CAMPAIGNS: Demonstrations help K-Swiss sell Tongue Twisters

PR Team: K-Swiss (Westlake Village, CA) and Gale Group (New York) Campaign: Tongue Twister sneaker launch Time Frame: July 2002-Jan. 2003 Budget: $100,000

PR Team: K-Swiss (Westlake Village, CA) and Gale Group (New York) Campaign: Tongue Twister sneaker launch Time Frame: July 2002-Jan. 2003 Budget: $100,000

The K-Swiss brand was first introduced in 1966, when two Swiss brothers developed the Classic all-leather tennis sneaker. The signature Classic, with its five stripes on each side, may still be K-Swiss' best-known shoe, but over the years, the company has expanded its product line to include other models of tennis shoes, as well as cross-trainers. Most recently, hip ad campaigns targeted at younger audiences have helped develop K-Swiss into a mainstream and fashionable brand that extends beyond sport-specific footwear. Strategy Confident that its branded TV ads were permeating the psyches of young people, K-Swiss decided to put its faith almost entirely in PR to launch its latest product, the Tongue Twister. Available in three styles, the new sneaker has a reversible tongue that wearers can switch between white and one other color. "Traditionally, K-Swiss puts a lot of ad money into TV, but this required more of a demonstration," explains Mindy Gale, president of Gale Group, agency of record for K-Swiss. Along with demonstrative print ads, Gale Group worked to create buzz among fashion and lifestyle editors by explaining the Tongue Twister technology. "Our goal was to garner as much consumer PR as possible to run concurrently with the product release," says Gale. "To do that, we had to educate editors about how the shoes work." Tactics Gale Group developed a catchy campaign concept, "One shoe, two ways, three seconds," to help media outlets visualize the way the Tongue Twisters work. The firm implemented the concept by enlisting 10 editors to appear in a video that showed them expressing their reaction to the new shoe, or reciting nursery-school rhymes, legendary hip-hop lyrics, or popular tongue twisters. Featured editors included Kelly Rae from Stuff, The Source's Liza Montoya, Women's Wear Daily's Julia Topolski, and Big Smiley from XXL. The video was then shown to about 100 other consumer editors at a launch event at the W Tuscany Hotel in New York. Footage of product demos was also shown, and Debbie Mitchell, K-Swiss' VP of marketing, spoke about the technology used to create the shoes. Attendees received sample pairs along with the popular Parker Brothers Twister game, distributed in K-Swiss backpacks. Cocktails were served in K-Swiss' signature red, white, and blue colors, while shoe samples were displayed throughout the venue on martini glasses. "It really got people talking," recalls Gale. Results Following the launch event, product placements appeared in Stuff, Smooth, Complex, and The Arizona Republic. "The results have been fabulous," reports Mitchell. "Before we even broke any ads, kids came to me in malls asking for these shoes. They'd clearly seen them mentioned in magazines." In the first four months after the product hit stores, over 1 million pairs were sold. Moreover, the Tongue Twister editor video was so successful that it was shown at K-Swiss' annual sales meeting to help build internal enthusiasm. Future K-Swiss currently has plans to incorporate the Tongue Twister technology into an expanded line of new shoe styles, for which Gale Group will also handle PR. "When speaking to the 14- to 24-year-old age group, things are old news after six months," says Mitchell. "You must keep reinventing yourself."

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