The Brand that Launched A Thousand Virtual Stores

Let’s role-play for a minute.

Imagine that you were born and raised in South Korea (fun fact: South Koreans are the 2nd hardest working people in the entire world.)  You really pride yourself on your dedicated work ethic.

In fact, you’re so busy working hard and being super successful at your job that you barely have time to do simple chores.  And when you do manage to make time to wash the dishes or grocery shop, you are usually so tired from a day at the office that you find the task at hand tedious and frustrating.

Oh, and you are always on your smartphone.


Now, let’s switch it up.

Imagine that you are Tesco, the #2 supermarket in South Korea.   And it is your mission in life to beat out the South Korea’s #1 grocery store, E-Mart.


The problem?

E-Mart had more stores in South Korea.  So, what are you to do?

That word is important.  “Do.”  Messaging can be effective in persuasion, but words can’t make someone suddenly enjoy doing something that they hate.  You (Tesco) have identified a problem that cannot be solved by messaging.  You have to do something.

But what?

How can you (Tesco) make South Korean people  shop at your grocery store, when they:

1. Barely have the time to go there and

2. Don’t actually enjoy it.

Tesco knew they had to find a way to make grocery shopping more convenient and less stressful!

And then, there was the light bulb moment!

Wait…what if, instead of bringing the consumers to our store, we bring the store to our consumers“- someone at Cheil, Tesco HomePlus’s ad agency (probably).

Right then, in 2011, the idea of a virtual store was born.


Tesco Homeplus  decided to bring their grocery stores to the consumers by placing “virtual stores” in subway stations in Seoul. While commuter were waiting for their train home after work, they could  scan the QR code of the items they wanted to purchase (using the smart phones the South Korean people are attached to) which would add the items to their online “grocery bag.” These items would be delivered to their house by the time they got home from work.  This idea let consumers shop on the go, and turned “waiting for the time” time into shopping time.

What makes this idea so special was that it was the first virtual store, and it inspired many other brands, like Toys-R-Us, Kate Spade, EBay, Peapod,, etc. to execute their own virtual stores of sorts.  Check out this list for other QR virtual stores (check out which one is #1!)

And just like Helen of Troy’s beautiful face launched a thousand ships, Tesco’s big idea launched a thousand virtual stores.

It’s almost poetic.

But Tesco didn’t just create a virtual store.  And they didn’t just create the first virtual store.  What they created was a new shopping experience: one that focused on understanding consumers and making their lives easier.

And although it was a guinea pig project, it was pretty successful.


Through this campaign, 10,287 consumers visited the online Tesco (Homeplus) mall using their smartphones. The number of new registered members increased by 76%, and on-line sales climbed 130%

Tesco Homeplus also placed virtual stores in the UK airport in 2012, and the people couldn’t get enough!

For years to come, Tesco will be remembered as the King of virtual stores.  The mother of all stores virtual.  It’s quite a legacy to have.

Watch this case study video to see how the idea came to life:

Who’s jealous that they didn’t come up with this idea first?

Aerie Says Goodbye to Photoshop (and why it matters)

Finally.  For the first time in what seems like forever, teenagers will get the chance to see real women in an advertising campaign!

Aerie, a lingerie and sleepwear brand from American Eagle Outfitters, is celebrating real beauty by featuring models who are not digitally enhanced in any way.  The “Aerie Real” campaign models aren’t airbrushed, Photoshopped, or re-touched at all.  We see tattoos, birthmarks, and other imperfections that, to be honest, are quite refreshing.


As an advertising major, one of my concerns with the industry has always been women’s portrayal in commercials and campaigns. There are multiple problems with how the media treats women (in case you’re not familiar with all of them, check out Jen Seinmen’s “Miss Representation”.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out!  Watch it now!).  One example is the unrealistic and unattainable standard for beauty promoted in advertisements. So, of course this campaign intrigued me because it’s showing women who look natural and healthy and real.


The truth is, women and girls don’t want to see highly Photoshopped women  who look flawless and fake. Remember when 14-year-old Julia Bluhm tried to get Seventeen magazine to feature one un-altered image of a women in each monthly edition of the magazine?  After a large protest, Seventeen magazine gave in.  This is not a new concept, but never before has a brand willingly, and without protest, featured  women who weren’t airbrushed.

