Cole Haan used the recently wrapped Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to kick the campaign for its Chelsea pumps into high gear. Given how difficult it is for any brand to stand out during Fashion Week, Cole Haan actually passed on daytime promotions during this year’s gathering of fashionistas, choosing instead to own the evenings via a social media and event-based "Don’t Go Home"-themed campaign, the highlight of which was a great party at Don Hill’s last night, according to Cole Haan chief marketing officer Ivan Wicksteed. (The legendary Manhattan club was shut down last year, but Cole Haan managed to bring it back to life for one night.)
The inspiration for the "Don’t Go Home" campaign, which will continue into the fall, came out of the Chelsea pump being a new shoe that uses Nike Air technology to create a more comfortable and flexible fit. "It’s quite a revolutionary product," Wicksteed says. "Unlike most heels, you can wear them for 20 hours. You can go to work in them and go out in them."
They’re the kind of shoes you can dance all night in, and this campaign is about getting women—Wicksteed describes the demographic as a 35-year-old "who works and plays quite aggressively"—to toss worries of tired feet aside and go out and enjoy all that New York City’s nightlife has to offer.
Cole Haan is communicating with its audience primarily through Twitter and #dontgohome. It’s a new strategy for the footwear and fashion brand, which hasn’t been very active on social media until now. "Fashion companies tend to rely pretty heavily on print advertising," says Wicksteed, who joined Cole Haan 10 months ago, "and we really believe that in order to change perceptions of a brand you have to be talked about by your audience. So our focus is on events and experiences that strategically communicate the idea we’re trying to share and get people talking."
"We’re off the page and on the streets," says BBH New York chief creative officer John Patroulis. "We wanted to be out where people are at, and we wanted to give them reasons to keep staying out all night."
With that mantra in mind, Cole Haan has been handing out VIP passes to exclusive events at downtown Manhattan venues and giving away prizes ranging from car service transportation for a night out to free meals at eateries including Cafeteria and Bowery Diner.
And then there are the Cole Haan-hosted spontaneous disco dance parties, which will continue to be thrown in downtown Manhattan neighborhoods like the East Village, the Lower East Side, and the Meatpacking District as well as Brooklyn’s Williamsburg on select dates throughout this month.
Cole Haan-branded food trucks have been rolling up to these gatherings (and to other popular late-night venues), providing free grilled cheese sandwiches to attendees, who can also buy Chelsea pumps from the trucks.
Night owls are further encouraged to party on by messages embossed on the rolling metal gates of bars and subway stops in downtown Manhattan and in Williamsburg. "You didn’t move to NYC to stay in" is one sample. Others read: "They don’t make reality shows about good girls," and "You can sleep when you’re dead."
While New York City is known as the city that never sleeps, the "Don’t Go Home" campaign happens to be in full swing at a time when weary residents of areas like the East Village, which has the highest concentration of bars in the city, are battling what they see as out-of-control partygoers and loud bars hurting the quality of life in their neighborhoods. The popular East Village blog EVGrieve.com has written extensively about the hot-button issue. "The events aren’t too long, and they’re not meant to keep people up, and they’re not meant to be bothersome," Patroulis says of the spontaneous dance parties. "They’re meant to be fun bursts."
"Obviously, we’re encouraging people to be respectful," Wicksteed adds.