Westlake Ace Hardware, a regional chain in the Midwest, wanted to celebrate the season in a way that made customers smile. Given the popularity of all things zombies, and the fact that research showed stronger than average search volume for the term in the Midwest, it seemed a natural fit. After all, who better to prepare you for the zombie apocalypse than a hardware store.
We put a fresh spin on it by creating a wacky story line. First, it was about preparing humans to defend themselves against zombies with tongue-in-cheek tips and tool ideas. Then the zombies took notice and protested for equal treatment, vowing they wanted to live in peace with humans. Westlake takes notice and encourages tolerance and provides tips to zombies for helping them with delaying their decaying process. This campaign was rolled out over 30 days, beginning October 1, 2011, and culminating with a home page takeover on Halloween.
- Over 45k tracked online mentions from 142 countries.
- Over 1,500 referring sites drove traffic to Westlake during Oct (up 340%)
- Over 70 million message impressions
- Doubled our FB fans (up 145% from prior month)
- Over 9,000 new links to Westlake site
- Social engagement up 368%
- Over 200k page views of zombie page
- Over 16k FB likes on Zombie page
- Increased engagement among younger audiences by 450%
- Twitter followers up 33%
Store employees were brought into the fun with materials that made them aware of the effort and gave them tips for playing along.
We used Facebook and Twitter to start sharing the tips, telling the story and engaging consumers in a conversation. And the reaction was swift and fun. Everyone wanted to get involved. Engagement skyrocketed. Westlake was referred to as the "coolest hardware store ever." The Omaha World-Herald saw the tweets and interviewed Westlake shortly after. An AP reporter got a hold of it and did another interview that resulted in the story being picked up in newspapers around the world.
In addition to the social media components, zombie kits that included zombie preparedness items and tips were sent out to some local media outlets and bloggers in Westlake's market. Electronic tool kits were sent to an even broader group of media, which also led to an overwhelming response of media coverage.
From web pages with fun FAQs, to videos, in-store signage and social media, the initiative took hold and went viral in a much bigger way than any of us expected. The campaign resulted in over 45k mentions, hundreds of news stories, thousands of blog posts and tweets from all around the world.