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Broad Product Promotion

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Trade associations engage in product promotion on a broad front. At a time when the fur industry was in the doldrums, the Fur Information & Fashion Council tried to revive it. Increased sale of furs was the object. The effort was divided into three parts:
  1. Find a new public or build one; and interest all association members in this new public

  2. Furnish real news to the public and the trade through press, radio, TV

  3. Concentrate on point-of-sale-retail stores
On the basis of research findings about reasons for buying, the Council started a program to sell a young public the less expensive furs-rabbit, fox, muskrat, sea otter, pony, mink gills, beaver (all in the warehouses, unsold). Name sports designers were enlisted for a Young Designers Collection. None had worked in fur previously. Leading retail stores across the country cooperated enthusiastically in this program for a product that was new, reasonably priced, attractive to the young and, hopefully, would get young people in the habit of shopping there. The program was backed up by promotion with a six-figure budget. This initial public relations campaign built over the years. It was one of the first aimed at the young. It also brought inexpensive furs to the attention of women in general-and now of men.

About the same time the fur industry became youth-conscious, the Denim Council began a vigorous public relations program to increase the sale of denim. Conscious of the fact that the low state of their own industry was partly due to a national high school "dress-up" program initiated by another newly formed trade association-manufacturers of men's and boy's wear-The Denim Council started a counter-program directed to students.

It was a pro-blue jean program, and it didn't work. The problem was that teenagers were all for blue jeans; it was the parents and Boards of Education that were not.

Denim textile sales fell off further. Laborers, and the teenagers' parents in their off-work hours, began wearing other hard finish work-wear fabrics. At this point a public relations counsel was retained, Robert S. Taplinger Associates. As the fur industry public relations director had done, it did some research, and came up with these facts:
  1. The public image of the durable 100-year-old fabric had been influenced by the juvenile delinquency tag.

  2. The leading designers in the sportswear field were therefore extremely hesitant about using it for their high-styled merchandise.

  3. Because of denim's mass psychology image, the press was reluctant to run photographs and stories.
The designers were persuaded, and agreed to produce the first innovations in denim women's wear in years. An intensive publicity push through newspapers, magazines and other nation-wide media helped to establish blue denim's "new look." A new feature series, "Denim Men of America" used various labor groups as a theme for short monthly cartoons to newspapers with anecdotes and statistics about the denim-clad tradesmen serving America. A long list included building trades, cattle ranching, oil drilling, dairy farming.

At the retail level, a thirty-day selling program was initiated under the title "Fall Denim Days." After a few years, tremendous growth was achieved by this promotion for which the Denim Council provided different types of printed material, and suggested advertising copy.

A large press breakfast later became the scene for a further attempt to upgrade blue denim. Designers' original ideas for men's and women's utility and work clothing were shown, and received some editorial attention. Other typical promotions in this campaign were: the selection of a "Blue Jean Queen" to tour the country and feature "denim garments 'round the clock"; Peace Corps officials in Washington were offered blue denim garments for an entire Peace Corps contingent. This offer was accepted and resulted in wide coverage.

The publicity effort was given a tremendous boost by such "breaks" as photographs of Princess Anne wearing blue jeans, and also of Nelson Rockefeller with denim slacks. Today, in many parts of the world, blue jeans are the rule rather than the exception.

It is clear from these two examples that product promotion is not confined to individual companies and that wisely employed and well budgeted, the rewards can be tremendous. In the case of both fur and denim, trade associations were empowered to spend large sums of money because the manufacturers were in trouble. They needed help because their once popular product was now neglected. A product which never was in favor in this country also became the subject for association promotion. This was Spanish sherry, untried, unwanted, and practically invisible to most Americans.

When the Spanish Sherry Institute engaged a public relations firm to tell the American public about the virtues of the product, they immediately set two obstacles in its path: Spanish sherry was not to be promoted for use in cooking since this might cause confusion with common domestic "cooking sherries"; neither was it to be promoted as a connoisseur's wine to be drunk from special glasses and on special occasions.

Every promotion has avenues closed to it by client command, but there are always other roads to follow. Those selected by the Spanish Sherry Institute's PR council were:
  1. Spanish sherry "a good friend and drinking companion." Easy to serve in any kind of glass-wine, old-fashion, whiskey sours.

  2. A change from, or substitute for hard liquor. (Spanish sherry is priced at the hard liquor level.)

  3. Suitable before lunch, at the cocktail hour, with meals, with desserts, with cheese, around the TV set, at parties, and as a "nightcap."

  4. Can be served at any temperature desired-room temperature, chilled, or on the rocks.

  5. Spanish sherry is the world's only true sherry. Never any worry about vintage years because of the way it is produced.
The promotion plans were these:
  1. A story approach that would appeal to home entertainment editors, news feature editors, travel and picture editors.

  2. The development of news events that would give Spanish sherry the desired image.

  3. Taste exposure of Spanish sherry to important business and association groups.

  4. Development of display material for restaurant tables, retail stores and window displays, and the creation of generic label for Spanish sherry. (Editors are reluctant to use brand-name labels.)

  5. Major placements in national media-television, radio, general interest and men's magazines, with stories tailored to the particular media.
Among the most effective events devised by Conant and Company, the counseling firm, to produce news stories about Spanish sherry were:
  1. The creation, in cooperation with a fabric maker and a shirt manufacturer, of a Spanish sherry label sports shirt. Promoted by the fabric and shirt makers, and also by quality stores that stocked it, without cost to the campaign.

  2. A Cask of Amontillado award to the best mystery story writer of the year on the anniversary of the death of Edgar Allan Poe.

  3. Spanish sherry was tied in to a visit of a Spanish naval training ship. A distinguished visitor from NASA was on hand. The theme was the contrast between Magellan's voyage around the world, and a manned satellite.
This Spanish sherry promotion campaign resulted in greater awareness and sales for the product. It won the PRSA Silver Anvil Award. It is a classic example of planning that makes use of every possibility inherent in the product; plus staff team work to turn those plans into exciting product public relations.
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