Aerie is taking a stance and making a large claim (that women are amazing just they way they are, and they don’t need Photoshop to be beautiful).  It’s about more than just Aerie trying to sell merchandise.  This idea of real, unaltered beauty speaks to a larger message and purpose.

It’s a step.  A small step, but a step nonetheless toward a society where Photoshopping women is NOT the norm (you’d be surprised by what they can do with Photoshop.  Have you seen this video?)  Maybe one day the media will stop unrealistically portraying women’s bodies and distorting female’s body image.

And I’m not the only one inspired by this campaign.  The #AerieReal hashtag is blowing up with positive responses from women all across the country!

aerie real tweets

And while some people feel that Aerie is just using this idea to sell  lingerie, honestly, I don’t even care.  I’m just so relieved to see women who look like normal people in an advertising campaign.

Aerie definitely took a chance with this one, and I’m hoping that other brands will follow the lead and try showing some natural women.  Thoughts?

BIG Brand, BIG Idea

Open Happiness. Catch the Wave.  

Enjoy.  Make it Real.  

The Coke Side of Life.  Life tastes Good.

Coca-Cola has used dozens of slogans over the years.  They’ve executed tons of campaigns and created millions of beautifully designed print ads and billboards.  Coke is known for constantly evolving, being innovative and using new technology to make amazing work.

One of their more recent campaigns, however, is so simplistic, so basic in nature, that it seems more memorable than the extravagant, over-the-top campaigns that they’re used in the past.  That’s because this campaign had a big idea.

The Idea:

Coca-Cola took both Australia (in summer 2011) and the United Kingdom (in summer 2013) by storm with a campaign that garnered a load of press and customer engagement.   The brand’s big idea was so simple, so short, that it could be written down on one post-it note, summed up into one tiny word… “share.”

Coke wanted to encourage people to “share” with each.  Share a moment of happiness.

 Share a Coke.

The Execution:

The company swapped the tradition logo on their sodas, and customized Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero bottles with over 250 of the most popular names from Australia and the United Kingdom.  Using first names was a simple and effective way to bring people together and encourage them to not only find bottles with their own name on it, but also bottles with their friends’ name on it!  It became an exciting scavenger hunt and bonding activity.  People couldn’t wait to get their hands on a personalized bottle of Coke!


Coke bought print, Billboard and bus advertisements to promote the initiative.  They took advantage of holidays, promoting the special “Dad” bottle for Father’s Day and hired a team to tour around different towns, cities and selected supermarkets across the UK during July and August of 2013 to personalize more than 350,000 bottles!

liam coke

The campaign also had a digital aspect, as customers were asked to “share” pictures of bottles with their names on them and tweet to @cokezone using the hashtag #shareacoke.  People could also give a virtual Coke to friends and family via Facebook!


Check out a recap of the campaign in Great Britain.

The Success:

In the UK, Coca-Cola’s value sales increased 4.93 per cent year on year to £765 million in the 52 weeks to 17 August, according to IRI Worldwide data. Sales of all colas in the UK grew 2.75 per cent, all carbonates 3.11 per cent and the total soft drinks market’s value sales increased 2.36 per cent in the period.

In Australia, young adult consumption increased significantly during the campaign, up by 7%, making 2011 the most successful summer ever. The campaign earned a total of 18,300,000-plus media impressions.

Traffic on the Coke Facebook site increased by 870% and the Facebook page grew 39%. In Australia, we were the number one most talked about Facebook page and 23rd globally.

The campaign also changed attitudes, brought people together and put Coke in the front of consumers’ minds.  And it all started with one simple word.  Share.

Moral of the story.  K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid.

Top 5 Brand Moments on Twitter in 2013 (and what to learn from them)

2013 was filled with  innovative and brilliant social media moments from some awesome brands.   Let’s take a look at my personal favorites and see what brands can learn from them as we start off the new year.

5. Wendy’s Pretzel Pub Chicken Love Stories
Wendy’s made thousands of consumers laugh in October of 2013 when they created a ridiculous, soap-opera style video featuring over-the-top actors reading real tweets from consumers.

