Men’s Wearhouse Brings Localized Social Media to Prom

Men’s Wearhouse launched www.virtualprom.com only five weeks ago, but it appears that the mini-site has already worked wonders for the company’s program called ‘Prom Representative,’ a traditionally offline brand.

The program works like this: The retailer gives teen prom reps who sign up at the site an identification number and then offers a 10 percent discount for every referral that produces a tuxedo rental. If the reps bring in 10 referrals, they get a free rental. The referral customers themselves get $20 off of their rental if they provide their prom rep’s ID number.

Matt Schow, director of online marketing at Men’s Wearhouse, Houston, said the site has resulted in a 689 percent week-over week improvement compared to 2008 for registered prom rep sign ups.  “This was a big goal that we were trying to achieve.”

Schow pointed out that the mini-site connected social media with local stores. When the rep finishes a permission-based registration, he said, the closest store gets notified that it’s gained another lead generator to keep on file. At that juncture, the store contacts the new rep and invites them in to pick up their prom rep materials.

“We’ve had the prom rep program for many years,” Schow said. “But it’s never been front and center in terms of our promotions. In this day and age, I was looking for something that could go viral, something that could break through with the high-school community, and it felt like I discovered an already existing sleeping giant in our program that fits with the social marketing model.”

The mini-site has been pushed via banner and content-based ads at teen-centric sites like myYearbook.com, Gaia.com, Teen.com, uTURF.com and Ellegirl.com, he said, as well as receiving a full print panel in a “significant” direct mail drop.

Schow said that his team has broken down both the positive and negative comments that the initiative has gotten at various sites and message boards. Seventy-eight percent of the remarks have been favorable, he said.

“Overall, compared to past efforts in this season, it has been really interesting to me to see the difference between, ‘Hey, we have something going on and come see our tuxedos,’ versus, ‘Look at this crazy thing we built,’” Schow said. “The interest factor in terms of breaking through the clutter has been remarkable.”

In only a handful of weeks, he said that the mini-site has accrued more than 70,000 registered members and almost 300,000 unique visitors, Schow said. Prom season goes from late February to May.

Schow said part of what has driven the popularity of the mini-site is its ‘Bust Your Moves’ application. After high-schoolers register at the site and piece together tuxedos or gowns in a completely virtual manner, they can then pick between a number of dance moves, such as ‘Breakdance,’ ‘Electronic,’ ‘Classical,’ ‘Headbanger’ and ‘Pop Star.’

Even though girls have been invited to get into the act at www.virtualprom.com, the effort has truly targeted 15-to-18-year-old boys. (Men’s Wearhouse hasn’t starting renting or selling dresses.)

Marketing agency 360i, New York, has helped design the overall effort, while Propane Studios, San Francisco, developed the mini-site. At multiple steps in the interactive campaign, participants have been encouraged to ‘forward-to-a-friend’ and get the viral moving.

“We offered the dance application so that they could send something to their friends that was fun, creating a little pre-buzz for everyone’s prom,” Schow said.