You’ve only got a few weeks to launch your biggest product of the year. What do you do, hotshot?
If you’re New Balance, you partner with one of Asia’s biggest performing artists and go all out on social media.
Keep reading to discover New Balance China’s Marketing PR Manager, Ann Chen, five-step process to successfully launching their new product, the New Balance 997.5.
Step 1: Create A Product Media And Customers Will Love
So how did New Balance create a product that customers loved?
By partnering with PHANTACi, a Taiwanese streetwear brand with superstar Jay Chou as its creative director.
Together they decided to design 10 exclusive New Balance shoes inspired by Chou’s previous 10 albums.
Step 2: Give Your Audience Just A Taste
Instead of releasing all 10 shoes at once, the New Balance team decided to release them one by one within a month to maintain buzz for the product launch.
“This is something no other sports brands has ever done,” says Chen.
“Our biggest challenge though was how do we make sure the media is still interested when we launched, say, the fifth shoe. Also, considering that news stays on social media platforms like WeChat for less than five hours, how do we ensure our news won’t get easily replaced,” says Chen.
Step 3: Create Exclusivity
Chinese consumers love exclusive products. So to create an air of exclusivity for its new products, the 10 special edition shoes were not-for-sale but displayed only.
Chen explains, “The display only, not-for-sale shoes and all the stories we cooked around them were to lead to one aim: to launch the (for sale) limited edition New Balance x PHANTACi 997.5 in the middle of September.”
Now that the strategy was clear, it was time to start promoting the launch to the masses.
Step 4: Promote Your Product Launch On Social Media
Chen explains, “By releasing one new product every two days, we maintained the hype among the media and consumers. We also used social media like WeChat as it’s the ‘mainstream’ media outlet in China at the moment.”
So how did New Balance use WeChat during the launch?
Chen explains the team’s three-pronged approach:
- Big WeChat accounts (or public accounts as they are called in China): “Just like we did with media advertorials, we placed the WeChat stories in advance so that they’d be released based on our timeline.”
- HTML 5 page campaign: “We worked with a media partner to create a H5 campaign, in order to figure out the ‘most popular’ model out of the 10 album shoes. We did this to drive attention and participation within a short amount of time. So after 14 days, we could find out the ‘top 3 favorites’ among netizens.”
- New Balance’s official WeChat: “We also promoted all our content on our official New Balance WeChat account simultaneously.”
Chen says that the publicity from WeChat accounts and WeChat influencers helped generate a tremendous amount of free publicity.
“Media basically asked us for scoops. They wanted to be the first to report because they wanted to use the hype to generate more traffic to their platforms,” says Chen.
When asked if print media was a focus for the campaign? Chen replied, “Print was a supporting tool in this case. I placed most of my budget and time to drive WeChat content.”
Now that consumers were aware of the new products online, it was time to take the hype to the streets.
Step 5: Take The Hype Offline
To maintain the same hype offline, the team partnered with retail stores where sneaker influencers and early adopters considered the go-to place in China.
Chen explains “We were aware that what made a shoe so popular in China was through the sneakerheads and sneaker outlets either in China or internationally. So our approach was to engage those in the ‘inner circle’ first” says Chen.
So one week before the official launch, the New Balance China PR team organized an event for influencers and media to see the shoes they had only seen in the media. According to Chen, this helped generate substantial buzz the next day and following days through these tier-one influencers (trendsetters and early adopters) and essentially the buzz lingered until mid-September when products were available for sale.
Step 5: Take The Game International
To build awareness for the product launch outside China, the team created stories for the internationally renowned sneaker media, HYPEBEAST.
Chen explains her approach, “With a limited budget and time, I categorized media by tier so that some media would talk about the next model the morning after we released the information. Other media outlets provided “previews” for the next new shoe debut, whereas a few outlets did a weekly recap. That way, it felt like every week in Aug. the NB 997.5 was a recurring topic.”
In only seven weeks, the campaign achieved:
- 16 times ROI of the PR investment
- RMB 15,376, 618 equivalent ad value
- 46,000+ comments and 20,500+ retweets on social media
1,361 total views, 4 views today