Every company has its quirks. For one young startup, embracing them turned out to be one of the best marketing moves it's made thus far.
Back to the Roots is an Oakland, California-based company that creates sustainability-focused grow-at-home products. For example, children can use one of Back to the Roots' kits to grow their own urban garden of Pearl Oyster mushrooms. There's just one problem with the final products: some end up growing pretty funky-looking.
"One of the things that [my cofounder] Alex and I were always kind of unsure how to talk about was our mushroom kits don't always grow in this beautiful cluster rose-like thing," Back to the Roots cofounder Nikhil Arora said, laughing, during a talk recently posted to 99U.
Though the issue was inconsequential when it came to the way the mushrooms tasted, it was undeniable that some of the company's customers, or would-be customers, were a little taken aback by the look of the bizarre fungi.
So the the company decided to address the issue head on. With the launch of a social media campaign called "Name That Mushroom," Arora and his cofounder flaunted their imperfect-looking product. They posted pictures online of the craziest mushrooms kids had grown, and they invited others to caption the photos.
It was a hit. So much so that some of Back to the Roots' customers wanted the mushrooms because of the way they were shaped, Arora said. One woman called to order a kit for her son and requested the "hunchback" mushroom by name.
Clever vs. Clear
Arora's biggest takeaway from the campaign was that customers don't want clever marketing. They want transparency.
Back to the Roots isn't the only company to reach that conclusion.
In 2012 the clothing company Patagonia aimed to reveal the good and the bad about its supply chain. It launched an interactive map called the Footprint Chronicles, which allows users to examine information about the company's suppliers.
Patagonia said the disclosures would "help us reduce our adverse social and environmental impacts." As an added benefit, Patagonia's sales increased after the launch of the campaign, according to Forbes.
And in 2008, after two and a half years of negative sales, Domino's was in for some changes. The pizza maker adopted a new recipe for its pies, and the company got a new chief marketing officer, Russell Weiner.
Weiner had plans for all future marketing: it was going to be brutally honest. What followed was a self-deprecating ad featuring customers talking about how bad the old pizza was. Domino's also vowed not to touch up photographs of its food in ads. And last but not least, it published unvarnished customer reviews to an ad in Times Square. The outcome? Domino's, too, saw sales increase.