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Sep 28, 2004
Case Study

Lee's National Denim Day Grows Online Sign-ups from 46-72% to Fight Breast Cancer

SUMMARY: Over the past nine years, Lee Jeans' National Denim Day campaign has raised $50 million to fight breast cancer. In honor of this year's Denim Day to be held Friday, Oct 8th, here's our Case Study revealing what Lee's learned about integrating email and Web into a charitable campaign. Yes, includes samples of past year's sites (the creative evolution is fascinating); plus some cool data on three waves of email campaigns:

"When we started this nine years ago, we honestly had no idea what to expect," says Kathy Collins, Lee VP Marketing.

"Our objective the first year was $1 million and we raised $1.5 million. The second year we thought let's try for $2 million and we raised over $3 million."

Donations, fueled by an annual campaign of direct mail packages to past participating companies, magazine print ads, and celebrity-spokesperson PR, leveled off at $7.4 million for the past two years.

Yes, there'd been an annually updated Web site since 1997. But it was mainly a place keeper -- a back-up informational outlet in case anyone went online seeking information. (See links to past sites.)

Lee's ads and celebrity spokesperson pitches all focused on the 800 number. Yet despite this, in 2003 46% of donation entry forms came in through the Web site.

Collins decided 2004 was the year to get serious about the Internet as a primary response vehicle. It certainly would be more cost effective. But could online help Denim Days get over the $7.4 million hump?


Denim Day's premise is that companies and organizations "sell" the right to wear jeans to work one Friday to their staffers for $5 each. Then they collect the cash and checks in a big envelope provided by Lee and mail it off directly to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

To participate, the company has to fill out a fairly easy form and then Lee's team sends them a kit packed with flyers and tips to make the day work. So, the key to online success for the campaign was to get as many companies as possible to visit the site and fill out the form.

Step A: Revamp the site to increase participation - Make the site more inspirational to propel participation

In past years the site focused on two types of information -- specifics about Denim Day participation and educational materials on breast cancer. So you could learn about the disease and about donating.

But during 2003's promotions something happened that changed the Web creative team's entire viewpoint.

"We added a survivor story last year," explains Charlie O'Shields. "It was so compelling that it opaqued anything else about the event. Suddenly it wasn't about jeans or raising money. It was about these incredible people who survived something awful. It gave a wonderful feeling of hope."

So, when the creative team sat down to brainstorm the 2004 site revamp, they decided to put the most powerful content front and center -- inspirational stories and photos of 10 real-life survivors dominate the new home page.

"It's much more positive and personal than just describing the event and walking through how to donate. There's a very personal difference. Here are the people you're helping. Meet them. This is a story of hope -- not something awful, but something bright and brilliant and you can make a difference if you get involved."

- Rip out unnecessary legacy content

If you've had a site for more than a couple of years, you're probably well aware of the dangers of legacy-page-creep. Over time your once snappy site gets clogged with dozens or even hundreds of extra pages.

They are hard to keep updated, and even worse, they are hard to navigate easily because all pages weren't designed from the start to work together as an organic whole. originally launched in 1997, so this year the design team took apart the entire site and ripped out all extraneous, outdated, and less-than-critical content.

This housecleaning effort extended to the online forms. They removed questions that weren't totally needed and added functionality so when past registrants clicked on emailed links to return, the form was pre-populated with their basic data.

- Make all content a click or two away from home

Prior home page versions forced users to click three, four or even more pages deep to get information. This time the team moved the pared-down content up front, so everything in the site was only a click or two deep.

The home page became a promotional tool for the most popular click paths, each getting a quick summary and hotlink.

Step B. Send series of emails to past participants

October 8th seemed very far away in June. But, the team had to start getting sign-ups for the campaign immediately or lose crucial momentum. How do you use email, an incredibly immediate medium, to get people to respond to a deadline that's eons away?

Simple... just make quicker deadlines. Lee's first message to the past year's participant list and opt-in lists from other Lee marketing sites (,, was sent June 10th with the offer, "Register online before June 15th and be eligible to win a pink ribbon watch! Register now!"

Email number two, sent to non-responders on July 15th, used celebrity power to get opens, with the subject line "Charlie Sheen Joins Lee National Denim Day Effort." Inside, the offer promoted pass-alongs, "Tell your friends: you could get a free pink ribbon t-shirt."

Email number three, sent to non-responders on Sept 9th, focused on the now-present deadline, "Registration ends September 24th!" and kept interest high by featuring an offer to "Read Survivor Stories..." (Link to samples of all three emails below.)

Step C. Keep pushing that URL

Lee's marketing team has been smart enough to keep the same exact URL for the site since 1997, which helps with search traffic and off-season sign-ups. "If you go out and search for Lee Jeans or breast cancer, comes up very high in the search engines."

This year, for the first time, they promoted as the primary response vehicle. Collins says, "Charlie Sheen talks about in every single interview. Before, we were out there rambling about the 800 number. This year we're only pushing the Web address."


Overall registrations for Denim Day 2004 are up a solid 10% over 2003, including participation from Linens & Things, Cigna, GNC Centers, and many educational institutions.

Collins says, "This year the site is so powerful. 72% of registrations have come in online."

She's also happy to report that 2004 looks to be the first year they'll crack the $7.5 million mark. "We know we'll get there, it's very, very close." So, switching from pushing the toll-free 800# to pushing a URL has not slowed the campaign down at all; in fact, it may have helped.

Here's some interesting data from the three-wave email campaign that shows you should never rely on 24-hour stat reports as your final success metric, especially when it comes to emailing corporate America (opens are a percent of non-bouncing emails sent; clicks are a percent of opens):

-> Email wave #1 24-hour results

Past participant Opens Clicks Bounced 42% 36% 21%

Other Lee opt-ins Opens Clicks 30% 35%

-> Email wave #1 7-day results

Past participant Opens Clicks 53% 42%

Other Lee opt-ins Opens Clicks 40% 36%

-> Email wave #2 24-hour results

Past participant Opens Clicks 37% 38%

Other Lee opt-ins Opens Clicks 32% 21%

-> Email wave #2 7-day results

Past participant Opens Clicks 45% 39%

Other Lee opt-ins Opens Clicks 26% 22%

-> Email wave #3 24-hour results

Past participant Opens Clicks 29% 22%

Other Lee opt-ins Opens Clicks 24% 12%

-> Email wave #3 7-day results

Past participant Opens Clicks 53% 42%

Other Lee opt-ins Opens Clicks 40% 36%

A final note:

Lee's VP Marketing Kathy Collins says, "People say all the time, 'Is this about selling more jeans?' I can honestly say that is not our primary objective. We hope it gives people very good feelings about our brand -- we are so proud this has the Lee name attached as sponsor. But it's not in the URL. It's not about the brand. Consumers have been buying our product for 100-plus years, and we needed to give something back. We owed it to customers. That's how Denim Day came to be."

Useful links related to this story:

Screenshots of past and current Denim Days home pages, plus all three email campaigns:

Look and Feel - the interactive agency who've handled the Denim Days site updating and email campaigns for the past four years:

Denim Day


See Also:

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