the year—10 percent more than the initial goal. The promotion also won a 2011 PPAI Pyramid Award, a 2010 Summit International Creative Gold Award, a 2010 International Davey Silver Award and a 2010 Communicator Award of Excellence
Suppliers Addventure Products (compressed tee with magnet insert), Norwood (sunscreen), Shepenco (recycled pencils), Molenaar (business card magnet), Admints & Zagabor (candy boxes), Discount Labels (labels)