Provocation-based Marketing: Are You Up For a Challenge?

Provocation-based Marketing

While meandering through the backroads of Wisconsin over the Fourth of July weekend, my husband and I found ourselves listening to WGN Radio, as that was the only station that had a clear enough signal. One of the guests on the John Williams Show really caught my attention.  His name was Michael Girts, an account executive at Leo Burnett

Girts and a team of sports’ fanatics at Leo Burnett created a marketing campaign that literally dared NBA free-agent LeBron James to come to Chicago to play for the Bulls.  In a nutshell, Girts’ team put together a four-day program that combined print ads and direct mail to get their message to LeBron (for a detailed look at the campaign click here).  But what I found most interesting about the campaign, was how it totally went against the grain.  Rather than promoting why Chicago was the best place for LeBron to play, they took an in-your-face-approach and literally “dared” LeBron to come to Chicago and try to fill Michael Jordan’s shoes.  

So why did I like the idea so much?  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Thought Leadership – the idea certainly reinforced Leo Burnett’s position as an innovative and forward-thinking agency.
  2. Use of Traditional Media – for the longest time, print ads and direct mail have taken a backseat to electronic media.  It was nice to see them be at the forefront of a marketing campaign.
  3. PR Gold Mine – given that it was released to the media right in the middle of the LeBron James hysteria, the campaign amassed a ton of coverage.  All you have to do is Google Leo Burnett and LeBron to see what I mean.
  4. But most of all…I liked it because, as a marketer, it challenged me to think. 

What bold moves can we as an agency make to move our business and our clients’ businesses forward?  Are we up to that challenge?  Are our clients?   Marketing that can spark that type of reaction is worth the hype. 

As it turn out, LeBron wasn’t.  Apparently, he wasn’t up to the challenge of trying to fill Michael’s shoes.  Instead, he decided to slip on a pair of flip-flops and headed down to the beach.


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