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Clarks uses “Dark Social” marketing in WhatsApp Desert Boot campaign

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Clarks uses “Dark Social” marketing in WhatsApp Desert Boot campaign
Clarks uses “Dark Social” marketing in WhatsApp Desert Boot campaign
Clarks Originals has become one of the first major retail brands to use ‘dark social’ marketing with a foray into WhatsApp, which aims to bring alive the story of firm M-retailing favourite the Desert Boot.


Mixing digital tech, images, playlists, videos, messages to fashionable chaps and the whiff of history ‘From Rats to Rudeboys’ – name checking the Desert Rats who pioneered the boot – provides the basis of the story of three key personalities from subculture movements that adopted Desert Boots as unofficial mascots.

Through a series of WhatsApp messages to Desert Boot lovers of today, these people will send images, playlists, videos and messages which take users back to the cultural moments when Desert Boots were on their feet and rebellion was in the air.

Launching on 30th March, users will be prompted to add a new contact number to their WhatsApp via teaser films on traditional social media. The campaign will be introduced through the story of Nathan Clark ‘The Original Desert Boot pioneer’ – and founder of The Clarks Group when he created the “the world’s first dress casual shoe”, the Desert Boot, in 1950. The group is now worth £1.5billion.

After being introduced to Clark’s story, users will meet Steve (the Mod), Bruno (the Enraged) and Stitch (the Rudeboy).

Clarks’ announcement that it will use Whatsapp as a channel illustrates the increasing importance of the role of ‘Dark Social’ in the spread of news, offers and information for marketers.

Alexis C. Madrigal first coined the term ‘Dark Social’ in 2012 to reference sharing on chat and email networks that went untracked by traditional web analytics and therefore was often just ignored.

Given that these technologies are already about 20 years old and are designed to share information, it might seem odd that we need to highlight their role now, but two things have changed.

Firstly, networks like Whatsapp (700m users), Facebook Messenger (500m) and Viber (100m) now have huge installed user bases and, being perfectly integrated with our mobile phones, enable us to receive and share offers anywhere and at any time. In short, Dark social has always existed but it’s only now that marketers are really starting to pay attention to it.

“We expect to see a rise in brands using Whatsapp as a platform to engage with audiences,” comments Gideon Lask, CEO at Buyapowa. “However, to be truly successful, they must consider ‘social as a mindset’ rather than focusing on marketing through one platform, such as Whatsapp, Facebook or Twitter. That means that all content and promotions should be designed for social and sharing should seem a natural part of the ‘sign up’ or ‘check out’ process.”

For example, says Lask, “sharing could be incentivised using dynamic deals that get better as more people join and by incorporating gamification to allow super referrers to compete for special rewards.

“Finally, by using unique URLs brands can track sharing enable tracking on Dark Social. This represents a huge opportunity to galvanise ‘Social Customer get Customer’ whereby a brands current customers help to get more customers through their friends and family base.
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