Behind the Campaign: How PR got Thankyou Water stocked by Woolworths and Coles

By on Thursday, October 10, 2013

I am often emailed with stunts and campaigns (for which I am very grateful – my details are at the end of this post) and sometimes, one comes in that is a bit different. Perhaps it’s particularly funny, unique or – as in the case of the example below – it creates a reaction much bigger than just attracting eyeballs and selling a few products.

This Behind the Campaign post features an Australian social enterprise that used public support and a simple PR stunt (that unfortunately happened on the same day as Prince George was born!) to get its stock into Woolworths and Coles, funding a number of charities in the process (though thankfully, no longer this one – proselytism/evangelism or, in less fancy words, attempted brainwashing, has no place in aid, especially aid delivered to vulnerable people).

Here is Sarah Prescott, Communications Manager of social enterprise Thankyou Group, to explain more:

How does an Australian startup social enterprise not only expand from water into food and body care products, but also convince the nation’s two largest supermarkets to take on the entire new range after five years of knockbacks?

Enter in “The Coles and Woolworths Campaign”.

thankyou group pr campaign

Thankyou Group’s co-founder and MD Daniel Flynn

I came on board the Thankyou team in October last year to manage PR and Communications. It was a case of ‘hit the ground running’ as the small bottled water company was in the process of developing two new ranges – food and body care – while working on a large-scale, non-traditional marketing communications plan to launch the products into supermarkets.

The campaign concept was driven by marketing, and supported by PR initiatives. The bold plan aimed at encouraging consumer support through social media to convince the supermarkets to take on the range. The call to action asked Australians to post on both Coles’ and Woolworths’ Facebook walls, “If you stocked the Thankyou range, I’d buy it”.

While it was a great idea, there were some issues, such as our budget of next to nothing, the general risk to the brand that could occur through this campaign and the fact that in our five-year history, we hadn’t been successful in getting the water products onto major supermarket shelves. The answer to problem number one came in the form of private donors and in-kind support. Following many risk assessments, it was decided that the cons of issues two and three were outweighed by the pros. Then as they say, it was all systems go.

First up, we required a unique campaign video that could potentially go viral. Our creative team and our film agency Kintaro Studios came up with the concept of giving our fans a ‘personal’ virtual meeting with Managing Director Dan Flynn, complete with a campaign call-to-action at the end of the clip.  We then secured the support of 15 celebrities, including Glee stars Dean Geyer and Becca Tobin.

It was also essential that we launched the campaign with a bang. We pitched to Australia’s number one morning show, Sunrise, to exclusively launch the campaign, which they agreed to do. On the morning of 17 July 2013, our team watched apprehensively as the campaign went live on television before our eyes. Instantly, Coles and Woolworths’ Facebook pages, and ours, began to flood with posts from fans petitioning supermarkets to stock the range. Within a few days, both retailers’ pages received in excess of 2,000 posts – with many of those including creative videos such as songs, dances and skits.

The campaign video conquered our overall objective of 10,000 views in probably the first half of launch day – reaching nearly 70,000 by the end of the first week.

To build campaign momentum, we flew two helicopters carrying 30m x 30m banners over both Coles’ and Woolworths’ headquarters during morning peak hour (the cost of the banners was covered by a private donor, and the helicopter companies donated their time). The signs read, “Hey Coles, thank you for changing the world! (If you say ‘yes’)” and “Hey Woolworths, together we can change the world! (If you say ‘yes’)”. While the stunt (video below) unluckily fell on the day of the royal birth, we nevertheless received a good response from the supermarkets, the public and media.

The end result? Both supermarkets said yes! Products were then rolled out in a timeframe that industry experts said was unheard of. We grew our social media fan base by thousands, and saw demonstrated increase in our brand awareness, reaching more than 90 traditional and online media mentions and reaching a total of 15.5 million people through media, social media and online traffic.

If you’ve been involved in a stunt or campaign recently you think others would like to read about, please do get in touch.

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