By: Rebecca Mahony
In February 2012, April Schroeder and her Marketing Mud team faced the seemingly impossible challenge of raising $1 million in seven days to build a home, recruit thousands of volunteers to complete the project, and notify the surrounding community and media, all while keeping the hook of the story – the future homeowners – a secret.
Marketing Mud successfully met all these challenges while working with the popular TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. To achieve the goal, Marketing Mud and Liquid Creative Studio created a community brand around this thrilling home build, generated social media buzz to fundraise and mobilize volunteers, and brought a community together to achieve this amazing feat.
How did they do all of this?
They began by highlighting the existing brand (Extreme Makeover) and creating a local brand, North Florida Extreme Makeover, to represent the two builders involved in the Clay County project (one from Jacksonville and the other from Gainesville) because the house was located between the two cities in Middleburg, Florida.
It was difficult to get media attention in Jacksonville because the house wasn’t located in Jacksonville proper. It was also difficult to keep the identity of the family receiving the house a secret, get community buy-in and raise millions of dollars’ worth of donations.
So Marketing Mud established a communications channel using social media and digital marketing to keep people informed. They wanted to achieve a social media following of at least 1,000 people to build support for the project. Twenty-one days out, Marketing Mud launched the local branding, website, social media accounts, notified the media and began fundraising.
The first big event in which Marketing Mud could involve the community was a pep rally at a local church. They were able to get the Jacksonville Jaguars to come out (eight days prior to the build) to acquire final donations. The event helped the community know what was going on. They expected a couple hundred people, but the church – which seated 700 people – was packed. People lined the outside of the church because there wasn’t enough room inside! They estimated about 1,000 people attended. The outpouring of the community was unbelievable. Marketing Mud made t-shirts to fundraise. They started selling them at the pep rally for the volunteers. People that attended were also able to sign up to receive updates and volunteer.
Marketing Mud also developed a website to showcase the two local builders selected by the TV network. These two builders donated 100 percent of their materials and manpower. The website had sections for volunteers, media, online donations, and live-streaming video, allowing those at home to participate. On day one of the build, Marketing Mud launched a page about the family receiving the house. While the website was the communications hub, the social media channels were the main point of contact with the community.
This was the first Extreme Makeover project that had used social media so successfully. Marketing Mud built a custom landing page on Facebook with interactive ‘donate now’ buttons and links to Twitter and YouTube pages about the build. Marketing Mud and staff stayed on site and tweeted and posted to Facebook constantly. They were able to use these social media channels to secure supplies and volunteers. Marketing Mud posted about what they needed, and people would reply and simply show up to help. The week of the build they saw a spike in interactions. Marketing Mud’s overall goal was 1,000 followers on Facebook; they ended up with nearly 2,600 followers. The social media initiative was so successful that Facebook referred visitors to the website about three times as often as Google.
Marketing Mud saw a second spike in website traffic and donations on the day they announced the family: a single high school gym teacher and volleyball coach who adopted one of her volleyball players and the girl’s two sisters.
There were many peripheral activities going on with this project. Marketing Mud had to have the sheriff’s department there to manage the crowd; they were managing the build site and a national celebrity, Ty Pennington; they had to have building inspectors on site at all times so they could move through the building process quickly.
Despite all of the obstacles, the community came together to support the build. Because the house was built in seven days, construction occurred day and night and impacted the neighbors’ daily lives. However, the TV network refurbished the front yards of everyone in the neighborhood to repair damage caused by construction and crowds
To get play in the local media, Marketing Mud invited local dignitaries and media to view the build from a tent with a great view. Also, because the story aired on Mother’s Day, the network had construction workers and volunteers send messages to their moms to tie in with the occasion. The network also arranged all the moms of the celebrity home makeover designers to be flown in, making the episode timely.
There were so many donations made over the course of the project. In addition to the home makeover, the University of North Florida donated scholarships for the three girls. Marketing Mud promoted this with a post-build news conference announcing the scholarships.
Marketing Mud wanted to capitalize on the feel-good feeling induced by the project. Their thought: Why can’t we build this momentum and excitement about giving year round? So afterward, they used their social media channels to encourage people to continue giving back to their community.
April Schroeder started Marketing Mud five years ago after deciding to return to the University of Florida to complete her undergraduate advertising degree. With 10 years of graphic design and sales experience under her belt, she had the idea of beginning a small business she could manage while completing her degree. This idea for a small promotional products company, Marketing Mud, took off in the first year. Schroeder provided logo-branded promotional items and customized design materials, and her small one-person business quickly expanded to eight employees to meet the needs of her growing client base. After completing her degree in 2009, the company grew into a full-service creative agency. In January 2012, Schroeder opened a new division, Liquid Creative Studio. Liquid Creative houses all agency service work: Web design, digital and online marketing, graphic design, social media marketing, and advertising strategy and solutions. Liquid Creative is a leader in branding and integrating social media. Marketing Mud is now solely dedicated to the promotional product and ad specialty industry.