#IHATEJEFFSY:How to Use Hashtags in a Pre-Launch Campaign

To find out how you can use hashtag marketing in the course of a pre-launch campaign we’re taking a closer look at #IHATEJEFFSY, a recent hashtag campaign by bike manufacturer YT Industries.

YT Industries is a German company that builds mountain bikes. Their bikes are competition-ready yet affordable for beginners, so-called “young talents” — which is also where the YT in the company name comes from.

Who Is JEFFSY, and Why Does Everyone Hate It?

Recently, YT unveiled JEFFSY, their very first trail bike. However, they didn’t simply release it and run a straightforward marketing campaign to sell it. Instead, they set up a teaser campaign using a microsite with a countdown timer, some hashtags, as well as print and online advertising.

For weeks, YT didn’t say anything about who or what JEFFSY was but encouraged fans to use the hashtag #IHATEJEFFSY, promising the best entry would win one of the as-of-then mysterious JEFFSYs.

JEFFSY trail bike by YT Industries
The now-revealed JEFFSY trail bike.

#IHATEJEFFSY was YT’s first hashtag campaign, so we wanted to know more about how you can use hashtags to generate buzz for a teaser campaign. We asked Martina Bogott, Online Editor at YT Industries a bunch of questions about how the campaign came to be and how it went.

How did you come up with the #IHATEJEFFSY campaign?

We’re a direct sales company selling our bikes through our website. The internet is our most important communication channel. We wanted to launch our new mountain bike JEFFSY with a bang and generate interest for our product.

When we were brainstorming the campaign, it was quite clear that we wanted to do something using social media, and we chose to do it “the other way round”.

In a video, a woman talks about how much she hates JEFFSY without mentioning once who or what JEFFSY actually is. On the other hand, her boyfriend states how much and why he loves JEFFSY.

The video was the very first step of the campaign. We also placed print and online ads with a portrait of the woman together with the message IHATEJEFFSY.

Creative for the #IHATEJEFFSY pre-launch campaign in a GIF

Imagine a mountain biker reading his favorite magazine which is full of hardcore shredders, bikes, and dirt — and suddenly he sees that beautiful woman’s face. It definitely grabs attention because it looks more like a campaign you’d usually see in a fashion magazine.

We wanted our fans to be a part of the campaign and the debate, so we chose to work with hashtags. Our web developer searched for social walls and tried some solutions. In the end, we made the decision to use Walls.io for our campaign.

How do you run and promote a hashtag campaign when you can’t say what the campaign is actually about?

Actually, it wasn’t that difficult. We only produce mountain bikes, so people usually know more or less what to expect from us. There were some rumors floating around and people were speculating in online forums, but nobody knew any details about JEFFSY, and that was an important part of the game.

We started the campaign by encouraging our team riders to post the first pictures on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Some YT employees followed suit and then other people started posting photos with the hashtag #IHATEJEFFSY.

We built the microsite www.jeffsy.com, and the social wall is a major part of that. It was, basically, the center of the campaign. Simultaneously, we set up the JEFFSY competition and called for entries: the best and most creative photo posted with the hashtag would get a JEFFSY for free. So even though people didn’t know what JEFFSY was, they were curious to get to know JEFFSY — and to win it.

What kind of creative posts did people come up with? What were the highlights?

There are some highlights. Some of the posts are quite creative. You could see that people were really putting some thought into our campaign and the HATE/LOVE debate.

So they started to post quite funny pictures: for example, a guy pretending to breastfeed his baby because his woman is out and about with JEFFSY.

Ever since she knows Jeffsy, she has other priorities.. #ihatejeffsy #whoisjeffsy #ytindustries

A photo posted by Futzy Kato (@futzykato) on

You mainly promoted the #ihatejeffsy hashtag, but there were also a lot of people posting #ilovejeffsy content. Was that planned or did you just go along with it when it developed?

Actually, it was not planned exactly that way. We had absolutely planned to turn “hate” into “love” after the launch of the bike and were assuming that people wouldn’t post #ILOVEJEFFSY before that, without knowing what JEFFSY was. But, from the get-go, our fans started doing just that because they were sure that something cool would come up.

At first, we hid those posts on our social wall. But, after the launch, we started showing the previously hidden Love-Posts on our wall again and started actively promoting the #ILOVEJEFFSY hashtag.

Where there more #ihatejeffsy or more #ilovejeffsy posts? And was there a clear gender ratio to the hashtags?

As of now, there are definitely more #IHATEJEFFSY posts. But after the launch on April 7, the number of #ILOVEJEFFSY went up enormously. The competition runs until May 4, so people are still posting pictures and hashtags.

There are definitely more men taking part in the competition, maybe because mountain biking is still a sport dominated by men, even though more and more women get hooked on it.

Some people did accuse us of reinforcing gender clichés; they did not like the fact that we started the campaign with only women stating #IHATEJEFFSY. We were accused of discriminating women and for not taking women seriously as mountain bikers.

But we tried to make the campaign funny, and most of the people understood our sense of humour. And, thanks to social media those were able to actively take our side and defend us with the most obvious fact: In the user generated posts there were far more babies and pets than women saying #IHATEJEFFSY. And a lot of women did take part in our competition saying they loved Jeffsy.

Where did you show the social wall?

The social wall is embedded on www.jeffsy.com, and we integrated it as an app into our Facebook profile as well.

In retrospect, how did the campaign go? Are you happy with it?

In total, we are very happy with the outcome of the campaign. People were taking part in it and stating in various forums creative our campaign was. Even the mountain bike media gave us feedback, saying how excellent and outstanding our campaign is in the whole mountain bike sector. They loved our creatives!

In the beginning, we were a bit concerned about people getting our humour. We are a German company and set up the whole campaign in English. Worst case would have been that people simply wouldn’t get the joke.

To sum it up: The whole campaign is a huge success and we are very happy with it.

What We Can Learn from the #IHATEJEFFSY Campaign

Hashtag campaigns lend themselves to product promotion and, when done right, can work really well for teaser campaigns. YT’s #IHATEJEFFSY campaign was a success for multiple reasons:

Start a Conversation

YT’s original message, I hate JEFFSY”, was polarising enough to kick off a debate. Asking people to opine about something they love/hate works wonders to get them talking and posting.

Offer Rewards

The fact of the matter is that incentives work for social content. When users have a chance of winning something by posting content to social media networks, they will do so. The effort for the user is relatively small in most cases. By offering a JEFFSY bike as the grand prize for the most creative entry YT made sure that some people would put more effort into their submissions and, thus, create great content for YT.

Here’s one entry that certainly required more setup and effort than some others.

As someone who has also had to sacrifice living space to a bike-tinkering spouse, it’s one of my personal favourites of all the #IHATEJEFFSY entries. 😉

Use Offline Advertising

YT backed up their hashtag marketing with plenty of online and offline advertising. Hashtags translate more easily from offline to online than other kinds of content.

People don’t usually remember a URL they see offline until they finally have time to look it up online, or they don’t want to look it up on mobile. Good hashtags, however, are easy to remember and can be used exactly where most people are present anyway: social media.

YT Industries CEO Markus Flossmann with a copy of a print ad for the campaign:

Are you planning a pre-launch hashtag campaign and need help with it? Let us know!