(Non Paper) Icon Campaign from OfficeMax

Yesterday in OfficeMax I saw a new kind of icon campaign, this one a continuation of their efforts to benefit classroom teachers in the United States. There were three suggested donation amounts: $1, $2 and $5.

Unlike paper icons, it’s basically a tchotchke, similar to the Staples talking Easy Button, which benefited Boys and Girls Clubs of America. But the OfficeMax ‘refrigerator magnet’ is more utilitarian than cute; there’s a magnet on the back and you could use it hold photos, notes, bills, etc.

As I noted before, Staples Easy Button was notably light on information about the benefiting charity. The cause marketing element seemed like a last hour add-on. But with the OfficeMax refrigerator magnet, the cause is its raison d’être.

We get four swift sentences on the back of the card that explains what the cause is and why we should care. I spotted the OfficeMax refrigerator magnet in its own well-labeled POP box on the checkout counter.

The clerk did not ask me if I wanted to buy it. I expect OfficeMax does not have in place an employee incentive campaign to encourage sales of the refrigerator magnet, although I didn’t confirm that.

My usual problem with icon campaigns that feature iconography from the sponsor rather than the charity is that the company probably shortchanges itself in so doing. After all, the value proposition in most cause marketing is that the sponsoring company hopes to benefit from an association with a notable and respected charity, and in exchange the charity gets money. But in this case the money goes to OfficeMax’s in-house nonprofit, the OfficeMax Charitable Foundation and is used to fund their teacher support initiatives.

In high quantity print runs, paper icons might only cost a few pennies to print. I expect the Officemax refrigerator magnet cost more than that, meaning the donations margins are lower when people pay only $1. But OfficeMax is certainly betting that $2 is the new $1 donation for icon campaigns.

The label says it was made in China. In the States we’re reaching an era... inspired by the green movement... that isn’t so much openly anti-made-in-China as it is anti-shipping stuff from across the globe. Even in my little market I see a new emphasis on goods… especially pronounced in foodstuffs… that are ‘locally sourced.’ Locally sourced probably means within 150 miles or so. With a paper icon campaign, it’s easy to source a capable printer that fits those parameters.

I wonder about who the target market for OfficeMax refrigerator magnet is? I ask because, aside from filing cabinets, there’s not many metal surfaces in modern offices these days. I’ve consciously referred to it as a refrigerator magnet, because I think most of these are more likely headed for a refrigerator than a filing cabinet.

There’s a couple of tradeoffs in this campaign. When retailers post paper icons in their store, they generate a certain buzz during the length of the campaign. Customers notice them, ask about them, and are more likely to buy them. With this refrigerator magnet the customer takes it to the office or home and you don’t get that in this campaign.

By the same token, those campaigns are short and intense. They have a defined sales period which ends in 2-6 weeks, give or take. In this campaign, OfficeMax could probably leave the POP on their checkout counters year-round, restocking as needed.

I’m intrigued by OfficeMax’s campaign, which has gotten so many things right.

But as I’ve noted before, I’ve seen the future of icon campaigns and MDA is doing it.

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