Hey Marketing Bestie,
Us marketers sure can learn a lot from our Marketing fore-fathers and fore-mothers.
The greatest marketing campaigns in history deserve to be etched in HTML on the side of our nation's highways.
Welcome to Marketing Classics 411, a new kind of ancient history.
Professor Millennial teaches every Tuesday (remotely), via electronic mail.
Class is now in session.
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Texas Influenced an Entire Generation with One Campaign
Have you ever had a pleasant experience with the Department of Transportation?
Let me answer that for you, NO.
Known for their incredibly long lines, dull offices, and insanely great Marketing, wait hold up. Insanely great Marketing?
One of the most legendary campaigns came out of the squeaky ‘ol doors of the Texas Department of Transportation, spurring a statewide movement.
Let’s jump drive into today’s lesson.
The year is 1985, you’re driving behind a red Ford F150 on the long, straight Texas interstate highway, watching them eat a Big Mac and listen to Dire Straits.
They finish their Big Mac and toss it out the window, SPLAT. The wrapper and leftover ketchup hits your windshield. C’mon.
You’re furious, but they speed away and you’re unable to get the license plate.
You pick up the wrapper, thinking to yourself, how do we stop this??
Texas had a serious problem with littering. The culprit? “Bubba’s in pickup trucks” who felt it was their constitutional right to throw their Big Mac wrapper out on the side of the highway.
That’s when GSD&M, an ad agency based in Austin Texas, stepped in with a campaign that turned into a state slogan, merch line, and reduced litter on Texas highways by 72%.
Marketing Bestie Student, I present to you the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign.
A prideful and always independent state, TxDOT knew just the way to rally the people of Texas.
Officially launching in 1985 with a series of bumper stickers donning the beloved red, white, and blue of the state and US flag.
The quickest way for TxDOT to lose this battle with the “Bubba’s in pickup trucks” would have been to tell them what to do. Preaching at them, shaming them for their actions, would only result in more trash on the ground.
There’s a MASSIVE lesson here, build your customer personas! Know your target audience better than they know themselves.
The reason the Bubba’s in pickup trucks were littering was because they felt they were sticking up for what was rightfully theirs (aka the freedom to litter).
So TxDOT had to flip the script on its head and give those Bubba’s something equally worth standing up for. And Don’t Mess with Texas was born.
A call to action that rallied all Bubba’s to stand up against anyone messing with their beloved state.
Then the ball really got rolling…
In 1986 TxDOT ran their first commercial featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan, legendary American musician who was born and raised in Dallas, Texas.
The commercial showed Stevie Ray at the 50th annual Cotton Bowl Classic (an iconic annual Texas football game) singing “Eyes of Texas” with the line “Don’t Mess with Texas” stamped on at the end of the song.
A Texas legend, singing a song about Texas, at Texas’ biggest football game, with the new TxDOT tagline “Don’t Mess with Texas”, where all Bubba’s in pickup trucks were watching, now THAT'S aligning your campaign with your target audience.
TxDOT made sure not to associate themselves with any type of government agency and instead associated themselves with the most Texan things out there. The phrase was catching on.
And more Texas-born celebrities were featured in the commercials. From Owen Wilson to Matthew McConaughey, each repped the “Don’t Mess with Texas” slogan in their own commercial.
Who better to relate to your target audience than someone who is PART of your target audience. When working with influencers, find ones who are a NATURAL fit to your brand, that’s where you’ll see prolonged success.
In a world where the Marketing landscape changes every 2 days, don’t forget about the fundamentals.
A study revealed that 96% of Texans had heard the “Don’t Mess with Texas” phrase, Texan George W. Bush used the phrase in his acceptance speech at the RNC, and rapper Lil’ Keke named his debut studio album Don’t Mess wit Texas.
The phrase became a slogan for people from ALL walks of life in Texas.
To counteract their shrinking budget during the great recession in 2008, TxDOT released a “Don’t Mess with Texas” merch line that is still running today. The campaign transcended highways.
I may or may not have just bought “Don’t Mess with Texas” socks…
Texas highways are cleaner thanks to TxDOT, their genius Marketing campaign, and the support from Bubba’s in pickup trucks.
MARKETING CHEAT SHEET (WHAT TO RECYCLE FROM THIS CAMPAIGN)
Alignment. A sure-fire way for TxDOT to lose all hope at influencing Texans to stop littering would have been to remind everyone that they were a government agency. Texans are known for their rebellious, prideful, and independent ways, government is not a friend in their eyes. So TxDOT aligned their message with Texas' biggest traditions like the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Influencers. Don't force the issue, it's better to find an influencer that naturally fits your brand. Widen your time horizons, one-off activations with influencers are significantly less impactful than a long-term partnership with the right influencer. TxDOT's partnership with Texas-born celebrities fit the mold perfectly. I mean, who doesn't like Matthew McConaughey (did I spell that right??).
Customer Personas. Build your customer personas, know your customer better than they know themselves!
Ahh, the bell has rung. Please be sure to do the reading (follow The Marketing Millennials on LinkedIn and me, Professor Millennial, on Twitter).
Off you go, passing period is only 11 minutes and there’s already a line at the vending machine that sells Diet Coke.
Don't Mess with Texas,
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