The three "R's" adage – right product, right place, right price – usually relates to sales and business success. But for the Tresemme brand, this tenet formed the backbone of an event-marketing program that offered consumers and media reps a sought-after service, in an ideal locale, and at the ultimate price, i.e., free. In return, the target market "paid" for the offering with a bevy of articles and social-media mentions, helping the stylish strategy earn a 2016 Corporate Event Award.
Hailed by judges as "a one-off customer and media engagement that resonated with the target audience," Tresemme's event was actually the latest success in the brand's lengthy and illustrious history. While Tresemme was launched in 1947 by Godefroy Manufacturing Co. of St. Louis, the hair-care brand was purchased by the Alberto-Culver Co. of Melrose Park, IL, in 1968. Here, it grew in popularity and sales, falling in line with the company's other hair- and body-care brands such as Alberto VO5, St. Ives, and Nexxus.
Starting around 2004, however, Alberto-Culver began a multifaceted strategy to further increase Tresemme sales and foster consumers' perception of the brand as salon-quality but affordably priced. One of its most successful tactics was a partnership with "Project Runway" during seasons two through five (from December 2005 to roughly October 2008). Along these same lines, Tresemme became the official hair-care sponsor of New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in 2006, working directly with designers to develop signature looks and providing products and backstage styling. Thanks to its awareness-related efforts, the brand had accrued so much notoriety by 2010 that multinational consumer goods company Unilever PLC scooped up Alberto-Culver and its Tresemme brand for a whopping $3.7 billion.
Under Unilever's management, the brand achieved continued success. But never one to rest on its laurels, Unilever hoped to leverage its existing investment in NYFW, particularly since the 2015 fall fashion season marked the 15th time Tresemme served as the official hair-care sponsor. Plus, marketers at Unilever wanted to continue to educate consumers about Tresemme's salon-quality yet affordable products and to align the brand with world-renowned designers to further elevate consumer perceptions. What's more, to generate worldwide awareness, marketers wanted to woo and wow the fashion editors, writers, bloggers, and influencers from around the world that were drawn to NYFW like frizzy-haired fashion mavens to a flat iron.
"To address these goals, Tresemme wanted to create a unique, 24/7 off-runway happening of some sort," says John Ierardi, founder of Event Energizers LLC, the New York agency tasked with creating the event. "My job was to craft a single locale where fashionistas and the media could gather, interact, and receive special treatment."
This treatment, then, would comprise free blowouts and styling featuring the same looks Tresemme stylists were creating for the runways, thereby cementing the perception that Tresemme is working shoulder to shoulder with top designers. And for members of the press, the event, which would be located between NYFW's two main show venues, would provide a convenient, comfortable location to enjoy a beverage while they watched live-streaming fashion shows, wrote their stories, and posted them via free Wi-Fi. But finding a suitable venue would prove tougher than maintaining a loose top knot in a stiff wind.
The Space Race
A few short weeks before the event was set to launch, Ierardi began scouring New York's Meat Packing District for a venue. Finding a spot in this particular neighborhood was key because NYFW had just moved the majority of its shows from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (just west of Central Park on the Upper West Side) to Skylight at Moynihan Station and Skylight Clarkson Square in Chelsea and the West Village, respectively. Hence, the Meat Packing District was sandwiched tightly between the two locations, and would provide a convenient respite for media reps shuttling between shows. The central locale would also attract consumers from SoHo, Greenwich Village, Midtown, and even the Garment District and Theater District, among others.
In addition to scoring prime real estate in a specific neighborhood, Ierardi had several other tangles to comb out. His paramount concern was finding a prominent street-level space that would appeal to pedestrian traffic – and one that would offer a meager one-month lease. The event would last seven days, and Ierardi would need a couple of weeks prior to the event to prepare the space and another afterward to clear it out. But still, a one-month lease would be as difficult to come by as a style-savvy "Manhattanite" sporting a "scrunchie."
"The venue search was like finding a needle in a haystack," Ierardi says. "And just when I thought I'd found the perfect locale, something would go haywire. The contract would fall through; another firm would offer a better price. Five venues fell through before I scored 343 W. 14th St."
But even after Unilever signed the contract, Ierardi still had a hot mess on his hands. The vacant, cavernous space was formerly a yoga-clothing store, and as such, its "guts" couldn't handle the 24/7 rigors Tresemme's event would entail. In addition to erecting walls, updating the restroom facilities, and laying carpet throughout, Ierardi completely replaced the venue's electrical wiring to accommodate the many blow dryers, curling irons, coffee pots, refrigerators, and networking and communication equipment the event required. "Plus, I had to bring in mobile AC units to cool the entire space, not to mention all of the furniture, styling stations, etc.," he says. "I used every minute I had leading up to the event to simply get the venue ready."
Meanwhile, the folks at London-based Unilever (who, by the way, didn't set foot in the New York venue until a couple of days before it opened for business), were busy prepping for the fashion shows and promoting the off-site event, now aptly named the Tresemme 24/7 Runway Studio and Social Media Hub. In conjunction with its NYFW sponsorship, Tresemme's lead stylists, Orlando Pita and Jeanie Syfu, were marrying hair styles to fashion trends for a star-studded list of designers, including everyone from Carolina Herrera and Diane von Furstenberg to Rebecca Minkoff and Rachel Zoe. To translate these styles to the off-site event, Unilever selected key looks from each major show, which would be recreated for consumers in the Tresemme 24/7 Runway Studio.
