Product / ServiceBRAND IMAGE
CategoryA03. Best Use of Live Events, Stunt and/or Celebrity Endorsement
EntrantSLAM Beijing, CHINA
Entrant Company:SLAM Beijing, CHINA
PR/Advertising Agency:SLAM Beijing, CHINA


Name Company Position
David Warfel Zippo Manufacturing Company (ZMC) Director, Global Marketing
Molly Hooper-Aldridge SLAM Global Managing Director
Chen Yi Lim SLAM Account Director
Selene Yang SLAM Consultant
Santana Wulsin SLAM Consultant
Sam Yu SLAM Senior Associate
Gao Xu SLAM Account Coordinator
Makoto Hamada SLAM Account Director
Nicki Oldham SLAM Account Director
Sophie Toskas SLAM Account Director
Natalie Tesoriero SLAM Senior Account Manager
David Slade SLAM Account Manager
Tim Gingrich Weber Shandwick Business Development Manager, Asia Pacific
Amanda Mohar Weber Shandwick Marketing Services Executive, Asia Pacific
Sarah Hou Weber Shandwick Marketing Services Assistant, Asia Pacific

The Campaign

Zippo lighters have made cameos in Apocalypse Now, Die Hard and Wall-E. They’ve spared the lives of MacGyver and Indiana Jones and helped save Private Ryan. Zippo is more than a product or a brand; it’s a legend. As such, the company has never really been in the business of selling lighters. Zippo found global success not solely because of its product’s function (though after 75 years of lifetime guarantees, it’s undoubtedly functional), but because of what it stood for. In China, the company’s second largest market, Zippo hadn’t reached icon-status. Few people knew what the brand represented, and even fewer were aware of the company’s range of products beyond lighters. This lack of visibility was what “Zippo Hot List Nights” summer concert series sought to overcome. Through an authentic, culturally relevant platform, this major Zippo-branded experience created a wave of advocates and influential trend leaders who not only believed in Zippo products, but who subscribed to the brand identity. By the end of the six-month campaign, sales of men’s accessories had increased 229% YOY, and media attention had spread nation-wide, generating over 2,080 pieces of coverage, with blog views alone exceeding 300,000.

The Brief

The objective was to increase product sales through stronger brand appeal. Targeting young adult males reflected Zippo’s “masculine rebel” global positioning and filled a gap in China; most brands catered to young women or businessmen. Polling revealed that 90% knew of the “cool lighters,” but nothing more about the brand. This audience purchases for style over necessity and seeks out anything new, anything cool, that allows for self-expression. After 25 years of imported pop culture, foreign trends have taken local root in China and what resonates most with this trend-savvy audience are foreign trends that have adopted local attributes.


The campaign successfully launched a movement of brand advocates who identified with the Zippo lifestyle and its products. Sales of men’s accessories increased 229% YOY, and dealers reported hundreds of inquiries about lifestyle products displayed at the concerts. The campaign also garnered over 2,080 pieces of media coverage for Zippo, more than double initial estimates, with an equivalent advertising value of US$4.5M. Online, high rates of traffic and conversation indicated that the campaign had passed a tipping point, igniting a wave of interest that spread among netizens and exponentially increased brand visibility. Over 300,000 news stories were reposted 300 times. Forum postings resulted in 21,000 comments and 50,400 views. Blog articles received over 300,000 views and concert videos received 25,000, and Sina messages were forwarded 2,500 times as netizens posted over 2,900 of their own messages. Key messages throughout included “Zippo hot lifestyle,” “rock music,” and “hot bands.”


The Zippo Hot List Nights series hosted monthly concerts from May to October 2010, featuring 24 Chinese bands. The space was fully-branded, with the stage flanked by flames, “secret recipe” Zi-52 beverages in branded glasses, and prominent logos behind performers. Promoters interacted with the audience and showcased Zippo lifestyle products, which were also given as prizes to audience members. Media and product distributors received VIP back-stage passes, socialized with the bands, and participated in on-stage promotions. Online activities utilised Chinese social media platforms and microblogging site Sina, and engaged influential bloggers and major style outlets like GQ China. The night of the fifth concert, two other major performances took place in Beijing. To save the event, brand reps blasted social media sites and promoted the Zippo concert outside competing venues. As word spread, audiences left other concerts to see Zippo’s impressive lineup, and attendance was the highest of the season.

The Situation

Working through retailers rather than its own stores, Zippo had little visibility or direct communication to customers. This made spreading brand message and promoting an extended product line exceptionally difficult. Icons ubiquitous in other markets are still new to China, and consequently, messages don’t carry the same resonance. What sold Zippo to the world – this famous legend status – didn’t translate. The audience didn’t even know this reputation existed. Meeting this challenge, the team sought to create an icon. To change perception and increase visibility, solidifying Zippo as a brand that went beyond lighters and defined a lifestyle.

The Strategy

Zippo sought an authentic, culturally relevant stage to engage the audience. Knowing that this segment responded most strongly to “anti-brands” – effortlessly cool without cliché luxury labels – the firm identified a platform that captured the brand’s attitude and the audience’s definition of cool: live rock music. The result was Zippo Hot List Nights, a summer concert series in Beijing that reflected local rock culture: - Posters designed by Beijing tattoo artists - An “underground” venue in an abandoned pre-war military academy - Well-known and up-and-coming Chinese bands, luring audiences with the opportunity to “discover” new bands - A bass guitarist with a face covered in piercings as MC In addition, the team would utilize concerts as a springboard to ignite internet word of mouth. Because online trend-setters are found almost entirely on China-specific platforms, interacting with the right people in the right places would be critical for maximum reach.