In Rosenheim, Germany, this past fall, passersby to the local McDonald's would have seen 120 millionaires flipping their own hamburgers. That is, if the event - hosted by Europe's fifth-largest bank, HypoVereinsbank (HVB) - were open to the public.
It was one of 12 experiential events engineered by agency Pleon to promote HVB's new wealth management division, says Claudia Vogt, HVB Wealth Management PR/marketing director.
After UniCredit acquired it in 2005, HVB reorganized and launched the new unit, ultimately charging Pleon with promoting it to wealthy investors across Germany.
"In wealth management, the traditional approach to the road show has been these luxury locations, like castles," says Vogt.
Pleon's Robert Wreschniok, the senior consultant leading the campaign out of Munich, says creating an event that would be attractive to HVB's customers, primarily wealthy men older than 60, would be a challenge.
"We didn't want to send them to yet another show-and-tell at the Four Seasons; they get invitations to those all the time." he says. "After listening to focus groups, we knew we had to present them with a unique way to truly experience these asset classes."
"Our intention was to be more inventive," adds Vogt. "So, we thought, why not McDonald's?"
Over two months, each of the bank's asset classes was conveyed to customers in an experiential event that captured the "essence" of the investment opportunity.
Each event was designed to be more than an educational lecture; it had to bring that particular investment theme to life in a tangible experience reflected in everything from the food, atmosphere, and décor to the executive speeches, Vogt says.
In the informational part of each event, HVB not only presented its expertise, it also demonstrated it via corporate partners who were represented by members of their own management boards, who, in turn, offered an exclusive look inside their companies.
For example, clients in Dusseldorf learned about Asian equities during an event at Toyota, and in Berlin, they learned about opportunities in emerging markets while inside the Russian Embassy. (The McDonald's trip was for investors to learn about US stocks.)
Considering the extremely upmarket clientele, Pleon shunned broad press coverage, instead selectively providing the regional press with interviews.
The campaign drove the interest that HVB sought, producing new orders of more than €10 million on-the-spot investments at just one location alone, as well as the development of strategic partnerships for HVB with several global brands.
Vogt summed up the road show: "For as long as I can remember, we've never had anything like this at [HVB]. We organized 12 events at 12 different locations, and after each event, all of the customers and their representatives left feeling enthusiastic."
"This campaign was great for our customers. We got very good feedback, so we decided to integrate these events into our marketing activities," Vogt says.
Two such events are already on the calendar, including one with a time theme, with Rolex as one of the manufacturers.
PR team: HypoVereinsbank (Frankfurt, Germany) and Pleon (Munich, Germany)
Campaign: Wealth Management On Tour
Duration: September to December 2006
In the high-stakes world of wealth management, it's difficult to deviate from the traditional road show approach - especially when it just makes sense that wealthy investors would want to be feted amidst lavish, ultra-luxury locales. But if there is one thing they value almost as much as their portfolios, it's their time.
Changing the venue may have seemed risky, but it also provided the physical context to create a real connection to the asset classes that can't be captured in a PowerPoint slide show. After all, what ventures with the promise of sizable ROI don't pose a significant element of risk?