The childhood game of Hot & Cold, akin to Marco Polo and hide-and-seek, invaded 12 Walmart stores in June and helped win a team of aspiring marketers first place in a national competition.
The 19-member team, the Miami Collective from the University of Miami’s undergraduate School of Communication, bested 17 other universities from around the country in the National Student Advertising Competition — for the second time in three years.
The competition, hosted annually by the American Advertising Federation, challenges students to develop marketing campaigns that they present to corporate executives. Recognizable brands like Coca-Cola, Nissan and State Farm have been clients in the past. In 2011, another University of Miami team took home its first national championship for the campaign it created for JCPenney.
The Miami Collective created a $10 million, five-month campaign that targeted do-it-yourself women who shop at Walmart for supplies but typically go elsewhere for paint. Now, the company that makes Glidden Paint — Walmart’s primary paint brand — plans to visit the Walmart global headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to introduce some of the strategies that the students employed.
“The University of Miami’s work will be represented in our summary of what could be implemented in the market,” said Eric Stasiowski, communications director for PPG Architectural Coatings.
Growing the brand at Walmart is a real challenge, Stasiowski said. “Walmart is not the first destination people think of for paint,” he said.
By reintroducing Glidden as the name-brand gem hidden within the maze of Walmart, the team aimed to lure its target market to the paint department, said Tayler White, creative player on the team and recent graduate of the university.
“Part of the reason people weren’t buying Glidden Paint at Walmart was because it wasn’t the best experience,” White said. “The department was disorganized, which made finding samples hard.”
By splitting the department into five color-coded sections, providing information that might be asked of paint specialists and giving demonstrations, the team overhauled the Glidden Paint section of the stores.
Then, the team introduced the Hot & Cold game to grab shoppers’ attention in 12 Walmart locations.
“We used different signs around the stores to indicate whether people were getting warmer or colder,” White said. “For example, the home décor department was a hot area, whereas the food department was cold.”
To pique customer curiosity, the team dropped clues that doubled as incentives. Shoppers then gathered the clues throughout the stores. “They received a 10 percent discount by collecting the clues,” White said. If customers followed clues all the way to the paint department, they had the chance to win $100 for their next do-it-yourself projects.
But before the campaign hit stores June 5, the team of students aired teaser ads on YouTube and used social media to build hype.
Some customers went crazy, snatching up clues and racing to the paint department to grab products. But most customers casually participated, White said.
To fine-tune its strategy, the group tested products at store entrances and at art fairs to gauge consumer perception of Glidden, Garcia said.
Stasiowski said the team’s research was most impressive, which paid off: the team also took home the award for best use of research.