As far as marketing activations go, combining a gaming chair with a thirty-minute shower is on the stranger side of things. However, despite its eccentricity, this abstract activation was a calculated (and ambitious) move by Irish Spring, a well-known American soap brand owned by Colgate-Palmolive.
Irish Spring has recently sought to modernize its brand. This has involved targeting both Gen-Z and Millennials – whom Irish Spring refers to as ‘Zillenials’ – beginning with a bizarre Super Bowl advert. Irish Spring’s partner agency BCW found that three-quarters of male Zillenials said the top reason they shower was to get rid of bad smells. Moreover, 80% of Zillenials play video games, and one in every five gamers have even admitted to skipping a shower to play a game.
These statistics triggered the idea to build the world’s first-ever gaming shower. This activation delivered over 695 million total earned impressions. On Twitch, it earned a peak of 17000 concurrent Twitch views (i.e. a peak audience of 17000 Twitch members). We spoke with Marco Carreon, VP of Brand Solutions, and Noel Tabora, SVP and Group Creative Director, at BCW, to understand how this surreal soapy activation was turned from concept into reality with the help of Twitch influencer FaZe Santana.
Cleaning up a new generation
Whilst many people grew up around Irish Spring, a 50-year-old traditional soap brand, Irish Spring felt millennials and Gen-Z had not had the chance to understand what Irish Spring stands for. Targeting two new generations of customers would be a challenge for any brand. As such, Irish Spring looked to narrow this audience to focus on the gaming community.
Twitch describes itself as “an interactive live-streaming service for content spanning gaming, entertainment, sports, music, and more.” It’s no surprise gaming is listed as first. Twitch is hugely popular with the gaming community, and as such made the perfect platform for this activation, as Carreon describes.
“As we target a brand-new audience, the core goals of this activation were very much top of the funnel: To build brand awareness, credibility, and to engage millennials and Gen Z in a way that fits their interests and where they’re living every day. If that means they’re going on Twitch and playing video games every day, this is where we wanted to engage them.”
The results of the marketing activation were phenomenal:
- 695M+ total earned impressions
- 48 earned media articles
- 17K peak concurrent Twitch views / 9K average concurrent views
- 3K+ Twitch Chatters
These metrics were hard-earned. Beginning with the singular idea to ‘create the world’s first-gaming shower,’ this activation pulled together a vast range of moving parts.
Let us examine the steps involved in architecting this nice-smelling marketing activation, including the channels for delivery, the production itself, and the influencer strategy used by Irish Spring and BCW.
The power of Twitch for marketing activations
As mentioned, Irish Spring streamed its marketing activation on Twitch. It was the ideal channel to meet its audience of gamers. In Q1 2022, 6.13 billion hours of streaming footage were consumed on Twitch, dwarfing competitors such as YouTube Gaming Live and Facebook Gaming. Carreon discussed the benefits of using Twitch:
“We identified Twitch because we know we wanted to do this at scale. We could bring in FaZe Santana, his fans, and everyone else following along to the full experience first-hand. And this was important because they’re such an energized audience.”
“From my experience, I don’t see any other social media platform where as soon as you go live, there’s immediately 500 people chatting with you who are fully engaged and supportive of the host of the stream.”
However, whilst this was streaming on Twitch, Irish Spring also wanted to share the activation everywhere. Carreon continues:
“We also brought editors with us too, and we wanted to find ones that could build momentum for the campaign. We specifically targeted Fandom because of its huge following in the gaming space, as well as BuzzFeed, which helped drive reach with Zillenials.”
“This was an intricately planned activation, so we didn’t just want Fandom and BuzzFeed there for the unveiling. We also wanted them to see the preparations and trial-run. Ahead of the go live, they had a chance to walk through the experience, interview the crew, interview FaZe Santana, and sit in the gaming shower too. By giving them the full experience, they could share capture unique, first-hand content and share it with their platform as well. This behind-the-scenes content also helped us build authenticity and gain momentum with the wider Zillenial audience.”
This coverage of the Twitch stream amounted to 48 earned media articles, helping to rack up 695M+ earned impressions throughout the marketing activation.
Live stream or film production?
The logistics behind a live stream, and one as abstract as an influencer using a gaming shower, are substantial. The team had one chance to make sure the activation ran smoothly, or face embarrassment in front of thousands of viewers. To prepare for this, the team planned this activation as though it were a film.
“We had the idea. We had the client’s approval. But how do we build this thing?” said Tabora. “We brought in our production team led by Chad Saville and began searching through and vetting 25 award-winning partners.”
