Building Image and Sales with Limited Budget

Recently, questions are arising from many clients about how to build image and sales with a limited budget in this difficult time. There is an interesting case example. In 2004, FAO Schwarz, a legendary American toy company, rose from bankruptcy by opening stores in Vegas and New York and re-launching its catalogs and websites. How can they recapture the markets, build their image, convince consumers around the world, business partners and the media with a very limited budget? The smart public relations campaign is the answer.
Before planning the communication program, there are several things toanalyze, such as FAO Shwarz’s differentiation, various issues raised by the media and industry related to corporate bankruptcy, as well as new product plans and target audience.
In terms of differentiation, which is one of the most determining key to success, FAO Schwarz is considered to be an iconic provider of unique and high-end toys, not mass-produced products. With a small number of stores, FAO Schwarz failed to compete with KB Toys, Toys R Us. Eventually, FAO Schwarz decided to regain the market niche as a unique, exclusive, expensive toy provider that is unavailable elsewhere. The new stores about to open in NYC and Vegas were built with very interesting, theatrical and interactive design to create FAO Schwarz’s‘uniqueness’.
The target audience of the relaunch campaign included American tourists from different parts of the country, Japan and Europe, focusing on segments of women aged 25-50, and special additions to the youth segment.
The relaunch time was on Thanksgiving Day when Macy’s Parade was usually the only news focus in New York City and it was very difficult to get coverage for an event.
The launch had begun with preconditions since spring by recruiting employees for the new stores on a theater stage similar to a movie audition in NYC and Vegas. This new employee audition was covered exclusively by major media such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.They got an excellent coverage on the mainstream media.
Ahead of the launch, the preconditions continued through exclusive interviews and broadcasts, focusing on catalogs and launch plans, as well as the ‘off-the-record’ information of the relaunch plan, up to a week before the launch.
Text Box: On Thanksgiving Day, FAO Schwarz’s stores in NYC and Vegas were opened with an “FAO Soldiers” parade on the red carpet. The opening was covered by major print and electronic media, including “morning shows” on national channels, cable networks, wire services, local and national radio, and dozens of international media networks. In total, there were 600 broadcast hits in the opening week of the stores and 700 news reports on print media during the launch. The news reports also dominated online media and generated hundreds of hits on those online news reports.
The day after the opening, FAO Schwarz’s stores turned into a news site about the Thanksgiving shopping season that year and about the overall holiday season at the end of the year.
In addition to covering the opening of the store, the news also brought up the success of the company’s financial revival, FAO’s business model and the strategy of ‘return to FAO Schwarz’s uniqueness’.
The success of the revival of FAO Schwarz was reported by the NY Post (FAO Sheds Ghost of Christmas Past) in December 2004 and by CBS:
“The most famous toy store in America has reopened, becoming heaven on earth. You may have walked into a toy store, even entered an FAO Schwarz toy store, but you’ve never been in a real toy store if you haven’tentered the new FAO Schwarz toy store!”
The decision to rebuild its uniqueness, which wasportrayed in the excellent redesign of the new store that marks the resurgence and the highly effective Public Relations activities, was able to build a positive image of the company, foster the confidence of media and corporate partners, and bring spectacular sales in the early days of the revival. And all that was done with a very limited budget.
You can do it too, right?
Indira Abidin