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For more than 130 years, Berlitz was the world’s leader in language learning and cultural training. Suddenly, it began losing sales to new online competitors, particularly one selling its language products in bright yellow boxes online and at airport kiosks. smartworks was tasked with stopping losses and rebuilding Berlitz market share, but without the big budget.


We began with research among existing Berlitz customers. More than half said they tried language learning elsewhere, gave up and came to Berlitz.

A high percentage had left the “box” company. They had tired of long, boring hours spent parroting words. smartworks couldn’t match this competitor in spending, so we decided to go face-to-face with the box.

We created a video showing a student in front of the box parroting Mandarin words over and over, becoming increasingly frustrated as the box kept rejecting his pronunciation. Parrot feathers started growing on his body, faster and faster as the student became angrier and angrier until he was totally covered, and his head morphed into a parrot’s beak.

Finally, tired of parroting the box, the student gave up and went to Berlitz. The feathers fell away as he learned Mandarin using the Berlitz Method.

smartworks planned other promotions supporting the video, including:

  • A discount on social media, offered to people returning their “box” to Berlitz
  • A “parrot sighting” contest offering prizes to people spotting the parrot as it walked through cities across the U.S.
  • A digital marketing campaign


Pitting Berlitz strengths against competitor weakness clearly differentiated the companies and their approach to language learning. The campaign helped build awareness of and sales for Berlitz, which said the video also helped improve staff morale.