In just three weeks, more than 5,000 have registered to be eligible for one of 30 free suits that Syms will give away to job seekers in 30 days.
The offer is geared toward unemployed men and women, particularly those between 18 and 38. In addition to a suit, each winner will get a makeover and a session with an interview coach. It's all part of Syms' attempt to draw a younger crowd into its 29 stores in 13 states.
The effort is decidedly nontraditional for a retailer known for TV spots and radio ads bearing its longtime tagline, "An educated consumer is our best customer."
To generate interest in the contest, Syms is using a microsite (www.unclesyms.com), Facebook page and Twitter account, and will maintain a blog (www.unclesyms.com/suitcamp.htm) to track the progress of its winners.
Each element is new to Syms' promo mix but seen as crucial to reaching a younger crowd, said Margaret Collord, vice president of marketing and advertising at Syms in Secaucus, N.J.
The "Suit Camp" effort is designed to empower job seekers and offer something positive in the face of rising unemployment, said Mark DiMassimo, CEO and chief creative officer of DiMassimo Goldstein in New York, the agency behind the initiative. The Uncle Syms site features two images: one of a woman striking a "Rosie the Riveter" pose and another of a man looking forward and pointing like Uncle Sam.
"This is a value-orientated time and people need help," DiMassimo said.
The number of entrants is double what Collord had expected and is yet another sign of recessionary times. In February, Denny's gave away a staggering 2 million free breakfasts in an offer that was publicized in a Super Bowl spot two days before.
Syms feels that it's fulfilling a need among younger adults to understand what it takes to get a job in a down economy and in particular how to dress for the role. Unexpectedly, the offer also attracted interest among older adults, which led Syms to drop its age limit for the contest.
"We originally had conceived the idea to be [for] 18- to 38- year olds. We launched it and immediately got, 'Hey, you know what? I'm 45, but I need as much help as the 30-year-old guy.' So, we actually responded to that and made it 18 and up," Collord said.
To drive customers to their stores, Syms is issuing coupon to each entrant that can be redeemed for a free pair of boxer shorts. Friday was the first day to redeem the coupons.
The challenge for Syms is to entice redeemers to buy other items and long-term, get them to return to the stores. Collord, however, believes that Syms' prices and service will lure them back.
"We really are confident that when we introduce somebody to the store, that they will respond," Collord said.
Nielsen Business Media