PHOTOS: Department Zero Inc.
According to an oft-cited but equally unverifiable statistic, 85 percent of women are wearing the wrong size bra. No doubt buoyed by Oprah "You Get a Car!" Winfrey when she hosted an entire show on the subject a decade ago, the search for a proper-fitting brassiere has become an epic quest on which many a well-meaning woman embarks, but few complete. Due in part to confusing, inconsistent sizing but mostly to the sheer awkwardness of having a stranger all up in your lady bits, bra fittings typically fall out of favor, and women straight up guess which number-letter combination is a good fit for their, well, goods.
While a solo venture into a lingerie boutique or department store might not always lead to a professional bra fitting, there is strength in numbers, even when mammary glands are involved. Since that iconic "Oprah" episode aired in 2005 and Lady O urged viewers to "rise up and get a proper bra fitting," large-scale bra-fitting events began popping up at department stores and boutiques across the nation. Furthermore, such events were often paired with an educational or philanthropic component. Some lingerie makers even referred to the upswing in the popularity of these events as the "Oprah Effect." So when it came time for Vanity Fair Inc. to raise awareness about its brand redesign and new Women Who Do tagline, such an event seemed like a natural fit.
Established in 1919, the lingerie company was long considered to be rather fashion forward. It introduced snap- and button-free chemises in the '20s, award-winning nylon tricot undergarments in the '40s, and vibrant colors and cheeky animal prints in the '50s. It also pioneered spandex lingerie, coordinated sleepwear sets, and back-smoothing technology, and it produced two print advertising campaigns featuring work by Mark Shaw and Richard Avedon. Despite those early strides, its product lines lacked innovation in the ensuing decades, and became more homogenous in their designs. With the rising popularity of lingerie boutiques such as Victoria's Secret, Frederick's of Hollywood, and Agent Provocateur Ltd., Vanity Fair became synonymous with grannie panties and neutral tones in the minds of consumers. In short, it simply wasn't sexy anymore.
Vanity Fair Inc.'s LiftTour offered professional bra fittings to women across the country. For each fitting conducted on board the LiftTour RV, one bra was donated to Dress for Success.
So to reinvigorate the brand and bring in a fresh new crop of consumers, specifically women 25 to 54 years old, the company introduced a new line of colorful yet comfortable
bras, called the Light & Luxurious Bra Collection, and launched a complete brand redesign featuring a revamped logo, corporate color palette, and website.
"From the beginning, the rebrand was intended to celebrate our consumers for all they do," says Kirby Jordan, director of advertising and public relations at Vanity Fair. "Right now, women everywhere are 'doing,' and as a brand, Vanity Fair has been supporting women for nearly 100 years." The company also switched up its marketing plan, supplementing its more traditional print campaigns with social-media outreach, and set out to discover a unique way to bring the new messaging and look to the masses.
"Vanity Fair came to us looking for a brand-awareness avenue that incorporated social-media engagement," says Paul Soseman, founder and CEO of Department Zero Inc., a Kansas City, MO-based marketing agency. "It had identified a specific audience of retail sales associates and influential bloggers that it wanted to reach, and our job was to get the message to those targets."
Rather than hosting the usual in-store events or one-off engagements, Soseman suggested a much more cost-effective route: an RV and mobile tour that would stop at Vanity Fair retailers throughout the country. Why did he pick retail locations and not the usual road show haunts such as festivals, fairs, and public events?
"People forget about the site fees associated with purchasing space at those types of events," Soseman explains. Those fees can be anywhere from $1,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the event. "By picking retail locations instead of sponsored events and festivals, we eliminate those extra charges, and are able to put that money toward enhancing the attendee experience," he says.
In addition to saving money, selecting department stores such as JCPenney and Kohl's held another bonus in the form of on-site training.
Vanity Fair Inc. outfitted a 38-foot RV with all the accoutrements of a high-end boutique. A calming color palette, comfortable seating, and chic accessories created a welcoming environment while two dressing rooms provided privacy for bra fittings.
