LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- How do you revitalize a 40-year-old brand with flat sales and diminished shelf space in some of the biggest retailers? If you're Revlon's Mitchum, you team up with not one but two Hollywood directors, host a contest and let consumers tell your brand's story for you.
For its first brand campaign in five years, the deodorant/antiperspirant brand teamed up with CAA Marketing as well as director Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour," "Red Dragon") for a branded-entertainment program that played up its heritage as one of the "hardest-working" brands in its category (some may recall its tagline from back in the day: "So effective you could skip a day.").
Mr. Ratner liked the idea of finding a person whose own work ethic matched the deodorant's, and tapped his friend and mentor, Albert Maysles, the documentarian behind "Grey Gardens" and "Gimme Shelter," for a contest to find the "hardest-working person in America." The contest was promoted through TV spots, print and social-media ads, culminating in the marketer's biggest push in years (in 2009 Mitchum spent only $668,000 on measured media, according to Kantar Media).
"Our marketing had taken on more of a maintenance role for a couple years. This is a sign of strong equity for us," said Thomas Lauinger, Mitchum's VP-marketing. "Mitchum has a lot of heritage that still resonates today as a strong and efficacious brand. But we wanted to reinvent it as well."
Entrants were encouraged to create short films nominating an individual for their hard work, which viewers could then vote for via YouTube. The winning nominee would earn a $100,000 cash prize and the chance to be the subject of a short-form documentary directed by Mr. Maysles, with an accompanying photo shoot from celebrity photographer Brigitte Lacombe.
The program gained enough traction to attract the interest of Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs," to nominate his own unsolicited candidate, Chad Pregracke from East Moline, Ill. Mr. Pregracke is the founder of Living Lands & Waters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cleaning up and preserving the nation's rivers.
More than 150 submissions and 3 million views later, Mitchum has two winners -- Mr. Pregracke, who won with more than 50,000 votes, and the product itself. Since the program's May launch, Mitchum has seen the largest sales gains in over two years, and also earned some prime incremental shelf space in retailers such as Walmart and Target .
Mr. Ratner was lured by the challenge of creating a creative concept for a package-good brand, having previously worked with Activision's "Guitar Hero" and luxury marketers such as Paradise, Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas through his Brett Ratner brands division.
"I'm looking for things that are alternative ways to market a brand. I avoid coming up with the idea for commercials because that's something outside my expertise. What was exciting was creating a concept that is reachable in many formats," Mr. Ratner told Ad Age.
With the contest complete, Mitchum is gearing up for the Oct. 18 premiere of Mr. Maysles' documentary profile on Mr. Pregracke, airing on the Sundance Channel. Mr. Lauinger said the two months leading up to the film's premiere will be a key opportunity to keep the brand's newfound 25- to 40-year-old male fans engaged with the program through social-media dialogue on Twitter and Facebook as well as email blasts, couponing initiatives and in-store trials. After the Sundance special airs, the Mitchum team will evaluate the aggregate impact on the brand's awareness and product sales to determine the next phase of its first branding effort in half a decade.
"It feels like there's a lot of opportunity here," Mr. Lauinger said. "We're really off to a terrific start, and we've already put some renewed energy and focus behind the brand."