A few years back, I attended an exclusive retreat for ecommerce founders. Among a tech-savvy group of ecommerce founders and venture capitalists, I fit right in. We discussed algorithms, cryptocurrency, arbitrage strategy, ecommerce technology, and most of us fumbled our way down the mountain during the event’s finale ski session. Honestly, the discussions didn’t teach me much – we geeks all reached the same conclusions, each driven by similar math-based observations.
However, one founder stood out: Catalina Girald, the creator of Naja, an eco-conscious lingerie brand on a mission to empower women. Catalina was the antithesis of most attendees – cultured, fashionable, and an exceptional skier. Although she wasn’t a traditional computer whiz, she held her own in that department too, and we quickly became friends.
Conversing with Catalina, I realized there was much I could learn from her. Building a great brand involved science, but it was a different kind of science than I was familiar with. While my ecommerce businesses revolved around arbitrage models, A/B testing, and data, Catalina tackled the same issues with an analytical approach to creativity and design. Unlike most creatives, she also quickly grasped concepts from my quant-driven world.
Over several months, we collaborated and learned from each other while solving various ecommerce challenges. I assisted her with Naja, and she helped with the companies in my Hayseed Ventures ecommerce portfolio. Among the many lessons I learned from Catalina, one that truly stood out was her masterful execution of a pre-launch PR campaign for an innovative new line of nude lingerie, called “Nude is for All,” which offered seven different shades of nude to represent the diversity of the human race.
To kick off the PR campaign, Naja orchestrated a takeover of the fashionable Williamsburg subway stop in Brooklyn.
As you can see, the impact was stunning, but the real genius lay in how Catalina transformed that single Naja “billboard” into millions of dollars in national PR.
At the time, Naja was short on funds. The subway station takeover was their most affordable, and honestly, their only marketing option for the launch. The plan was to adorn a single, trendy subway stop with exceptional creative work, hoping to gain national press coverage.
It worked. Naja was featured in Vogue, Elle, LA Times, and hundreds of other publications in multiple languages. From that one billboard, publications worldwide praised Naja and Catalina for changing the world.
Catalina’s inspiration came from Sir Richard Branson himself. While on a retreat to Necker Island, Branson shared a story about Virgin Atlantic’s early days. He bought a single billboard and convinced news outlets it was part of a massive media blitz. In reality, there was only one billboard, but Branson used it to great effect.
Catalina followed Branson’s example, adding a modern twist. She even reached out to Sir Richard to thank him for the advice, prompting him to share the story on Instagram, Virgin’s Twitter, and even penning a personal article on Virgin.com.
Besides securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in earned media, the inbound links from these influential sites significantly boosted Naja’s organic search rankings. The campaign also instilled trust in new users, a common struggle for startups. The fear of trying a fledgling brand they’ve never heard of quickly dissipates when Naja can boast features in Vogue, Elle, and even endorsements from Richard Branson.
The PR campaign’s results were extraordinary. While Catalina and Naja ultimately failed to disrupt and takeover a crowded lingerie market, her pre-launch strategy was pure brilliance!