Campaign: retailer targets online bargain

TN Corporation operates the Underfivepounds retail outlets in the North-East, Midlands and East Anglia. The stores compete with cut-price outlets such as Primark and Matalan.

In April, to complement its high-street presence, TN launched underfivepounds.com, which sells gifts, clothing, homeware and gadgets, all priced below £5. The company asked Toast PR to develop a comms strategy for the site, initially around the launch of its spring/summer fashion range.

Objectives
To secure the highest-profile coverage possible with a small budget. To increase brand awareness, encourage hits to the site, and convince visitors to buy products.

Strategy and Plan
Toast believed celebrity endorsement would ensure cut-through and persuade shoppers that paying less than a fiver for clothes was not downmarket and ‘cheap'.

A shortlist of actors was drawn up from TV soaps Emmerdale, Coronation Street and EastEnders. The shows were picked partly because the target audience was the ‘value-conscious customer', although the campaign was not limited to lower-income people. Corrie star Shobna Gulati - who had played Sunita since 2001 before leaving the show early this year - was picked from the shortlist as the face of Underfivepounds because she appealed to a cross-section of the public. It was also hoped that tabloid media would be eagerly watching her next move.

Toast set up and styled a photoshoot with Gulati, selecting clothing that showed off the range's value for money, including a trench coat and linen trousers (£4.99 each). Following the photoshoot, interviews were set up with The Sun and Reveal.

Measurement and Evaluation
Pictures that ran on the Press Association newswire on the Sunday following the photoshoot were picked up by the Metro newspaper group on the Monday. Regional newspapers, including the Nottingham Evening Post and Western Daily Press also ran the pictures of Gulati.

The Daily Mirror ran a ‘business exclusive' with pictures - provoking a discussion on BBC Breakfast. This was followed by a colour full-page article in The Sun entitled ‘Gimme Five!'. Reveal also ran a full-page feature, flagging up the piece on its front page.

ITV1's This Morning ran a fashion feature on the clothes range and catwalked the clothing during fashion stylist Wendy Ellesmore's slot. Subsequent articles followed in Bella, That's Life, Eyes Down and Bliss, as well as on  fashion site 69-247.com

Results
After a month of campaigning, the website went from 1,000 unique visits a day to 15,000. It reached a peak of 40,000 hits an hour after the This Morning slot (at which point the server crashed). Sales of clothing increased by 1,000 per cent.

As a result of the press coverage, the company has entered into talks with partners and other retailers to expand the business at home and abroad.

Wendy Rigg, associate editor of Reveal, says the story was perfect for her readers as they are big fans of
bargain fashion. ‘We were the first of the weekly celeb magazines to carry the story,' she adds. ‘The angle "Is this the new Primark?" gave it a real edge, making compulsive reading. It generated a huge response from readers.'

SECOND OPINION

Jodie Cosh, associate director, Shine Communications
This campaign cleverly tapped into a rising media interest in value stores such as Primark and Matalan. There is a lot of opportunity press-wise for brands offering ‘trendy' clothing at a fraction of the designer price.

Judging by the fantastic media results of this campaign, the strategy was bang on for both the target media and audience. Toast really used the media landscape to its advantage. Securing exclusives with The Sun and Reveal guaranteed that the value of the coverage generated by the photoshoot would deliver a strong return on investment, even if the pick-up elsewhere had not been so strong.

The breadth of media coverage also demonstrates Toast's lateral thinking and great media contacts across the board. I was particularly impressed with the fact that Toast managed to negotiate the celebrity fee and photoshoot costs within its small budget. Celebrity involvement in a campaign can often cause costs to soar. The agency must have pushed hard to do all this for just £10,000.

The only other thing I would have done is highlight the gifts, homeware and gadgets also available on the site. That said, it would have been tough to do on this budget.

It is clear from the rise in hits to the website that this campaign met its objectives, and clearly led to a tangible rise in sales - impressive for such a modest budget. Well done Toast.

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