Wendy’s had users tweet what they loved about the all new Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich using the hashtag #PretzelLoveStories

Wendy's Tweets

Why It rocked: The video is hilarious, and incorporates user-generated content in a fun, interesting and engaging way. The hashtag #PretzelLoveStories is short, sweet and to the point. Plus, the idea is original and Wendy’s let consumers feel like they are really contributing to the campaign!

Lesson learned: Utilizing user-generated content is a great way for brands to  interact with their consumers.  However, brands should make sure that they don’t require the user to put too much work into the content.   Asking them to write a tweet with a hashtag may seem a little simple, but brands should focusing on finding unique and creative ways to use that content.

4. DiGiorno Live-Tweeting: The Sound of Music

The hills are alive, with the smell of pizzaaaaa!  DiGiorno scored big when they live-tweeted during NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!”  The company used their witty sense of humor to play on the sentimental and beloved musical, and managed to sneak their way into their consumer’s heart.


Why it rocked:  The brand took consumers by surprise, talking to fans when they weren’t expecting it.  Who would have thought that “The Sound of Music” and pizza have anything in common? (hint: they don’t!)  While most brands focus so much on major events, they sometimes forget that reacting to smaller moments of pop culture can also generate some great buzz.

Lesson learned:  Brands should come up with unique ways to connect their brand to pop culture events and current happenings.  And not just major events, like the Super Bowl or Royal Wedding.  Companies should strive to catch their consumers at unexpected times and places.  DiGiorno only tweeted 3 times during the event, which was enough to keep users engaged, without clogging up their Twitter feed.  Sometimes, less is more.

3. Kit-Kat vs. Oreo

It all started with a tweet from a random user, who inadvertently got two big-shot chocolate candy brands to go head-to-head in the real-time marketing event of the year!

lauraellen tweetBoth Kit Kat and Oreo vied for the affection of a consumer through a little game of Tic-Tac-Toe.  The results were hilarious and entertaining!

tictacWhy it rocked:  Both Kit Kat and Oreo showed that they really listen to consumers, and they took advantage of a major opportunity to engage with another brand on Twitter.  The tweets were unexpected from such giant brands, and show that both the Kit Kat and Oreo brand are approachable and silly.  Both tweets were genuinely funny too.

Lesson learned: Responding to consumers is key.  Social media is not one-sided.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Brands need to  interact with both consumers and other brands to ensure that they are reaching customers.  Also, brands should focus on giving their company a voice and personality on social media.

2. Water is Life “Hash-tag Killer”

#FirstWorldProblems are not problems.

That was the messaging strategy behind a brilliant campaign by Water is Life that spread like wildfire across Twitter.  One of the best viral campaigns of 2013, the video displayed individuals in third-world countries, like Haiti, reading #FirstWorldProblems tweets written by everyday Twitter users.

water is life tweets

Why it rocked:  The juxtaposition of these individuals living in third-world countries and the tweets of people complaining about such trivial things makes the campaign memorable and meaningful. The video gained traction and got tons of people talking about the company.

Lesson learned: The best way to make people care about your brand is to understand your customers and talk to them using something that they know.  Water is Life took advantage of a trend, #FirstWorldProblems, and got thousands of people’s attention.  Again, the success of this shows that keeping up-to-date on current trends and finding ways to incorporate the message into this trend is help bring the campaign to life.

1. Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” 

Ask anyone on Twitter, and they’ll tell you that Oreo’s “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl knocked it out of the park.  Oreo took advantage of the lights going out during the game, and jumped into action to post a timely, applicable tweet.  Oreo had experience cranking out great content quickly, after their  100-Day Daily Twist campaign.

dunk in the dark

Why it rocked:  This is an example of real-time marketing at its finest.  The Super Bowl is a huge time for brands and social media activity, and Oreo stepped up their game and made a memorable impression.  The tweet was re-tweeted about 16,000 times!

Lesson learned: Timing is everything.  Being able to think quickly and cleverly is key in social media.  While content calendars and planning tweet ahead of time ensure that the brand is consistently active on Twitter, companies shouldn’t be afraid to post things on a whim.

Are they any moments you think I missed?  What was your favorite?