3 Lessons from a Post-It War

Look for marketing inspiration in new and unconventional places.
Look for marketing inspiration in new and unconventional places.

War—what is it good for? Well, if it’s the kind of war that takes place when rival ad agencies get passive-aggressive with Post-It notes in their office windows, it’s good for everyone who gets to see the results.

That’s what happened in NYC a few months ago. It started innocently enough when the word “Hi” went up in an office window downtown. Across Canal Street, neighbors saw the greeting and replied with “Sup.”

Both buildings host ad agencies on multiple floors—including Cake Group, Getty Images, and Heartbeat Ideas—and nothing inspires marketers like creative competition. They knew it was going to be war. It wasn’t long before the press picked up the story, and the Post-It War went viral.

Highlights included “Simpsons” characters, a sprawling aquarium, and superhero logos. It all ended on May 25, when Havas Worldwide created an emblematic “mic drop” with 6,000 Post-Its portraying a hand dropping a microphone.

Not only did the event create a lot of fun buzz for the agencies involved, it also generated a lot of brand awareness and business for Post-It. Hashtags #postitwars and #canalnotes were used on social media over 10,000 times in just under two weeks, and overall brand exposure for Post-It was valued at $2 million, according to Apex Marketing Group.

What marketing lessons can the rest of us take away from this fun and quirky series of events?

  1.       Seize the moment. 3M, the parent company of Post-It, acted fast when it heard about the rivalry taking place in Manhattan. It quickly sent shipments of Post-It notes to both buildings so that they’d have enough supplies on hand to continue their quests for creative glory. It was also an organic and playful way for the brand to get involved and show its support.
  2.       Stand out from the crowd. You may not have heard of some of agencies who participated in the Post-It war before the events last May. But jumping into the fray drew the spotlight to those companies in a fun way that had nothing to do with advertising. It’s important to keep your company at the top of people’s minds, even when you’re not promoting your wares. Just by participating in community events, sponsorship opportunities, and other visible engagements, you can introduce your brand to new audiences in memorable ways.
  3.        Define winning. Havas Worldwide might have ended the battle, but that’s not why it was the winner in our eyes. It won because analytics showed that Havas had the most social media engagement, with 41% of overall digital traction. It’s important to define what “winning” means to you, and how you’ll measure success, before diving into any marketing endeavor.  What matters at the end of the day is not how outsiders perceive your success, but whether you met all of the goals you defined at the outset of your campaign.

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