iMedia Connection

Case study: Doubling sales through social media

Paul Magnani

Organic tea brand Steaz came to Chemistry needing to generate nation-wide awareness and drive Steaz sales at Target stores -- and quickly. Steaz's new presence in 1,500-plus Targets nationwide had just quadrupled its shopping audience -- in geographic and demographic markets where the brand was practically unknown. The brand needed to keep that window of opportunity from shutting as fast as it had opened.

Why social?
Three factors converged. We had an audience -- moms -- that indexes through the roof for online and social media; we had a budget that was a fraction of most of Steaz's competitors' budgets; and we needed immediate impact. Social media is a long-term proposition, but the startup time and cost is well below that of traditional marketing channels. And one other factor was in our favor: We were confident that the brand (socially responsible, health-focused) and product (natural, organic, healthy) were ideal for word of mouth (WOM).

We felt that if we could get moms talking about Steaz, the sales would follow. To initiate the process, we sent roughly 30 sample kits before Thanksgiving and another 30 before Christmas. We offered to provide giveaway prizes to bloggers who wanted to make use of them.

Our arsenal:

Great expectations. Greater returns.
We were confident that we would generate 50,000 coupon downloads, 1,000 new fans/followers. Our goal was to get Target to notice the little tea brand it had just adopted.

Actual results were 250,000 coupon downloads (with a 20+ percent redemption rate), 6,000 blog and social network mentions, and more than 3,000 new fans/followers. Steaz's December sales were double its previous best month ever. And Steaz shelves in Target stores nationwide were emptied.

Ready. Fire. Aim.
I suppose the best social campaigns are thought out in advance and in detail. This wasn't one of those. Steaz came to Chemistry in late October, needing a campaign that would be over by New Year's. Rather than starting with a thoroughly laid out plan that was then executed on, we started with a strategy and adjusted tactics as we went.

An inherent advantage of web marketing is that you can monitor and adapt as your campaign is in motion. For example, we learned from the first reviews we saw posted online that moms were eager to find alternatives to soft drinks for their families. So we decided to sponsor a Twitter party on the topic of selecting healthy products when shopping. We were also able to "see" the individuals who were most passionate about the products, so we decided to create live gatherings with these bloggers as hosts. This required responsiveness -- and the trust of our client. Responsiveness was a challenge as Steaz is a small company that was stretched thin trying to keep up with Target and Whole Foods demands. Steaz marketing VP Lee Brody moved into our offices, and we were given the authority, and trust, to make tactical decisions.

Next time?
With 20/20 hindsight, we should have pressed Steaz earlier to increase production. There were signs that the campaign was generating interest and results above expectations, but we were hesitant to increase production and get stuck with excess inventory. Needless to say, a lack of inventory did slow a very steep growth path.

We were also surprised by the number of bloggers who asked to review Steaz. We did not have a system for selecting bloggers and communicating decisions back to them. We did respond to all requests, but the delayed responses no doubt frustrated some.

Paul Magnani is SVP of digital strategy at Chemistry.

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