|Starrfadu, a local band from Springfield, Mo., are a hit in the U.K., thanks to a Kleenex spot.
Somehow, however, they all got together. And the result is a single that has been played 60 times on U.K. radio stations and hit the top 35 most-downloaded songs on iTunes there.
That may not seem like a lot, but it's nothing to sneeze at for a song people blow their noses to in a TV campaign from WPP Group's JWT, New York. But it could be just the beginning, as Kimberly-Clark looks to get similar traction for its trans-Atlantic campaign’s theme song on this side of the ocean.
JWT had "Let It Out" as a campaign tagline last year when creatives thought it would be a good idea to Google the phrase. Starrfadu and its song popped up (though, it might be noted, the top result is still for a website that helps gay and lesbian Australians find flatmates).
"The plan to make the song popular was a very explicit objective of ours," said Rebecca Hirst, brand manager for Kleenex in the U.K. "We wanted to basically make it famous so it would extend the memorability of the TV ads -- also because it would help us reach a slightly younger target audience."
The plan, based heavily on PR, has worked beyond the U.K. team's dreams. The ROI is potentially boundless, given there was so little "I." And it's clear the music is reaching people who've never seen the ads on TV.
"People call and say, 'I love the music, where is it from?'" Ms. Hirst said. "Or, 'My teenage daughter
has seen the ad and wants to know where she can buy the CD.'"
Building buzz behind the song started before the campaign broke Jan. 1 in the U.S. and U.K. In the latter, the brand contacted bloggers and other "music-opinion leaders" to start building buzz about the song online, Ms. Hirst said. As part of that effort, the band uploaded a live performance of the song at a Borders store in Springfield, Mo., to YouTube in December.
Kimberly-Clark also helped the band upgrade its MySpace page and had a team approach DJs throughout the U.K. to encourage them to put the song on their playlists.
"One thing that worked for us is that we got two fantastic mentions by a DJ named Jo Wiley [on BBC Radio One]," Ms. Hirst said. "She basically helps discover new bands and talk about new bands. ... She gave two really good mentions of the story behind the songs and the fact that it was in the Kleenex ads."
As part of the rollout on iTunes, Kleenex retained U.K. marketing and promotional shop Outside Line, which Ms. Hirst said has a "really strong connection with iTunes."
That resulted in an unpaid feature of Starrfadu and the song on the site's front page in January.
"I think that helped get people who were just coming in and browsing," Ms. Hirst said. "But if somebody just types in 'Let It Out' or Kleenex [into a search engine], then the song automatically pops up."
Kleenex also featured a link to the iTunes song on its LetItOut.com website.
"When we were developing the ad campaign, one of our agency people just Googled 'Let It Out' to see if there was anything out there," Ms. Hirst said. "Starrfadu's name came up. We approached them and said, 'We're doing a new global ad campaign. We love your song. Would you let us put your song to our ad?' ... And so this kind of unknown, unsung band from Missouri found themselves being played out around the world."
The band is now at work on its second album, but commercial fame doesn't appear to have changed the Missouri trio much. They gave part of their signing fee to a charity working on an African water project.
"The campaign and the soundtrack have great appeal," Ms. Hirst said, "and I could see it happening in the U.S. as well as the U.K."
In a talk with investors March 26, Kimberly-Clark Chief Marketing Officer Tony Palmer made the song and the experience in the U.K. an example of one of the best practices he hopes to take around the world now that the company is developing a centralized marketing group.