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Zippo Consistent Messaging

Proactive communications averts a crisis

The Issue

Change was taking place at Zippo, the manufacturer of the iconic lighter. Company-wide challenges included: 1) remaining relevant in an anti-smoking world, 2) launching a new product – Zippo Blu, 3) combating product counterfeiting on an international level and 4) celebrating a 75th Anniversary. In addition to these myriad challenges, the company required consistent messaging in all media and public outreach to ensure brand relevancy.

The Strategy

With a variety of issues facing the organization, the strategic messaging approach was developed to target the iconic company’s 75th Anniversary as a messaging focal point. In support of this historic event, incorporating the launch of the company’s newest product supported the outreach effort. Knowing that many companies launch products and celebrate anniversaries, media relations outreach went beyond the traditional celebratory story. The counterfeiting issue was costing the company millions of dollars per year, and a round of layoffs damaged the reputation of the proud brand. The strategic recommendation was to detail the company’s business challenges in a very transparent manner rather than focus on the traditional feel good story. This was a risk, but one that generated significant results for the company.

The Results

Most companies would downplay the negative business challenges, but Zippo felt that telling their story in a transparent way would supply the sales boost required. With more than 75 million broadcast impressions and nearly 275 million print impressions, Zippo not only achieved a significant boost in coverage, but solidified the company’s relationships with more than just business partners. The result of one national television story helped encourage legislators to strengthen laws associated with counterfeit products. The positive coverage earned in a very short time span and the accompanying legal changes resulted in the company’s saving of millions of dollars in revenue and saw the return of laid-off workers. Additionally, brand relationships with new partners increased as the new product was met with fanfare and strong sales.