Paul Holmes 02 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Lily of France brand had to survive as a viable national brand to reach the women of Generation-X. Ruder Finn’s mission was to position the X-Bra as fashion-forward, fun and empowering. The greatest challenge the agency faced was introducing a cleavage-enhancement bra in a highly competitive market saturated with push-up bras and dominated by well-known powerful brands. In addition, there was no broadcast advertising and a very limited print schedule. Working on a modest budget, Ruder Finn used the power of public relations to turn the Lily of France X-Bra into an “overnight” success.
Ruder Finn positioned the Lily of France X-Bra, the first adjustable padded push-up bra, as empowering - a fun, playful way for women to “take control.” Connecting this affordable bra with high fashion, glamour and sex appeal, Ruder Finn introduced the X-Bra with a dramatic launch event emceed by ABC soap star, David Fumero. The incongruity of an attractive male host plus the visual excitement of the Austin Powers-styled fashion show immediately drew national broadcast media attention to the Lily of France X-Bra. Women responded; they connected with the daring, sexy imagery of the event B-Roll and most importantly, with the implied message of empowerment.
Ruder Finn focused on transforming the image of Lily of France through the introduction of the X-Bra, fusing it with current fashion/lifestyle trends. Of equal importance was conveying the message of empowerment implied by the Lily of France heritage and the X-Bra. In other words, women should dress to impress --- themselves, not men. This puts women in control.
By 1999, Lily of France, once a top contemporary resource, had fallen to zero market share in the push-up bra category. The brand had virtually no recognition with the Gen-X consumer. Media coverage was non-existent and department store floor space was diminishing. Lily of France realized that internal dissatisfaction abounded within its brand. The company was searching for a solution to its troubles and turned to Ruder Finn to help reestablish Lily of France and increase market share.
Lily of France conducted focus groups with women around the country discovering what they thought was hot, how their lifestyles have changed, what’s in their lingerie drawers, and what brands are meaningful to them. Lily of France learned that many women 18-35 were looking for more contemporary products. These women who cared a lot about their bodies and liked to wear fun, playful lingerie were termed IAEs, or Intimate Apparel Enthusiasts. The company responded with innovative introductions designed to let women have fun and feel empowered.
A snazzy fashion show with top models launched the Lily of France X-Bra in January 2000. The stark, modern environment of Manhattan’s China Grill made a dramatic backdrop for the fashion show staged on an Austin Powers-like photo set branded with the Lily of France logo. Dressed in bright, elegant evening ensembles, top models sensually revealed the X-Bra, giving Lily of France fashion relevance. The surprise element of a male emcee, “One Life to Live” star David Fumero, added a provocative edge to the event. (Traditionally, female celebrities have been linked to the innerwear business.)
The dramatic, glamorous footage was edited into teasers and 30-second TV news segments. Videotapes of the oversized artwork, backstage shots of the models, the gathering of the guests and the fashion show itself was provided to news stations in order to develop feature coverage.
Leveraging the fashion/beauty connection, Ruder Finn recommended the selection of former Halston muse and Vogue supermodel, Christine Royer as spokesperson/stylist for the brand. As she appeared on TV across the country, Ms. Royer showed women how to adjust their bust, giving Lily of France fashion credibility. Lily of France earned recognition for understanding feminine psychology and the
X-Bra was recognized as a beauty accessory.
Julia Roberts remarked on David Letterman that it took a village to create her cleavage for Erin Brockovich. Taking advantage of the remarkable serendipity, Ruder Finn pitched the X-Bra to media as the consumer version of the Erin Brockovich bra. TV, especially in Los Angeles, found the concept to be a natural. Ruder Finn then extended the idea to connect the trend toward exposed cleavage with other female celebrities whose bodies make news. Without actually having or paying for a celebrity spokesperson, the X-Bra became associated in the media with Hollywood style as well as popular entertainment.
Within six months of launch, the Lily of France X-Bra went from zero to the no. 2 selling push-up bra in the market.
Lily of France more than doubled its unit share in the push-up bra market. By nearly tripling its share of total dollars spent on push-up bras, Lily of France exceeded its initial sales forecast by 300 percent. With a boost from the X-Bra, Lily of France now controls a nine-percent share of the push-up bra business (based on NPD market intelligence data). The brand, once considered dowdy and out-of-date, has been transformed into one seen as hip and happening. Retailers are awarding Lily of France increased floor space and consumers are looking to the brand for affordable, fashionable foundations with an edgy new attitude.
CBS and Fox deemed the New York event B-Roll impressive enough to feed to their affiliates nationwide. Coverage occurred in 15 top markets, 24 to 48 hours after the event.
Ruder Finn continued to keep the excitement alive after the launch party by saturating key Lily of France markets with in-market media tours. Christine Royer and the Lily of France X-Bra models appeared on TV in major markets including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Dallas. Los Angeles’ ABC affiliate led with the Erin Brockovich-angle on the 11 p.m. news, and CBS, Telemundo, and UPN affiliates followed with feature segments during network sweeps.
Print saturation followed broadcast with nationally syndicated stories appearing in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, 30 Gannett newspapers and the Newark Star Ledger. Twenty-three other newspapers took the story off the Scripps Howard news service. The Orlando Sentinel, Denver Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Chicago Tribune and Charlotte Observer all picked up the cleavage story.
The X-Bra received local print coverage in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Daily News, Newsday and the New York Post X-Bra. The New York Times discussed the empowering message of the X-Bra and quoted Lily of France President Eric Wiseman on the front page of its Sunday Styles section about the phenomenal success of the X-Bra.
Key to the media coverage of the X-Bra was the Ruder Finn tactic of connecting the bra to beauty as well as fashion. This insightful linking of innerwear to beauty led top beauty editors to adopt the bra as a natural alternative to surgical breast enhancement. Stories resulted on websites like beautyjungle.com and in Allure, underscoring the image of Lily of France as a brand in touch with the needs and fantasies of modern women.