Vanity Fair knows it takes two to tango, and had a feeling that consumers' inability to purchase the correct bra size might also have something to do with ill-trained sales associates that lack the knowledge and/or tactfulness to pull off a perfect fitting. By teaching people how to accurately fit a woman for the correct bra, the company felt it would be doing its part to curtail the cup-size conundrum. And since assisting consumers in finding the proper bra size was a recurring theme for the U.S. population in general and Vanity Fair in particular, the lingerie maker decided that offering professional bra fittings aboard its road show vehicle would be the perfect draw for its female audience – and the right pairing for its in-store sales training.
A Helping Hand
Bra fittings and sales training are all well and good, but would they be enough to generate widespread brand awareness and the thousands of social-media impressions Vanity Fair hoped for? To eliminate that uncertainty and ensure its marketing cup would indeed runneth over, another component was added to the newly named LiftTour – a partnership with Dress for Success. The charitable organization collects and then donates lightly worn professional attire to women who need it for job interviews, current employment, etc. While the charity receives plenty of pantsuits and pencil skirts, it typically has a shortfall when it comes to undergarments because it can only accept unworn undies and brand new bras.
The coupling was a perfect fit, according to Jordan. "As a brand, Vanity Fair strives to support, encourage, and inspire women in all that they do," she says. "By partnering with Dress for Success in each market and donating new bras to women in need across the country, the LiftTour would be a true testament to that belief." So for every attendee fitted during the tour, Vanity Fair would donate one to Dress for Success. That meant the vehicle needed a dressing room or two, an area for the Dress for Success collection bin, and a chic interior that would evoke Vanity Fair's brand identity and Women Who Do tagline. In other words it had to look posh, be inviting, and most of all put attendees at ease long enough to go topless, albeit momentarily.
While Soseman and his team got to work designing and fabricating the vehicle, Vanity Fair's ad agency, Kansas City, MO-based Barkley Inc., unveiled the tour's accompanying social-media marketing campaign. "The social-media objective was to spread brand awareness and drive fans in droves to each stop," says Sara Buck, senior vice president and group account leader at Barkley. "Our plan was to share geographically targeted Facebook posts a few days before the tour arrived in each market letting people know it was going to be in their town, and inviting them to hop aboard for their very own bra fitting."
The agency also researched and identified influential bloggers in each of the 12 markets Vanity Fair wanted to visit. "We selected primarily female bloggers based on relevancy, so we targeted fashion, lifestyle, and mom bloggers who best aligned with Vanity Fair's product and brand story," Buck says. Those bloggers were targeted via social media and invited to the tour stops in their respective markets, and the event's #LiftTOUR hashtag was added to all the posts.
In addition to pre-event promotion via Facebook, the LiftTour would feature an on-site activity created to increase media impressions. After attendees boarded the RV and got fitted, they would be invited to write an inspirational message or piece of advice on a branded white board, and then have their photo taken and posted to the company's Instagram account. "Vanity Fair launched its Instagram account to coincide with the LiftTour, and the photo sharing was a great way to increase activity and consumer engagement with the brand," Buck says. The positive messages also reinforced the company's new Women Who Do tagline. "We wanted the Women Who Do movement to live beyond print ads and digital/social-media campaigns," Jordan says. "Our intent was to have a memorable impact on women all across the country."
With the social-media campaign in high gear and the Dress for Success partnership secured, the LiftTour rolled into its first stop in early 2014. The 38-foot RV was wrapped in vinyl graphics featuring teal and white text on a black background that highlighted the #LiftTOUR hashtag, Facebook.com/VanityFairLingerie URL, Women Who Do tagline, and the Dress for Success logo. Words above a foldout awning invited women to "Find your fit," and the back of the RV featured the text "Number of donated bras ... and counting," along with space for a continuing tally to be prominently displayed.