To promote the event, Daniel J. Edelman Holdings Inc. (Edelman), one of Unilever's agencies, sent an email blast to every beauty editor, blogger, and influencer in its massive database. Featuring a map of the locale, the email invited recipients to visit Tresemme's 24/7 Runway Studio for free runway-ready looks and to take advantage of the media lounge with its complimentary amenities. The missive also encouraged recipients to request a 20-minute styling appointment via a dedicated email address. As a follow-up, two weeks before the event, marketers sent a postcard-size mailer to the same audience.
While only media reps were targeted with the email and postcard promotions, Unilever reps knew that these same people would spread the word to consumers via their articles and social-media mentions. However, Ierardi and Event Energizers' event manager Taylor Park also hired a team of models to hand out promotional fliers near the main show venues during the event.
"With only a week to go before the fashion shows started and the Tresemme 24/7 Runway Studio opened its doors, almost every 20-minute styling-appointment slot was booked between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.," Ierardi says. "Not a single hair had been flattened or curled, and we already knew this was going to be a resounding success."
Comb as You Are
As consumers and media reps sauntered down 14th Street, their eyes were no doubt drawn to the full-length windows that stretched across the 14th Street locale. While the transparent glass showcased black and white logos for the 24/7 Runway Studio, Tresemme, and NYFW, along with the event's hashtag (#tressnyfw), the interior remained visible to pedestrians. Here, exposed brick formed the backdrop for beauty-focused lightbox graphics that seemed to scream "Fashionistas welcome!"
Once inside, visitors checked in at a reception desk on the right side of the space, which also featured a wall-mounted high-definition 54-by-96-inch monitor live-streaming images from the runways, along with showing recorded footage from previous shows.
After welcoming visitors, receptionists directed them down a corridor filled with lounge furniture and a series of bistro-height workstations that led to the heart of the event space – comprising a six-chair salon, lounge furniture, and product-display wall, all positioned under a domed skylight at the rear of the building. A cozy fashion den of sorts, the venue oozed a sense of quiet sophistication yet buzzed with fashion-show excitement.
If visitors had an appointment, staff offered them a printed card depicting the photos and names of the hairstyles available that particular day. (Each day the salon offered a different set of five looks.) The card also listed the designer or brand with which each look was associated, along with the products used to create it. For example, one day's selections included The Diane Curly Side Part (Diane von Furstenberg), Flat Waves (Carolina Herrera), California Wet Look (BCBG), Braided Crown Pony (Herve Leger), and Beachy Soft Waves (Misha Nonoo). Products for these styles were all part of the Make Waves, Get Sleek, and Perfectly (un)Done collections.
Once guests selected their looks, stylists escorted them to one of six chairs for their 20-minute styling session, during which they educated visitors about the products in use and how they might benefit their particular hair and style choices. After the appointment, stylists and guests moved their conversations to a roughly 6-by-8-foot wall-mounted product display adjacent to the lounge. Here, stylists would point out the precise products used for the chosen style. If visitors wanted to order products on the spot, they could use one of two iPad stations on either side of the product wall. Thanks to Unilever's partnership with Amazon, visitors could quickly sign in to Amazon and select their products from a page dedicated to the event, which also featured how-to's and tutorials. "Collaborating with Amazon allowed customers to immediately get the products they needed to recreate each runway look," says Chris Barron, global vice president of marketing for Tresemme. "Our fans could experience the excitement of New York Fashion Week and get the looks they love like never before."
"Next, as a courtesy to us," Ierardi says, "we asked that people take a selfie in front of our branded wall, which featured the Tresemme and NYFW logos, and that they post their pics to social media. People could take photos with their own cellphones, but we also had a photo booth set up that printed out four photos and gave visitors the option to email themselves electronic versions to share on social media." These images were then uploaded to the event's microsite, www.tresnyfw.com, where they helped draw even more visitors to the space.
Consumers and media reps could spend as much time as they liked enjoying the comfortable lounge furniture, sipping a beverage (coffee or water), and using the free Wi-Fi and restrooms. Various charging stations also aided journalists, as did the streaming video on the screen near the reception desk. "Along with simply watching the shows, some journalists actually took video or still shots from the screen to use in their publications," Ierardi says.
While some visitors spent upwards of an hour in the salon and returned multiple times during the week to soak up Tresemme's offerings, others were all "tressed" up with somewhere to go, so they high-tailed it out of there before their new coifs cooled. But before hitting the streets, everyone received a parting gift – a tote bag of product samples for media reps, and for consumers, a coupon offering a discount and free shipping through Amazon.
Results to Dye For
Between Sept. 10 and 17, consumers and members of the media flocked to the Tresemme 24/7 Runway Studio like fashion-label slaves to a Birkin sale. Most had already made an appointment via the dedicated email address; however, whenever someone was late or didn't show for the appointment, stylists worked in drop-ins on a first-come first-serve basis. At times the queue for last-minute openings trailed out the door and down the side of the building. "Granted, we had some openings in the wee hours of the morning," Ierardi says, "but the place was packed from sunup to sundown the entire week."
All told, more than 2,000 people received a runway look over the course of the week – a figure that doesn't include the media reps that popped in between shows. What's more, those 2,000-plus people, the media reps, and their friends and followers took to the social-media airwaves, ultimately helping the brand score a 35-percent uptick in social-media followers and more than 2 billion media impressions across 20 global markets. To put that into perspective, if you did a Google search for "Tresemme Runway Studio New York Fashion Week" during NYFW, you would have found more than 350,000 results.
But best of all for the Tresemme brand, event participants no doubt walked away with the perception that Tresemme is on the cutting edge of fashion and working hand in scissors with designers to create the world's next hair-care trends. Plus, as event participants sauntered out of the Tresemme 24/7 Runway Studio and off to their busy lives, they likely felt a greater affinity for a brand that provided the three R's – the right service, in the right locale, and at the right price. E