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From the portfolio: Unlease on subverting expectations to acquire customers

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We asked the awesome team at Unlease, a Seedcamp-backed company challenging the existing rental market, to share some insight into their ‘Pineapple Today’ campaign. Sending pineapples to educate people about subletting? We wanted to learn more about how subverting expectations could work not just in creating a viral campaign but as a cost-effective acquisition driver.

Why pineapples?

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-11-13-58At Unlease we saw that the traditional rental market wasn’t keeping up with the growing demand for a more flexible way of living, so we created a peer-to-peer marketplace for sublets. We chose a pineapple (traditionally a symbol of warmth, welcoming and the home) as our logo because we felt that the warm hospitality of our Unlease community has come to define us as a company.

The London tech scene is saturated with start-ups trying to make an impact on their customers. We decided to do things differently and take a fresh angle on marketing; we created Pineapple Today (www.unlease.io/pineappletoday).

Pineapple Today is an online system where you can send a friend a pineapple, because nothing else says ‘I care about you’ or brighten someone’s day like a pineapple… Hand delivered directly to their desk with a hand written note, we wanted to get Londoners to send pineapples and spread the warm message that the pineapple symbolically holds. We wanted to make London feel a little bit smaller and friendlier. We created the hashtag ‘smallerworld’ to remind people of the message behind the campaign, and our message behind Unlease.

We knew Pineapple Today was quirky enough to gain significant attention. If 1 pineapple was sent to someone in an office with 40 people, that was 40 more people who knew about Unlease. By delivering the pineapples only to offices, we were breaking conventional marketing norms by entering spaces traditionally untouched by brands other than their own: London offices. The ‘send a pineapple to a friend’ aspect ensured natural virality, especially with everyone Instagram-ing and Tweeting their pineapple photographs.

From Goldman Sachs to Deliveroo to Google, we utilised the novelty of the exotic (and photographic) fruit, as well as the communal aspect of London’s open plan offices. The campaign made a very physical impression on potential customers, and we saw phenomenal viral growth within hours.

The market

Through Pineapple Today, we’ve mostly targeted Londoners between the ages of 22 and 35. The natural virality of Pineapple Today has meant that our growth has been largely contained within our target market.

The demographic we’ve been reaching is largely comprised of renters and those who are most mobile. These are people who will go abroad for a few months, for work or travel, as well as people who face rental friction and need to get out of their 12-month contracts.

Pineapple Today has helped increase awareness of Unlease to a market which is already a crucial part of our community.

 The budget

We launched round two of Pineapple Today on the 12th of September and this time round we’ve started charging £3.95 per pineapple.

In the next week we will have covered all of the fixed costs of running Pineapple Today (cyclist bags, t-shirts, tags etc.). Everything from this point will be profit.

The results 

When we ran Pineapple Today in mid July we received 10,000 orders in a few hours.

In 10 days we delivered our entire stock of 3,000 pineapples.

Here’s a map which shows where we delivered these 3,000 pineapples to: https://www.unlease.io/blog/unlease-pineapple-today/.

The July campaign saw a total of 405 conversions in 10 days.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-11-16-13

Zero marketing spend = 1000% increase in traffic

Since re-launching, we’ve spent almost no money on marketing. We’ve seen a 1000% increase in traffic coming to Unlease, the majority of which are new users.

So far we’ve received around 1500 orders, running out of our pineapple stock in the first couple of days.

We’ve seen our community of pineapple-ers grow and grow and the response on social media has been phenomenal (search #smallerworld to check it out!). One of our pineapple-ers even asked a friend to be his best man through a pineapple!

Unlease has been further defined by Pineapple Today. It has captured our desire to bring hospitality, friendship and warmth to the cities that we launch in and the #smallerworld message is now more than ever a core part of our mission, our community and our culture.

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