New Balance believes its audience lives in the grey. In an attempt to reach its audience, it knew it had to work with influencers. But the influencer scene, over the years has evolved trastically. New Balance decided to pave a way for itself by not taking the usual route and working with unique personalities that paved their own way of life. One of the most unique partnerships it created was with Singapore's iconic ice-cream man Uncle Chieng. Its initiative won praise by our judges at the recent MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Marketing Excellence Awards 2021. This saw the brand taking home the gold awards in Excellence in Influencer / KOL Marketing and Excellence in Out-Of-Home Advertising categories, and the bronze award in the Excellence in Marketing Innovation category.
Established in 1906, New Balance saw itself as "the original dad shoe". Far from mainstream, the brand believed that its consumers were individuals who marched to their own tune, never wanting to be categorised under black or white. In fact, according to the brand, the New Balance wearer lives in the "Grey". This then led to brand celebrating "Grey Day" every four years. Typically on this day, the brand would release a new version of its shoes in the colour Grey and engage social media influencers to wear them and spread the word.
While this might come across as a marketing solution to many, New Balance saw this as a problem. According to the brand, the world of influencers have changed drastically. While the use of influencers in the marketing scene was often viewed as creating authentic and fresh content, these contents could also have a hand in diluting brand images.
For its "Grey Day 2021", New Balance decided to be strategic on how the brand would be tackling the use of the its influencers. With a message titled, "worn by anyone", the brand aimed to create talkability around a world in grey. To achieve this, New Balance engaged unique news personalities such as Malik Mazlan, who was a Malay individual that specialised in Chinese calligraphy. Other news personalities also included cheongsam creator, Hu Rui Xian and multidisciplinary creatives, Jon Tan and Nathaniel Fong.
Working together, the news personalities created a video on how art lives in the grey. Furthermore, the campaign also featured a group photoshoot, and ambient works in the brand's flagship stores. While these news individuals were unique and had a different skillsets, New Balance was aware that their social platforms would only take the brand so far, as it did not have a strong following. Given that it was natural to engage in individual with a strong social media following to balance the odds, New Balance decided to bank on a final "influencer" - a man with zero social media reach.
Staying true to its campaign message that New Balance shoes could be "worn by anyone", the footwear company engaged Singapore's iconic ice-cream man, Uncle Chieng. Instead of paying production for a billboard, the brand decked out Uncle Chieng's famous ice-cream cart in its signature grey colour. Uncle Chieng and his wife were also given a full New Balance wardrobe, with no instructions on “deliverables”.
According to New Balance, the only “promotional” element to his walking billboard was the address of the brand's store across the road. Additionally, New Balance customers were treated to free ice-cream during the campaign period.
The campaign proved to be a success, with more than 15 million organic media impressions just with Uncle Chieng. Furthermore, the campaign was featured in publications such as Today and 8 DAYS. Overall, the media coverage for the campaign managed to exceed SG$270,000, further pivoting its brand image to the audiences.