Pavlov’s Dogs and Lickable Lifts

Last week was the grand finale of Engine London’s ‘Lift Off’ challenge. As I’ve written before, the idea was pretty simple: Each agency was given the opportunity to take over a lift in the Engine building for two weeks. This was to be used to deliver a unique ‘elevator pitch’ that would explain what they do to staff from other agencies and visitors.

To spice things up, the agencies were pitted against each other to see who could generate the most interest and buzz. All activity was tracked across social media and other channels using specific hash-tags and key words.

Adding this simple gamification mechanic was enough to unleash an extraordinary amount of creativity and competitiveness. The battle for exposure also revealed some deep truths about marketing: Pavlov was right. Simple repetitive rewards work best – especially sweet ones.

Each agency set out to get people talking about their lift in different ways.  Some encouraged us to tweet our purpose, others wanted to know our passions. The problem they all faced was that every other agency actually had an incentive not to play along. For example, if you worked in Engine’s social media agency Jam, you knew that a tweet for the #PAAlift would help Partners Andrews Aldridge, and in so doing reduce the chances of your own agency winning the challenge.

In order to overcome this problem, agencies soon began offering incentives of various shapes and sizes. The sponsorship consultancy Synergy created a competition where the winners could win prizes to sporting events. Transform, Engine’s multi-channel experts, initially had a DAB Radio up for grabs. When someone pointed out that in the age of Spotify, this prize might not have universal appeal; they wisely offered a crate of beer instead. I thought this was an interesting example of channel shift.

However, the agency that really cracked the code was Engine’s data analytics company, Fuel. After rigorous analysis and behavioural modeling they hit upon the magic formula. Building on the work of Pavlov and Skinner they employed the behaviorist approaches of classical and operant conditioning, otherwise known as ‘tweets for chocolate’.

Pavlov’s Dogs

By focusing on providing small, guaranteed and near instant rewards of chocolate bars in exchange for tweets that answered daily simple questions using the #FuelLift hash-tag, they were able to create a positive reinforcement loop that generated a huge surge of social media mentions by staff in other Engine agencies.

At the end of their two-week stint, the mere mention of the words ‘Fuel Lift’ was enough to induce the salivation reflex among Engine staff. It also led to a shortage of chocolate around Great Portland Street that may have contributed to last month’s surprise spike in the Retail Inflation Index.

The one drawback of Fuel’s ingenious approach was that it focused on providing an extrinsic reward rather than creating intrinsic value. Simply put, people tweeted about their lift in return for chocolate and not necessarily because the lift was worth talking about. The agency that solved this problem with considerable style was Engine’s consumer PR agency, Mischief.

The World’s First Lickable Lift

Mischief’s approach was different in a couple of ways. For a start, they were the only agency to completely revamp their lift twice. In week one they created a beautiful display of their greatest PR successes, but they saved their pièce de résistance for the final week of the competition.

To demonstrate their PR credentials, Mischief changed the focus from themselves and instead used the space to promote one of their clients, creating the world’s first lickable lift covered in wallpaper flavoured with 1325 McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes.

The result was sensational. National and international media outlets picked up the story with articles appearing in The Sun, The Daily Mail, Huffington Post, NBC, Digital Spy and many more. This also generated countless blogs, tweets and mentions across social media channels.

Engine has yet to announce the official winner of the ‘Lift Off’ challenge, but I know who I think licked the competition.

  • Reddick

    “Mmmmm! what lovely saliva-flavoured Jaffa cakes you have”…
    Idea would work very well in Playboy’s HQ lift, no doubt.

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