The Acorn Review Crew

Combining consumer research with analysis and reporting to develop a campaign that builds and evolves over time.

An iconic footwear brand since 1973, Acorn first rocketed to fame  in 1982 when NASA equipped all its astronauts with Acorn’s flagship product: the Slipper Sock (pictured above). Today Acorn crafts the highest quality footwear with a focus on comfort combined with style,  and has expanded beyond slippers to a wide range of versatile designs.

The Evolution of the Acorn Review Crew:

The Acorn Review Crew is a particularly interesting campaign case study because it started out as the Wear Tester Challenge, a small but very successful campaign to support the launch of the 2012 Spring line. In late 2012 Acorn hired a market research firm, which conducted in-depth market and consumer research that included focus groups.

We used that research to develop overarching marketing strategies, one of which centered on a key takeaway from the research: that Acorn consumers are very community- and group-oriented. The goal was to develop a campaign that would tap into that value and the associated behaviors.  On social media, the implementation of that strategy took the form of an ongoing campaign in which we rebranded the Wear Tester Challenge into the Acorn Review Crew in the Spring of 2013.

The members of Acorn Review Crew received one or two items from the upcoming seasonal line (Spring and Fall) before they were available to the public, and their role was to wear, test and review the product. Acorn used their feedback to perfect the products prior to their release; and on the marketing side, we used the positive feedback as testimonials that were integrated into the marketing of the sandals (Spring) and slippers or shoes (Fall).

We also stayed in touch with the Acorn Review Crew members, continued to involve them in our marketing efforts, and eventually, the most engaged of them were tapped for a brand ambassador program.

The Acorn Review Crew was integrated into three seasonal launches (four if you count the first iteration, the Wear Tester Challenge), and ended with the Spring 2014 product launch. With each new phase of the campaign, we used the key takeaways from previous seasons, and combined that information with the analysis we were doing on digital channels to better understand the likes, dislikes, values and media consumption patterns of our customers. We also leveraged emerging trends in digital marketing and social media year over year, season over season, and with each new ARC, we refined the strategies and promotional methods. From year to year, the campaign evolved, and grew larger and more sophisticated.

Close analysis of the data and trends also made it possible for us to see when the campaign had run its course, and to end the campaign on a high note. We then used everything we had learned from the Acorn Review Crew in the development of the next stage of the campaign to support a total rebrand for Acorn, but that’s a different case study.

Phase 1: Spring 2013:

The first phase of the Acorn Review Crew campaign focused on both consumer and B2B outreach and collaboration, and included three primary goals: creating an opportunity to highlight Acorn’s Facebook community through an inclusive, inviting online “event”; to grow the Facebook community by 2,500 with a 90% or greater retention rate; and to build and strengthen Acorn’s relationship with key online retail partners, in particular on social media.

We set specific metric goals and benchmarks to measure outcomes for all goals, including secondary goals (not listed here), and developed a multi-pronged promotional plan that included all owned channels, both print and digital; paid promotion using social media advertising and digital advertising with key media partners; and outreach and inclusion of bloggers whose audiences mirrored Acorn’s target consumer groups.

Results: Phase 1, Spring 2013

  • 122% more entries than our goal
  • 3,050 new fans on Facebook, 12% over goal
  • A 91% retention rate of those new fans 30 days after the completion of the campaign
  • Full support as requested from online retail partners, a 100% success rate
  • Conversion rate on the coupon offered to all entrants was 7% higher than goal
  • Revenue from coupon offered to all entrants, 23% higher than goal
  • Facebook advertising Click Through Rate 3% higher than goal, and 555% higher than Facebook’s overall average
  • Click through rate on advertising with media partner 5% over goal and 189% higher than average for their website and email newsletter

Phase 2: Fall 2013:

We took what we had learned from the Spring campaign, combined it with our other key takeaways from the ongoing analysis and reporting across digital channels, and launched into our next phase. One of the primary goals in Fall 2013 was to test out that key takeaway from the consumer research — that Acorn’s target consumers were “joiners” and like being part of a group or community. We also used the Fall 2013 phase of the campaign to A/B test the performance of “Win” messaging (what we had traditionally used) compared to “Join” or “Be a part of” messaging to gain deeper insights into how different audience groups responded to and engaged with content and the Acorn Review Crew concept depending on which message they saw.

