A retailer promoted a store opening on a budget by hijacking Cameo

Toronto gardening store Chive used the paid video site to reject celebrities and turn pandemic restrictions into an exclusive selling point.

Lance-Bass-InstagramSmall retailers, as we all know by now, were hit especially hard by the pandemic.

Toronto gardening store Chive had aimed to target more urban residents averse to big boxes when it opened its flagship store last year, but was hamstrung by COVID restrictions and could not launch at full capacity.

So this spring, agency Berners Bowie Lee decided to hijack video sharing site Cameo and turn it into a production studio, allowing the shop to access a range of pop culture figures at a fraction of the normal cost, while also turning pandemic restrictions into a selling point.

Instead of asking the celebs to read personal messages to a friend or family member, as is typical with the site, they were asked to read scripts complaining about not getting a private visit to the store. A winking Lindsay Lohan talking about not receiving an invite and self-described “plant-daddy” Don Johnson said his must have gotten lost in the mail.

Chive then posted the Cameo videos on its social channels, replying to the celebs by turning them down.

Playing up pandemic restrictions as both a form of exclusivity and loyalty to its customers, the posts said that its new store was for locals only. Chive then turned appointment-based shopping, intended to help manage capacity limits and time spent in-store, into private shopping accessible to non-celebrities, also getting the word out through geo-targeted social and email.

Chive Case study/ sheet

For reference, a Cameo from Bass currently runs at $249, with Lohan charging $375 and Johnson $500 (both Bass and Johnson donate their fees to charity).

Michael Murray, co-founder and creative partner at BBL, tells strategy the results were “beyond expectations, despite the pandemic.”

While there was some paid support for the ads, Murray says the organic results were the most impressive. The Cameo videos were shared up to 16.8 times more than Chive’s average post, with Lindsay Lohan the top shared clip, followed by Lance Bass. Profile visits were 39.4 times higher than Chive’s average, comments were 12.8 times higher and 10 second video views were 5.58 times higher.

On average, Murray says, 29% of the accounts were not following Chive: Toronto mayor John Tory, who doesn’t follow the brand, even voted Chive his favorite store.

Chive positive sentiment also increased seven times for the duration of the campaign.