Global lifestyle and American sportswear brand GANT used YouTube to boost reach and create stronger customer bonds with their innovative content series, “Couple Thinkers”.
Founded in 1949 on the US east coast, GANT began as a small business selling shirts. Now headquartered in Stockholm and approaching its 70th year, the company has grown into an influential lifestyle and sportswear brand which is credited with bringing button down shirts to the mass market. In a fiercely competitive industry, GANT was looking for a fresh direction: a way to reach new customers while staying true to the brand’s ethos.
They defined a new persona (dubbed “The Curious Professional”), and wanted to use GANT’s credo "Never Stop Learning" as a basis for the campaign, as it was a good fit with this demographic — 25-45 year old male and females with university degrees, cosmopolitan lifestyles, and a hunger to explore and grow — so they set out to find a way to connect.
GANT had been using a mix of traditional and digital media for previous campaigns, but were excited to explore the opportunities offered by digital channels. They were determined to create something groundbreaking, profound, and profitable that positioned GANT as a brand that shared its target market’s core values — knowledge and innovation.
Tackling the big questions
According to Eleonore Säll, Global Brand Director at GANT, this idea represented a starting point for the campaign. “It really summed it up for us. We wanted to talk about our beliefs, identity and values, and not only our products; we wanted to be more than a lifestyle brand.”
In its largest and most ambitious marketing project to date, GANT worked with their Google team to design a strategy based on YouTube video content, with cross-platform support driving traffic through channels as diverse as London taxis and print magazines.
The centerpoint of the campaign was a series called “Couple Thinkers”. The show follows comedian and former Late Show host Craig Ferguson and his wife, renowned art dealer Megan Wallace Cunningham, around the world, interviewing inspirational figures, including Neil deGrasse Tyson and Arianna Huffington. The programmes tackle life’s big questions, leaving the viewer inspired, curious and wanting more.
How to speak so your audience listens
“We believe knowledge should be free,” says Eleonore. “YouTube’s democratic reach, strong engagement and high penetration on mobile devices — particularly within the group we were targeting — made it a natural choice. YouTube allowed us to find the right audience groups through segmentation and to reach them through both bought media and the consumer’s own content searches”.
Alexander Nilsson, Head of Global Marketing Strategy at GANT, echoes this sentiment. "We genuinely believe that brands need to give to the consumer without asking for anything in return. Consumers are intelligent and we need to treat them as such. Sales communication, but it needs to be valuable, so we wanted to create something that would resonate with our audience”.
GANT created a range of digital assets for the campaign — including trailers, video-ads, bloopers, a documentary spoof and GIFs — tailoring them for different channels. The team used Google Analytics to measure data in real time and created a dashboard that allowed them to make decisions based on KPIs and optimise the best-performing content.
YouTube allowed us to find the right audience groups through segmentation and to reach them through both bought media and the consumer’s own content searches.
The right story at the right time
Targeting segmented audiences was a crucial component of the campaign plan, developed together with GANT’s digital partner Precis Digital. Carl Wallberg, GANT’s Global Digital Marketing Manager explains: “We created granular audience structures to cover prospecting, retargeting and retention. For example, when it came to prospecting we knew we wanted to target ‘Curious Professionals’, but we also wanted to challenge this predefined persona, so we broadened our definitions, including similar/lookalike audiences based on current customers and newsletter subscribers.”
Each segment was targeted with a range of media in over a hundred campaigns for each channel. This enabled highly accurate bidding and optimisation based on view rate and cost-per-view. “We spent a bit more during the first 1-2 weeks, partly to build up our audience pools. Since we pushed one episode per week, we wanted to retarget users who had watched previous episodes to ensure continuous exposure. We found this approach very successful,” says Hampus Johansson, Senior Digital Specialist at Precis Digital.
The TrueView effect
We tried a mix of bumper ads, discovery ads and TrueView ads, and the format that worked best for the Couple Thinkers campaign was TrueView. In fact, when GANT made the decision to show full 30 minute long episodes through TrueView instead of just one minute trailers, they really noticed the difference - much to their surprise. “The audience loved it,” explains Carl. “That’s when we went from a good view-through - 38% - to an amazing one. At 70% per episode, the rate had almost doubled.”
By the end of the campaign, the views per episode were averaging 1.1 million – 1,000% above GANT’s original objective. But the figures for the TrueView ads were the real surprise. In total, they accounted for 78% of total views from all channels and had an average view rate of 71% (51% overall, including trailers). TrueView creatives were watched for 8-10 minutes, even though viewers were given the choice to skip after 5 seconds.
After the paid campaign, “Couple Thinkers” continued to grow organically. The series has had 8.5 million views and counting, and a warm response on social media. The GANT brand has flourished, with a 542% increase in YouTube subscribers, more YouTube views and a higher view-through completion rate. They’ve also seen an uplift in brand awareness and site visits via TrueView advertising, which has had a positive impact on revenue.
For Eleonore, the campaign represents a paradigm shift in the company’s thinking: “We created something that our target audience wanted, without asking for anything in return, and I think we’re paving the way for other brands to engage with their audience more meaningfully, too. We will continue working in this way in future.”