Direct Line’s #DirectFix, or when the marketer gets marketed

As a marketer, it’s not very often I find myself playing a role in someone else’s marketing campaign.

I was sat at my desk and happened to rub my eye. My lashes felt weirdly… soft. Oh no, I thought, I’ve forgotten to put mascara on.

So as a child of the 21st century, I promptly posted a tweet about it and thought nothing of it.

An hour and a half later, I got a tweet from Direct Line. Now bear in mind here, I don’t follow Direct Line, nothing in my tweet was linked to them and I didn’t mention them. I was just having a bit of a moan about my busy morning.

If I’m honest, when I saw this I kind of brushed it off. I hadn’t seen the hashtag and I wasn’t aware of what Direct Line were doing with the #directfix hashtag, so at first I sent back an offhand reply:

But then I clicked over to the hashtag and realised they weren’t joking – they were in Manchester, where I live and work, helping people out who had minor problems. I even saw them tweet someone else who had forgotten to put mascara on! I hastily sent them a second response when I realised my first one looked terribly ungrateful in the context. To which I received this response:

Now the ball was really rolling and I was curious to see if they would follow through. I sent over our office address, and was promptly asked if I had any allergies and any colour preference.

Then I waited.

And sure enough, half an hour later, two people in red jumpsuits walked in carrying a red box:

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Now when I knew I was getting mascara, I expected a tube of mascara. Instead I was presented with a box, which had inside Dior mascara, eye makeup remover and a set of eyelash curlers:

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Direct Line had clearly put some effort into this. And all from a single tweet! No hashtag, no begging, not even any knowledge of the campaign. And now I’m a happy bunny (with much nicer-looking eyelashes).

So why does this work?

1. It’s unexpected

While using hashtags and getting a campaign out there is great, there is something even better about a random surprise you aren’t expecting. When I sent that tweet out I had no intention except to share with the world that I’d forgotten my mascara. I wouldn’t have expected in a million years that a company would respond, let alone want to send me something to cheer me up.

Direct Line clearly has a person or team trawling through Twitter for specific keywords (I imagine things like “lost” or “forgotten” are up there) from people tweeting from cities where they have Direct Fix teams engaging with them. While using a hashtag is easier from a brand perspective, the unexpected element is really powerful.

2. It’s personalised

The beauty of this campaign was they were sending people the things they knew would make their day better. It wasn’t a goody bag – it was whatever specific item would help the person with their day, from mascara to phone chargers to thermal gloves.

3. It’s a small expense for them, but a big treat for the average Joe

For me, Dior mascara is a little out of my price range. It’s not something I would buy myself every day. But to get this as a gift is a wonderful treat. For Direct Line, treating people to these things is not a big expense (it looks to be about £30-50 per treat) but for the receiver it’s a really big deal.

4. It’s a story worth sharing

Within minutes of receiving my box I had Instagrammed it. Then shared it on Facebook and Twitter. Plus there was a bit of ceremony involved in opening my box, which of course, intrigued my colleagues. It’s a great story of “the kindness of strangers” and has made lots more people aware of the campaign when it might have otherwise passed them by. I’ve already noticed people I know tweeting Direct Line in the hope of having their problem “fixed”.

5. It’s relevant

Something like this might not be appropriate for every company, but it’s just enough of a connection to Direct Line’s service of “fixing” your insurance problems for it to work.

6. It makes people happy

I saw just one angry tweet – someone complaining about a “creepy” unsolicited reply (he obviously missed out on whatever Direct Line would have been willing to send him!), and a few people I told described the campaign as “odd, but lovely”. However, the majority of the responses to the campaign were positive. This is particularly important for a company like Direct Line – how often do people have strong feelings about something like insurance? The beauty of this campaign is that it makes you feel positive about something you are probably usually indifferent about – and that can often be the deciding factor before purchase.

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