May 9, 2002, 12:00 AM

Using e-mail CRM, Calvin Klein builds a 3-year cult following for ad stars

Calvin Klein was able to establish a three-year dialog with customers for its cK One fragrance using an e-mail marketing campaign that attracted more than 1 million users.


Calvin Klein was able to establish a three-year dialog with cK One customers using an e-mail marketing campaign that attracted more than 1 million users, V.A. Shiva, CEO of Cambridge, MA-based EchoMail Inc., which managed the e-mail campaign, tells Offering e-mail addresses that consumers could send mail to and receive responses from proved to be a smash with Calvin Klein’s target audience of young adults, Shiva says. The program was slated to run for only a six-month pilot. The combined advertising/e-mail campaign wrapped up earlier this year.

When fashion designer Calvin Klein launched the cK One scent in 1998, the company wanted to use new technology to create a marketing buzz about its new unisex fragrance. Calvin Klein had considered promoting a web site, but decided web sites were too impersonal. Thus it opted for a more personal e-mail campaign, hoping to create a conversation with consumers and some marketing buzz. The e-mail effort was integrated into its soap-opera style television advertisements, which featured 16 characters, each with an e-mail address listed at the end of the spot. While the e-mails did not directly promote cK One, the e-mail addresses included the brand name, such as

Shiva says the success of the program is due to the actual relationship that the e-mails built between the brand and the customer. Shiva views e-mail as both an inbound and outbound medium. "Blasting out e-mails can have a severely negative impact on e-mail marketing and customer relationships, fundamentally hurting ROI and brand awareness," he says. Shiva explains that companies who e-mail customers to create loyalty should have the means to accept replies from those customers in order to establish a dialog.

The EchoMail system was able to manage all the incoming mail to the cK One character addresses by using a proprietary filtering system that separates mail based on key words in the contents. To keep the story going with consumers who sent e-mails, the company used a script writer to maintain story lines based on particular consumer responses. The e-mails continued to follow the story line of the TV spots, including for example, a party scene that had corresponding e-mails sent out after midnight from the TV spot characters.


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