On September 29th, 2000 Just The Right Shoe (JTRS) – a high-quality line of miniature collectible shoes literally featuring just the right shoe – celebrated the retirement of several popular shoes from the collection during their first “Over The Heel” retirement party, produced by Edelman PR Worldwide’s San Francisco Consumer Division. More than 250 guests attended the party including Just The Right Shoe artist Raine, internationally acclaimed shoe designer Beverly Feldman, collectors (both local and out-of-town), retailers, and JTRS employees.
To mark Just The Right Shoe’s ongoing commitment to raising funds for breast cancer research and education, JTRS hosted an online charity auction on Yahoo!, featuring collections of previously retired shoes and shoes designed by Beverly Feldman. Just The Right Shoe matched the final bids and donated $3,920 to the Breast Health Institute, the organizing sponsor of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation/Philadelphia Race for the Cure. The “Over The Heel” retirement party was held in the Philadelphia area just days before Raine debuted her newest shoe design to benefit breast cancer research and education, The Courageous Rose, on QVC on October 4th, 2000. The retirement party gave collectors an opportunity to meet Raine, and a forum to celebrate their common passion. Collectors from around the country jumped at the chance to “kick up their heels” with the artist.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
Edelman leveraged the opportunity to hold the Over The Heel party a few days before the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), and to have the event serve as the venue for the introduction of The Courageous Rose. In addition to maximizing opportunities through the timeliness of the event, Edelman recommended raising money for a Philadelphia breast cancer organization to give the story local relevance.
Edelman faced two primary challenges when implementing this program: technical difficulties with the charity Web site and an important breaking local news story. In terms of technical difficulties, several bidders complained that they were “kicked out” of the Yahoo! auction Web site when their bid exceeded $1,000.00. Since the winner was announced at the event, and the problems surfaced afterwards, Edelman worked with JTRS to send all bidders who experienced technical problems the retired Ravishing Red, autographed by Raine. The announcement of a teacher’s strike to the mayor took precedence for several broadcast crews that had been planning to attend the event. Fortunately, Edelman had planned for pre- and post-event publicity and did not depend on “live” coverage.
RESEARCH CONDUCTED AND STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES
While in the planning stages of this program, Edelman researched the retirement process of Beanie Babies implemented by the Ty toy company, specifically how Ty created perceived value and demand for the otherwise inexpensive toys. Edelman also examined the relationships and communities formed around the Beanie Baby brand and its collectors. The purpose of this research was to gain a understanding of how a collectibles craze is created, and how we can tap into this phenomenon. We quickly learned that the basic laws of supply and demand are crucial to the collectibles industry’s success, so we knew to leverage this ratio with an event to celebrate and unveil the retired shoes.
The primary objective of the “Over The Heel” retirement party was to provide a “media-genic” forum for the shoe’s artist Raine and JTRS collectors and retailers to interact and differentiate JTRS from its competitors. Additional objectives included: broadening the awareness of JTRS among target audiences, maximizing anticipation for new shoe releases and retirements, and creating a demand and benchmark value for retired shoes on the secondary market by capitalizing on the retirement process.
Edelman’s strategy was to develop personal relationships with existing collectors through a shared experience. This human interaction angle was used for three main reasons: to engage both collectors and retailers to attend the event, to create excitement in the collecting community, and to entice on-site media with compelling visuals. The knowledge of the impending shoe retirements was exciting news for JTRS collectors since the value of their collections could increase on the secondary market; Edelman built on this excitement by spearheading a charity auction to increase the perceived value and set a benchmark for the retired shoes. Although the retirement was originally scheduled for the end of October, Edelman convinced the client of the inherent news value of retiring the shoes on the brink of October to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The timing of the event, just before Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), added news value to the story. Moreover, Edelman leveraged the fact that Raine is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia as a local news hook.
Edelman recommended that Just The Right Shoe work with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to create a charitable tie-in to the event. Because the Komen Foundation does not have a Philadelphia chapter, Edelman researched and facilitated a relationship with a local breast cancer organization, the Breast Health Institute. Several members of the Breast Health Institute attended the Over The Heel party, including two Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure chairpeople.
Edelman researched and coordinated an online auction with Yahoo! that benefited the Breast Health Institute. Edelman designed, posted, and monitored the auction Web site. Edelman also worked with Yahoo!’s charity department to feature the auction in rotation on the charity section of the auction homepage.
Edelman developed a comprehensive media list of local calendar editors, feature/fashion editors, television news assignment editors, and radio assignment editors, and sent them Over The Heel party invitations and press material. Edelman also sent calendar listings to local print publications and radio stations, sent media alerts to local television stations, pitched newspaper feature editors and guest bookers at television stations, as well as targeted trade publications.
To keep the charity auction in the spotlight during the party, and to reinforce Just The Right Shoe’s commitment to breast cancer research, Edelman provided the means for additional bidding by making computers available to party guests. Being online was also crucial to the event for monitoring the auction and communicating final bids for the matched donation to the Breast Health Institute. To add to the suspenseful excitement, Just The Right Shoe staff frequently updated the guests throughout the party of the growing auction value.
To keep the enthusiasm level high during the retirement party, JTRS President and CEO Joe Walsmith surprised the guests by announcing the immediate retirement of the Ravishing Red shoe. The Ravishing Red shoe is the collection’s first shoe, and one of its biggest sellers. Following the announcement, Raine and a collector smashed the original mold, dramatically ending production of the red, platform pump.
The Over The Heel Party, its auction and charitable tie-in generated strong local coverage including three Philadelphia television broadcasts – all 4+ minute feature stories – and a cover feature in the market’s largest local daily newspaper. Total impressions to-date are more than 2.1 million. The event and auction also drove thousands of new visitors to the JTRS Web site (www.justtherightshoe.com).
The online charity auction on Yahoo! gave bidders an opportunity to purchase a set of classic retired shoes (which sold for $1,000), and a set of shoes from the new designer collection, based on life-sized shoes by Beverly Feldman (which sold for $960). Just The Right Shoe matched the final bids and donated $3,920 to the Breast Health Institute.
Clearly, Edelman achieved the larger goal of creating personal experiences with the brand for collectors. “It was an honor to be here,” said Paula Hughes, party guest and member of an online community club for JTRS collectors. “Several members of the online JTRS community were here, and we can’t wait to share all of the exciting news with the group.”