The U.S. Mint was mandated by Congress to produce a new dollar coin to take its place along side the quarter, dime, nickel, and penny as a circulating coin. Because of political concerns, the new dollar coin could not replace the dollar bill but instead had to “co-circulate” with it.
The new dollar coin would be an exact substitute for an enormously popular existing product, one that consumers have been using literally all their lives. Furthermore, the previous dollar coin—the Susan B. Anthony (SBA)—was an enormous failure because its flawed design made it difficult to distinguish from a quarter. In fact, 21 years after it was introduced, consumers, the media, businesses, and financial institutions still treated it, and dollar coins in general, with extreme scorn. The U.S. Mint was facing what Ford would have faced had it attempted to re-introduce the Edsel. Fleishman-Hillard incorporated market research into a highly sophisticated and unusual public relations campaign to help overcome the baggage of the SBA’s failure and successfully introduce the “Golden Dollar” to U.S. consumers.
Fleishman-Hillard was asked to launch the new dollar coin to consumers. The objectives of the campaign were to establish and increase positive:
- Support, and
- Use of the Golden Dollar.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
Preliminary research confirmed the need to target two primary audiences. Urban dwellers between 18 and 49 years of age and Generation Y consumers in particular were the biggest users of coins. Older consumers used fewer coins and, because of their vivid memory of the Susan B. Anthony, had much stronger negative feelings about dollar coins in general. This led to Fleishman-Hillard’s decision to target younger consumers who were more likely to be the early adopters and most influential users of the Golden Dollar.
Second, Fleishman-Hillard determined that the media represented a separate audience rather than just a channel to reach consumers. The media’s imbedded skepticism about federal government activities had to be overcome. Fleishman-Hillard also saw a strong endorsement by the media of the Golden Dollar’s design and marketing as being critical to convincing consumers that the coin was something special they wanted not just to have but also to have quickly.
Fleishman-Hillard used research throughout the program: 1) to help develop and refine the creative strategies (July and August 1999); 2) to benchmark pre-campaign awareness, support, and use of the Golden Dollar/dollar coin (July 1999); 3) to evaluate specific campaign activities (Quarter One 2000); and 4) to measure and track changes in awareness, support, and use of the Golden Dollar over time (December 1999 through May 2001).
Fleishman-Hillard used existing demographic information to identify target audiences and their lifestyle characteristics. With the target audiences established, Fleishman-Hillard implemented qualitative research techniques to establish a brand identity for the coin, test and select the name “Golden Dollar” for the product, and create and refine the creative and advertising platforms.
One-on-one in-depth interviews with targeted consumer groups (e.g., Gen Y, commuters, vending machine users, and teachers) and the population at large within multiple U.S. markets identified: 1) appealing and effective message platforms; 2) an effective brand identity for the coin (name and logo); and 3) an effective creative platform for the advertising campaign.
Focus group discussions with targeted consumer groups evaluated several concepts for the advertising campaign – including a spokes character. This research helped launch the attention-grabbing nationwide advertising campaign.
Exit interviews conducted with Wal-Mart shoppers during the early months of 2000 identified consumer awareness of and reaction to this promotional activity.
Quantitative research was conducted to establish baseline levels of interest in, awareness of, and support for the Golden Dollar. More specifically, ongoing quantitative opinion surveys and media content analyses were used to provide regular updates on changes from the 1999 baseline.
Monthly public opinion tracking polls during the first seven months of 2000 (and quarterly polls thereafter) provided (and continue to provide) the campaign with regular feedback regarding increases in consumer awareness, support, and use of the coin.
Monthly media content analyses (known as “e.c.h.o.”) during the first eight months of 2000 (and quarterly analyses thereafter) provided (and continue to provide) regular feedback regarding the quantity and quality of the campaign’s media coverage among its targeted media. More specifically, Fleishman-Hillard’s proprietary “e.c.h.o” media content analysis documented not just the number of stories that appeared regarding the Golden Dollar, but also whether those stories included the messages Fleishman-Hillard was trying to deliver to the target audiences.
Fleishman-Hillard also created a special “Dollar Coin Index” (DCI) to measure quarterly changes in media coverage about the Golden Dollar and consumer awareness, acceptance, and use of the Golden Dollar (a blend of the two previously mentioned studies). In much the same way as the Consumer Product Index uses a single number to explain a variety of complicated factors, the DCI allowed Fleishman-Hillard to simplify what was happening both to modify campaign activities and to explain the results to the client.
Finally, because the U.S. Mint was able to determine the number of Golden Dollars it produced and shipped, the equivalent of “sales” of the coin was available weekly.
The consumer campaign for the Golden Dollar has been a huge, perhaps even unprecedented success. Within six months of its launch (July 2000), an astounding 91 percent of American consumers were aware that the Golden Dollar existed, 78 percent said that they supported the coin being minted, and about 50 percent had already received at least one (a measure of use).
More specifically, at the end of first quarter 2000, shortly after the coin’s official launch, the “Dollar Coin Index” jumped from its baseline value of 100 to 837. The first quarter increase in the “Dollar Coin Index” was very large relative to prior quarters (it went from its baseline value of 100, representing the first six months of 1999, to only 78 in third quarter 1999 and increased to an index of 274 in fourth quarter 1999). This large increase in the index was due to: 1) increasing consumer awareness of the Golden Dollar (76% aware of the Golden Dollar by the end of March 2000 compared with only 27% aware by the end of July 1999) as well as 2) positive messages pulled through news stories about the Golden Dollar (for the first six months of 1999, 83% of the stories had an overall “favorable” tone whereas 94% of the stories in first quarter 2000 had an overall “favorable” tone). An example of a positive message pulled through was seen in the headline of the January 18, 2000, NBC “Today Show” broadcast on the Golden Dollar: “In a Couple of Weeks you May Find Some Gold in your Pockets.”
The U.S. Mint determined that 100 million Golden Dollars circulating in all of 2000 would be a success (double the annual average number of SBAs that went into circulation each of the previous years). The Fleishman-Hillard plan put more than 200 million Golden Dollars into circulation in just the first month of the campaign. Demand was so strong that more Golden Dollars had to be produced in its first year than the total number of Susan B. Anthony dollars produced in more than two decades that coin was available.