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Old and new boosting cotton demand

Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

When consumer confidence began dropping like a rock as the economy faltered, Cotton Incorporated leaders decided they needed to try a mixture of approaches to meet its goal of building more market share for cotton.

That included blending the traditional with the new while borrowing from new technology and even adding a blues musician to its repertoire of TV messages, Cotton Incorporated President Berrye Worsham said.

“With the collapse of consumer confidence and consumer spending, we felt it would be important to differentiate cotton by bringing back a comforting, old familiar theme — “the fabric of our lives,” Worsham noted, “Except we decided to add a slightly new twist, “the fabric of MY life.”

For the first time in many years, Cotton Incorporated also engaged celebrities to sing the theme song in their interpretation. CI hired Zooey Deschanel for a pop rendition, Miranda Lambert for a country music theme, and Jasmine Sullivan for R&B.

“These three new commercials were geared to young women, age 18 to 34, who were reached an average of 15 times in 2009 with 1.15 billion impressions through television, Worsham told participants at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.

“What was unique about this campaign was the extensive use of the Internet in addition to television in order to convey our message. In addition to television, Cotton Incorporated received 1.5 million clicks to our websites which helped to boost recall and awareness of the campaign.”

Cotton Incorporated used the commercials on Internet websites where consumers can view television programs. On one, Project Runway, the Cotton Incorporated commercial has to be viewed before the viewer can play the program. “This is TIVO proof, and may be the future of advertising.

“We also tied the campaign to point of sale,” he added. “In 2009, we launched the Fabric of Our Lives National Mall Campaign, where we showcased the personalized fashions of the commercials as well as allowed participants to record their version of the Fabric of My Life in a functional studio.”

Cotton Incorporated’s public relations department was also active in leveraging its relationships with celebrities and magazines. “We had an event in Nashville with Miranda Lambert that was covered in People Magazine. In December, we had a similar event with Zooey Deschanel and Vanity Fair Magazine.

“Our consumer website,, had 3.6 million visitors in 2009, up from 238,000 in 2002. In 2009, we looked for further consumer bonding opportunities with Face Book and YouTube. This has virtually no marginal cost and is an effective way to leverage our message.”

Because of the faltering economy, CI leaders felt they also needed to show the consumer why cotton was the better choice from an economical point of view. That included a program called Cutting Costs with Cotton which consisted of 45 news items and a reach of about 45 million consumers.

“Green” or the environment has been a major focus of the company for the past several years, and Cotton Incorporated has used its Lifestyle Monitor as a tool for getting the right information out about cotton and the environment. Lifestyle Monitor information and articles appear regularly in the industry’s most important trade publication — Women’s Wear Daily.

The consumer reach efforts expand beyond the U.S. market. “For three years, we have worked with Cotton Council International on a China promotion program: Cotton Beyond Your Imagination. To celebrate cotton in China, we held experiential consumer events and press events that featured the importance of cotton to the world’s consumers.

“In 2009, CI completely revamped its cotton sustainability website. One of our major strategies in 2009 was to look at cotton as it relates to food and fiber needs in 2050. The world’s food demand will double by 2050 and the world’s fiber demand with triple or perhaps quadruple. How do cotton, technology and biotechnology play a role in the solutions?

“We focused on the potential of low gossypol cotton, which is now a real possibility based on successful field trials at Texas A&M University. Time magazine ran a story called Edible Cotton. The possibility exists for cotton to feed 500 million people based on its protein content. We are trying to get people to think of cotton in ways that they haven’t before.”

CI’s Strategic Alliances group continued its successful cotton recycling program called “Cotton. From Blue to Green”.

“This denim drive, which collects denim, has it recycled into home insulation, which is then donated to Habitat for Humanity for home building, gathered additional momentum in 2009. National Geographic for Kids set a Guinness World Record for Denim collections in Washington, D.C., at 33,000 pieces.”

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TAGS: Cotton
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