E-mail adds aura to Calvin Klein campaign

(November 30, 1998) New York-based Calvin Klein Cosmetics Co. hopes that nothing will come between consumers and their Internet connections.

That's because E-mail -- and customer response management software to handle those messages -- is the cornerstone of the $10 million advertising campaign Calvin Klein is launching this month for its unisex CK One perfume.

The TV, print, billboard and radio advertisements feature a cast of characters and assigns each one an E-mail address, such as robert@ckone.com and anna@ckone.com. Consumers can send messages directly to the characters and receive scripted responses via E-mail. They also can respond and participate as story lines unfold in the advertisements, officials said.


To handle what may be a flood of messages in response to the ads, Calvin Klein is using a customized version of EchoMail software from General Interactive Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

EchoMail has been used recently in marketing campaigns for Nike Inc. and Clinique. It intelligently filters incoming E-mail and automatically issues a response based on several factors, including tone, problems to be addressed and customer profiles, according to company officials.

Calvin Klein officials wouldn't say how much the company invested in the new technology, but General Interactive officials said the price of EchoMail ranges from $150,000 to $1 million, depending on the modules used and size of the network.

Calvin Klein hopes the campaign will boost sales of its cosmetics brand, which was launched in 1994, and target "the next generation" of consumers who are comfortable with E-mail, said Robert L. Triefus, senior vice president for worldwide communications at Calvin Klein Cosmetics.

Analysts said E-mail addresses commonly appear in ads, but E-mail hasn't typically been used for such creative interaction.

"With traditional advertising, you hope that people remember the brand and create demand for it in the public subconscious. With E-mail, you give them a way to act immediately on that," said Jim Nail, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

But the soap-opera nature of the campaign may not fly, he said -- and could even set a trap for the company.

"If [the company doesn't] respond to those E-mails, they will do more damage than good to the brand," Nail said. "If Calvin Klein sends back E-mail responses full of store locations, coupons, rebate forms and so on, it could be valuable. Otherwise, it could backfire on them."