On July 9th at WESTDEF, Canada’s third largest defence conference in Calgary, I gave a speech about breaking into the Defence industry, and had the pleasure of meeting Garry Barber from the Defence team within AeroInfo, a wholly owned Boeing subsidiary in Richmond BC Canada. Within the week Garry emailed me with an NDA so we could brainstorm innovative ideas around a customer engagement concept for complex support systems they were working on.
While this was percolating I attended the Abbotsford Aerospace and Defence Expo, where I sat and listened to a Boeing VP lay out the future as he saw it: Air travel would increase from 4.5B to 9B passengers a year by 2025 fueled by growing middle classes in Asia, The Middle East and South America. He said Boeing had 20,000 legacy aircraft to replace in this time, and would be required to build 20,000 on top of that to meet the new demand. It would equal $4 Trillion in expected revenues over 15 years. We needed to be part of this story! One thing that struck me as well was the friendly but pointed banter between Boeing Defence and Lockheed when the other had the floor. These guys weren’t afraid to stir it up a bit.
Are we working for Boeing yet?
I came back from the Expo with a vision for RaceRocks, that’s what CEO’s do right? And printed out a sign that I put up around the office, it was a simple question: “Are we working for Boeing yet?” This is the last time in the story I can use “I” and not “we” and it’s actually really a stretch that I don’t use “them”, anyway, this really got the team thinking about how we could engage and increase our exposure within this massive corporation. Could we do some gorilla marketing aimed at getting Boeing exposure to RaceRocks through social media?
While we negotiated our first contract with AeroInfo, Tyler Brand came up with the idea of a simplified video, two kids in a sandbox discussing what they bought with grandpas $10’s. He pitched us in our local Starbucks lineup and as the idea bounced around over the next week the creative team spun off two ideas using the same kids. Late September a professional filmmaker we work with Luke Carroll (Escape from planet earth) was brought on to write a third, then polish, cast and film what were now being called the three “Boeing Stingers”. Shooting took place October 1st at a farm near Duncan BC using two brothers from The Diary of wimpy Kid fame, a few chickens and a Red Epic camera shooting at 5K. As this was an internal initiative every favor we had outstanding was called on to bring the total budget in under $10K, I will let you know what the ROI is when all the fallout is over.
We knew that to get social marketing exposure you can’t be pushing your brand, you have to create some emotion, tell a good story, use a little humor, and if you can stir up a little controversy it will get shared a lot more. While we had no intention of slamming another company ( at least no more than I saw bantered back and forth in Abbotsford) we did pick up on a complex issue that was playing out within Canadian politics, and decided to add a little simplified humor, and two cute kids.
Don’t Fuck it up.
On October 8th we had a signed contract with AeroInfo to develop interactive marketing for their innovative customer engagement approach. I walked around the office and pulled down the “Are we working for Boeing yet?” Signs, replacing them with one that said: “Great Job!” In 150point font, and “don’t f – it up” in 10pt. The ideas and development of the three stingers took hold; with the first stinger completed around Mid November, but we did not want to release any stingers until we had a project “Win” with AeroInfo. We delivered the beta version on November 27th to a happy customer, and uploaded the first Stinger: F-35 or F-18 Super Hornet: It’s really not that complicated, the same afternoon; unsure of how it would play over Thanksgiving and the subsequent long weekend in the USA.
The stinger was socialized initially on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google + and Twitter, mainly by executive and staff of RaceRocks, we estimate our total direct following to be ~5000 people combined, but perhaps only 1000 of that in the defence and aerospace industries. We had approximately 15 Boeing friends between us on social media, and about 5 Lockheed friends. Those contacts lead to 350 views on Vimeo and YouTube from Wednesday the 27th to Friday the 30th, about 7% conversion of our possible followers (35% defence followers), We didn’t expect great things over thanksgiving weekend. But something happened, people started to add the video to their blogs, and then people started to take sides, huge debates about the qualities of both aircraft shot the video to 4000 views on Saturday, and then 14,000 views on Sunday (2.5% of all Vimeo traffic over thanksgiving weekend) 80% of all views came from Washington DC, Chicago and Seattle.
Controversy raged once people went back to work, was this a new strategy by Boeing? Was this a lobby group aimed at dismantling the F-35 program? As of Friday (7 days since our breakout Saturday) we had just short of 70,000 views, and had been featured in online reports in Wall Street Journal, Business insider, Aviation Weekly, MSN Money, Time Swampland and Routers. We tried our best to set wrong stories right, and once the word got out that it was our own internal campaign aimed at getting exposure within Boeing it became a lot less sexy for the papers. We launched the second stinger without much fanfare Friday, it talks about the merits of integrated maintenance and logistics, and although the broken plane is from Lockheed we aren’t comparing them, and even added a disclaimer saying they are both great and reliable aircraft if maintained properly! I think Boeing will get the message clearly, so think this stinger may actually meet our goal of internal exposure better. We’ll release the third stinger next week.
Did it work? I’ll let you know, this week we’ve had cold calls from previously unknown defence and aerospace companies, and new departments within Boeing, and if we make $10,000 we will have broken even!
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