Department 56: Going to Graceland
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Department 56: Going to Graceland

Last year, Department 56, a company best know for its classical Victorian lighted villages, added some Rock & Roll to its repertoire by capturing Graceland in a gift set featuring the mansion, pink Cadillac and famous front gates.

Paul Holmes

Elvis Presley was famous for his #1 hits, whiplash smile, tight leather pants and a pelvis shake that made young women scream. 
The King also saved some of that legendary excitement for the holidays.  As soon as the last turkey leg was eaten at Graceland, Elvis’ mansion and lawn glowed with holiday lights and decorations, including a large Santa sleigh pulling a banner that read “Merry Christmas to All – Elvis.” 
While some could call the scene outrageous – you can’t deny it’s all Elvis.
Last year, Department 56 (D56), a company best know for its classical Victorian lighted villages, added some Rock & Roll to their repertoire by perfectly capturing the holiday spirit of Graceland in a gift set featuring the mansion, pink Cadillac and famous front gates.
For Carmichael Lynch Spong and D56, the enthusiastic reaction to the Graceland gift set proves that the King is not dead (he just needs to duck to get into the tiny doors).
Market Research
Conducted a comprehensive review of opportunities to directly reach the Elvis Presley enthusiast. 
Research findings include:
60 million U.S. adults consider themselves Elvis “fans” (admit it, you tap your toes to “Hound Dog”).
More than 100 Elvis fan club chapters have memberships of nearly 40,000 with average incomes of $30,000-$35,000 and actively seek Elvis memorabilia.
Elvis Week (Aug. 10-16) in Memphis attracts more than 35,000 visitors (700,000 fans visit Graceland each year).
Additional Elvis Research
To connect with and add context for the Elvis enthusiasts, Graceland Christmas traditions were explored, along with other fun Elvis trivia, and included in communications (did you know that Elvis albums were banned in the Soviet Union?).
  • Generate demand for the Graceland limited-edition set to increase D56 retailer orders.
  • Increase awareness of set among consumers most likely to purchase and drive  inquiries.
Target Audiences
  • D56 retailers
  • Elvis enthusiasts
  • D56 collectors (both avid and casual collectors)
  • Holiday gift-givers
  • Limited selling season (Aug-Dec)
  • Price ($165 retail price)
  • Non-traditional collectible for D56 customers
  • Estate very protective of the Elvis image
  • Go where the fans are - Share the Elvis holiday experience with Elvis enthusiasts through existing mediums (clubs, events, publications).
  • Team-up - Cross-promote Graceland set through other existing collector communications.
  • Get the order - Promote product support efforts to D56 retailers and provide incentive for dealers to carry the gift set.
Integrated campaign tactics executed by D56 and CLS included:
Media Relations/Advertising
Created a “classic album” (you remember, the big, black, scratched round things) press kit that captured the spirit of the Elvis era and could be customized for various audiences (collectors and trade publications, newspapers, fan clubs, nostalgia magazines, etc.).  The press kit was sent to 750 media outlets.  As the holidays approached, CLS sent out an e-release that included the Graceland photo for last-minute gift ideas.
Featured the gift set in an 8-page “Tablescapes” custom publication that was placed in select Hearst publications (Classic American Homes, Country Living, House Beautiful, Redbook, Traditional Home, Victoria).and USA TODAY (in select markets).  The insert provided decorating ideas of how D56 pieces, including the Graceland gift set, could enhance holiday table settings (Elvis at the table, go figure).
Produced a “Tablescapes” news release and ARA matte release that detailed how the Graceland gift set could be used as a table setting.
Wrote article for and featured gift set on cover of Fifty-Six, the official quarterly magazine for D56 collectors.
Produced a sixty-second radio reader ad and held a weeklong Elvis trivia contest with “Oldies” stations in markets where retailer sell-in was greatest.  Winners received the gift set.
Special Promotions
Held Elvis look-alike/singing contest during leading collector show, generating booth traffic and high interest in the gift set.
Promoted and coordinated artist signings for retailers with top orders (four total signing events were held).
Sponsored Elvis Week 2000 and leveraged exposure during the Graceland weeklong event.
Hosted an Elvis Club luncheon during Elvis Week.  Invited more than 150 fan-club presidents and presented them with Pink Cadillac ornaments and media kit/buck slips to insert into their member communications.
Conducted artist signing during Elvis Week at the mansion (the gift set was available at the Graceland store).
Worked with Elvis Presley Enterprises to be named an official EPE product, which resulted in a full-page placement in their official product catalog.
Promoted gift set with inserted buck slips in all customer mailings/product information requests.
Merchandised (and sold out) Pink Cadillac ornament on QVC shopping channel.  Gift set buck slips distributed to all shoppers who purchased the ornament.
Drove traffic to dedicated Graceland Web pages on D56 site.
Objective 1:  Generate demand for the Graceland limited-edition piece to increase D56 retailer orders.
Retailers were very excited about the Graceland gifts set with nearly 100 percent of D56 inventory sold-in to qualified stores.
Objective 2:  Increase awareness of piece among consumers most likely to purchase the piece and drive customer inquiries.
Media Placements:
  • Racked up 24,546,303 gross media impressions between August and December (by the way, Elvis merchandise grossed more than $22 million dollars in 1956).
  • More than 78 percent of hits included 1-800 number and Web site.
  • Reached an additional 2,431,519 gross impressions through a Tablescapes news release and ARA release.
Media placement highlights include:
  • LA Times – color photo, 800 number and Web site.
  • Boston Herald – color photo, 800 number and Web site. 
  • Detroit Free Press – photo, 800 number and Web site.
  • Dallas Morning News – huge color photo, 800 number, Web site and photo of media kit.  Included D56 spokesperson quotes.
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune – large photo, 800 number and Web site. 
  • Fort Worth Star Telegram – color photo and call for readers to line up at Dallas/Fort Worth retailers carrying the set.
Web Site
Attracted more than 90,000 unique visitors to the specific Graceland web site from August to December.
Customer Hotline
Gained a 170 percent increase in product calls specifically asking about Graceland (compared to the average number of specific product inquiries) during fourth-quarter 2000 (not one caller reported Elvis at a gas station).
Radio Promotion
Realized great sales success in markets where the radio contest promotion was held, with nearly 90 percent of retailers reporting an increase in Graceland sales the week of the promotion, with many selling out of the set.
Article tags
Consumer Products
View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus