A day unlike any other
For the rest of Melbourne, the morning of Wednesday 17 July 2013 was probably like any other – wintry, cold, a marker of three more work days till the weekend.
For our team, it was a day unlike any other.
Throughout the previous 12 to 18 months, our friends and family had been wondering why the heck we were all working so many hours to grow our little bottled water company. The truth was that behind the scenes we’d been working on something huge; something we’d kept under wraps pretty tight. We’d been developing two new product ranges (Thankyou Food and Thankyou Personal Care), working on a rebranding strategy and planning an epic social media campaign, kinda like our 7-Eleven Campaign on steroids, to convince Coles and Woolies to stock our products. The plan was to ask Australians to petition both supermarkets on Facebook to stock our range. You might be thinking, why launch a campaign to get the supermarkets attention instead of just booking a pitch meeting like any other brand would? The problem was that we’d tried that already (too many times to count) and every attempt had been unsuccessful. We’d even been accepted by one of them at one point, only to have them go back on their promise. We needed cut-through…and we needed it fast.
I woke up on the morning of launch day with a familiar mix of emotions that included excitement, nervousness, dread and nausea. To be honest, I’d experienced them quite a few times over the past few months. Why? Because there were two potential outcomes I could foresee happening once we launched our new products and coinciding campaign; either we’d achieve a public triumph that people would talk about for years to come, or we’d experience the biggest public face-plant the FMCG industry had ever seen. No pressure.
Justine and I arrived at the office, along with other members of the team, bright and early. Sunrise had agreed to do a story on us to launch our campaign, which they’d filmed in the office the week before and the segment was about to go live. While most team members were sitting in Jarryd’s office watching Channel 7, waiting for Sunrise to launch our campaign (Jarryd had lugged in an old TV from home so we could all watch the show together), our communications team were frantically trying to get our campaign launch video uploaded to YouTube at the very last minute after some serious technical difficulties. Simon, our web guy who’d barely slept in weeks (much like most of us), was attempting to get our brand new website working again after it had crashed – literally hours before it was meant to go live. What he hadn’t told us was that our emails had also gone down – I was pretty glad I didn’t find out about that until after it was fixed. There was definitely some tension mixed in with the excitement in the air.
At 8.50am, we huddled around the TV and watched as Nick Etchells, the Melbourne Sunrise correspondent, appeared on the screen and the story, called “Thankyou Water Expands”, began. He explained that we were launching two new ranges that would enable us to fund not only water projects, but also health and hygiene training and food solutions and at the end, he blatantly encouraged Australians to go straight to Facebook and write on Coles and Woolworths’ Facebook walls something along the lines of, “If you stocked the Thankyou range, I’d buy it”. Our campaign had officially launched.
The team, myself included, sat there in a state of shock – we’d actually done it. What followed was crazy. Within minutes, tens of posts had gone up onto Coles and Woolworths’ Facebook walls – all in favour of them ranging our products. Our team huddled around one computer and watched in amazement as minute by minute, more posts went up.
We were even more amazed as the next two weeks unfolded. Thousands of people posted their support of our campaign, including 15 celebrities (like Jules Lund, Andrew Gaze, Chrissie Swan and Nicole Livingstone) and our campaign video went viral (we had a set target of 10,000 views of the video for the entire campaign, and we reached that in the first two days alone). We had over 100 media mentions and over 15 million media impressions.
The best bit? Both Coles and Woolworths said yes – in record time (maybe the two 10,000 square foot helicopters we flew around their offices might have had something to do with that…I don’t know). What’s happened since that day has been phenomenal. As a company we’ve grown exponentially which has meant tens of thousands of lives have been changed around the globe.
Thinking back now, I remember that industry experts told us our plan would fail. I remember people telling us that the supermarkets wouldn’t look twice at our campaign, let alone agree to range our products. I remember all the emotions I felt and the scary prospect of taking a big risk. But what I’ve learnt along the way is that to challenge the status quo, to do something remarkable, you sometimes have to put everything on the line. Even if the outcome could potentially be a public face-plant.