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Phone Cards As Promotional Products

PhoneCard Catches The Wave Of Surf Craze With "Intrusive" Mailing
By Cherri Gann

What gets more notice? A quiet "hello" or a big, boisterous "How the heck are ya?" Granted, while the latter isn't always the preferred method of introduction in every situation, in the right circumstances it can be a hard-core attention-getter. The same theory goes for introducing a new product. While some companies will settle for sending a standard press release via fax or mail and wonder why their intended audience is so slow to respond, others make their presence known with something unconventional, attempting to reap the rewards of a high-impact presentation.

This is precisely what the marketing minds at PhoneCard Express LLC were thinking when they decided to introduce the firm's new Internet phone card. The concept behind the Web-based product allows the end-buyer to distribute free long-distance phone time via a toll-free phone contact and a PIN number to clients who then fill out an online survey. A good idea. But since there isn't actually a physical product involved, PhoneCard Express needed to make the concept stand out in the marketplace.

The supplier decided to distribute a brochure describing the product to the media and its top distributors (a composite group of those who regularly buy phonecards and use them frequently for promotions and those who inquired about a similar product). But it wanted to do so in as memorable a way as possible. Hooking into the current mega popularity of surfing, it sent the brochures through USPS, but shrinkwrapped it to a functional multicolored foam surfboard about three feet long.

"The technology is kind of intimidating," says Tracey Robinson, PhoneCard director of marketing. "E-mail, URLS, HTML - that stuff is a little daunting to some people. Really, it's an easy promotion, and we wanted to have it be as fun and simple as possible so it wouldn't seem so intimidating."

And the promotion was indeed a success. "The response has been tremendous," Robinson says. "It's an easy promotion to respond to. We set up a demo site for the program [on the Web], and people went to it, clicking through and requesting more information about it. We sent out about 300 surfboards and I0,000 other brochures, and so far we've had about a 10% response rate."

Which, as any savvy marketer will tell you, is pretty impressive.

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