Published on December 18, 2007
OPENING STATEMENT Black Khaki Wired – Big Blue, Makhulu Polane 2006 For South Africa, the Big Blue Makhulu Polane campaign is ahead of its time. It demonstrates the reach and credibility the internet has to offer when WebPR tools are employed responsibly in a targeted public relations strategy. The latest online trends of user- engagement, social media and informal viral marketing were used to meet the campaign objectives and maximise costs. The explosion of information available online has meant that internet users have become more discerning. A successful website must function as a dynamic public relations tool; it is no longer sufficient to offer a stagnant digital showcase. During 2006 Black Khaki Wired (BKW) introduced their client, Big Blue, to the public relations possibilities the internet offers to creatively and effectively build brand communication.
1. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM/OPPORTUNITY (a) Nature of the company or institution for which the programme was conducted: Big Blue has 14 South African retail clothing stores nationwide, some of which incorporate their other brand, Kitsch & Kool. Big Blue can be characterised as being fiercely independent, anti-establishment and truly South African. Each store is uniquely designed to incorporate its own quirks and personality and they purposely avoid the cloned formula look of corporate branded stores by stocking innovative and progressive styles that are designed and manufactured only in South Africa. In their early years Big Blue felt the effects of economic and artistic sanctions and had no choice but to manufacture in South Africa, since then they have elected to remain a South African clothing store and are passionate about local design talent and job creation. Big Blue currently represents more than 60 local manufacturers and designers and estimates that this supports around 400 jobs. (b) Specific problem or opportunity addressed by the programme: Black Khaki’s Online company had recently redesigned the Big Blue website www.bigblue.co.za the opportunity presented itself to utilise this unique, creative website as a public relations tool for the Big Blue brand. Two possibilities existed: a. To attract traffic to www.bigblue.co.za using niche ‘underground’ methods so as not to commercialise or explode the Big Blue brand. b. To utilise the website to create an online mouthpiece through which to promote Big Blue’s loyalty to South African talent. (c) Geographical area in which the programme was conducted: National, via the internet
2. RESEARCH Initial meetings and planning sessions with Big Blue uncovered their passion for South African design and unique, creative ideas. Big Blue’s unconventional way of thinking and openness to creativity and new ideas allowed Black Khaki Wired (BKW) to investigate cutting-edge online opportunities. Big Blue’s recent investment in their website meant that we were eager to utilise this medium effectively to maximise their limited PR budget. Strategy meetings with Big Blue established that t-shirts were their best sellers, t-shirts are traditionally unisex, widely worn and easy to manufacture, and the only restrictions are the colour of a design vs. colour of t-shirt. BKW conducted extensive online research and by tracking websites, blogs, forums and design collectives were able to assess the latest trends and specifically online events in the design industry, and more specifically t-shirt design, both nationally and internationally. The research confirmed that an original South African T-shirt design competition had never been developed, marketed and managed online before, the market was wide open for Big Blue. BKW proposed an annual t-shirt design competition to be owned by Big Blue, this vehicle would meet both the objectives stated in 1.b. The competition would be open to everyone who felt they could create a saleable t-shirt design which included all genres of designers as well as any members of the public. The PR campaign would be conducted primarily on the internet to drive traffic through to www.bigblue.co.za. The research also determined that in the online arena competitions that offered ‘fame & fortune’ were the most successful ones. For the winner, Big Blue offered a cash prize and agreed to sell the winning design in their stores for a period of two months, a % of each t-shirt sale would also be given back to the designer.
3. PLANNING (a) Detailed statement of the programme’s objectives and establishment of measurable criteria for success: The competition objectives were clear: Creatively promote the Big Blue brand and its associations with local design by establishing an annual event owned by Big Blue which would have longevity and scope for development. Discover local design talent to uplift the industry, the spin-off was the addition to Big Blue’s in-store catalogue. Drive traffic to www.bigblue.co.za to publicise their brands and image. Accessibility to all, no demographic to be excluded (all that was required was a one time access to a computer to upload a jpeg image. The image did not need to be computer generated and could be hand drawn or painted and scanned.) Measurable criteria for success: Number of entries received would determine whether the market will adopt this as an annual event. Quality of designs received was the most important criteria for Big Blue. (b) Identification of publics to be reached and actions desired of them: The competition was open to all, entrants needed to register at www.bigblue.co.za and submit their designs. Online media: websites, blogs, forums and communities associated with design, marketing, advertising and the youth. Traditional media: design press, community print and 25 design colleges were targeted to broaden awareness to communities who do not have access to the internet.
