Mysterious packages. Black lights. Secret messages. Tantalizing clues. At ALEA EXPO 2017, irresistible marketing made Textron Aviation the star of the show.
About the Event
Since 1968, the Airborne Law Enforcement Association has promoted the use of aircraft for keeping the streets safe. ALEA EXPO is a big draw for police officers, pilots and decision-makers from departments countrywide. This year’s show took place in Reno, Nevada, and Textron Aviation wanted to stand out among the crowd of exhibitors. First, it needed a tactical plan.
Tactics, Mystery & Intrigue
Textron Aviation is known as a manufacturer of business aircraft. What most people don’t know is that many of its products excel in surveillance operations.
We devised a campaign to expose this secret to law enforcement agents and position Textron Aviation as their trusted partner. With so many vendors vying for attention at ALEA EXPO, success hinged on out-marketing the competition.
Effective marketing establishes a peer-to-peer dialog with the target audience. Keeping this in mind, we brainstormed concepts that would appeal to the inquisitive nature of police officers. How about a mystery direct mail piece?
It’s one week before the expo. ALEA members receive a manila envelope marked with the word “Evidence.” Intriguing. They open it and extract the contents. Two 5-by-7 surveillance images. A photo of the aircraft that took them. Someone jotted down specs on the back of the pictures. An informant report. It says that a Textron Aviation employee possesses valuable information. Her photo is paper-clipped to the report. A folded map of Reno. A black light. More clues.
There’s a sticky note on the map. “Something big is about to go down. See if you can shed some light on the location.” None of the contents react under the black light — except the map. A hidden message reveals Textron Aviation’s booth number at the show. The final piece of evidence is there. The code phrase is “Hook ‘em up.”
Speaking the Lingo
Simulating real evidence posed a considerable risk. If the mailer lacked an authentic look and feel, the campaign could misfire. The design had to speak the audience’s vernacular. Our creative team interviewed members of law enforcement for insights into police language, the minutiae of procedure and even the paperwork.
Rewarding Good Police Work
The hidden message incentivized ALEA members to visit Textron Aviation’s booth for “a valuable piece of evidence.” When they revealed their code phrase, the sales representative rewarded them with one of two gifts: Smith & Wesson handcuffs or a tactical flashlight. These items were chosen for their practicality and convenient size (most of the guests traveled to the event by air). Each gift was custom-packaged and branded with powerful statistics about how fixed-wing aircraft help fight crime.
The campaign included print ads that came with fresh challenges. Police aviation is a complex operation to visualize on paper. It involves coordinating with officers from 12,000 feet up — sometimes at night using thermal imaging. In surveillance operations, police aircraft fly at high altitudes and remain virtually unseen. The ads needed some drama to get the attention of law enforcement agents.
The first concept puts the audience in the middle of the action. While officers take down a suspect, the police aircraft is on the scene to deploy surveillance technology and record the events as they unfold.
Whereas the first ad communicates partnership, the second features capability. The audience assumes the aircraft’s point of view, which demonstrates the sheer scope of surveillance coverage from high altitudes.
“Everyone at the show was talking about it,” an ALEA member said about the campaign. Others commented on its genius execution. For those who designed the campaign, its success has reaffirmed a hard-and-fast rule about good marketing: To catch a target audience, you have to think like one.