Company: Jockey International Agency: Cone and Periscope Timeframe: 2007 For many PR campaigns nowadays, leveraging social media tools to convey brand messaging has become de rigueur. Jockey International Inc., the iconic apparel company, did just that in 2007 with a brand repositioning initiative that relied heavily on online/viral communications. The linchpin of this effort was the creation of two new interactive Web sites--StopSquirming.com and JockeyUnderWars.com--launched by Jockey to generate buzz and build awareness of the company's undergarments, particularly among a younger consumer base. Collaboration, In Brief(S) Because of Cone's preexisting working relationship with Jockey (it's been Jockey's agency of record since 2004), the firm was enlisted to implement an aggressive media relations campaign. Hiring Cone for this campaign was a fait accompli given its history with and knowledge of the Jockey brand. It also served as an effective template for collaboration. "Some of the keys to successfully working with any team is establishing clear expectation about any campaign and ensuring that an agency is totally aligned with the business communications objectives, as Cone certainly was," says Mo Moorman, director of public relations for Jockey International. "Establishing this trust between client and agency is critical. Cone knows our business, and I try to let them in about what's going on with the business to help identify [public relations and marketing] opportunities." Periscope, Jockey's interactive agency, was also brought into the fold to make the Web sites come to life. To heighten audience interest in the initial Web site, StopSquirming.com, attention was drawn to scenarios depicting people trying to ease discomfort caused by ill-fitting underwear. "The universal insight that everyone needs to discreetly adjust the occasional misaligned undergarment had been discussed for some time by Cone, Jockey and Periscope," explains Bob Fleishman, executive vice president and managing director for Cone. "Bringing it to life by naming these relief moves, showing the solutions in action and engaging people to share the laughs via the Web was a natural progression." Building on the momentum created and sustained by StopSquirming.com, JockeyUnderWars.com injected a similar amount of creativity. Designed to encourage people to dance in their underwear for fun, notoriety and even the chance to win money, the site created dance contests for individuals or groups who posted videos of themselves dancing in--what else?-- their underwear. ["This] inspired consumers to become part of the brand story and challenge each other to underwear dance-offs," Fleishman says. "It also appealed to an increasingly important younger target audience for Jockey." Taking Underwear Humor Viral StopSquirming.com launched on September 15, 2007, and JockeyUnderWars.com launched exactly two months later. To maximize support for each viral campaign, Cone conducted distinct media relations outreach efforts. Key media elements included the team's use of multimedia news releases. Creating a multimedia news release format instead of traditional press release wire distribution gave Cone the opportunity to distribute videos from the sites. The videos were easy for media and bloggers to pick up and post on their Web sites and share with others, further enhancing the viral aspect of the campaign. As a result, the videos appeared in a great deal of online/blog coverage. Preferential Treatment To drive widespread media coverage, Cone adopted a segmented approach in its outreach efforts, targeting special media with unique and relevant pitch angles. For B2B publications, Cone executives pitched advertising/marketing trades an industry trend story related to iconic brands leveraging new media and viral marketing to drive brand awareness. The agency also sought out fashion industry trades to position Jockey as a creative marketer in the industry. For traditional outlets such as daily newspapers, Cone pitched business and advertising/marketing reporters a story angle focused on the viral marketing component of the campaign and how it signifies a watershed departure from Jockey's traditional, conservative brand. And, knowing that bloggers can be resistant to traditional pitches, Cone conducted targeted, personalized outreach to specific members of this influential audience; for example, the executives mirrored the theme of JockeyUnderWars in blogger outreach by challenging the digerati to personally compete in a dance-off. Then, because the target audience was a younger consumer base, it made sense that Cone would pitch college/university publications. For this group, Cone capitalized on the opportunities for students to participate in the online video contests on both sites. Between August 2007 and October 1, 2007, Cone secured more than 70 placements through print and online publications. As blogs and Web sites were a prime target for reaching the younger audience base, Cone garnered more than 60 online/blog placements around the launch of StopSquirming.com. For JockeyUnderWars, Cone secured more than 200 media placements in just one month. Among the outlets that gave the site coverage were Associated Press, Newsday and The New York Times. Do It In Your Underwear Unlike most campaigns, the hurdles here were few and far between, according to Moorman. Much of this fluidity was attributable to auspicious timing. Also, the mixed media approach was a stroke of strategic genius. "We were pretty fortunate," says Moorman. "It was smooth sailing. Through Cone's efforts, we were able to reach out to media and use the media as a springboard to visit the site as well." Still, finding ways to maintain the interest of the media over an extended period of time was an ongoing challenge for the team. But it was one they consistently met with savvy, audience-friendly tactics. "We were very pleased to see the level of consumer engagement with both [sites]," says Fleishman. "The content that was submitted gave us fresh and new content to use for media relations almost on a daily basis." Overall, the campaign (involving both sites) generated more than 270 placements, resulting in more than 310 million impressions in the U.S. and Canada. Further, media placements were secured in more than 150 online outlets, which encompassed traditional Web pages, blogs and video-sharing Web sites. These specific placements resulted in more than 240 million impressions. For Moorman, the lessons learned were clear from the inception. "We were using these sites as a demonstration of Jockey's brand positioning--trying not to really use them for brand awareness but for brand relevance. This wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan. This is something we're trying to do to build a relationship with consumers." Were there any unexpected or amusing benefits to those working on the project? "We were pleasantly surprised to find how comfortable people were submitting videos of themselves in only their underwear," Fleishman says. "Fortunately for the JockeyUnderWars.com campaign, modesty was conspicuously absent." PRN CONTACTS: Mo Moorman, Mo.Moorman@jockey.com; Bill Fleishman, email@example.com Cutting Through The Clutter To Differentiate Your Brand As in the case of offline marketing, trying to position your product in the competitive, saturated online marketplace--and then leveraging its viral component--can be a trying undertaking. How do you distinguish your brand/product from the clutter when going down the viral route? The experience of the executives involved in the effort launched by Jockey International and Cone can offer professionals a few pointers. Build a PR plan: "Get far ahead of the project [in the planning]," says Mo Moorman, director of PR for Jockey International. Don't let yourself be pre-empted by unexpected or last-minute snarls. Don't depend on the exclusivity of the Web: This may sound like a paradox if you want your campaign to go viral, but to get the message out, it's incumbent you consider doing outreach to the traditional media outlets. "While Web was an important component of Jockey's [StopSquirming.com and JockeyUnderWars.com] program, we didn't rely on Web-based media or blogs to use the viral component," notes Moorman. "We also used traditional outlets like dailies or trades to get the word out." Adopt an entertaining attitude: Humor was key to engaging the target base for both StopSquirming.com and JockeyUnderWars.com. Don't afraid to be arch or irreverent if you want your campaign to go viral. Blandness is counterproductive. Leverage social media tools to drive online/viral marketing: Though a critical best practice, it can also be problematic as well if not smartly employed, according to Bill Fleishman, executive VP and managing director for Cone. "One of the most important aspects to remember as PR practitioners is that the use of newer technologies must be based on the same sound marketing strategy used for more traditional campaigns," he notes. "While new media can result in fun case studies, if it does not drive effective brand awareness, create preference, or establish brand loyalty, clients may be very reluctant to take risks with newer technology in the future."
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