On Thursday night's episode of AMC's "The Pitch," 1-800-Flowers.com, the leader of the pack in order-based flowers and gifts, had to pick between two independent agencies vying for a piece of its account. The show centers on a week-long scramble whereby the agencies have to meet the brand's strategic direction -- in Flower’s case, toward social commerce -- and make the creative sparkle.
Culver City, Calif.-based ONE/x won with #JustBecause (www.justbc.com), around social planning, storytelling, and an awareness-focused media buy aimed at younger adults.
The campaign centers on a commerce and social hub, Justbc.com and video creative including a long-form narrative that eschews branding for storytelling, with a mosaic of people giving for the sake of giving “just because” with a focus on lower-priced products that lend themselves to celebrating just about any kind of moment and any affectionate impulse. The site also hosts social conversation curated -- and aggregated -- in a real-time on an Instagram-centric tiled wall, where people can upload images of flowers, gifts and the people giving and accepting them.
Although the company wasn’t required to use any of it, it is taking right to social as a new campaign. That’s an unusual event for “The Pitch.” Says 1-800-Flowers CEO Chris McCann: "If we had been obligated, I wouldn't have done it. But historically, we don't work with agencies in a traditional manner. Most of the time, it's more on a project basis."
He tells Marketing Daily that the agency gets where the company is going -- evinced by the fact, for example, that they used the hashtag before the actual tag. “They understand that the conversation is already happening, and that we have to take that and own it.” He said the storytelling is great, but that the agency also supported it with good media strategy and data capabilities.
Thomas Westrum, who heads up digital media strategy at the agency, tells Marketing Daily that the back end is directed toward retargeting. “If you see the video on, say, BuzzFeed, and it’s a positive experience and maybe you share it, we can take it to retargeting. There is direct sales ROI.”
Jason Wulfsohn, ONE/x partner and head of creative, notes that young women -- both Millennials and Gen Y -- are most likely to embrace social gifting. And they don't tend to trust brand-explicit communications. “They respond to authentic naturalistic conversation, content that really seems to be springing from the lives of actual consumers,” he says.
Ben Tiernan, who heads up agency strategy, says the challenge was huge. "Even if we were to make inroads into social consumers, they tend to be Millennials and are antagonistic to marketers on social media when it comes to commerce. We did not want to do a ‘buy flowers now,’ pitch; it’s about communications people want to add to and make their own story. So we proposed an immersive brand program on cultural conversation.”
McCann says the brand has been trying to get away from the traditional business cycle around holidays aimed at families and relatives and typically involving more premium products across the company's portfolio of six sub-brands (1-800Baskets.com; FruitBouquets.com; Cheryl's; Fannie May Berries; the Popcorn Factory; and now #JustBecause.)
He says social gifting allows the business to go year-round and more toward the idea of social gifting year-round involving products that start as low as $5, something ONE/x emphasized in its digital video long and short-form content.
"We are always busy on the holidays, but what drives growth is everyday business." He says the company began the strategy over a year ago with its Cheryl's Cooking brand focusing on the individual cookie-in-a-box concept where each box bears one of an assortment of messages a consumer can choose from. "We sold several hundred thousand of them. People loved it because you don't have to come to the family of brands with $60.”