Bebe #be9to5 Campaign Reinforces Confident, Less ‘Trashy’ Image

Once considered the darling of the sexy office wear segment, fashion brand Bebe is seeking to recapture its luster with an interactive campaign that asks young women to share what they do during the “new 9 to 5” – 9 PM to 5 AM.

Under the moniker, We Own The Night, the campaign began late last summer as an unbranded hashtag campaign, with phrases such as “he was a good idea at the time” and “the best part of the day is the night” placed strategically on billboards, at bus stops, on bar coasters and on bathroom mirrors at nightclubs. Encouraging viewers to retweet the phrases they saw at #be9to5, the initial campaign drew nine million impressions, after which Bebe outed itself as the brand behind it.

Now, the campaign continues as a branded one, linking users to a microsite in which women are asked to Instagram, Instavid or tweet shots of themselves out at night. The branded portion of the 9 to 5 campaign has thus far generated over 6 million impressions on Twitter and Instagram, and in mid-November, new holiday-themed themed slogans will roll-out including “Silent Night: Don’t Count on It.”

Created by digital and event agency, JWalk, the campaign is part of an effort to change how Bebe is perceived and win back from H&M and Zara some of the mindshare of young women.

“In the 80’s and 90’s Bebe owned the sexy work wear segment. But the brand had lost its way,” says Anthony McLoughlin, vice president of interactive at Bebe, noting ruefully that the name Bebe had until recently become linked with that of a “slutty, trashy club girl.”

In January, former Lacoste North America head Steve Birkhold joined Bebe as chief executive, with the intention of bringing it back to fashion prominence. The new digital campaign is part of the effort to reposition Bebe as a fashion brand that appeals to the “irreverent, confident woman” who leads rather than follows and likes to look sexy both in the office and out on the town, McLoughlin says.

According to the company’s own research, the average Bebe customer is 29, working at her second job and makes roughly $80,000 a year. “We are more lifestyle brand than we get credit for,” he says.

As part of the revamp, JWalk redesigned the company’s website and created a dedicated mobile site, moving away from a pink and white girly design to a cleaner, black look. It also incorporated user-generated content into both sites in a section called “Be Seen” as well as setting aside a curated “Looks We Love” section, showing clips of models who move as if on the runway.

“Our old digital footprint and look was very dated,” says McLoughlin. The old Bebe website was focused on e-commerce, but did not set a mood for the brand. The redesign sought to create a more unified message across different channels, including mobile. Since launching the mobile site, he says, the number of users accessing the site on a mobile device has increased from one in five, to nearly every second user.

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Sales have also seen a push, especially among t-shirts bearing slogans from the 9 to 5 campaign. The company says at the start of the campaign it sold over 1,000 t-shirts, carrying the messages “Good Girls Go to Heaven” in white and “The Best Part of the Day Is the Night” in black, in one week—a 250 percent increase over typical weekly t-shirt sales.

For the holidays, Bebe is also going to shortly extend the “Looks We Love” videos into select stores in an attempt to give consumers “greater connectivity across the shopping experience,” McLoughlin says. Early next year, these videos will become interactive.

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