When it comes to selling inkjet printers, HP truly dominates, with a 52 percent market share, according to information technology research and advisory company Gartner, which ranks Lexmark a distant second at 19 percent in sales, Canon third with 12 percent, and Epson fourth with 7 percent of the market.
Given the quality of Epson’s products, Wade Forst, a creative director at Spunlogic who is not involved in Epson’s advertising but swears by their printers, believes the company deserves a higher market share but faults a lack of sexy marketing for its fourth-place rank. “HP is doing a much better job of making the printer lifestyle-focused,” Forst says, citing hp’s hip campaign featuring Gwen Stefani, who helps to sell the printer as a tool for self-expression.
That said, Epson has recently tried a fresher marketing approach with its integrated Epsonality-themed campaign. Launched in late October, just in time for the holiday shopping season, the effort matches consumers with printers that fit their needs — or, as the advertising says, their Epsonalities.
Created by Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners (BSSP), the Epsonality campaign is aimed at creative-minded individuals, with architects and designers in the bull’s-eye, according to BSSP group business director John Sheehan, who notes that the target widens to anyone who uses a printer for creative expression, including scrapbookers.
To reach Epson’s intended audience, BSSP created work for a range of offline media, including print ads in magazines such as Wired, Detailsand The New Yorker; TV commercials; and outdoor promotions in the New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston markets that included wild postings and a subway station domination stunt in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. “Outdoor was a medium that was not familiar to the category,” Sheehan points out. “HP is on TV a lot, and print is obviously huge in this area, but breaking that mold with the outdoor was fun.”
All of the components of the campaign, which also includes search and online banner ads, drive traffic to a special microsite. The hub of the campaign, epsonality.com, is where consumers can take an interactive quiz to determine which printer is right for them.
In addition to making the process of selecting a printer more straightforward, the hope is that the campaign will forge a bond between Epson and consumers, making them more emotionally tied to Epson printers “in the way that they are attached to products like iPods and Razr phones,” Sheehan says.
In terms of tone, the campaign is quirky and humorous. One of the rotating opening video sequences on epsonality.com features a clearly in love couple discussing a recent trip to the electronics store to purchase a printer. The woman explains that they need a printer for their scrapbooking projects. Obviously embarrassed, the guy tries to distance himself, claiming he doesn’t scrapbook (but you know he does) before going on to say how confused they were by the array of printers. “We realized we need professional help,” the woman concludes, noting that they got it at epsonality.com.
After watching the video intro, users are asked to take the aforementioned interactive quiz, which is conducted via video by a charmingly relaxed test leader and his goofy lab-coat clad assistant who relies on an array of props, including a rattlesnake and a burrito, throughout the presentation. Visitors are asked three silly but ultimately telling questions that help determine how they will use a printer and how much they are willing to spend.
For example, one of the questions presents a scenario in which you’ve just been bitten by a rattlesnake. You manage to remain conscious just long enough to crawl to your printer. What would you use it for? The choices: to print something creative like rich color photos of the loved ones you may never see again; to print something more business-oriented such as your last will and testament accompanied by pie charts; or would you use it to fulfill some basic printing needs?
At the end of the quiz, participants are taken to a page that reveals which Epson printer — ranging from the multi-function CX9400Fax to the R280 photo printer — is best for them. They can then purchase the printer from Epson online, or they can print out the information to take to a retailer. If they won’t be making the purchase but want someone else to buy the printer for them as a gift, they can use the e-mail option to send that person the details about the Epson they want.
As for Epson’s decision to take consumers by the hand and guide them through the printer selection process, Gartner printer markets principal analyst Federico De Silva León sees the value in the strategy. “What you tend to find is that there is a lot of confusion among consumers just because of the sheer volume of printer models. You go into a store, and it’s like, ‘Which one is right for me?’ ” De Silva León says. “You really need help with the buying decision.”
Jeffrey Marks, Epson’s director of marketing and communications, reports that anecdotally, Epson has heard consumers are walking into retail outlets with their printed-out Epsonality profiles in hand after taking the quiz.
Regarding Epson’s holiday sales, Marks chose not to reveal specifics, but says they were very good and could certainly be linked back to the epsonality.com campaign and site.
All in all, Epson is pleased with the results it’s seen generated by this campaign. “We’ve never done anything like this before. Certainly, we’ve been a major advertiser utilizing many forms of media in the past. But this is the first time where we’ve actually created a site and had [a campaign focused on] driving traffic to that site,” Marks says. “To see all that work be very successful in the aggregate has been a real eye-opener for us.”
Spunlogic’s Forst was driven to epsonality.com by a TV commercial and found the site to be engaging. He was particularly impressed by the design of the e-mail function that allows consumers to pass on information regarding the printer they want to potential gift givers. “They did a good job of realizing the audience might not be the purchaser, which is great for the holiday season,” Forst says. “And the e-mail was thoughtfully designed.”
If Forst were going to add anything to the site, it would be a forum for peer review. “They didn’t have the voice of the consumer,” says Forst, who finds consumer input sorely missing from microsites in general. “Even if some of the reviews are bad, this could be a reconnection point with the consumer for them.”
With the holiday season long over, the Epsonality campaign remains active and traffic to epsonality.com continues to trend upward, Marks reports. “It’ll be the end user who ultimately decides how long the site stays up,” Marks says. “As a responsible marketer, we want to make sure that we keep having a venue that will allow people to discover their Epsonality.”
Additionally, Epson would also like to give those who have already identified their Epsonalities a reason to come back to the site, according to Marks. So we’re talking about where we go next with Epsonality,” he shares, adding, “I definitely think this campaign has legs.”