Case Study: Lane Bryant Inc.

Organization: Lane Bryant, Inc.

Background: One of the most significant women’s retail clothing store chains focusing on plus-size clothing, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and founded in 1901 by Lena Himmelstein Bryant Malsin.

Business Need: Create a place where plus-size women could connect with each other and share their passions. Connect those passions with the Lane Bryant brand.

Social Media Solution: “The Inside Curve,” which resides on LaneBryant.com and is solely dedicated to and designed for the Lane Bryant customer. Within this network, a registered member can shop, read the latest Lane Bryant buzz and connect with other members over their love for Lane Bryant and fashion

Business Result: A platform to address the Lane Bryant customer and inform them of a seemingly “double standard” that was being applied to Lane Bryant’s TV spot by ABC and FOX TV networks. This posting on Inside Curve started the wildfire that turned into controversy online, on television and print, which equaled huge PR gains for Lane Bryant.

What actually happened: When Jay Dunn began working with Lane Bryant as VP of Marketing, he immediately identified that the customer base Lane Bryant was trying to reach was being neglected by mainstream American advertising. Because typical U.S. retail ads didn’t feature curvier women and instead focused on highlighting waif-like models, more voluptuous women had a fairly narrow menu of places where they could shop.

With this knowledge and observation, Dunn began planning a solution that would fill the need to engage the Lane Bryant customer, and generate a worthy conversation between customer and brand largely focused on what many of the customers were already talking about: the underrepresentation of plus-size women in America.

In 2008, Dunn and his marketing team conceived, built and incorporated into the marketing strategy a fully interactive online community network called “Inside Curve,” which is solely dedicated to and designed for the Lane Bryant customer. Within this network a registered member can shop, read the latest Lane Bryant buzz and connect with other members over their love for Lane Bryant and fashion.

On April 20, 2010, Lane Bryant’s marketing staff posted a 377-word blog within the company’s online community network, “Inside Curve,” which had approximately 30,000 devotees. The topic of the post read as follows: “The Lingerie Commercial FOX and ABC Didn’t Want Its Viewers to See,” and complained (quite controllably, might I add) about the recent problem the brand had faced when presenting a certain TV commercial announcing the rollout of “Cacique,” the intimates line now available from Lane Bryant, to FOX and ABC.

By that evening, with 198 “Love Its,” 54 comments, and a reporter from AdWeek now covering it – a media war had started. At the end of the blog post, readers faced crossing a “retail line in the sand” and Lane Bryant was encouraging them to pick a side: “Team Cacique or Team Network. Tell us how you feel and pass this along to everyone who shares the view that beauty is in the eye of the beholder not the hands of a television network.”

The Battle of Lingerie had begun …

On Wednesday the story continued to gain momentum and showed no signs of stopping as the headline swept through Twitter, the blogosphere, and across the radio. Reporters, Jay Leno, and loyal Lane Bryant fans all wanted an answer to the same question:  “If Victoria’s Secret and Playtex can run ads at any time, [on any network] during the 9pm to 10pm hour ... Why is Lane Bryant restricted only to the final 10 minutes?”

And on Thursday, April 22, when the New York Post ran an article featuring the story and exposing the “visual” in question, two things were abundantly clear: Team Cacique had scored MAJOR support points from across the nation and, more importantly, in the new Era of Social Media Networking, a mere 377 words could create quite the impact.  By raising awareness about the issue within a smaller but dedicated audience of 30,000 within the Inside Curve community, Lane Bryant put in place the means for those members to share that information across their personal and public social networks, making it go viral.

Lane Bryant’s social media use in this particular instance truly highlights how when a brand creates an authentic and engaging social media personality then reaches out to listen to their customer base, momentous things can be accomplished together.

By addressing criticism targeting a particular TV spot within Lane Bryant’s online community network, the reaction from brand loyalists, reporters, and the public defending and supporting Lane Bryant generated unprecedented press/ media coverage across both traditional and non-traditional outlets including: TV, radio, newspaper and online/social media platforms.

“The Lingerie Commercial FOX and ABC Didn’t Want Its Viewers to See” acquired the following online traffic totals during this time: • Over $40M in earned media on a $5M spendAd shown on over 300 TV shows, hit over 3,000 blogs and online sites, including: Jay Leno, CNN, People.com, The Today Show, The O’Reilly Factor, The Huffington Post, etc.Effectively relaunched the Lane Bryant brand and introduced Cacique to the country, bringing in thousands of new customers2 million video views in three daysNamed the “Most Watched Ad in the World” by AdAge for two weeks in a rowIn AdAge’s “Top Ten Most Watched Ads in the World” list for three weeks after that

Quotes from the campaign: “The upshot is that it was a fantastically orchestrated PR campaign.” - Michael Learmonth, AdAge Editor for digital media

“It created much more awareness than you would ever imagine for a television commercial.” - Thomas A. Filandro, Senior Consumer Analyst

“Possibly the biggest publicity campaign ever for a retailer.” - Omnicom