Even the best of products can struggle for attention after the press has moved on to something new. The Ulta-Lit Tree company makes tools that solve a common frustration: broken holiday lights. That’s made them a favorite of both consumers and gadget gurus. But with no new offerings since 2012, media interest had waned. As the 2020 holiday season approached, Ulta-Lit was determined to be back in the headlines – with just its existing line of products.
Rise above the noise of other products
Having positioned hundreds of consumer electronics devices with the media, the Lightspeed PR/M team knew how to find the right strategies to help Ulta-Lit get the attention they wanted. After a deep dive into past company efforts, and gathering information from the Ulta-Lit team, we devised a three-pronged approach:
It Has to Be New to Be News
Before working with Lightspeed, Ulta-Lit’s efforts had centered on promoting the benefits of their tools and sending samples to the media. Those tactics weren’t working for a simple reason – reporters want a story that hasn’t already been told. We knew we had to find a way to capture press attention even without a new product launch. Our answer: The Hotline Story. Every Christmas, Ulta-Lit’s experts operate The LightKeeper Pro Hotline, providing assistance to customers with broken lights. Despite being an indispensable resource, the company had never gotten news about the hotline. We knew we’d found a deep mine of great media stories.
First, the Lightspeed team identified journalists who had Christmas light issues of their own. With that (considerable) list of names compiled, we offered a special hotline experience for each one to get their problems solved with Ulta-Lit. The reporters loved it, sparking new interest in the company and its tools. Building on that success, the Lightspeed team took it a step further. Again, working with Ulta-Lit’s leaders, we collected stories from the more than 100,000 calls to their hotline over the years. Ranging from relatable to hilarious, the stories brought the need for Ulta-Lit’s tools to vivid life for the press.
CEO as Expert
The second prong of our strategy turned the spotlight on Ulta-Lit’s CEO, John DeCosmo. Before working with Lightspeed, John had let his product take center stage. But as we soon discovered, his years in the industry made him an authority on Christmas light issues – and even more importantly, on how to solve them. Recognizing the value of this expertise, we developed a thought leadership campaign giving target media unprecedented access to John and his advice for consumers.
A Break in the Bad News
Trendjacking, or newsjacking, is part of what we do for all Lightspeed clients. By closely monitoring the news, we find opportunities to include our client’s stories. This took a new turn during the Covid-19 pandemic when, even during the holiday months, the headlines remained grim. Lightspeed knew from our sources that reporters were ready for something brighter. As a result, we built our third strategy around Ulta-Lit as a “feel-good” story to break through the bad news. It dovetailed well with another trend: since people were spending more time indoors, Christmas decorations not only arrived earlier in the year, but became much more elaborate. Again positioning John DeCosmo as an industry expert, he was tapped for stories ranging from recommendations on light sets to observations in decorating trends.
A strategy with measurable success
Despite having just a few weeks for preparation and media outreach, Lightspeed’s campaign returned massive results. Ulta-Lit went from having very little online presence, to being a go-to expert on all things related to Christmas lights and decorations. And thanks to his positioning as a thought leader, John DeCosmo became so well-recognized as an expert that the media began reaching out to him directly, hoping for his insights on their holiday articles.
Our partners at Ulta-Lit shared that their business saw a 35% increase in sales in 2020 compared to 2019, largely as a result of our work.
As the media results began rolling in, John DeCosmo shared the following: “I do tip my hat. I’ve had PR agencies (and sole owners) do work often. Certain years have yielded a zero. You guys are in a zone.”
On January 5, 2021, he added: “Our best [previous] January was $15,000 of wholesale business. Our second best January was $10,000. Yesterday? We did $18,000 alone.”
Work that got recognized
Thanks to our approach, Lightspeed secured over 80 placements for Ulta-Lit in the initial 90 day campaign, totaling over 215 million impressions. Publications that featured John and Ulta-Lit included New York Times, The Daily Beast, Real Simple, Vox, Apartment Therapy, Atlanta Journal Constitution, and New York Magazine.
After our runaway success in 2020, Ulta-Lit hired Lightspeed PR/M for a second year. In the 2021 holiday season, our results were even better: we secured new placements in CNN, TODAY, HGTV, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Gardens, PureWow, The Mercury News, Best Products, and WRAL.
And Lightspeed is proud that our work with Ulta-Lit was named a finalist for the 2021 SABRE Awards, alongside iconic brands such as Amazon, Harman, Philips and LG.
What the press say...
Click the publications below to see more of what we have done for Ulta-Lit