Mystery Napkin Leads To Snow Days

Picture it: MediaPost's office, about a month ago. The mail arrives on schedule after lunch and yours truly receives an unmarked envelope, postmarked from Colorado. I open the mystery package assuming I'd find creative from a breaking campaign. What I find is a Starbucks napkin, some funky symbol and a URL talking about "The Purification." I immediately show all my co-workers within shouting distance, and each one looks as perplexed as me. I know it has to be some teaser for an ad campaign, but the URL gives me no clues. Google-ing the words Starbucks and purification leads me to water filtration stories and a few Scientology links. I'm lost. I banish the napkin from my mind--and the vicinity of my desk. Then, several weeks later, I receive an e-mail that starts out with the words, "You might have received an unmarked envelope with a Starbucks napkin in it a few weeks ago with a symbol scribbled on it."

As I'm simultaneously nodding at my computer screen and reading the e-mail, I realize the doodled napkin is part of a bigger campaign... for Taos Ski Valley, a family-run ski resort in New Mexico.

McKee Wallwork Cleveland created an elaborate campaign leading up to the beginning of ski season in an effort to bring forth the passion behind the sport of skiing and purge the trendiness.

The cornerstone of the campaign was the symbol--a circle inside a square inside a diamond--that represents icons used by ski resorts to mark trails.

Aside from Starbucks' napkins, the symbol was also placed in public places around the country on stickers, black diamond playing cards and post-it notes. even had its own MySpace page. Once the napkins and stickers started to appear in public places, so did a plethora of online forums devoted to the mystery.

A video of a "purification prophet" made its way on to YouTube, and a link of the video was planted on skier blogs and ski club Web sites. Finally, at 11 p.m. on Nov. 14, a timer located on Web site reached zero, revealing the company behind the campaign.

"When did it happen? When did the contamination begin? Who told the hot tubs and tanning beds to make themselves at home? When did the mountain become an afterthought? It's time we got de-programmed. It's time we drew a line in the snow. It's time to kiss the furry boots goodbye and fight for what's pure. Taos is about reconnecting. To the mountain. To the skis. To the sport. To ourselves. Welcome to the fork in the road. Welcome, to The Purification," said the site.

The next day frequent Taos skiers were sent a black hat embroidered with the symbol in an effort to create an "army of purists." Translation: no snowboarders are allowed on the mountain.

Print and online ads shows trail paths on a sleeping man's comforter, an ice cream cone and the profile of a woman's face along with the copy, "good luck getting it out of your head" and the revamped URL,

Initially, the brand was highly skeptical of the campaign strategy, but is satisfied with the results generated.

And how does Starbucks feel about the campaign? Let's just say ignorance is bliss; the company is unaware of its role in the Taos campaign.

"We believe that the Starbucks customer represents our target market and wanted to deliver our message to them where we knew they would be--drinking their latte while on their computer at the local Starbucks," said a spokesperson for the campaign.

Next story loading loading..