Column: Tease, please

Think of a teaser marketing campaign as a present that you can’t wait to open. Once you rip away the wrapping, if it isn’t valuable and exciting, you’re left disappointed.

A teaser campaign does what its name implies. It teases the audience into wondering what’s coming next regarding a usually unnamed or unknown product or service. This is great way to introduce something new that a company wants its audience to know.

To begin, you should first calculate a break-even point for your campaign. If you’re going to give away something, it needs to be of value. The first step is to determine the value of a customer. Utilizing a heating and cooling company as an example, if we know that the average person spends $3,200 on a new AC unit and people only upgrade their AC units every 10 years, then the value of a customer is $3,200. For a pizza business, we would take an average sale (let’s say $20) times the number of visits per month (let’s say four visits) to achieve an $80 monthly value of a customer. To calculate the break-even point for the campaign, you take the cost of the campaign and divide by the value of the customer to achieve your break-even point. This can be worked backwards to calculate how much it costs to gain new customers. In the case of the pizza business, if the cost of your monthly advertising is $800 and the monthly value of a customer is $80, then you would need 10 new customers to break even with the campaign.

A tease in the form of an advertisement shouldn’t be too obvious, but must be interesting enough to generate attention. It’s critical to have sworn secrecy among those in the know. The brand, product or service should be out of sight until the big reveal. And when that time comes, the reveal has to be relevant or the public will sigh and the brand will suffer. You must gratify the created anticipation with truly valuable information to the customer.

I suggest that a teaser campaign should tie to an idea or argument, not just a brand, so talk doesn’t swiftly stop when the reveal happens. One campaign that I created was to overcome the customer bias against having to bake your own pizza (take and bake) versus picking up a piping hot one. To do that, the campaign satirized customer’s getting what they wanted with outdoor ads for a fictitiously created product named Murphy. Posters featured photos of smiling customers, but taglines included phrases like: “Pizza Companies have been giving you the pizza you like; Murphy’s putting a stop to that.” Take and bake was an unknown in the Midwest region ten years ago. The idea that someone wanted to stop people from getting the pizza they like was a conflicting thought that created a stir among those that saw the campaign.

The intention was to make sure we walked the fine line of parody. It was something to make sure people looked at the ad twice and started to think, “That can’t possibly be right, can it? Why would anyone be against someone giving someone something good? Only because, there was something better.

Another example utilizing one of my favorite local stores, Shorty’s Home and Garden, might be “Mary planned an expensive garden, Shorty put a stop to that.” The fact that it’s Shorty’s isn’t revealed, but leaves the audience wondering if one is talking about Shorty’s Garden and Home. This tease overcomes perception that a local store is more expensive than a big box store that trucks garden items to the region.

Typically, a plan calls for a couple of weeks of tease and then doubled amount of reveal (such as two weeks of tease with four weeks of reveal).  Here are some tips for teasers:

•   Make sure the campaign is relevant to your brand’s message.

•   Get everyone with know-how to sign secrecy waivers, and keep an ear out for leaks.

•   Make the mystery matter to generate blogging, speculation and news stories.

•   Streamline communication so everyone’s on the same page.

•   Be sure the reveal, and the product, lives up to the hype.

Here are some scenarios that companies of all sizes should be open to for a successful teasing campaign opportunity:

•   You recently purchased a company to integrate into an existing company

•   You are adding a different set of services to an existing company

•   You have had ownership changes in your company

•   You have made a large scale strategic change in what you offer your customers

The strategy is the same whether you are a large or a small company.

Lisa! Schmidt is a marketing strategist. She can be reached at or 360.694.0801.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.