In January 2012 Wimpy decided to try a completely new type of advertising. They launched what they called their ‘Braille Burgers’ public relations campaign. What the campaign did was set out to write, in seseme seeds on the top of a burger bun; in braille, that Wimpy’s new menu was considerate to visually impaired people because it was also offered in braille. Wimpy made precisely 15 burger buns in braille, and took precisely 15 Wimpy meals to unsuspecting visually impaired people in South Africa.

Now there are just over 1 million visually impaired people living in South Africa. Relative to the population at large, that is not a lot of people. Therefore,  from a marketing, or more accurately a profit-making perspective, why would Wimpy give away free food, spend hours making burgers they don’t ordinarily make and then mission off to random parts of the country to distribute a very small number of burgers to unknown people?

a) How could this possibly make money?

b) How could this exercise possibly benefit Wimpy?

c) Why do we care?

The truth is the exercise itself did not make money, it cost Wimpy money. However, the spin off was extraordinary. Wimpy claim that it was not their intention for this campaign to go viral or to get the attention that it did (nor did they mean to do it the same week McDonalds was being wrapped over the knuckles for turning a blind person away because of their guide dog). But of course, when the films of the visually impaired people ‘reading’ their burgers were put on to YouTube everybody wanted to take a look. And the real questions are: how did that make people feel and what impression did it leave of Wimpy. In addition to that, despite there being only 1 million visually impaired people in South Africa, they all have friends, family, colleagues and networks, all of whom would have been emotionally invested in the beautiful thing Wimpy had done. Word of mouth marketing is still the most powerful; and what a wonderful way to spread the word…

In this case, not only is Wimpy not selling a product, they are selling an emotion, but they are also providing an amazing experience for both those who ate the burgers, those who love them and those who watched the YouTube video. Not only were Wimpy able to create a tangible and memorable experience for everybody, which is memorable, they created a talking point; and we all know that word of mouth marketing is still the most effective.

Winston Churchill said ‘we make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give”. I think especially in a county like South Africa there are so many opportunities to make money out of doing good.

Contact me on saffron@tomorrowtraining.co.za via email on @Cre82learn on Twitter if you want to discuss your creative ideas for sustainable projects that involve merging your corporate social responsibility (CSR) and building your brand.

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