(c) Formulation of messages to be communicated to the publics: The branding of the t-shirt design competition needed to fit with Big Blue’s humorous, irreverent and independent character. The name ‘Makhulu Polane’ was created which loosely translates to ‘Big Idea’; it was catchy, uniquely South African and cross-cultural. A logo was created to support this, the greyhound dog with wings was perfect for Big Blue; outrageous and kitsch yet proud and inspirational (thanks to the wings.) The message was: “Show us your Makhulu Polane and we’ll make you famous!” (d) Selection of communication channels e.g.: print media, newsletter etc.: Optimised content media releases to online community; design, marketing, advertising & youth portals, blogs, forums. Informal posts and comments on blogs and forums. Viral informal e-mailers. Community newspapers. Design magazines. Fashion and graphic design colleges and the THINK design council. (e) Creation of vehicles to carry the messages into the media e.g. activities: An effective WebPR campaign needs to take into account SEM (Search Engine Marketing); all media releases contained optimised copy to boost search engine ratings, as well as the Makhulu Polane logo to encourage visual coverage. Competition module for www.bigblue.co.za. Posters for in-store communication and installation at design colleges. Launch advertising banner and editorial campaign with Cherryflava media on www.Cherryflava.com and www.jetstreaker.com – two of SA’s most popular blogs. (f) Action taken to consult with management and secure its support for the campaign: BKW has a privileged position in that Big Blue are open to creativity and not afraid to take risks, this allowed BKW the freedom to explore informal, pioneering options to position Big
Blue online. The Big Blue Makhulu Polane campaign was cutting-edge as it was the second campaign in the country to launch through blog media. Big Blue is positive about the future of South Africa and embraces original, creative initiatives to promote and support local talent. They have been extremely satisfied with the results of the Makhulu Polane PR campaign and during 2007 BKW and Big Blue will explore the wider scope this initiative has in terms of different design mediums and associated events.
4. EXECUTION (a) Description of the plan’s implementation: Informal blog and forum comments were posted on relevant sites to drive traffic to www.bigblue.co.za The Makhulu Polane brand and artistic look and feel was developed. www.bigblue.co.za competition page and entry mechanism was developed. Posters and window displays were installed in all Big Blue stores. Cherryflava media was earmarked as a suitable blog launch platform and advertising and editorial space was negotiated. Blogs make up a large percentage of the online social media community and links and track backs to and from other blogs add credibility and hype. Posters and explanatory e-mail details were distributed to design colleges. Makhulu Polane media releases were distributed to marketing, design, advertising and community media. (Pre ‘announcement’ releases and post ‘winner announcement’ releases.) All pre and post communication elements included links to www.bigblue.co.za. (b) Adjustments to the plan introduced during its implementation: The immediacy of the internet allows for flexibility and BKW could instantly respond to online coverage and capitalise upon similar industry stories. The Makhulu Polane competition was open for submissions between 1 Oct – 31 Oct 06. The deadline was extended by one week to accommodate many e-mail requests from late entrants.
(c) Difficulties encountered: WebPR is in its infancy in South Africa and formal media tracking and evaluation of widespread online coverage is not available. The debate is ongoing to agree upon a formula for evaluating online PR coverage in relation to associated online advertising costs. Where possible, BKW had to utilise tools like ‘Google alerts’ and ‘Technorati tags’ to monitor internet coverage. It must be noted that these tools are reliant upon websites having effective SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) through keywords, i.e. additional online coverage may not have been picked up by search engines, and therefore it’s likely that the online exposure may have been greater. In addition the Big Blue website hosting contract did not lapse until Dec 2006 therefore although we ran the competition through their site we do not have access to traffic stats over the Makhulu Polane period. BK Online now hosts the site and will be able to evaluate coverage more accurately in 2007. For this reason the success of the campaign was evaluated by the number of entries received, quality of online posts / articles tracked and ultimately sales of the winning t-shirt design in-store.
5. EVALUATION 204 people registered during October to submit entries. At the close of the competition 197 entries were received which far exceeded Big Blue’s expectations. Big Blue printed 100 t-shirts on the first print run, 80% were sold out within a week. The second print run is a larger quantity and the t-shirt is being sold in store until February 2007. This competition appealed to a niche market; in addition Big Blue did not want it to be too commercial. The coverage received online was through very specific design / marketing websites which met the objectives. Makhulu Polane 2007 is planned and will expand into other areas of design. Refer to point C. SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS for additional information and visual material.
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