Behind the scenes of Flywheel's Fly July campaign

Behind the scenes of the marketing campaign for Flywheel’s Fly July sale

Morgan Smith's Layout avatar

For the past four years, Flywheel has launched a summer sale called Fly July featuring 3 months free on any new annual hosting plan. While the main goal is to drive revenue and sales, it’s also a fantastic exercise in creativity for our marketing team.

It always goes a little something like this…

  1. We decide to do the sale again!
  2. We start brainstorming themes, only to decide…
  3. We want to keep the summer theme from years past, but…
  4. We still want it to feel new and exciting!

How many marketers in the room can relate?

While it’s always a challenge to take something you’ve done before and put a new spin on it, we thrive on these types of projects! And we love working on large campaigns like this where our entire team is involved.

And it occurred to us – typically, you (as our customer/subscriber/brand new friend!) never get to see all of the creativity that goes into these campaigns. You only see the final product, and while we’re super proud of the end result, we’re also proud of all the steps it takes to get there. And if we had to guess, you (as a marketer/business-owner/creative) might also find some value in the process we’ve learned to take!

Aaron, in his second Fly July shoot at Flywheel!

So we wanted to do something a little different for this year’s Fly July and share a little behind-the-scenes glimpse into our campaign process! I hope you enjoy learning more about our methods and peeking at some work-in-progress photos from the campaign!

The brainstorming process

Like any large project, this campaign kicked off with a big group brainstorm. We analyzed last year’s campaign, set our goals for this year, and then put our thinking hats on to dream up new ways to share a discount for the same great hosting product our customers have always loved.

Right off the bat, we had a lot of ideas. But we kept catching ourselves getting really attached to an idea without a clear reason “why” it was the right message for the campaign.

Early sketch concepts for the Fly July campaign Early sketch concepts for the Fly July campaign.

So we took a step back.

And we took a moment to clearly define every single audience that we’d be targeting with this campaign. This broke down into six main segments for us:

  • People who have never heard of Flywheel and people who subscribe, but don’t know much about what we do.
  • People who have heard of Flywheel before and are considered leads or MQLs.
  • People who have downloaded our free development app, Local, but don’t use Flywheel yet.
  • Existing customers who are growing their business and may want to add more WordPress sites to our platform.
  • Existing customers who are paying monthly and could take advantage of the discount by upgrading to annual pricing.
  • Our referral partners who could earn a kickback for referring their friends to Flywheel during the sale.

When you list out your audiences like that, you start to realize that they’re pretty different. Some know your brand super well, but others are just starting their buyer’s journey and need to learn more before making a purchasing decision. Some identify as technical developers while others might be getting ready to launch their very first WordPress site.

Our audience for this campaign varied, so we knew our visuals and messages needed to vary, also.

Once we clearly defined those segments, their individual pain points, and what they need to know about Flywheel in this moment, things started to fall into place pretty quickly.

For people who needed to learn more about Flywheel, we knew we wanted to stick pretty close to our brand and show off the Flywheel app. Since this audience doesn’t know much about us yet, it was important that the message didn’t get too “creative” and confusing. (This is also why we tend to take both a “literal” and “conceptual” approach to our campaign images, so we always have the option of both!)

One of the final images, with a direct message about the discount.

For our developer audience (those that use Local but not Flywheel yet), we loved the idea of using sand, to play off the old phrase “sandbox environment.” It’s subtle, so not too distracting from the core message of the discount, but provided a fun way to really target that demographic.

The sandbox for our Fly July campaign Our local “sandbox” environment.

And for our referral partners, we just adored the idea that everyone’s a winner: the end client gets a great WordPress host and the referral partner gets a cash “thank you” for sending that customer our way. And what says “You’re a winner!” like a fun carnival scene?!

A carnival themed photoshoot for Fly July Carleen rocking this carnival theme!

I won’t go into every image, but you can start to see the pattern: The individual audience drove the creative for that segment. Whether it resulted in ads to that demographic or an email to that list, we kept these “themes” consistent for each audience to create a tailored, consistent message.

With all of this information in hand and distributed to the team, it was time to start the fun part: creating the images!

The Fly July photoshoot

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Almost every image Flywheel uses is created in-house! That’s right:  everything from the people to the props to the locations are right here at our Omaha headquarters.

For the models, we simply use…us. There’s no hired talent here, other than our very talented Flywheelers who are always up to help the marketing team with a photoshoot!

For this year’s Fly July campaign, you’ll see:

  • Rese, a design intern on the marketing team
  • Carleen, our referral program coordinator
  • Jess, an enterprise sales rep
  • Aaron, a support engineer (and the star of Fly July 2015!)
  • Michelle, a software engineer

Rese, our design intern, in his first Flywheel campaign shoot!

With these five Flywheelers on board to help us out, the next step was to think about the props. Andrea Trew, Flywheel’s Art Director, has a talent for bringing ideas to life, both in the digital and physical space. From the textured laptops to the cotton candy, all of our props were actually real life objects!

Some of the props used in this year’s Fly July campaign.

We love the look of real objects, as opposed to just Photoshopping things in. While it’s not always feasible for every team, if you’ve been thinking about setting up an in-house photo studio, we totally recommend it. (With the right equipment, you can turn any room into a photo studio; ours is technically an old conference room!)

