Penningtons gives customers the freedom to do what they want

The retailer tweaks its view on body positivity to be about more than size.

Penningtons-Penningtons launches the -Freedom to Be Me-- Campaig

Penningtons is taking its messaging platform beyond body positivity reinforcement to a new self-empowerment space.

The digitally led campaign “Freedom to Be Me” is a collaboration with influencers Alicia McCarvell, Mélissa Bédard and Stephanie Valentine (also known as Glamzilla, pictured above), a group of women who embrace the retailer’s positioning around self-expression, which is also coming to life by continuing to engage Penningtons employees and with in-store materials across 92 locations.

Penningtons marketing director, Kathy Tsolakos, says that the insights, based around a large survey, showed that the retailer’s core audience don’t need to be constantly reminded they’re curvy, but rather, that they want to “feel free in their clothing” with a wealth of brand variety and different fits.

“We chose freedom, because in all our discussions with consumers, we heard a lot about body positivity, and even though we always talk about size, body positivity is more than just size and people’s body shapes,” Tsolakos says.

The campaign is partly informed by a pre-lockdown rebranding effort to counter perceptions the clothier was frumpy and “your grandma’s brand,” Tsolakos says. And the rebrand strategy started with new product development, which took a year to come to market.

In-store, ambassadors and influencers will be front and centre, with signage promoting the program. There are gift-with-purchase totes bearing the freedom message, which is also on t-shirts available for purchase. Penningtons sales and operations teams will engage internally with “Freedom Friday,” when they will be encouraged to make body positivity social posts online.

The media mix is wide, comprising connected TV, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, social and a bit of paid media within Chatelaine and Elle.

Though it is more associated with Gen Z, Tsolakos tells strategy TikTok is picking up steam with women 25 to 35, and the use of the platform in which its audience is “free to do whatever they want,” is inspired by the success of McCarvel’s own swimwear campaign on the platform earlier this summer.

A second arm of the campaign, running in October, will include a TikTok challenge, with more details to come.

Penningtons also signed on Canadian radio and TV personality and body positivity activist Meredith Shaw as a guest speaker for live-streamed “Freedom Talks” on social, further amplifying the empowerment positioning.

As part of the launch of its Fall 2021 campaign, Penningtons has created #PennGals, a community of loyal customers who embody inclusivity, authenticity, and freedom.

The creative was done by Rebl House, with which Penningtons began having discussions a year ago. The Montreal shop had done prior work with the retailer. RCL, the Reitmans internal team, handled the buy side of the equation.

Tsolakos says ad spend is higher compared with last year, given the importance and its commitment to messaging and the product lineup expansion.