Warm and cuddly e-mail campaign builds database of women

Inspired by the success of its first major Internet initiative, Avon Canada recently launched a second online campaign that 'bears' some resemblance to the first.

Inspired by the success of its first major Internet initiative, Avon Canada recently launched a second online campaign that ‘bears’ some resemblance to the first.

Last fall, the Montreal-based cosmetics company welcomed the Flame Bear into its fold – a soft little teddy bear with a mandate to spread e-hugs, among other things, and in doing so, raise money for breast cancer research. This time around, Avon – aided by Flame Bear’s Australian cousin, Ozzie – is hoping to sell a little bit of sunshine with another viral e-mail campaign.

Much like the first Hugs-for-a-Cure campaign, whereby visitors to the www.hugsforacure.ca or www.Avon.ca Web sites could forward e-hugs to friends and family, the Ozzie e-card has been created to teach children and parents about the importance of proper sunscreen, and ultimately to drive database registrations and sales of Avon’s Sun Care product line. As an incentive, senders of the Ozzie e-card will also have a chance to win a vacation at a Club Med resort.

‘It’s the middle of winter, so we’re hoping this campaign might de-stress everyone – remind them of the sun and in the process think of sunscreen,’ says Shelly Fabian, manager of PR at Avon Canada, adding that the Flash-powered e-card features Ozzie in a bathing suit, sunglasses and suntan, attempting to surf the waves.

The initiative will promote Avon Sun Products (Regular, Kids and Sunless), and even offer visitors to the site the chance to purchase the bear and the products online for the first time. (Products are usually sold solely through Avon cross-country dealer network, but because the Ozzie is only available with purchase, the Avon’s Sun Products are being offered online).

Last September, building on its 9th annual Flame Crusade Against Breast Cancer, Avon launched its first Internet initiative, Hugs-for-a-Cure, as a component of the program. Each time a virtual bear hug was sent, Avon donated 10 cents to breast cancer research in Canada. In all, more than 580,000 hugs were sent. Once users sent a bear, they defaulted to Avon’s main page at www.avon.ca, which logged roughly 653,283 visitors.

‘The whole thing was warm and cuddly, and people felt they were doing something by sending a hug – they were the ones initiating the donation and there was a lot of good feeling around that. That’s what attracted people,’ says Philip Mongeau, president of Mongeau, Bacon, Chen Design in Montreal, the agency that designed the online campaign. The 17-second Flash animation used photographic images in a lightweight format for users without high-speed connections.

More than 950,000 Flame Bears were ‘adopted’ (sold) at $5 apiece, 20,000 of them online. Proceeds from the sale of the bears, coupled with the money from hugs sent, raised more than $1.3 million, making it the most successful Flame Crusade campaign in the program’s nine-year history. Although the campaign/offer was restricted to Canadian participants, it attracted international interest after showing up in several chat rooms, he says.

This latest Ozzie campaign, which launched Feb. 11 and will run into the summer, is not hinged as much around raising money for a particular charity as it is around selling the products, says Mongeau. It should be noted, however, that some of the proceeds from the sale of the Ozzie Bear (10%) will be donated to the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Both initiatives, which appear in both French and English, mark Avon’s first real foray into database marketing. Users who registered for either program were given the choice to opt out of receiving future communications from Avon – namely its monthly Confidante Express e-newsletter. For now, says Fabian, the newsletter is an information-based beauty and health-care digest and is not intended as a direct sales channel, but rather to provide tips, content and create awareness.

‘Our marketing strategy was exactly that – to try to develop a database. The number of registrants became far greater than we anticipated,’ says Mongeau. More than 250,000 subscribed to the newsletter during the first campaign and those same ‘members’ will now also be alerted to the Sunshine Ozzie Bear e-card.

‘Those are 250,000 Canadians – 90% women – that Avon can now speak to. It’s all about one-to-one marketing, and that’s what we are striving for,’ he says.

Mongeau says they plan to let the campaign run a while before they approach the database, but the hope is that they will expose a whole new set of Canadians to the Avon brand.

‘We’re in uncharted territory, and this is what is so exciting about the Web today: It [involves] a lot of pioneering because there is very little statistical information available to us as we move ahead.’