«Return to Blog List Case Studies in Action – Alibaba’s Hybrid Success Story Campaign


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The last page of October’s Fast Company magazine took me down a rabbit hole – and I enjoyed the ride.

I’m always on the lookout for creative uses of customer case studies and success stories, and Alibaba.com delivered with a campaign that combines traditional print advertising with the online world, while also mixing real customers with actors – but not at the same time.

It’s an interesting effect.

Alibaba.com helps business owners find suppliers, manufacturers and other resources online to help them make and sell products.

A lot of companies use “fake customers” in their ads (think detergent ads). And some use real customers (Geico, Visa, etc.).

But Alibaba uses both. Here’s how:

1. The print ad (above) features two guys, supposedly customers, holding their product, a robot. Below the photo, it encourages me to get the full story at success.alibaba.com.

2. The website shows Flash-animated sets of three business owners, each with a story. Choose one and you get a funny video featuring those customers talking about their businesses.

Here, the company’s using what I believe are actors to make the point about what Alibaba does and how.

3. But if I click on the Success Stories tab on that page, I get what are definitely several real customer success stories. Clicking on one story initially launches a summary of that customer story in a frame, and then I can take the link for “the full story.”

4. For the full story, it pops up a PDF called “Success Stories Booklet.” I love this idea.

The booklet has about a dozen one-page stories about actual business owners, with their locations and types of businesses.

What I like about this is, at each step, this campaign lets the audience completely control how much information they want. You can get deeper and deeper into the campaign, and all the while, you are getting the same message about proven success with Alibaba.com.

If I had something to sell on Alibaba.com, I’d be sold on trying them out.

What about you? Do you think the offline/online campaign works? And does the mix of actors/real customers provide the proper level of authenticity to be convincing?

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