STOP THE STINK HOTLINE

ClientBOROTALCO
Category A01. Fast Moving Consumer Goods
TitleSTOP THE STINK HOTLINE
Product/ServiceDEODORANT
Entrant KETCHUM PUBLICO Vienna, AUSTRIA
Idea Creation KETCHUM PUBLICO Vienna, AUSTRIA
Media Placement KETCHUM PUBLICO Vienna, AUSTRIA
PR KETCHUM PUBLICO Vienna, AUSTRIA
Production KETCHUM PUBLICO Vienna, AUSTRIA
Credits
Name Company Position
Sebastian Mayer Ketchum Publico PR Consultant
Magdalena Zak Ketchum Publico PR Assistant
Pepita Adelmann Ketchum Publico Senior Consultant
Tanja Pfingstl Bolton Alimentari Brand Manager Borotalco

The Campaign

We realized that there is no polite way to approach pungent people directly and say, “I mean this in the nicest way, but you stink, and you really should use deodorant.” The topic was taboo for most Austrians, who felt their only option was to suffer in silence and tolerate the stink. This gave us the idea: What if Borotalco offered to take on the unpleasant task that no one else wanted—and serve as the messenger and whistleblower? And do it in a kind, casual and inoffensive way? It was a Eureka moment. We’d launch a national “Stop the Stink Hotline,” a way for people to anonymously report someone with nasty body odor, and get help from Borotalco. The brand would step in and deliver a fresh scent “relief” package to offenders. Done anonymously with a nod and a wink, we’d politely wish them a cool and stress-free summer.

Execution

We waited for a hot summer day to break the silence. On June 27, World Scent Day, we went live with the national “Stop the Stink Hotline” on a dedicated Facebook page and microsite. For two weeks, we promised anonymity to “whistleblowers,” inviting them to divulge names and addresses of “odor offenders,” who also remained confidential. An anonymous delivery was then set in motion: an attractive package of Borotalco deodorants and shower gels. An upbeat letter accompanied the gifts, simply wishing recipients “a cool and stress-free summer” (with a wink and smile). We took the once taboo subject mainstream both online and in the press. Austrians took advantage of the chance to vent and share stories on Facebook and Twitter. Popular YouTubers and bloggers generated their own humorous videos and posts, boosting awareness and driving website visitors. The resulting social conversation and media coverage drove thousands of hotline reports.

Our clever method of “underarm diplomacy” worked. The modest €12,000 PR campaign struck a chord with the public in a positive and productive way. We drove an unprecedented national discussion on body odor, distinguishing Borotalco, a relative newcomer to Austria’s 8.5M population, as a category maverick willing to take on a socially annoying and stinky problem. Nearly 8,000 “whistleblowers” anonymously reported a smelly colleague and asked for help from the brand over the two-week offer. Ecstatic over the possibility of relief in sight, one whistleblower pleaded: “I can’t tell him that he smells, but I won’t be able to stand it much longer – help me, Borotalco!” During the slow summer news period, we generated 1 million print impressions, and reached 419,000 radio listeners. YouTubers posted videos, and coverage ran on Austria’s biggest print and online outlets, including a 24-hour cover story on Austria’s biggest news platform, www.orf.at. We’d set out to reach 50,000 millennials, but exceeded that goal by 50%, activating 75,000 new Facebook users under 35 and attracting 12,000 unique website visitors to the Stop the Stink hotline in just days. Our Facebook campaign triggered a 4% click-through rate – four times higher than average. The response to the hotline was so strong and beyond original projections that the brand had to resort to rationing scent packages mid-way through the promotion. As a result of the campaign, summer sales of Borotalco products grew by 35% year over year, and the brand moved up from #8 to #6

The Situation

It’s part of life: body odor. But one truth is universal: no one ever wants to be the one to tell others that they ‘stink.’ In Austria, two in five men and one in five women don’t use deodorant daily. So it’s no wonder that a majority of Austrians say they’re bothered by someone with offensive body odor, but 75% would rather suffer in silence than say something face-to-face. This gave us a PR idea for Italian deodorant maker Borotalco. What if Borotalco offered to be the kind and gentle messenger, and bring needed relief to smelly friends and co-workers?

The Strategy

Borotalco makes unisex deodorants (many talcum-powder-based) and shower gels. A relative newcomer in recent years to the Austrian market from Italy, the brand is least familiar among millennials. PR was challenged to build awareness and demand in a crowded, commodity category, and attract younger consumers. An effective campaign would appeal through earned media and social channels– for a modest PR budget of approximately €12,000. We knew we needed a fresh message on a commodity product, and a compelling creative platform to help Borotalco stand out and make news. PR needed to earn media attention, engage consumers directly with the brand, and foster widespread social conversation. When our consumer survey revealed the depth and discomfort of the body odor problem, we realized a universal truth: no matter how offensive someone else’s body odor is, nobody wants to be the face-to-face messenger of that unpleasant news. This presented an intriguing brand opportunity.