To build on Big Lots' recent sales momentum and differentiate itself from competitors, the retailer has aimed to create more of a whimsical, fun shopping experience and to meet its consumer where she lives: online. Our client is so tuned into its target audience that she even has a name, "Jennifer." This value-driven woman likes to share her opinions, takes pride in her home, is a nurturer and likes family time, so the holidays are a big deal.
The holidays are also a big deal for Big Lots, generating a significant portion of its annual profits. The retailer doesn't carry many owned brands the rest of the year, but it's home to an enormous collection of holiday entertaining and decor essentials.
To showcase its 2016 winter collection and deepen the brand's appeal to the millennial mom, we orchestrated and hosted a holiday-themed soiree for "Jennifers" called the Jingle & Mingle. This would be the first media event for Big Lots, which doesn't typically engage with media in person. Our goal was to position it as a must-see holiday destination for holiday décor, generating excitement and conversation through online and social media. We also wanted to drive traffic to BigLots.com to encourage online shopping and stay ahead of competitors during a crowded time of year. Plus, we aimed to deliver fresh content to the Big Lots social media team, as well as a real-life display to showcase their product and a chance to interact online with influencers.
Leading up to the Jingle & Mingle event were weeks of preparation on our part; this included creating an invite and custom signage and curating a guest list of New York media and influencers who cover home decor, lifestyle and women's interest topics. We also carefully selected our media sponsor, Bustle, which AdWeek calls the "largest digital media property that targets millennial women." (Not only did it see an average of 50 million unique readers each month in 2016, but most of those readers were women ages 18-34 (70 percent of them), and it covers topics such as news, home and style with a sharp irreverence that speaks to Big Lots' target audience.)
To host what was ultimately called the "Bustle x Big Lots Jingle & Mingle" event at Havas PR's office in New York, we teamed with Bustle on a Wednesday night, Nov. 2, 2016. We transformed the office's lounge space into a photo-ready winter wonderland that brought the festive Big Lots shopping aisles to life for local media with beautifully decorated Christmas trees, creative tablescapes and cozy gathering places. More than 50 attendees were treated to delicious custom cocktails, savory and sweet treats, and gift-bag takeaways using all Big Lots gift wrap. They were encouraged to use the event hashtag #BigLotsHoliday to engage with their audience in their authentic voice and point of view. Also encouraged: taking photos in a holiday-themed photo booth with fun and engaging props. Media took home Big Lots products, including a candle, ornaments, photo holder and chocolate-covered pretzels.
Among those who got into the holiday spirit with Big Lots were two paid influencers, Noelle Downing (114,000 Instagram followers) and Grace Atwood (84,700 Instagram followers), as well as influencers from This Old House, MediaPost and Brooklyn Active Mama. Lifestyle editors from Romper.com and Bustle.com were also in attendance.
The next step was to make sure this event was a gift that kept on giving long after we'd taken down the last of the tinsel. Our team followed up with all guests—as well as those who couldn't make it—in the days and weeks after the Jingle & Mingle to encourage traditional media coverage featuring the holiday products. As part of the integrated partnership with Bustle and our effort to reach its digitally engaged female audience, we ran Big Lots ads that featured holiday content (from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24), and we negotiated sponsorship of a Bustle article ("Holiday Decor That Will Transform Your Living Room into a Cozy Wonderland") showing readers how to create the perfect holiday hangout space.
By filling the room with 50 "Jennifers" we were able to appeal to and connect with a much larger audience: The #BigLotsHoliday hashtag was used more than 20 times, and more than 30 posts ran, reaching 362,000-plus followers. "This event has inspired me to go home and start my Christmas shopping on BigLots.com!" wrote Dina Deleasa-Gonsar, who has 81,100 Instagram followers @dishitgirldina. "How could I miss this? We love Big Lots and shop at the store all the time!" Beatriz Alegria, blogger at New York for Beginners, told us. Over the next couple of weeks, she published three gift guides featuring Big Lots.
The sponsored Bustle article, which ran on Nov. 21, successfully positioned Big Lots as the go-to retailer for effortlessly making the 2016 holiday season the merriest ever. The article received more than 32,000 page views, with readers spending an average of two minutes and 20 seconds there (well above Bustle's one-minute benchmark). Additionally, Bustle reports a social engagement rate of 7.34 percent (its benchmark is 3 percent) and a click-through rate of 0.12 percent (its benchmark is 0.06 percent).
Andrew Stein, Big Lots' senior vice president, chief customer officer and chief marketing officer, told us, "Havas PR's campaign and our partnership with Bustle brought our products and our brand to life for millennial influencers and their friends and ignited enormous enthusiasm for our winter collection."
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