The strategy the Chattanooga Chamber used to win "Chamber of the Year"

When I got up yesterday I didn’t know the exciting news I’d find in my email that afternoon. One of our favorite clients, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, was named “Chamber of the Year” -- the highest honor in their industry. On top of that a special award was created just for them, the “Literally Perfect” award.

[The] campaign was all anyone could talk about at this convention. Every single person I talked to wanted to talk about Mr. Perfect as soon as they heard I was from Chattanooga. — Jeremy, Creative Project Manager

What does it take to win the highest honors?
It takes doing something that you’ve never done before.

After you’ve won awards it’s easy to look back and credit smart decision making and solid strategy. But in the moment, doing something you’ve never done before is risky.

A case-in-point example: One of the Chamber’s missions was to recruit businesses and people to relocate to Chattanooga. The normal way is a package of materials:

  • Beautiful pictures of the waterfront.
  • Some charts and graphs.
  • A testimonial video from someone who moved to the town and liked it.

All those things are important, but if you’re a mid-sized city in the South, sandwiched between Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville and Asheville, doing it like everyone else is doing it may not be enough to cut through the noise.

The Chamber opted to take a risk.
They decided to use a format that no one else in their industry was using, irreverent comedy.

The result was created a multi-year communications campaign called “Literally Perfect.” The face of the campaign was an iconic character, Mr. Perfect, a endearingly oblivious spokesman who kept getting it wrong.

They produced videos that featured two fictional companies that were having problems, the companies relocated to Chattanooga and had wild success.

It worked. There was buzz, online engagement, and the media picked it up.

The Chamber learned that by disarming people with humor they could cut through the noise but they saw ways they could do it even better.

The Sequel Conundrum
Here’s where things get tricky. When you go to double down on your past success there’s a problem that I like to call “the sequel conundrum”.

The Sequel Conundrum is a war between two opposing truths:

  1. You’ve built a world that people love, killing it would be throwing away what your fans love.
  2. The death of every bad movie sequel is doing more of the same, think Shrek 3-4. Diehard fans will watch it, but it will never be satisfying like the original.

Instead of creating another installment in the series, the Chamber raised the stakes by taking Mr. Perfect into a new genre: musicals.

The Chamber also doubled down on their launch. Their best results came from Facebook, so they put 90% of their effort into that platform, getting smarter about how they pushed it out. They created a surround sound effect piggybacking off of pop culture spoofing the Oscar success of the movie La La Land, by calling it Cha Cha Land. They built a really smart microsite for the campaign: They went to the airport and welcomed real travelers with by cheering them as they arrived.

The results came back thick and fast:

  • Nearly 100k views on Facebook.
  • National press from publications like City Lab calling it a “city branding campaign we can get behind.”
  • Facebook reach was up over 2,500%.

The good news is you can use some of same strategies in your company:

  1. A few weeks ago we wrote about the free storytelling hack that both the Chattanooga Chamber and Super Bowl ads use.
  2. If you think that musicals are big budget extravaganzas reserved only for Hollywood, they’re much less scary than that. See for yourself in the Making of a Musical post.

So what does it take to win the highest honors? It takes risk. It takes doing something that you’ve never done before.