John Garcia on Audi's Twitter Campaign
Honolulu designer John Garcia has been named one of ten finalists in a groundbreaking social media campaign by Audi. He moves onto Round 2, which kicks off on Monday, and with the help of the Hawaii social media community, he and his supporters could win $25,000 for charity.
I was eager to find out how everything came together. And although John was already deep into brainstorming and developing his strategy, he was kind enough to take some time for an e-mail interview.
Ahead of the Curve
The automaker kicked off its multimillion dollar "Luxury Has Progressed" campaign with a widely lauded Super Bowl ad on Sunday. And while John surely didn't expect to be picked as a finalist, he knew what Audi was up to well before the big game.
"I heard about the campaign a few days before Super Bowl while doing some research for a Think Tank meeting I was putting together for some colleagues at work," he says. "It was a look at the impact of social media and major sporting events such as the Super Bowl."
As Digital Innovation Strategist at Kamehameha Schools, he took note of reports that Audi was going to be the first company to include a Twitter hashtag, or topic keyword, in a Super Bowl commercial. Using the "#ProgressIs" hashtag entered people in a contest to win a trip to Sonoma County in California to test drive an Audi R8, and to have $25,000 donated to charity on their behalf.
In fact, John posted his winning Twitter entry on Friday, two days before the Steelers and the Packers faced off.
John says it took a few minutes to come up with the message, and while complementary, it came from a personal connection to the company.
"As an Audi owner, I understand the brand and have a personal connection with what progress is to me," he says. "The thoughts in my tweet were spoken from driving and owning that experience."
The Super Bowl, and Audi's Super Bowl ad, came and went. John says he wondered how many people even knew what the hashtag meant.
"I'm not so sure the campaign was easy to grasp at first glance — the #ProgressIs hash tag initially reminded me of a prescription medicine," he jokes. "My favorite part was Kenny G, for sure!"
Making the Cut
On Wednesday, he got the good news. Fittingly, the team behind Audi's social media campaign used social media to get in touch.
"Being that I had already followed Audi, they were able to contact me with the notification," he recalls. "I was checking in via Gowalla to another meeting when I got the DM."
John says he was shocked, especially since he'd brought up the campaign last week, and even told his coworkers that he'd entered.
"To be chosen as a finalist, I couldn't make that up," he says.
He checked with Audi to see if he could tell people about being a finalist, and he got a response right away that it was fine. So he did, impressed with Audi's efforts to date.
"As someone in the social media industry, it's always exciting when a big company thinks outside the box and utilizes tools that are innovative and uncharted," he says. "It's these risks that take the same old campaign tactics to the next level."
And Then There Were Ten
After the initial excitement subsided, John started to look into who the other winning Twitter users were.
"I started to notice a pattern in those who were being chosen: highly active social media users with large followings," he says.
Though he hadn't heard of most of the finalists, he saw that @ChrisHusong was also moving on to Round 2.
"It made sense," John says. "Chris has 52,000 followers and I've seen his name in and around social media in the past."
It became clear that he was up against several "social media heavy hitters," and simply by the numbers, John says that some might prematurely count him and his 4,200 followers out.
"This will be a good test to see how engaged my followers are and how willing they are to spread the word on my behalf," he admits. But his supporters could surprise everyone.
Hawaii is Social
John says he is a believer in the power of the "coconut wireless," both conventional, and digital.
"Hawaii has a tight knit social community where we foster conversation as a natural extension of our culture," he says. "Word of mouth is a way of life in the islands and if you're able to reach the right people, your story will resonate across the state within hours."
The next phase of the contest kicks off early in the morning on Valentine's Day, and wraps up on Friday, Feb. 18. Are those five days enough to get the support of Hawaii's Twitter community?
"I'm confident that with the right messaging and plan in place, we'll be able to unify our efforts and give the competition a run for their money," John says.
The Game Plan
To win Round 2, he must develop a Twitter campaign around a photo and a hashtag that must garner the most views.
John says won't unveil his campaign until 7 p.m. HST on Sunday (or midnight on the East Coast), but he's already given out some hints.
He's started posting to Twitter with the hashtag "#VoteForProgress," for one, asking people to name their favorite charities. And he's registered VoteForProgress.org, where he says he'll post all the details, including easy ways to help him spread the word.
"I have a plan in the works that I think might allow me to use this experience as a spring board to greater good," he says.
Photo courtesy John Garcia.