Textbook rental saves students big bucks

Neebo.com, a division of the Nebraska Book Company that launched in January 2011, rents and sells college textbooks.

Neebo.com (Lincoln, NE)
Ketchum (Chicago, IL)
Neebo.com Free Textbook Rental Program
December 2011 – January 2012
$185,000 ($315,000 with ads)

Neebo.com, a division of the Nebraska Book Company that launched in January 2011, rents and sells college textbooks. Neebo and Ketchum, which has an ongoing relationship with the company, rolled out the second iteration of a free textbook rental campaign to increase brand awareness and up-sell other textbooks. 

“Textbooks are a thorn in students' sides because they're expensive,” explains Neebo's director of marketing Trevor Meyer. “We've positioned ourselves as relatively low cost through rental.”

“The current conversation about textbooks among college students can be somewhat negative because people dread buying them,” explains Ketchum SVP Corinne Gudovic. “We wanted to turn that conversation around.”

Students had to like Neebo's Facebook page to get their free textbook rental on the microsite freerental.com. Participants got a 20%-off coupon code for additional books on Neebo.com.

Awareness was driven through media and blogger relations, social media outreach, ads, and various other paid promotions.

“We focused on giving students the ability to share [information], and the advantage was they personalized the story,” says Neebo PR specialist Karey Koehn.

The microsite launched in December. Participants in the 2011 campaign were alerted first. Awareness was allowed to spread naturally until the second week in January, when paid efforts launched.

Paid promotions included pay-per-click ads, a takeover ad on College Humor.com, an integration on a popular late night TV show, a Daily Buzz promo, and MyLikes placement. Gudovic explains these efforts were designed to serve as the PR kickoff, spark online conversation, and drive microsite traffic.

Pitches to large market dailies, deal/coupon bloggers, and college-related bloggers included an infographic with tips about how to save money on textbooks.

Neebo's Facebook and Twitter properties were used to promote the campaign and additional discounts and incentives on Neebo.com.

Meyer reports 27,332 free textbook rentals, which saved students $4 million, and nearly $500,000 add-on sales.

“We spent a little more on this year's campaign, but we got more than double the return,” adds Meyer. “Last year we gave away 12,000 rentals, saving students $1.6 million.”

Paid and earned impressions across traditional and online outlets topped 200 million. Earned media wasn't broken out.

The microsite got 101,473 visits and drove 84,405 visits to Neebo.com between December 1 and January 31.

Facebook likes increased by 47,069 during the campaign.

Koehn notes the MyLikes campaign generated more organic shares than paid shares.

The team is preparing for an August PR push and considering another round of the free rental campaign.

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