“We want the new Tagless T-shirt to be inescapable to consumers and the media.” A formidable charge from Hanes, certainly – but with an inter-connected campaign that fused insight and analysis, sound strategy, big ideas, meticulous execution, two flights of advertising, viral momentum and a touch of “Hollywood” – not impossible.  In fact, Hanes and Weber Shandwick did it, and cash registers rang up 30 to 70 percent more sales after launch and those registers are still ringing with sales today.

With underwear category sales relatively flat, Hanes, the leading brand of intimates, socks and casual apparel for men, women and children, knew a creative product introduction was necessary to drive sales, as well as protect their top position in this $680 million marketplace where more than 100 million underwear T-shirts are sold annually.  Also, since consumers (and the media) do not typically spend much time contemplating their underwear choices – T-shirts or otherwise – the product had to be simply smart and undeniably beneficial to break through the malaise.

Hanes has always been known for comfort, and the new product introduction had to continue to deliver on that brand promise.  The brand conducted research with focus groups and interviewed target T-shirt wearers (men aged 25 to 44) nationwide, and learned that one feature rose to the top of the list when improving this great American classic – removing that irritating T-shirt tag.  Guys were cutting, ripping and tugging out the tag to get some relief, so Hanes, the king of comfort, decided to go Tagless across their entire underwear T-shirt line.

With a significant commitment to the Tagless introduction, Hanes also needed a highly integrated marketing plan that would match their brand milestone.  A two-tiered advertising campaign from the Martin Agency that included a Super Bowl commercial would be integral for the launch, but a strategic and astute PR program was imperative to reach the target consumer.  In addition, collaboration between agencies, Hanes PR and brand marketing, employees and consumer sales promotions had to be highly synergistic.

Understanding the purchasing habits of the Hanes target consumer was vital to designing a successful launch for the new Tagless T-shirt, so Weber Shandwick took a new look at the men and women who make up the Hanes base.  Research showed that the majority of purchases occur at mass retailers, and while women purchase between 30 and 40% of men's T-shirts, men are heavy influencers of the brand and style choice.  Guys care about comfort, as well as quality and fair price, and women are more likely to buy clothing for the men in their lives if they “like,” “relate to,” and “feel good about” the item.  Many men and women go online too, and buy to meet a need, rather than to follow a trend. 

To reach this audience, as well as drive trial of the Tagless T-shirt, Weber Shandwick developed a strategic platform to which all consumers could relate and aspire – retirement.  Hanes should first “retire the tag” and then celebrate the introduction of the Tagless –T-shirt.  The concept of retirement would transform a marketing idea (removing the tag permanently) into a must-cover brand milestone for national media, as well as reinforce what Hanes is all about – comfort.

The objectives were measurably drive awareness of the Hanes Tagless T-shirt among the target consumer (men and women - 25 to 44) making the product “inescapable” at launch
· Drive Tagless T-shirt trial and sales

The strategies were to elevate the discussion of the problem and exaggerate tag annoyance; create a brand milestone for Hanes;  sustain launch momentum with mix of high impact and non-traditional PR activities

Weber Shandwick first conducted an omnibus survey focusing on people’s tag removal habits, and highlighting men’s attitudes about T-shirt tags.  Key learnings indicated that two out of every three men consider underwear T-shirt tags to be annoying, and close to half of all men surveyed routinely rip or cut the tags out of their shirts.  Results were used to seed media interest in the topic and prep them for the formal Tag retirement announcement in October.

Weber Shandwick then Started the Buzz Online – Since the majority of the target audience utilize the Internet, development began for an engaging Web site that would highlight the challenges of an itchy tag, as well as provide a variety of contests and games for consumers to visit and revisit throughout the program.  A press section on the Web site was also created with press materials and suitable photography and video.

There was a Star-Studded Retirement Party in Times Square and Across the Country – Set against a stage backdrop of a 20-foot T-shirt complete with oversized tag, familiar Times Square denizen Dick Clark and Sara Lee Branded Apparel (parent company of Hanes) CEO Cary McMillan hosted a public “retirement” celebration.  Special guests Mr. T (known as Mr. “Tagless” T for the day) and Yogi Berra (another retired New York icon) officially cut and raised the tag to signify its retirement, and unveiled the new Hanes Tagless T-shirt.  Hanes spokesperson Michael Jordan also shared his well wishes from a billboard high above the event, as well as via video.

Simultaneous “tag retirement” parties were also held in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and even Comfort, TX, the name proving too perfect an endorsement to pass up.  Celebrity hosts included former Chicago Bulls star John Paxson; Basketball Hall of Famer George “Iceman” Gervin; LA Lakers All-Star Rick Fox; Baseball Hall of Famer and former Anaheim Angels star Rod Carew; Texas Rangers All-Star Alex Rodriguez; and comedian Paul Rodriguez. 