While our photo studio isn’t the biggest, we’re sure proud of all the awesome work we’ve created in it!

With props and people in place, we were able to start the photoshoots. Kimberly Bailey, our in-house photographer, scheduled each one for an hour. This gave her plenty of time to capture everything on our list of “required” images and still have a little time just to play. For any shoot, we try to list out every angle, crop, variety, etc., that way we can get all the shots in one take. This includes things like:

  • Tall, full-body
  • Wide, full-scene
  • Wide, close up of hands
  • Wide, angled to the right
  • Close-up of props in motion

A behind the scenes photo from our Fly July campaign Gotta get those angles!

We then replicate this same list for every shoot within the campaign for added consistency. By taking all these shots, we’re always pretty confident at the end of a shoot that we got the final image, and can press on with the campaign work.

So, two days and over 1,000 photos later, our photoshoot was completed! Next came the refinement work.

Creating the final images

With a wide variety of images to work with, our visual team got to work to determine which ones would be used for the final campaign assets. Our ad strategy determined a lot of this. We knew we needed some images that were horizontal, some that were better suited for vertical layouts, and variations for each type. (After all, we love A/B testing around here!)

Once the final images were chosen, Kimberly did a little color correcting. Thanks to our colorful backdrops and lighting in our photo studio, we never have to do too much correction in post, but Kimberly has a great eye for detail.

Can’t you just imagine Carleen saying, “You’ve just won three free months of hosting!”

In this phase, we also started finalizing the copy that would accompany each image. Some, like display ads, would have copy directly in the image itself, while others we decided to let the visuals stand alone (with copy living next to it, of course).

While the copywriters had tried to plan out every single line of copy prior to this step, we find small review sessions helpful, to make sure everything is going to plan. When Andrea had a few examples of the final designs to show, she did a quick review with Ashley (our ad strategist) and me (as the content manager), to make sure everything was on a path to success. This quick check-in allowed us to make a few small copy changes and tailor the messages even more, based on the final image direction.

One of the final campaign images, usually displayed with copy like, “Don’t spend your summer fishing for support answers. Catch a deal on Flywheel instead!”

With the messages finalized and the images created, all that was left was to launch!

Launch day!

Fly July is always fun because it starts July 1st, which this year, was a Sunday. We decided to launch ads that day, since we could do some of the prep work ahead of time, but wait to send emails until Monday. We’ve found that our email list typically is more engaged during the work week, so we weren’t too concerned about missing that one day.

When Monday came, our team rallied behind the email process to help edit, code, and review them. We had a few people from our team out of the office, so everyone jumped in to a play a few different roles in order to help the campaign launch with a successful start.

Members of Flywheel's marketing team helping on the shoot Our team is always willing to try new things, like ketchup and mustard calligraphy!

We updated the site, scheduled some social posts, and then…we had a celebration in the office for the entire Flywheel team! This campaign was a ton of work for us as a marketing team, and we wanted to rally the whole office behind our launch instead of acting in a silo.

Working with our Employee Experience team, we planned a “Fly July” themed lunch. Not only did this get the entire company excited about the campaign, but it also gave our team an opportunity to share all the work we had done and answer a few practical FAQs about the sale.

PS…there’s still time to take advantage of the sale! Get the details (and see more of the final campaign images) here.

Our best tips for your next campaign

One of the reasons our team is so successful is that we’re not only dedicated to producing great work, but we’re also committed to learning how to produce better work. Throughout campaigns and definitely after completion, we try to take a moment to reflect on what went well, what challenges we overcame, and what could be even better.

To help with your next campaign, I wanted to share a few of our big takeaways from Fly July 2018!

1. Make a checklist of every asset you’ll need at the beginning of the campaign

Trust us, this will save you so much time down the road, and help keep your timeline on track! The alternative is forgetting something important until launch day, when you usually don’t have enough time to fix it.

2. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be

I’ll let you in on a secret. Last year for Fly July, we filled an entire kid’s pool with water in the basement of our office for an “authentic” water look. It was difficult to photograph, and even more difficult to empty all that water out. The clear plastic we used this year looked just fine in photos and was much easier to clean! Don’t overcomplicate it.

Creating the pool for our Fly July campaign

3. Encourage feedback throughout the process

Even if everyone on your team is working on a different piece of the puzzle, collaborate and listen to each other. This will help your message stay consistent and your campaign cohesive. Don’t work in a vacuum.

4. Make time to reflect on the campaign and write up a debrief

Having a written document recapping last year’s campaign saved us tons of time getting in the right mindset. It also helped remind us of a few “lessons learned,” so we didn’t have to learn them again this year!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this behind-the-scenes glimpse into our Fly July campaign! If you’re working on a campaign yourself, did we help inspire any ideas? Any tips you’d like to add to our list? Let us know in the comments!


Comments ( 2 )

  1. Jeremy Knedler

    August 30, 2018

    Great article. Love the process!

  2. Brian

    July 20, 2018

    Thanks for providing this behind the scenes look at your ad campaign. I always appreciate getting a chance to analyze the various processes that creative teams use to communicate with their audience. Great work!

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