capital one

Capital One: Taking the Road Less Traveled Through Novelty Advertising

The focus on advertising has magnified in recent years with the emergence of a wide range of platforms and techniques to support them. With so much competition in the market, standing out with messages that engage, increase brand awareness and/or prompt consumers to take action are just a few of marketing’s biggest challenges. Capital One’s latest promotional strategy certainly seems to be a step in the right direction.

Nowadays, with traditional advertising platforms such as newspapers, radio, billboards, etc., becoming clogged with ads, digital advertising has become the primary focus for ad agencies. Seeing the internet as one large chalkboard, smart companies focus on filling any gaps they see and customizing content to suit their specific audience.

Selling ads with humor, infotainment or even conventional storytelling, Capital One’s efforts have traditionally been directed towards generating conversation around the brand. Since the company’s website serves as headquarters for all brand information, advertisers branched out to explore other avenues to increase visibility and create interest.  

At the same time, consumers began searching for ways to consume online content while avoiding targeted ads. Using ad blockers has become a convenient way for people to steer clear of ads entirely.

People also have begun paying premiums to access ad-free subscription-based websites. The popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are, in large part, the result of their uninterrupted, ad-free services. At a time when advertising takes away a great chunk of a company’s budget, their efforts might be wasted, never reaching the target audience because of consumers’ tendency to view ads as undesirable.

To combat this disinterest, marketers have started exploring other ways to publicize their brands. For Capital One, the answer came through something very simple – fortune cookies.

Teaming up with startup Open Fortune, the bank signed a deal to have a branded ad delivered to Chinese restaurants across the United States through fortune cookies. By printing company ads on small strips of paper inside the cookies, along with the usual fortunes, the hope was that Capital One’s distinct ad placement would generate curiosity and increase brand awareness.

When NYC-based social media influencer Ben Kaufman posted about the refreshingly different ad on his Twitter feed, the campaign quickly went viral. As expected, some spoke in favor of the ad’s novelty and others spoke against it. The attention the unique ad delivery garnered both ways brought a lot of publicity for the company.

Capital One had successfully found a way to bypass consumers’ defenses against ads, surprised them with creativity, and crafted a unique and memorable brand experience. For people who liked keeping their printed fortunes rather than tossing them, the Capital One ad would stay with them longer. But even those who discarded the slip would remember the campaign, if for no other reason than for its novelty.

While the idea was simple, the success was noteworthy with talk being generated around the brand at minimal cost. Counting on the excitement and curiosity people would feel towards cracking open the fortune cookies, Capital One created an element of surprise for consumers, providing a reason to talk about the company, enhancing brand awareness.

Drawing on the thrill customers might feel reading predictions about their futures, Capital One managed to link itself to that positive emotion. With countless Chinese restaurants across the U.S. offering fortune cookies, this strategy succeeded in extending the company’s reach, giving them access to a wider section of consumers who could be swayed to use their services.

Creative and unique ad campaigns are always remembered, and this ingenious move by Capital One was a fun addition to the advertisements that have come before. The company wisely proved that it isn’t always necessary to carry an ad on the biggest billboards when a small strip of paper, strategically and artfully delivered, might do.

About the author

Anuradha graduated from Christ University with a triple major degree in Journalism, Psychology, and English in 2018. While pursuing her graduation, she was selected for an internship with The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper. Several articles authored by her have been published by the paper. Anuradha has previously interned with soft skills training company People and Change Consultants India and also worked with children at counseling clinics. Pursuing her interest in exploring a diverse range of hobbies, she has completed...


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