David’s Bridal Dishes on Its One Love Web Content Campaign

True love is hard to find. But when people do find it, their stories can make for an engaging online, user-generated content campaign, as David’s Bridal has found.

The bridal retailer’s “One Love” contest, which ran for six weeks on Davidsbridal.com this past fall, tapped into the emotional aspects of weddings by asking hopeless romantics to channel their inner creativity and design a unique written and artistic entry about finding their one love.

And the campaign garnered impressive results, generating more than 1,800 entries, 14,000 reviews, 86,000 votes and 1.6 million views. Multichannel Merchant’s Tim Parry caught up with Carol Steinberg, vice president of Internet for David’s Bridal, to discuss the campaign’s impact and how the e-tailer plans to use these social media features in the future.

As you analyzed the results of the One Love contest, which statistic came as more of a surprise—the 1,800 entries or the 1.6 million views?

The goal of the One Love contest was to provide consumers with the opportunity to engage with the David’s Bridal brand in an environment that was interactive, easy to use and enjoyable. While we were certainly impressed with the amount of entries, we were most pleasantly surprised by the reach of the campaign and how many people engaged with it.

More than 1.6 million people participated in the contest in some manner—from creating and submitting to the contest, to voting and reviewing entries. Viral maps also allowed the brand and consumers to see the contest’s reach nationwide, as well as internationally, clearly illustrating the positive buzz the campaign created.

What was the secret to generating this sort of awareness towards the David’s Bridal brand? Was the whole campaign done virally, or were some traditional marketing tactics in the mix?

All of the David’s Bridal user-generated content campaigns have mainly been promoted virally, primarily through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, where 91% of the entries were shared. The contest was designed for sharing, so when an entry was complete, campaign technology prompted participants to post on a variety of social networking sites by clicking on the icons of their sites of choice.

Additionally, with the promotion of the campaign on Davidsbridal.com and public relations outreach, David’s Bridal was able to spread the word both online to key Websites and blogs, as well as through e-mail blasts to our consumer database.

Though a lot of brides and grooms choose wedding partners based on word of mouth, was there any evidence of a spike in new registrants as a result of One Love?

We did notice a spike. As a result of an opt-in included on the entry form, the campaign garnered more than 600 new registrations and more than 7,500 product clicks that resulted from a bare link that was included in a branded widget. While this wasn’t the core objective of the campaign, it was an added bonus.

The One Love campaign also encouraged brides to share their entries virally—the new millennium’s answer to word of mouth. As a result, Davidsbridal.com saw a 112% increase in social networking traffic, primarily from Facebook and MySpace,during the campaign demonstrating its success in engaging consumers to serve as brand ambassadors across the Internet.

Based on the success of One Love, you launched the Dress Your Wedding contest. Though the contests are similar, did you exclude anything from the first contest and try anything new in this one?

While the goal of both bridal campaigns was to encourage consumers to interact with our products, the campaigns themselves did vary. The One Love campaign allowed entrants to choose from a limited group of items from David’s and key partners to create a unique collage of items for their ideal special day.

While it was extremely successful, we wanted to provide entrants with an interactive experience with the David’s brand within the context of our proprietary Website and provide them with full exposure to all of our products in the second campaign. So we built the Dress Your Wedding campaign around our exclusive online Dress Your Wedding tool, which allows users to create a wedding scene that reflects themselves and their bridal party using any David’s Bridal product—not a select few.

We took the same approach with our current campaign using the Promtourage tool on Davidsprom.com, allowing teens to create their ultimate prom look for themselves, their date and their friends. Using our existing, proprietary tools provided us with opportunity to promote them further, while also giving consumers the ability to fully express their individuality with the products of their choice.

Now there’s the Dream Dress, Dream Big contest for the teens. Is the difference between teens and adults in their social media patterns evident? Or are the high school students really on the same level as adults?

Yes, we notice significant differences in the social media patterns between teens, members of the millennial generation, and our brides, who are largely members of Gen-X. High school students are more tech-savvy, want immediate gratification and prefer to receive content via text messaging. Brides respond well to e-mail communications and blog on wedding-related sites.

The emotional component of weddings resonates with brides-to-be and encouraged them to share far and wide on social networking sites for both the One Love and Dress Your Wedding campaigns. Viral sharing is clearly becoming mainstream across both age groups. It is still early in the Dream Dress, Dream Big contest, so we will be monitoring to see gauge how the response varies and the ways teens are interacting with the new campaign.

Looking at the contests, does anyone’s user generated content stand out as something everyone on your team fell in love with?

Our grand prizewinner, Erica Riggs from Americus, GA, definitely stood out as being heartfelt and romantic. Erica was literally “blown away” by her love for her then boyfriend Antonio when a few months into their relationship, they were on the phone when a tornado touched down near Erica’s apartment. The phone line disconnected and Erica hid in her closet until it passed.

By the time she stepped outside to assess the damage, Antonio was already there to make sure she was safe. Not only did their story embody the feeling of realizing you found your “one love,” Erica’s entry beautifully and creatively showcased the bridal attire, accessories and favors that she would use to create her dream wedding.

If a merchant came to you for advice on how to develop a user generated content campaign, what would you tell them?

There are two important components to a successful user generated content campaign. The first is to assess your customer and what about your brand will engage their interest. For many consumers it’s “all about me,” so you need to develop a campaign that taps into their interests.

Second, I’d recommend that you create a campaign that is easy to use, encourages creativity and is fun. The fewer “barriers to entry” in terms of complexity, the more successful the campaign will be. The more it showcases creativity, the more apt the entrants will be to share their entry with others virally.

For example, weddings are an emotional topic and brides-to-be love to share their love story and wedding plans with others, so our goal for both bridal campaigns was to capitalize on this. For teens, expressing their unique personalities—especially through their sense of fashion—is key, so we leveraged this to create the Dream Dress, Dream Big contest.

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