Intrigued by the social-media outreach and the curious vehicle that just rolled into the department-store parking lot, people didn't hesitate to approach the RV and hop on board. Once inside, they discovered a serene space that resembled a high-end lingerie boutique, complete with dark floors, steel-gray cabinetry, robin's-egg blue walls, comfortable furniture for lounging, and decorative accessories. In addition to the chic touches throughout, the RV's interior also featured graphics depicting Vanity Fair's bras along with key messaging.
After the on-board bra fittings, attendees stepped outside to write positive messages of support on white boards and pose for photographs. Taken in front of a branded backdrop, the photos were tagged with #LiftTOUR and shared via social media.
The professional fittings happened toward the back of the RV in one of two identical dressing rooms, each featuring a mirror and heavy floor-to-ceiling teal drapes for privacy. Corporate Event Awards judges took note of the attention to detail, and appreciated the high-end touches. "I'm not just going to climb onto any old bus for a bra fitting," one judge said. "But this looks really cool, and it's not intimidating. I'd go in there and take off my shirt."
When the fittings were over, LiftTour staffers invited women to step up to the Dress for Success collection receptacle, which was located near the RV's entrance. Featuring a white countertop, teal side panels, and a transparent front panel through which the growing pile of donated bras could be seen, the stylish bin fit seamlessly into its surroundings. Text on a nearby branded sign explained, "You get fitted, another woman gets lifted," while additional text across the bin's front panel read "For every fitting on this bus, Vanity Fair will donate a bra to your local Dress for Success." Attendees wrote personal notes of encouragement, such as "You will never fail if you never give up," and "I believe in you" on Vanity Fair-branded tags located in a pile on top of the bin. They then attached the tags to the bras and dropped the garments into the collection box.
"The charitable aspect of the Lift Tour not only directly helped women within the Dress for Success program, but also served as an opportunity to inspire each and every woman that boarded the RV," Jordan says.
After their fittings, attendees were ushered outside to a tented area for the white-board photo opportunity. Writing positive messages under the words "I Support," attendees stood in front of a branded backdrop that featured the #LiftTOUR hashtag. Photos taken by event staff were then sent to attendees via email and shared on various social-media platforms. In addition to the fittings and photos, all participants also received a coupon toward the purchase of a Vanity Fair bra, which then drove customers back to the retail location at which the LiftTour was parked.
A Strapping Success
After the last chest measurement was taken and the final "I Support" photo shared on Instagram, it was clear that the LiftTour struck a chord with consumers who were all too happy to find out their correct bra size and do a little good in the process. In addition to securing the coveted title of Judges Choice Award – the competition's top honor – the 71-stop road show generated 5,600 bra fittings in the span of just three months, with more than 5,400 bras being donated to Dress for Success.
Visiting 12 U.S. cities, the LiftTour stopped at stores that carried the Vanity Fair line of lingerie. The tactic eliminated the site fees associated with the festivals and sponsored events more commonly found on road show itineraries.
But beyond cold, hard numbers lays an even more meaningful result for Vanity Fair. "The reaction from visitors was unanimously positive, and women appreciated the opportunity to help others through small acts of kindness," Jordan says. "More than 5,000 Dress for Success women received bras courtesy of the LiftTour's efforts. Something as simple as a new bra can really make a world of difference in the life of a woman."
What's more, 21,745 in-person engagements occurred at an average of five minutes each – that's valuable face time for a company trying to change its image and seduce a new audience. And thanks to Vanity Fair's extensive social-media campaign, omnipresent #LiftTOUR hashtag, and couldn't-miss 38-foot moving billboard, the event produced 33 media mentions, 40,600 Facebook impressions, and an awe-inspiring 150 million brand impressions. From the successful road show and popular philanthropic activity to its social-media boon, Vanity Fair assembled the perfect event trifecta – and milked it for all it was worth. E