Tully's Coffee knew it faced a pretty crowded marketplace as it planned to unveil its latest summer beverages. Not only do coffee rivals like Starbucks and Peet's Coffee & Tea offer their own cold, refreshing summer drinks, but so do Dairy Queen and Baskin-Robbins.
And making a crowded market even more saturated is the fact that there have been more than 30,000 new food and beverage product launches over the last three years, explains Jeff Hasen, president of WongDoody Communications.
"These were new flavors to existing products," says Hasen of the new drinks. "We knew we weren't going to get much media or public attention just for new flavors. We needed to do something to get people's attention."
Forgoing a massive media launch, Tully's knew it needed a unique way to "startle and surprise" people to get the word out about its new beverages. So the company hired WongDoody to target people when they would need a refreshing boost the most - during the afternoon slump, which Hasen says hits people between 1pm and 4pm.
WongDoody decided to give people a wake-up call at 3:21pm, a time that doesn't signify anything other than it's easier to remember than, say, 1:46 pm, says Hasen.
"We wanted to own that moment and convey the urgency of needing that drink to give people the boost they need to get through the rest of the day," says Hasen.
WongDoody developed a range of activities that would drive people to Tully's stores. They included Tully's employees boarding buses in Seattle at 3:21pm to hand out samples of the drinks; bands playing Reveille at 3:21 near Tully's stores in Seattle, Portland, OR, and San Francisco; and Tully's scooters also playing Reveille at 3:21 from on-board sound systems. The chain also handed out coupons for free and discounted drinks good between 3:21 to 3:51.
Other components included radio stations reminding people it was time for their "3:21 Wake-up Call," as well as e-mail coupons informing customers of the same thing. WongDoody also worked with senior executives on employee communications directed at store managers to make sure they embraced the campaign.
"We wanted to put together a marketing strategy that was fun and inviting, that not only engaged our customers, but also our own employees," says Robert Martin, VP of merchandising and production. "The environment inside the store determines whether you get a repeat visit."
On the day of the launch, Tully's also sent samples of the new drinks to journalists, along with "3:21 Wake-up Call" adorned alarm clocks programmed to ring at 3:21pm that day.
Not counting the drinks Tully's handed out on buses and in stores for free, blended-drink sales from May 9 to June 4 surged 77.2%, compared to the same period last year.
"This was a customer-acquisition campaign," says Martin. "We needed to build a universe of new Tully's customers, while also giving our current universe of [coffee-drinking] loyal customers a reason to come back in the afternoon."
And while the media didn't necessarily write about the new drink flavors, the street campaign itself did receive media coverage by Bloomberg News, The Oregonian, and Create Magazine, and also attracted the attention of local bloggers.
The campaign will run through September, with Tully's taking it to surrounding businesses by bringing drinks directly to employees who need that afternoon wake-up call.
PR team: Tully's Coffee and WongDoody Communications (both Seattle)
Campaign: 3:21 Wake-up Call
Time frame: March 2005 to present (ongoing)
Budget: $275,000 (including media and production costs)