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Zippo attempts to reengage youth with mobile and social campaigns

Lighter company Zippo is turning to social networking to reconnect with younger consumers who are increasingly smoking less. and its counterpart #ShareThePain, which launched last week, is a virtual support system through which consumers can interact with the brand by reading and sharing stories related to Zippo lighters that they have lost. The strategy is based on a lost-items study conducted by the company in January that spanned across ten countries and concluded that 68 percent of owners around the world have misplaced their iconic flip-top Zippo lighter.

?Through the years we have made strong efforts to stay relevant to influential younger audiences who see Zippo more as a lifestyle brand?, said Brent Tyler, global brand manager at Zippo, Bradford, PA.

?We?re constantly working to keep younger consumers engaged by tapping into their passion points via social media, mobile, music and design. We want to be involved with our consumer in a way that means something to them," he said.

After more than 80 years and 500 million lighters manufactured, Zippo is exploring ways to diversify while still preserving the core values of the brand: Quality, durability and ruggedness.

After receiving thousands of messages from distraught owners of lost lighters, Zippo launched the Web site for communal support and success story sharing.

Share the pain ad

?Zippo as a brand has many enthusiasts,? Mr. Tyler said. ? and our social media channels help us further drive conversation and engage with our consumers on an emotional level."

?It also shows future consumers the strong bond that exists between owners and their lighters, and that bond is a great selling tool,? he said.

On average, Americans will spend 54,180 minutes, or 903 hours over the course of their life searching for lost belongings, assuming the average lifespan of around 78 years, according to Zippo.

Of the respondents who owned and then lost a Zippo lighter, nearly 20 percent said they were ?devastated? upon realizing their lighter was lost.

The 82-year-old company in return launched the social site to encourage forlorn owners to #ShareThePain.

The campaign combines matter-of-fact messages and heartfelt notes with the goal of providing a twist of jocularity and group therapy.

?For Zippo, it furthers our investment in consumer insight,? Mr. Tyler said. ?Research and listening to our consumers goes into every business decision we make, from what new products we decide to release to how we market them.

?ShareThePain brings us even closer to our consumers? needs and desires,? he said.

?This program will showcase impactful lost Zippo stories from around the world, but also provides us with real-time consumer research.?

The site?s splash page video introduces the character Jax McFlame, who plays a ?grief counselor," as he walks over coals, eats poisonous spiders, walks through a frontal ninja assault, sucks the venom from a snake bite and swallows it.

He only screams in sorrow when, as natives are lighting him on fire, he realizes that they are doing it with what was formerly his Zippo.

While Jax fits the psychographic of the Zippo consumer, he really serves as a conversation piece for Zippo to participate with its core audience of 18- to 34-year-old males.

The official #ShareThePain video campaign

Recreating a brand
The social campaign is one element of a broader strategy to redefine the brand.

Although the company has already weathered the anti-tobacco movement, airline regulations that for years after September 11 kept lighters off planes and floods of knockoffs from China, Zippo admitted in 2013 that the company need to diversify its product line to remain strong, as a significant decrease in consumer smoking habits is apparent.

The challenge? Successfully launching new products where Zippo the brand is not necessarily Zippo, the wind-proof pocket lighter.

The company has begun strategizing by testing new products in overseas markets, which account for 60 percent of its sales in more than 160 countries.

The most receptive consumers to varied Zippo products are in China, which represent 10 percent of business, and where 90 percent of brand recognition is not bolstered by a flame.

The U.S. consumer is the most reserved, very much focused on Zippo as the lighter company.

The brand wants to recreate Zippo?s domestic image, and hopes trials overseas will bring more openness back home.

The new product expansion includes fragrance, watches, clothing and more.

New venues
The Zippo Encore Program in the U.S. is a co-promotion with local media and Zippo products.

Using events as campaign opportunities, Zippo?s participation in concert settings gives it more to talk about than just its products.

?Zippo?s music marketing program ? Zippo Encore ? highlights our rich heritage in music and art through unique on-site festival activations, contests and impactful programs that engage fans both online and off,? Mr. Tyler said.

Zippo Encore Facebook promotion

?Through our Virtual Zippo Lighter app and our partnership with Bandsintown, we can engage with concert-goers during live music events, bringing the same look and feel of Zippo?s iconic lighter to mobile devices.?

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer