Penguin Random House’s campaign for Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls was unmissable, with its eye-catching Tube posters being shared widely on social media and beyond. Its head of marketing Ingrid Matts and publicity manager Isabel Blake reveal what made it such a success.
What were your campaign objectives?
Blake and Matts: To establish Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls as the ideal read for girls (and boys!) of all ages; to make it an agenda-setting book that leads the conversation on representations of women and diversity; and to keep the campaign growing throughout the year to make this the book under every Christmas tree in 2017.
How did the objectives translate to strategy?
Blake: We wanted this book to reach as many different corners of the market and media as possible, from softer stories in outlets like Red, Grazia and Mail Online to agenda-setting news stories with the likes of "BBC Breakfast", Guardian comment pages and "Channel 4 News".
Matts: In the trade, from Sainsbury’s to indies, we worked hard to ensure everyone had what they needed. Our ads were designed to show the breadth of representation in the book and were not aimed at any particular type of book-buyer, just anyone who could be inspired by the message.
What for you were the fundamental pillars of the campaign?
Blake: Find champions, and if at first you don’t succeed, try again. We saw how the book inspired contagious enthusiasm and loyalty, and we used those reactions to reach as many people as possible. From a publicity angle, we always tried to get readers involved: from the first BBC online interview, which looked at US readers who had fallen in love with the book; to the "Channel 4 News" interview, which explored the way primary school students responded to it.
Matts: Marketing was about finding buyers and booksellers who really understood the book. Bloggers, YouTubers and social media influencers played a huge role in spreading the word. Crucially, we found that any time an initial pitch didn’t have the response we wanted we would try again with someone else until we found someone who loved the book. We also adopted an online-first approach to marketing, and looked to amplify more traditional PR on social media—even our outdoor ad campaign was designed to promote online sharing.
What were barriers to success, and how did you tackle those?
Matts: We had extremely limited time with the US-based authors and needed to work within their strong brand guidelines around what we could make, do and share in terms of content and assets. This meant we couldn’t just do what we wanted, when we wanted: we had to think of ways to make the time we had with the authors go a lot further, and be creative about what we could make with the tools we had.
How closely did the marketing and publicity teams work together on this?
Matts: So closely. The goal was always to ensure any of our activity worked hard for either part of the campaign, from pitching retail success to press, to online amplification of media, using educational strands of the campaign to secure broadcast, ensuring our international media and trade were joined up, and more.
Blake: We also worked together towards key moments throughout the year, so we were working to the same timelines in order to concentrate activity around certain points in the calendar, so that media, online and trade hits all happened simultaneously.
Have you reached your objectives?
Blake: It’s been a fantastic year, including some phenomenal sales at Christmas. The Guardian referred to it as "the definitive book of the year", while the Evening Standard called it "the publishing sensation of the year"... So we’re pretty pleased.
Matts: It’s been an incredibly intense team effort over many months, and very gratifying to see just how much it paid off in the end. Rebel Girls... has become a definitive brand in its own right—we can’t wait for the Rebel revolution to continue.