“We brought in MuMu, a team of brothers from Argentina, and an award-winning production designer, Pili Weeber. There was a teams of engineers, technologists, and designers, who made up an 80-person crew working together. It took a village.”
“Filming live is tricky. You have one shot. You must make sure your team is ready, prepared, and flexible. Our partners helped us do that.”
Bringing together a film crew allowed BCW to execute its unique vision for Irish Spring. However, every production requires its leading star. This came in the shape of FaZe Santana, a full-time Twitch streamer and gaming influencer.
Irish Spring’s Soap-erstar influencer
The key to successful engagement with your audience on any channel is authenticity. However, this is a vague term. For Irish Spring, it meant bringing on an influencer who genuinely connected with the target audience and allowing them not just to drone on about the benefits of a soap bar, but instead to participate in an activation they would enjoy. Carreon describes the process of identifying and selecting the chosen influencer, FaZe Santana:
“There were three components. First, we wanted to bring in someone who could match our tone and personality. Someone fresh and full of energy. We had a shortlist of people. When we arrived at the FaZe Clan, they sat at the perfect intersection of gaming and culture.”
“The second was making sure that they had credibility in the gaming space and the fan base to match. We made sure we weren’t showing up on Twitch for no good reason. We were showing up because we have the right partners and speaking to the audience in the language and vernacular that gamers and people on Twitch are speaking.”
“Third and most importantly was personality. Even with all the cameras we had, the wrong influencer wouldn’t be able to convey their experience. We needed a big fun personality to come in and viscerally show what they’re seeing. As it was, his personality came across with the 25 cameras we had filming.”
“We didn’t tell him a single thing about what to expect. The only preparation FaZe Santana had in advance was to talk about what he was seeing, feeling, and experiencing. He delivered. He spoke about the smells he was experiencing to everybody who was watching the experience through Twitch chats.”
FaZe Santana played a pivotal role in driving traffic towards the live stream thanks to his 193,000 followers. It was an activation that would fundamentally allow him to do exactly what had built up this following: stream himself playing a game.
Dominating April: A month-long marketing activation
Timing is everything. Hitting the right cultural moments can make or break a marketing activation. What started as a spark of an idea eventually transformed into a month-long activation across April. The live-stream event itself was one part of this:
- Before April 1st: Irish Spring posted teaser content on social channels showing bad-smelling things such as dirty socks with Irish Spring appearing at the end; and also sent a personalized invitation to FaZe Santana where he streamed the opening of a box of goodies including a terrarium that matched what the gaming shower would look like. This content served as teasers of the live event where FaZe Santana would walk through a dirty room before arriving at the gaming shower. FaZe Santana shared this on his channel to drive people to the live event.
- April 1st: On April Fool’s Day, the Irish Spring nice-smelling gaming shower is streamed to the world in partnership with FaZe Santana. Before this, FaZe Santana had no idea what the gaming shower would entail. It was timed to appear as though it was an April Fool’s joke, but of course, it was very real.
- Before April 30th: Behind-the-scenes content is released so the gaming community could follow along and see how the gaming shower was made, taking the audience on the journey with them.
- April 30th: FaZe Santana shared an in-depth hero video that showed the in-depth process of making the nice-smelling gaming shower. This timed with National Sense of Smell Day and included a sweepstake for four tickets to Dreamhack Dallas.
“We wanted to own the month of April,” explains Tabora. “It started with the spark of a gaming shower and expanded from there. When innovative ideas and expansions pop up with each conversation, that’s how you know you’ve got a winning idea.”
With two timely days at the beginning and end of the month, Irish Spring was truly able to make April a nice-smelling month for its Zillenial target audience.
A nice-smelling future
This activation was a follow-on from Irish Spring’s Superbowl advert (which was equally surreal and nonetheless effective). Carreon reflected on the lessons learned from this unique Twitch activation and considered where Irish Spring may move next.
“It shows the importance of running an activation that speaks to a particular niche. This will improve real-time engagement massively. Too often brands try to reach everybody and instead reach nobody because the content isn’t speaking to any particular area of interest. By homing in on a specific demographic and any insight that informs how they think, you’re able to create something genuine and sincere.”
“Looking forward, from our weekly meetings with Irish Spring we know they wanted to stay in gaming, which reflects the wonderful job this campaign did when engaging the Zillenial community. Gaming will be central moving into 2023.”
This marketing activation reflects the importance of brands giving creative license to their agency partners. By devolving authority to such partners, brands can walk the walk and engage with their audience in a genuine manner. Targeting a new demographic was a soapy-clean slate for Irish Spring, and this move has paid off. Provided Irish Spring continues to target the same community, gamers may be the freshest of us all!
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