Caffeinated Readership to the Rescue

Gimmicks. Considered shallow, attention grabbers by some corners of marketing, they occasionally transcend their peers and provide value. In a partnership that appears to be preordained by the newsroom lifestyle, the United Arab Emirates leading English daily, Gulf News, recently partnered with Tim Hortons, a Canadian-based coffee chain, to save the waning newspaper model. (A video overview of the campaign is posted at the end of this entry.)

To followers of the decline of the newsprint industry and lovers of inky fingertips around the globe, news of shortened paper runs and massive staff layoffs are nothing new. Skeleton newsroom crews now pile hours upon hours to the reporter’s already lengthy workday as advertisers’ options take hem further afield.

As the media covers its own floundering, could their savior really come with your next cup of Joe?

Young & Rubicam

Young & Rubicam (Y&R), a self-proclaimed builder of the “world’s largest (and most envied) brand database and management tool,” is known for creative marketing campaigns. A quick pass of their portfolio and several images will remain with you, finding their way into your emails to friends and posted to your social networks. They possess the rare ability to connect with your sensibility and your gut.

The problem that Gulf News had was not new – reach more readers and convert them into subscribers. The solution possessed an observation of the obvious and the vision to go beyond the static nature of the printed word that is accepted by to many marketers.

According to Y&R Dubai’s blog:

Consumption habit suggests that people read newspapers while having their morning cup of coffee. Since fresh news goes well with fresh coffee, we adapted the coffee cup sleeve of Tim Hortons, a global coffee chain, into an advertising medium and we created The ‘Headline News’ Cup Sleeve. Using a special News Printer, the baristas pulled out the headline of the hour from the Gulf News’ Twitter account and printed it on the custom-made sleeve. So everyone could read the latest news as they enjoyed their freshly brewed Tim Hortons coffee. Every hour. Every day. The short URL and QR code on the sleeve then directed them to the Gulf News website where they could read the full story.

The Perfect (Printed) Storm

All too often, gimmicks fail because they are of the moment and easily forgotten. Y&R’s approach would turn that result on its head by succeeding because its model was based upon the very moment-to-moment happenings that kneecap other campaigns. The results are compelling according to Y&R:

So far, over 1,440 breaking news tweets have been printed on more than 840,000 coffee cups, increasing the traffic to the Gulf News website by 41% and subscription by 2.8%. We’re rolling out this project in Tim Hortons outlets across the UAE, including in 14 stores soon to be opened.

The Takeaway

Some gimmicks disguise themselves as business models. Groupon, who is now offering baby naming rights for $1,000, is frequently at the center of debates between discount seeking customers and businesses watching short-term public attention quickly receding as offers expire. The issue is integration. Putting a patch on your problem will never work in the long run and predicting your next viral campaign should be left to street corner psychics.

It’s critical that businesses fully incorporate partnerships based on a singular goal and creatively present a solution. After all, reading the headlines at your local coffee shop is nothing new, unless you live in the UAE.


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