The “Use Your Coconut” Campaign, Phase I: Thinking Outside the Box


It all started with a simple question.

“Did you know you can mail a coconut?”

Immediately the light bulb went on, and us creatives were off and running with the nutty theme of our wildly popular self-promotion campaign: “Use Your Coconut.” 

It’s been quite a ride watching the campaign grow from a simple objective—positioning AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District as thought leaders in direct marketing and building awareness of our mailing services—to through-the-roof response rates and a visit from one of the country’s leading experts in multi-channel marketing.

In this post, I’ll explain our rationale for the theme and the first phase of the campaign; future posts will address phases two and three, and a wrap-up of results.

On day one, we articulated our objective and set our sights on the bullseye: who we are aiming to reach. Our target audience was composed of high value current customers not using our mailing services but likely to, or using our mailing services, but on a limited basis; and a few key prospects.  Because our focus was mailing services, we wanted to demonstrate the use of a number of mailing formats and multiple touches. Since a high-profile direct marketing event was to be the culmination of our campaign, we determined we needed to mail an invitation, preceded by at least two other major touches that would effectively engage and motivate our audience. 

With an audience that can sometimes be hard to reach (higher level executives often get their mail screened, a.k.a. rerouted to the round file) but well worth it if you do, we decided on a dimensional mailer to break the ice—more expensive than other formats, but capable of delivering a higher return on investment. Here’s where the creativity really kicked in!

We took “thinking outside the box” to a whole new level when I asked, “Did you know you can mail a coconut?” Having heard that it was possible (but not knowing how one does it), we concocted the campaign theme, Use Your Coconut, which invited our target audience to use their coconuts both literally (the furry brown fruit that grows on tropical trees) and figuratively (as in, using your brain for thinking and learning).

Considerable research, trial, and testing was necessary in order to determine how best to mail a coconut! After ruling out painting on it (messy and time-consuming), adhering a label on it (smooth surface needed for sticking power!), and shrink-wrapping it (mold grows after four or five days), we hit upon wrapping it in nylon netting and attaching a hangtag. Our design team partnered with several U.S. Post Office officials in preparing a final sample that was not only mailable, but eye-catching and impossible to ignore in one’s mailbox.
Branded with a uniquely designed Use Your Coconut—Think Direct Mail logo, our coconut mailer certainly grabbed attention. The hangtag featured a few educational factoids on direct mail, and invited recipients to go to their personalized URL for a chance to win a $150 gift certificate to one of Pittsburgh’s hottest restaurants. Respondents answered survey questions that gave us valuable information on their businesses’ mailing needs, as well as on their favorite uses for their coconuts.

We basically went nuts for coconuts, creating large window clings for our center’s windows (one featured a quiz and text message answer), rotating website banners proclaiming various mailing factoids, and a Facebook page featuring coconut photos and entries posted by our staff members and clients alike.

Surrounded by coconuts (purchased in the Strip District in 40 lb. bags), our staff needed a break after the mailing. Our manager, Rich, grabbed a hammer and whacked away at one of the extras. Cracking the thick-walled orb was difficult, but once it split, a big puddle of coconut water spilled out.

Quickly catching the remaining liquid in Dixie Cups, we drank. Most of us hadn’t dealt with a “real” coconut before.

“Tastes like bathwater, with a coconut aftertaste,” I said. The coconut meat wasn’t much better. The sweetness I’m accustomed to apparently comes later, in the processing and packaging of the flaky coconut I purchase in plastic bags.

Tastiness notwithstanding, our coconuts impressed­—in fact, they set records. Stay tuned for more details….

by Anne Flanagan
Marketing Strategist and Creative Designer,
AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District


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