A teaser campaign is an advertising campaign that typically addresses the audience’s curiosity without fully revealing either the nature or the name and the brand or the advertised product. It needs a second campaign (follow up) that unveils the mystery, after which the product is then explicitly advertised.
Small advertisements on street posters, videos or web content anticipate but do not reveal the brand or the nature of the product.
Television advertisements that promote programs in advance with small trailers and the claim “coming soon” are themselves teaser ads. The same goes for TV commercials that develop a plot chapter after chapter.
Finally, sometimes even after a few weeks, the teaser campaign is followed by a larger, full-blown campaign for a product launch or other important event that hopefully already has a place in the audience’s memory and heart.

Video teaser
In the last few years teaser campaigns, and particularly video teasers, have become more and more popular, supported by social media and, through them, there’s the chance to generate interest among a very large audience.
A recent successful example is Taylor Swift’s Instagram teaser campaign for her latest album. Last autumn Swift turned to Instagram and other social media to tell the story of her upcoming 1989 album in a clever way – a 13-day visual countdown.
Swift launched the countdown on October 14, revealing a snippet of the album daily (a set of lyrics, a significant picture, handwriting or some doodles), offering a very personal touch and making her fans feel in genuine contact with her.
In this case the logical sequence was impeccable. The artist unveiled her album in instalments, with coherence and no imperfections.
Teaser campaigns work if they are part of a well-structured, organized marketing plan that can rely on a big budget. Therefore, they will probably work better for brands that are already well known, popular and craved by big audiences.
Expectations produced by a campaign must correspond with real, effective products that are interesting to consumers. If the expectation isn’t met there’s likely to be a backlash. Never “bewitch” the audience and then not give them what they’re expecting to find.
The evaluation is crucial even from an ethical perspective. Betraying “A” in order to sell “B” can become a huge failure or even cause a revolt by the consumers.
Teaser techniques can be very tricky for those who don’t have clear minds. Even big companies can fail.
A Dodge truck campaign launched with a lot of ads with the sole word “Different” online, in print and all over the place outdoors, with no mention of the brand. Unfortunately, Apple Computers had almost finished one of the great marketing campaigns of the decade: “Think Different.” Everyone was convinced the ads were promoting the then-new iMac.

Global vision and truth
Brands are fully concentrated on not betraying consumers. Disappointing teaser ads are normally ignored or soon forgotten. Nowadays, consumers can monitor companies’ actions. Many fashion brands speak about sustainability but in fact only a few adopt ethical behaviors in labor management or environmental issues. Rank A Brand (rankabrand.org) is a Dutch website that compares and examines the transparency and social responsibility of fashion brands, publishing their very popular ranking for consumers who then reward or penalize the brands.
There is an unwritten rule that everyone respects in brand communication: advertisements should never betray consumers, therefore a hint of truth is always essential.
Advertisers have often been described as swindlers, always ready to lie. The truth is that successful advertisers are great reality “magnifiers.”
No matter what the product, betraying consumers’ expectations is a fatal mistake. Kevin Roberts, a renowned advertiser, wrote a very successful book called Lovemarks, describing the relationship between a brand and its consumer as similar to falling in love. Everyone can be teased by someone, but after the initial phase one expects to find some substance. If not, or if instead of a lamb I find a wolf, I will lose my faith in you forever.

How to recover after a failure
On the limits of marketing communication, Eleonora Cattaneo, marketing professor at SDA Bocconi School of Management, Milan, states: “Regardless of regulations that penalize deceptive or offensive communication, ethical limits are relevant in the use of images or claims that, although allowed, can annoy or offend. Shocking images or slogans can generate a temporary ‘buzz’ around a brand. However, such behaviors don’t help to build up a solid reputation in the long run. A brand cannot hide itself in an advertisement but can be inserted into other communication forms without being revealed. If this is discovered, transparency is always the best strategy.”
What happens then if a brand makes a mistake? Cattaneo affirms that: “The time needed to regain acceptance after an ad perceived as deceptive or offensive depends on the brand’s reputation before the ad was released. If it is solid and has value, an amendment or a follow-up ‘reparation’ advert can be enough. A Rocchetta Mineral Water ad (with a definite female target), where an ‘average’ girl looking overweight and unpleasant is compared to a model, was harshly criticized by consumer associations and online. With a follow-up more ‘neutral’ advert, the issue (and its possible impact on consumer opinion) was overcome within a few weeks.”
Given an innovative concept and an impeccable execution, teaser ads make sense, and in many cases they contribute to the general success of a campaign.
An example of a teaser campaign that was somewhat misleading about the advertised product but was still a great success: that was RIM Australia – BlackBerry with its Wake Up campaign.

Read the published version in Italian here