How to Turn a Viral Miss Into a Marketing Hit

Shoes of Prey's collaboration with a YouTube star brought the company lots of attention, but few sales. The pivot that solved that problem

Written by Carol Toller

It seemed like a great idea at the time: Get a YouTube star with a massive following to review your product, hope for a positive assessment, then watch the star massive following suddenly turn into your customers.

That was the plan when online retailer Shoes of Prey commissioned a video hit from then-16 year-old Blair Fowler, aka juicystar07. And the first part of the strategy worked, said Jodie Fox, one of the co-founders of the Sydney, Australia-based company, speaking at the recent Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network in Berlin. Fox said she was up all night after the popular YouTube star posted her review, watching traffic on the company’s site soar. Within a single week, Shoes of Prey got more than 500,000 visits—an astonishing spike given that the previous all-time high had been just over 17,000.

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But the founders’ initial excitement quickly turned to bemusement. “We had all these visitors,” Fox said, “but our sales stayed flat.” It didn’t take long for the partners to figure out what they’d done wrong: They’d hired a 16-year-old with a following of young girls on limited budgets to promote custom-designed footwear that can cost up to $300 a pair. The video had won them fans, but not purchasers. “We’d totally missed our mark,” Fox said.

Determined to turn their misdirected marketing plan around, the partners moved quickly to convert the surge of interest into sales. Given that the teens were talking about Shoes of Prey on Facebook and Twitter, they quickly tweaked their site to make it easier for girls to share the footwear they’d designed. Then they ran Twitter searches to find all the enthusiasts who were talking about their brand and engaged with them, hoping to broaden out the conversation to include older friends, sisters and mothers.

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They also wrote a blog post about what had happened, and publicized it widely on social media. The post documented the origins of their viral hit and gave a nod to the power of new media, but also hinted at the shortcomings of their marketing plan. “Juicystar07’s audience is primarily 13€“17 year old girls,” Fox’s partner (and ex-husband) Michael Fox wrote in a post on Shoes of Prey’s website. “They love shoes and clearly love to design shoes but we’re a little out of their budget.”

In addition to sharing what they’d learned as entrepreneurs, part of the goal of the blog post was to execute a smart pivot and get their story out to media who cater to professional women—a key part of Shoes of Prey’s audience. That plan worked: the company ended up being covered by about a dozen outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider.

“It was a case study about what not to do,” Jodie Fox told her audience in Berlin. “But with it, we found our audience.”


Have you successfully pivoted from a marketing failure? Share your experiences using the comments section below.

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