Getting personal for a cause: Upper Street’s Save the Children initiative

Julia Grinham, CEO and Co-Founder, Upper Street London Ltd

When you’re a small company with limited resources how can you raise large-scale awareness about your brand on a budget?

I set up Upper Street with my sister three years ago, a luxury shoe label which allows customers to design their own shoes online, and have them delivered within a few weeks.

This year we launched a campaign with Save the Children with the aim of raising awareness for our brand, and its core values around luxury, fashion and individuality. The campaign was inspired by a talk by Save the Children at The Dell Women’s Entrepreneurs Network, which was about how businesses can work with charities in creative ways to further both their needs.

A few years ago, we had conducted a customer survey asking people which celebrity they would most like to see wearing a pair of Upper Street shoes, and Helena Bonham Carter came out top, so when I heard that she was actually a brand ambassador for Save the Children, my interest was sparked even further. So we collaborated on a campaign with Save the Children linked to the Charity’s fashion focused initiative Born to Walk Tall. We worked with six celebrities – Actresses Helena Bonham Carter (of course), Tamsin Egerton and Hayley Atwell, The Saturdays’ pop star Mollie King, supermodel Erin O’Connor and former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt – who each designed their own unique pair of shoes to be made by Upper Street, and auctioned them to raise money for children growing up in the toughest parts of the world. Here’s what I learnt along the way.

Align your objectives

For the campaign to resonate and work for everyone involved, we had to understand and accommodate the objectives of the people we were working with – Save the Children, the celebrities, and eBay, who auctioned the shoes through their Bid Boutique – and be able to make the campaign personal for each of them. At Upper Street we wanted to raise brand awareness and market ourselves to the luxury fashion sector, and had been inspired by Save the Children to ‘give something back’. Save the Children were already working to target the fashion sector – at London Fashion Week this year they were auctioning off celebrity and designer fashion items for charity – so they were a good fit, and likewise eBay were looking to raise their fashion credentials. For the celebrities, their involvement was a combination of raising their profile, their charity and fashion credentials, and if we’re being honest, also a bit about ego boosting. So by understanding this was important, and making the celebrities feel special we were able to really get them behind our campaign. As any marketer knows, engaging celebrities with your brand is the holy grail of endorsement.

Make it work for all media partners 

Like our shoes, we understood that one size wouldn’t fit all when it came to getting coverage in the media. The glossies were looking for A-list celebs, the nationals were looking for features, and we were keen to promote the campaign from all angles. Having six different stories to tell around our six celebrities was really useful. Elle.com ran a story around supermodel Erin O’Connor, whose involv

ement with the campaign coincided with her involvement in new television series The Face. Helena Bonham Carter was featured in Vogue.com, Now Magazine featured former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt and The Telegraph featured Hayley Atwell in their fashion supplement.

We also made sure we personalised the campaign for the fashion bloggers. We took over a spot at the Mary Portas Living & Giving Shop for Save the Children for two weeks, and created six different areas of the shop centred around the six shoes and their stories. We invited bloggers to come along, take photos, and to tell the stories of the campaign in their own way.

Don’t forget the customer

It’s important not to forget the customer and what they want, amidst all these other considerations. We felt they needed engaging content, access to exclusive products, being able to own a ‘piece of celebrity’ and as with any charity initiative, to be able to feel good by giving. Camping out in the Save the Children shop was not only great for the fashion bloggers, but it was also good for our customers to be able to have somewhere they could come and see the shoes

Harness the power of social media

We didn’t have a great deal of budget for this campaign, but we did have lots of content – around the shoes, the designs, the celebrities and the stories that inspired the shoes. We used Facebook to reach our 20,000 fans, including the use of promoted posts to our existed fans, which were targeted against consumer preferences. Save the Children promoted the campaign to their 273,000 fans, and Mollie King also shared the campaign on The Saturdays’ page, which has a readership of 1.4 million. There was a similar story on Twitter, which saw the celebrities’ tweets reach a combined total of around 1 million followers. Although hard to validate, the estimated PR value of the campaign was £176,000 – not bad considering it cost us under £5,000.

Think like a start up

I firmly believe that the smaller your budget for these kinds of campaigns, the more creatively you think. It’s so important to get away from your business occasionally to meet other people, in order to be able to think laterally and get creative.

Measure success in terms of your objectives

If you were to judge this initiative on fundraising alone, you might be disappointed. But Save the Children where delighted with the exposure for their cause in the Fashion sector. The campaign met their objectives of raising their profile to this key new audience. In terms of our sales, the ‘jury is still out’. We were surprised to find that web traffic wasn’t hugely affected by the campaign. Our main objective was of course brand awareness, which I believe we achieved – our logo was on everything we circulated, and the Upper Street name featured in media coverage which we were absolutely delighted with. Would I run anything like this again? Yes, in a heartbeat.