We  incorporated online retail partnerships in our Earned promotional strategy, and we added more comprehensive blogger outreach as well as advertising on targeted blog websites as part of our Paid media strategy.

We also added some new metrics to track performance. For example we looked at the percentage of people who came to the sweepstakes landing page who entered, to determine if our messaging and graphics were clear and appealing.

The campaign was even more successful than the Spring 2013 campaign. We set our goals higher, and exceeded almost all of them by wide margins.

Results: Phase 2, Fall 2014

  • Nearly 3,100 entries, 54% over goal.
  • 2,600 new Facebook fans (over goal), with a 92% retention rate.
  • 26% of people who came to the landing page entered the sweepstakes, 30% over goal and 57% greater than industry average.
  • A 64% email opt-in rate, 60% over goal.

Phase 3: Spring 2014

This was the last phase of the Acorn Review Crew Campaign and between the Fall of 2013 and the Spring of 2014, Facebook made a change to their rules that dramatically impacted any brand using contests, sweepstakes or giveaways: “Fangating”, the process of requiring a person to first “like” your page before they can enter to win, was now against the rules.

But we knew it was coming long before Facebook rolled out the the change and revised our strategies accordingly. We expanded on what had been working well, both in this campaign and other promotions. We continued to partner with retailers, and brought in some likeminded for-profit brands with similar audiences, and included partnerships with key retailers. Plus we took advantage of two exciting, emerging digital marketing trends that we recognized as opportunities: identifying and using influencers and social media “superusers” for marketing; and hashtags. Now #acornreviewcrew was a thing. We also expanded our promotional channels to include Pinterest and Instagram, where we saw a huge push from our influencers.

Spring is Acorn’s lower priority season, and change was in the air – based on trends in social and digital marketing we knew it was time to wrap up the Acorn Review Crew. We were also deep into planning a fresh campaign to support a total rebrand, planned for the Fall of 2014. We cut back the budget for paid promotion, and relied more heavily on partnerships as well as the newly adopted influencer strategy; and we still raised our goals compared to the ones we’d set in Spring 2014.

The final phase of the Acorn Review Crew was again a huge success. Our influencers were amazing, driving more than 800 people to the entry page, and our likeminded for-profit partners helped boost reach and entries as well. We wrapped up the Acorn Review Crew on a high note and moved onto the next chapter. Scroll to the bottom for some of the cumulative results from all three phases of the campaign.

Results: Phase 3, Spring 2014

  • Nearly 3,100 entries, 54% over goal.
  • 2,600 new Facebook fans (over goal), with a 92% retention rate.
  • 26% of people who came to the landing page entered the sweepstakes, 30% over goal and 57% greater than industry average.
  • A 64% email opt-in rate, 60% over goal.

The Results

The Acorn Review Crew Campaign spanned two years, with a pilot phase and three additional phases. We helped Acorn grow their social media communities dramatically, increase engagement, develop strong digital and social media partnerships with key retailers, build relationships with numerous like-minded brands, and test key aspects of messaging that were later incorporated into a total rebrand.

  • Facebook community growth while Current Shift worked with Acorn, 2012-2014: 2,200 to 20,460 (+830%).
  • Facebook community growth directly from the ARC campaign: 8,114
  • Total entries in all phases of the ARC Campaign: 8,853
  • New subscribers added to the email database as a result of the ARC Campaign: 4,531
  • Effective testing of messaging that was later incorporated into a total rebrand
  • Successful collaboration and relationship building with 9 key retailers
  • Successful collaboration and relationship building with 3 new likeminded brands
  • Social media engagement rates 53% – 798% higher than average
  • Increased overall engagement rates on social media year over year