Saturday, December 22, 2012

Police Chief Sends Christmas Cards to Criminals

Kudos to the Abbottsford police department for their creative marketing campaign.

Marketing is not just about selling a product or service. It is about sending messages. Every organization needs to market. That includes non-profits, public service and the police.

In this case, the Abbotsford police department produced and mailed a custom Christmas card to known criminals and “persons of interest”. It has a picture of the police chief dressed as Santa with a bullet proof vest over the Santa suit. He is holding an assault rifle. The caption is:

Which list will you be on next year?

Inside the card is the note “it’s never too late to change” along with a phone number the recipient is encouraged to call when they want help to change their life.

I assume that the role of the police is to protect the public from harm. That includes investigating crimes and charging law-breakers. But it’s better to prevent problems than try to clean up after. So part of their role means showing up and making their presence known. That helps to keep some offenders in line.

What did the Abbotsford police department do well?

  1. The police targeted a specific well-defined audience. They had detailed contact and activity records about this target audience. That information gave them insight into the most likely mindsets and perspectives of the target group. They used their database.
  2. The cost is low. The possible return is high. Even one less offender will more than pay back the costs of personal loss and policing costs. The risk of failure is low. Even if nothing changes, the police have demonstrated a clear attempt to reach out to offenders.Low cost and low risk.
  3. This creative message is a good public relations move with the community. The public will be reassured that the department is proactive and innovative. It might be reassuring to know that the police are keeping track of the offenders. A message for their other stakeholders.
  4. The Christmas card uses a tongue-in-cheek humour while hinting at a threat. Law-breakers probably understand and are motivated by threats more than most. This will certainly grab the attention of the intended audience. Bold and attention grabbing.
  5. The Christmas card offers hope. Everyone needs and responds to hope. Some of those recipients might be at the stage where hope will attract them to make a phone call or make changes in their pattern of life. Offer hope.
  6. The timing of the Christmas card leverages the good will of Christmas and the resolutions of New Year. Often people simply need a “logical” reason to change. People need a "because".
  7. The results of this campaign are easy to measure. First, phone calls from the recipients are one measure. Second, the arrests of the people on this list will be another. Measurable.
  8. This Christmas card campaign is bold and provocative and will offend some people. An effective marketing campaign is bold and provocative. Every organization has friends and enemies. You know that your marketing is bold enough when your enemies are offended. Who cares what they think. They are your enemies and will be no matter what you do. Good controversy can help your position and reinforce your message. There’s no question about where the police stand on this issue.
  9. For all who receive this card the message is “We’re watching you”. That seems like a good message to send to law-breakers. That alone makes this mailing worthwhile.
  10. For the community of Abbottsford, they can see that this police chief had a sense of humour, is bold and he knows his duty. Use the CEO to put a face on your campaign.
Merry Christmas to Chief Bob Rich and the team at the Abbottsford police department. And most importantly a Happy and crime-reduced New Year.

Read more about Abbottsford Police Sends Christmas Cards to Gangsters, Drug Dealers at Huffington Post

Read more about Abbotsford police enlist gun-toting Santa for criminals’ Christmas cards at Globe and Mail

George Torok Keynote Marketing Speaker Co-author of Secrets of Power Marketing  
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