The grassroots marketing campaign that blossomed into a $1.2 billion business
By Daniel Murray
|There’s not many people who can say they’re the youngest self made billionaire. |
Actually wait, there is only one person who can say that, Sara Blakely.
In 2012, Sara (41) was donned the youngest self made billionaire by Forbes at the time. That’s insane.
But I know what you’re thinking… What does this have to do with Marketing?
The year was 2000 and Sara Blakely was selling fax machines. She was getting ready for a party but realized she couldn’t get the smooth look under her white pants that she wanted.
So she cut the feet off of her pantyhose…
|Today we are diving into the RISE of Spanx and what you can learn from their legendary marketing efforts. |
Spanx spent a whopping $0 on advertising in their first 16 years of business. They were a completely word of mouth brand. And it worked.
In their first year Spanx had revenue of $4M+.
Being a bootstrapped business, they had to get creative.
In the beginning, Sara would use before-and-after pictures of herself in Spanx as her sole marketing asset to pitch to retailers. (Love this scrappiness.)
|Once Spanx landed on the shelves at Neiman Marcus, Sara got after it. |
She would visit Neiman Marcus’ around the country and pitch her product directly to customers in the stores.
A real grassroots effort. But here’s where it gets good.
|Sara would call her friends in the areas near the retailers, and ask them to come act as interested consumers (BRILLIANT). |
She would pitch Spanx to a group of people, now composed of the random consumers AND her friends. Then her friends would buy the product right on the spot.
Yes she did reimburse them – LOL.
This gave consumers social proof that pushed them to buy and showed marketers the perfect example of using the bandwagon effect to your advantage.
But this was only the beginning…
|Spanx revolutionized messaging in the lingerie industry. |
While her competitors described their products as being “the sheerest of the sheerest most sheer elegance” (that is an actual quote from Sara), Spanx introduced products named “Jean-ish”, “No fuss denim”, and “Bra-llelujah”.
Spanx messaging was relatable, it pulled at consumer pain points, and it just made sense.
Jean-ish? If you were describing the product to a friend, those are the exact words you would use.
No fuss denim? Putting on jeans can be one of the most annoying tasks known to man and woman. This product fixes that.
Bra-llelujah? The name explains the product itself.
|Paired with her grassroots marketing and relatable messaging, Spanx launched one of the most effective influencer marketing campaigns we’ve ever seen. |
Name a celebrity and Spanx has sent them product. Okay, maybe not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but you get my point.
|Spanx cold-called QVC, crashed the Country Music Awards to hand out free product, and sent a gift basket with a handwritten note to Oprah. |
Within weeks of receiving Spanx, Oprah chose them as her favorite product of the year. Sales went through the roof.
The moral of the story?
|Cold calling still works. Shoot your shot. Big things can happen. |
From shipping orders in her apartment to a $1.2 billion valuation, Sara Blakely and Spanx showed us marketers that no one is too good for a little grassroots marketing.
It’s safe to say, that Sara is a marketing GENIUS.
Class, I hope you took notes.