We needed something different for Easter this year.
Despite several years of growth and success with our Easter services and marketing campaigns, that was the realization we came to early in the planning process. Its a decision that was brought on by kind of a funny problem: Our church and many others in our area are so well known and good at communicating that’s its increasingly difficult to stand out. How do we engage in a new, exciting way with a community that already knows about us and isn’t interested in Easter? How can we earn an opportunity to share the Gospel with folks?
Here’s what we came up with…
Curiosity is Our Hook in the Water
Something about mystery is instantly compelling to me; in fact, its something that’s compelling to most of us (why do you think shows like LOST are so successful?). With that in mind, we decided to make that the cornerstone of this year’s Easter campaign.
The main event for our Easter services is a multimedia dramatic production called “The Fortunate Death of Phillip Randoll.” With the story arc of that event in mind, I decided to focus our campaign around a single question: “Who is Phillip Randoll?”
“Who is he? Why does this matter? Why am I seeing this question plastered all over town?” Those are the questions we wanted our community to ask, so we constructed an elaborate mystery for them to unravel.
Getting the Word Out
We knew from the get go that our traditional marketing mix wasn’t going to cut it. A mailer and microsite alone just wouldn’t generate the “buzz” we needed to engage with our community in a unique way.
Let’s talk about mailers for a minute… If you live in a large community like I do, I’m sure your experience is similar to mine; two weeks before Easter, I receive 10-15 full color Easter promos, which I immediately relocate from my mailbox to my trashcan. It’s too easy to get lost in the noise, and its just really difficult to connect with folks through their mailbox these days.
It’s also crazy expensive! Sending one mailer to your entire community can cost tens of thousands of dollars; that’s a lot of money getting thrown away every year.
With all of that in mind, we decided to ditch the mailer, slash our budget in half from last year(!) and see what we could do with some creative thinking. Here’s what this year’s marketing mix looks like:
- Viral Website/Phillip’s Blog/Microsite
- Social Media accounts for Phillip
- Weekly puzzles/giveaways (more on this below)
- Video teaser and trailer (online and in services)
- Billboards across town
- Bench ads across town
- Yard signs in our community
- Facebook/Google ad campaign
- 3 Weeks of newspaper ads
- Thousands of posters
- Thousands of business card sized promo cards
As you can see, even with our budget sliced in half, that mailer money can buy a lot of really interesting marketing pieces. You can see some examples below:
Viral Campaign/Alternate Reality Game
Probably the most interesting part of this campaign is the “alternate reality game” we’ve built around Phillip and his life. A church ARG is something I’ve been kicking around for a while, so when this campaign came along, I was thrilled to give the concept a shot.
Simply put, we’ve built out a whole persona and life for Phillip online. He has an active presence on all of the big social media sites, and has a blog where he posts thoughts and puzzles every day (more on this below).
In the months leading up to Easter, we’ve slowly introduced Phillip to our community. The first step was a viral site (containing a puzzle) that trickled out to our members through Facebook and Twitter. This eventually lead to the launch of Phillip’s blog about a month ago, and the launch of our official church microsite with Easter details and social interaction a week ago. (screen shots of all of this below).
It has been thrilling to watch people interact with Phillip and get involved with a campaign in ways that we haven’t seen in years past!
Puzzles and Giveaways
The final component of the campaign is a series of puzzles/prizes that Phillip (and his friend “Walter”) is conducting through his blog. We’ve created a pretty compelling series of challenges that help to further the mystery of the whole campaign and build even more interest in our community; think a mixture of solving codes, uncovering clues and geocaching. It’s really fun seeing families in our community gathering together around these puzzles and having a blast!
The Result So Far?
We still are more than a week away from Easter weekend, but the results from this year’s approach have been tremendously encouraging so far: Traffic to our online Easter properties is up 5x compared to last year and our church members are doing an amazing job putting up yard signs, handing out cards, sharing links on Facebook, etc. The excitement in our community is obvious.
I purposefully shared all of this a little before Easter so you would have the opportunity to check out the last part of the campaign before Easter weekend. Feel free to check out some of the stuff we’re doing: (just don’t spoil the fun for anyone!)
- Phillip’s Blog
- Phillip on Facebook
- Phillip on Twitter
- Easter Promo Info for our Church Members
What are you doing for Easter this year? Have questions about my insane campaign? Let me know in the comments below.