To ensure Hanes owned launch day nationwide, and drove home this brand milestone, Weber Shandwick: Visited early morning TV and radio talk shows with larger than life-size Michael Jordan cardboard ”stand-ups” Unveiled a new Hanes Tagless billboard in Times Square; Encouraged consumers at launch events to retire their own T-shirt tags and receive Tagless T-shirts and “golden” retirement watches; Launched www.GoTagless.com, which includes an online video demonstrating how aggravating a tag can be; puzzles and contests that awarded prizes such as a grand prize trip to The Bahamas (also a client of Weber Shandwick) and clever editorial sections like “New Uses for Retired Tags”; Sampled the new product with Go Tagless! T-shirt-clad men and women who took to the streets prompting consumers to do just as their clothes said: Go Tagless!; Delivered more than 6,000 Tagless Tees to some of the most “agitated” people in New York -- “Tag-ze” (taxi) drivers; Distributed b-roll package with footage from various launch events, quotes from Jordan and celebrity attendee sound-bites via satellite, and deployed two audio news releases (ANRs) with quotes from both Mr. T and Michael Jordan to spread the Tagless news across the airwaves.

Wall Street went Tagless – CEO Cary McMillan, joined by more than 15 Hanes and Sara Lee employees, rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on launch day.  Wall Street Traders received sample Tagless T-shirts when they arrived that morning and many wore them with pride.

–Weber Shandwick Sustained the Launch by recommending that Hanes partner with top funnyman Brian Regan using humor to extend the message to consumers after the launch with just the right tone.  A frequent guest on late night TV and the national comedy circuit, Regan regularly complained about how much T-shirt tags annoyed him – a perfect “fit” to elevate the problem for Hanes.  Regan’s brand of comedy has great mass appeal and reached Hanes’ consumers in a new way during his multi-market tour.  Weber Shandwick again utilized an ANR and press release to announce the sponsorship and further extend the Tagless message coast-to-coast.  The agency also provided PR support and sampling to his multi-market tour by working with each comedy club and arranging media interviews for Regan in each market.

Also, Weber Shandwick conducted strategic media outreach to publicize Hanes’ new ad campaigns, which launched in October and during the Super Bowl in January.  Advertising in the “Big Game” with Michael Jordan and martial arts master Jackie Chan proved to be a winner for Hanes – the brand of choice for more than a third of the guys nationwide.  Whether underwear, socks, T-shirts or fleece, more men wore Hanes on January 26 than any other brand.  B-roll and an ANR highlighting Chan’s challenges with the underwear T-shirt tag were successfully deployed, as well.

The Hanes Go Tagless! campaign resulted in more than 1.38 billion impressions (and counting) from the launch in mid-October through the Super Bowl including: Nearly 250 print stories on the Tagless T, which included USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune.  Outlets such as US Weekly and People.com also featured the Super Bowl story recently; More than 500 broadcast hits such as “Fox & Friends,” “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” (with Mr. T holding up a Tagless T-shirt), CBS’ “Early Show,” “Wayne Brady Show,” “CNBC,” “CNN Airport News,” “BET,” and top Hispanic shows such as Telemundo’s “Fuzion” and Univision’s “El Gordo y La Flaca” aired following launch.  The ad campaigns were featured on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood,” “Extra,” “Inside Edition,” ESPN’s  “Sports Center,” and “E! Entertainment” – a home run with Hanes’ target consumer; Nearly 2,000 radio segments, including: “Imus In the Morning,” “Paul Harvey,” “ABC Radio Network,” “NPR,” “USA Radio Network” and “Westwood One”; Hanes was selected as one of the “Top Ten Most Memorable New Product Launches” by the Harris Interactive/ Schneider 2002 Survey; www.GoTagless.com has received more than 726,000 total visits since launch and more than 56,000 coupons have been downloaded.   25,000 Tagless T-shirts have been given away and visitors have forwarded contest information to nearly 30,000 friends. The coupon and the product photo continue to receive the most traffic -- suggesting that users are not only becoming more aware of the new Tagless T-shirt, but they are also taking active steps toward eventual purchase; Sales of Hanes Tagless T-shirts increased from 30 to 70 percent in various stores and retailers since the October launch

In Conclusion, the PR launch of the Hanes Tagless T transformed a simply smart product innovation into a marketing and sales milestone for Hanes.  With average retail sales up 30 to 70 percent since launch, the Hanes T-shirt is something to talk about - and when was the last time you talked about your underwear T-shirt?