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  • Writer's pictureKristen Boschma

How do you launch a major global brand during a pandemic?

Last year we launched SHEIN, one of the world’s largest online lifestyle and fashion brands, into the Australian market.

The day we won the account was a big one for our agency. But we didn’t really have time to celebrate – there was so much to plan and do. We designed an integrated approach that included PR, an influencer program, a multi-model shoot, outdoor, massive fashion events in Sydney and Melbourne, paid digital media, social content, pamphlet drops, discount codes, a “shop the look” function from online content and an online consumer competition.

Our planning was detailed and meticulous with predicted ROI against every activity and dollar. Our client loved our creative ideas, the ROI added up and we were happy....

… and then the pandemic hit.

Every plan, every moment and plan were suddenly up in the air. Of course, we knew that keeping the community safe is critical; on a personal note, I took every lockdown seriously and have been a strong and vocal advocate of any measure that keeps our community safe. Our task was to respect the rules and keep our team safe but to also work out how we could help our client.

Every lockdown or regulation (all done for the right reasons), put our plan in jeopardy; people staying home made outdoor less viable, regulations made photo shoots impossible, brainstorms over Zoom lost their zing, venues were shut down and not sure when they could even take a booking, influencers and models were unable to travel to events and shoots, shipping was delayed and … well everything was in a state of flux. We re-scheduled, re-plotted and re-planned five times.

In the end, we got it done and boy did we get it done well! We exceeded our ROI targets by 87%.

Doris and I wanted to share the main lessons we learned:

1> Work with people who are unfailingly positive. For example, our PR partners Effie & Co are the most positive, persistent, and upbeat people you can meet. We constantly had to remind ourselves and the client that our plans will come to fruition ... eventually,

2> Be cross cultural experts. We gave our client (based in China) daily briefings as this helped them to understand Australians and our reaction to the pandemic. The pandemic was handled quite differently all around the world, so making sure the client understood how it was playing out and how people were feeling in Australia was critical,

3> Be local market advocates and experts. We found that having me and my team focusing on what will work in Australia combined with Doris Li and her team communicating with our China-based client was crucial. Our client grew to understand what would work in Australia. For example, we wanted our fashion shows and messaging to be inclusive of size, race, budget, gender and sexual orientation and so painting a picture of what that means in Australia was important,

4> Go with experience. All our staff and contractors are experienced or “seasoned” operators. This paid off as we found that experienced staff know how to be nimble, have solid industry relationships and can get the best out of people in times of stress,

5> Read the news widely and deeply. By staying on top of pandemic news (when there were days you really wanted to not think about it), we were able to successfully predict, months in advance, the days that would be possible to host events and be one of the first brands to do so. We found influencers and media were so happy to come out and enjoy one of the first covid-safe events for 2021!

6> Celebrate any win no matter how small. When times are dark and uncertain, moments of celebration matter.

It was an incredible experience and, as Doris and I agreed, if we can do this, we can do anything.

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