H&M: Lessons learned from David Beckham’s Super Bowl ad

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Did you know that one of the world’s most successful fast-fashion retailers is actually 65 years old? That’s one of the juicy tidbits that H&M North America marketing director Stephen Lubomski revealed during a Shop.org Annual Summit session on branding innovation. The company, which began expanding into the U.S. in the early 2000s, is lauded for its innovative marketing campaigns, celebrity and designer partnerships, and progressive approach to social media. How has H&M been so successful in all of these realms? The company bases all decisions on five basic mandates:

  1. Always be surprising.
  2. Do everything at the highest level or don’t do it at all.
  3. Coordinate all channels — always. Internally speaking.
  4. Activate the touchpoints that are most relevant to campaign objectives.
  5. Tie it back to sales.

H&M North America marketing director Stephen Lubomski

H&M applied these mandates in one of two case studies described by Lubomski, the retailer’s legendary David Beckham underwear Superbowl ad. The retailer’s goal was to use a celebrity bodywear collection campaign to boost mens’ sales and raise brand awareness with a Superbowl ad. The planning was fraught with questions. When should the spot air during the game? What song should be used? Should the spot be released before the game or debut during the game? When should the product launch?

While the results, in terms of sales, social media coverage and media attention, were incredible, Lubomski says that the retailer learned some valuable lessons from the whole process. First, you need to make sure you have everyone’s buy-in, especially with something at this level. Second, the ad couldn’t stand alone. The retailer took a full 360 advertising approach and had to move outside of its comfort zone, hiring a PR firm that specialized in sports for the first time. Third, stick to the plan. Such a big project requires a detailed plan and timeline. Figure it out early and resist temptation to deviate.

Fourth, social TV is real. Lubomski’s team worked through the game to engage with everyone who was talking about the spot on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. Of the 1.2 million comments about the Superbowl commercials during the game, 114,000 were focused on H&M. The company also had someone live bidding on Twitter, buying “Madonna” and “touchdown” to keep the conversation going.

Lastly and unsurprisingly, sex and celebrity does sell. When asked if there were any missteps in the entire campaign, Lubomski said that if he could have done anything differently, it would have been to tie the campaign even more closely to the H&M brand. While everyone in the world was talking about David Beckham in his underwear, not everyone was making the connection that it was related to H&M.

Lubomski’s insights offered an insider’s look at how one of the most talked-about media campaigns of 2012 was pulled off — and how even the biggest campaigns have their stumbling blocks.

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