Introducing VitaGO to the U.K
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Holmes Report

Introducing VitaGO to the U.K

Miller Shandwick’s remit was to launch the new brand and build its credibility in an already crowded market so as not to be perceived as a me-too.

Paul Holmes was the UK offering of VitaGO, one of Europe’s fastest growing online health and beauty brands of 2000, providing the best and widest selection of health and beauty products, at competitive prices.

VitaGO was launched at a time when ClickMango, its nearest rival, was already in the media spotlight, thanks in part to the endorsement of celebrity, Joanna Lumley and the deep pockets of its founder, Toby Rowlands, the well-known billionaire Tiny Rowlands’ son..  Miller Shandwick’s remit was to launch the new brand and build its credibility in an already crowded market so as not to be perceived as a me-too.  

Within six months the brand had reached number one position, thanks to creative and aggressive media activity which also helped VitaGO secure its second round of funding.   In autumn when many dot.coms were falling apart, VitaGO remained strong and outlived many of its competitors, including Click.Mango and Nutragena – though neither of these was pan-European. 


VitaGO was by no means first to market with its concept in the UK.  In fact, it was already an overcrowded sector with at least 20 similar several health and beauty websites, including some from successful off-line brands, such as Tesco.  Also, the UK media was becoming increasingly cynical of dotcom launches due to the roller coaster ride many stocks were experiencing. 


Key differentiation was important in an overcrowded market and M/ST sourced a detailed analysis of the state of this industry sector from its consumer division.  The document was crucial in the development of brand messages and being able to provide the client with appropriate counsel.  M/ST tracked Click.Mango’s media coverage and compiled weekly client reports, analysing the spread of coverage versus VitaGO’s.


The aim of the VitaGO launch was:  to provide street-cred with potential investors and business partners, to position the company as the only pan-European player amongst its competitors, to consolidate its image as a one-stop shop for everything health and beauty and to raise maximum awareness to the consumer press and new media.


M/ST recognised that to be heard in the growing noise of new brands required impact and creativity. Not just on one front, but on several.  VitaGO had to be visible, not just to the consumer, but the media and potential investors.   Each target audience had different requirements and M/ST proposed a two-stage launch:  a soft launch to the business and new media journalists and a memorable consumer media event. 

To maximise publicity, guerrilla marketing tactics were to be carried out on launch day, to generate mass hype and direct traffic to VitaGo website.  Launch day was to be divided into several ‘mini’ events, each one hitting a particular target audience: a series of one-to-one media briefings, a round table discussion to position VitaGo as a ‘thought leader’ and an evening party for company business contacts. 

Given the increasing competition in the marketplace, Miller/Shandwick recognised that the right launch venue was needed to reflect VitaGO’s brand as the latest dotcom with style and panache.


M/ST initiated the campaign with client messaging sessions to fine-tune key product differentiators.  This would enable the client to face the media with confidence and to focus on its core offering.  Media training, in preparation for the series of briefings, was held with an experienced journalist to prepare for even the toughest line of questioning. 

With such a new company, PR branding was a key facet of the launch, so the perfect venue was sourced, in the form of the brand new hotel, Sanderson, part of Ian Schrager’s group, who together with Phillippe Starck have designed and opened what are seen to be amongst the most stylish hotels in North America and now Europe.  Ian Schrager’s latest, Sanderson,  was due to open in London at the time of the VitaGO launch. Shandwick saw the potential of Sanderson’s as a secret weapon and negotiated the right to hold the hotel’s first commercial event– it was a place the media were eager to sample.  Sanderson’s set the right tone – it incorporated up to the minute style with an urban spa, that drew the likes of Madonna and Jade Jagger after the launch, in the heart of London.  With the venue not quite finished, it became a race against time and the location was cloaked in secrecy until its official launch date, to add an element of suspense.

With the venue sorted, Shandwick focused its attention on the soft launch to the business and new media.  Two media tours were organised consisting of one-to-one briefings.  The aim was to warm up the market and make VitaGO an attractive proposition for the investment world.  The briefings enabled VitaGO to educate the top tier journalists.  Interviews were secured with 13 media including Financial Times, Euro Business,, e-Business, Revolution, CNBC Power Lunch and CNN World Business Today. Once again media activity was tracked and analysed, including also that of the competitors, with regular reports sent to the client.

With the media speculating about the online newcomer, Shandwick concentrated on the logistics of the consumer launch.  It had to be visual and memorable and this started with the exclusive media invitation which reflected VitaGO’s style. Once again the client was prepared for the media and a Q&A was developed for their reference.  Press materials such as corporate backgrounders, releases and company spokespersons’ biographies were drafted and a targeted media list was developed to encompass all health and beauty editors from consumer and national newspapers and magazines, who were interested in looking at beauty as being more than skin deep.  Ongoing liaison with the hotel and other suppliers, including several hotel visits, finalised all launch requirements.

Launch day started off with a bang in the form of some guerrilla marketing activity to create a general buzz amongst the public.  Models - both girls and boys - dressed to kill,  took over  key central London underground sites to catch commuters as they surfaced and hand them stylish marketing bags with entries to online competitions and product teasers.

A series of one-to-one briefings was held, morning to late afternoon, with company executives being interviewed simultaneously, to increase the coverage potential.  24 interviews, with top consumer style publications including Harpers and Queen, The Mirror, Top Sante, GQ and Vogue were scheduled and all journalists were given the opportunity to sample one of the exclusive treatments the hotel spa offered.

The VitaGO ethos of promoting a holistic approach to health was sealed with its panel of celebrity health and beauty gurus, which was organised for the afternoon.  The round table was designed to provide a positioning opportunity for VitaGO to be seen as a ‘thought leader’ in terms of health and beauty.  Entitled “The path to a healthy body, mind and soul in the 21st century” the discussion was led by Liz Simpson, author and healer, who interviewed other celebrity panellists.  Shandwick activities included suggesting the right speakers, inviting them and the development of briefing and debriefing notes.  Other panellists included the internationally known Matt Roberts, fitness trainers to Hollywood stars, such as Madonna, Sting and Robbie Williams;  Simon Low, Europe’s foremost Yoga trainer; and Eileen Mulligan,  millionaire beauty expert turned life coach.

The launch ended with a hugely successful launch party for VitaGO’s business partners and media guests that could not spare time in the day.   Guests enjoyed the celebrity setting and the exclusive tastings, served on spoons, by Sanderson’s 7 Michelin Star awarded chef, Alain Ducasse,  were a frequent topic of conversation.


Coverage was achieved in a myriad of publications from the health and fitness sectors, to new media and financial. Media interest in VitaGO was unprecedented, spurred on in part by the setting of the drop-dead glamorous yet tranquil Sanderson hotel, a talking point which had synergy with VitaGO’s messages. The roundtable was well attended by the consumer and fitness press, given that Miller/Shandwick had already secured 24 one-to-ones from their number throughout the day. Woman, the UK’s leading women’s interest publication, with a circulation of 669,800 featured VitaGO as its website of the week and The Sunday Times e-league nominated VitaGO as one of Europe’s top 100 internet sites, only two month’s after its UK launch.  Furthermore, VitaGO was ranked sixth top e-tailer and credited 8th in the top 20 list of quality of management.
Before the consumer launch, Miller/Shandwick secured VitaGO television coverage for the soft business launches – CNBC and CNN – all which helped VitaGO achieve a very high profile – and ensure VitaGO received its record 40 million euros for its second round of funding.

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