But the Portuguese Cork Association did not take the threat to a large percentage of its business lying down. It asked Grayling to create a campaign that would extol the environmental virtues of cork.
Using detailed research, Grayling discovered that customers' purchasing choices could be influenced if they knew about the environmental benefits of cork stoppers. The PR consultancy chose key environmental messages – cork stopper production produces few carbon dioxide emissions and no cork trees are felled – and created a campaign to change buying habits.
This charming campaign creatively told a story to educate people. I admit, it changed my own mind
Candace Kuss Executive creative director, H&K interactive lab,
Grayling worked with web design agency Rehab to develop ilovenaturalcork.co.uk and a Facebook fanpage to build a community. This activity was supported with press trips to Portugal's cork forests.
Grayling signed up environmental presenter Julia Bradbury to act as a spokeswoman for the campaign, and conducted a radio day with Markettiers4dc. The PR team also worked with designer Stuart Murdoch to create four of the world's largest cork sculptures, which formed the centrepiece of subsequent experiential work including wine tasting at The Eden Project, and attendance at the BBC Wine Show and the London International Wine Fair.
Grayling also established a relationship with Laithwaites at The Savoy to create the UK's first cork recycling scheme, under which corks would be turned into mulch for use on Laithwaites' vineyards. The PR team is discussing a similar countrywide scheme with garden centres.
Grayling managed to secure 10,810 Facebook fans, 4,606 consumer pledges, and 154 items of consumer media coverage including sizeable features in Reader's Digest and The Observer. As a result of the campaign, sales of natural cork stoppers have increased by 50 per cent in the UK.
The Awards 2011 book will be available in this week's issue of PRWeek