How Your Creativity Can Bring Positive ROI in Social Spaces: A Staples Case Study

by Socialnomics with Suzanne Downing

Believe it or not, there are still non-believers and skeptics in most corporations when it comes to the validity of social media.

Yes, it’s true! In a recent seminar I attended in Chicago, “Levering Social Media to Increase Sales,” 80% of professional students requested “take away” tools to sell social media to upper management. They needed proof that social media can work. They needed real-life examples. They needed buy-in.

As you read the Staples case study below, put your own business on the forefront of your mind.Think outside the box. Think creatively.

Jot down your thoughts. Any thoughts. Make of list of what’s important to you and your organization. Create a napkin sketch of what comes to your mind. The more the better. Just write. You can always erase and edit later. Sometimes ideas that seem crazy or off the wall, may just work!

Case study: Staples Social Media Outreach Enhances Teen-Focused Cause Marketing Campaign


In 2008, Staples, the world’s largest office product retailer and expert on back-to-school retailing, worked with, a national not-for-profit organization that empowers teens to take action in their communities, to create “Do Something 101,” a national school supply drive.

The inaugural campaign raised more than $150,000 for local charities to purchase back-to-school supplies for students who need them and generated more than 211.8 million impressions. For 2009, Staples aimed to make the second Annual Do Something 101 National School Supply Drive bigger and better than the inaugural campaign. Staples and wanted to inspire more teens to “do something” by collecting new school supplies for underprivileged kids, connect with teens in a unique and meaningful way, and increase donations and impressions over the previous year.


The strategy was to conduct ongoing conversations about the need for school supplies for undeserved youth, and how the Do Something 101 campaign can help. In addition to the traditional marketing tactics of in-store signage, customer e-mails, public service announcements, and media relations, Staples launched a social media campaign to reach teens where they spend the most time: Facebook.

Staples recently launched its own corporate Facebook page geared toward its core audience of small business customers. Rather then trying to retrofit the Staples corporate page for teens, Staples developed a fan page focused entirely on the teen audience, as well as a new Facebook application, to raise awareness of the Do Something 101 school supply drive.


Staples worked with a social media agency, Mr. Youth, to develop the Facebook fan page for Do Something 101, and create the new “Adopt-a-Pack” application. With Adopt a Pack, teens could tag their friends to fill virtual backpacks with school supplies to raise awareness for the cause and effort. With every backpack filled, teens could enter a sweepstakes for various prizes, including a trip to New York City to participate in a bag-stuffing event with the campaign’s spokesperson, Grammy-winning Ciara.

Staples spread the word about the fan page and application to cause-related and teen-focused blogs. It also worked with Mr. youth’s RepNation network to create a task force of students to spread the word through their existing online networks.


To connect with teens where they already lived online, allow them to show support for a worthy cause in a fun, unique manner, and build a foundation of teen engagement for future campaigns.


The Second Annal Do Something 101 national school supply drive raised more than $630,000 in customer cash donations, compared to $125,000 in 2008. Staples customers also donated thousands of items such as notebooks, calculators, and other supplies for students in need. The program received editorial coverage in outlets ranging from the New York Times to, and resulted in 484.8 million media impressions, more than doubling 2008’s results of 211.8 million media impressions.

In addition, the Do Something 101 Facebook Fan page secured more than 6,000 fans (back when likes were fans) who still continued to engage with the page well past the end of the 2009 campaign, and served as a base for the 2010 school supply drive. In addition, through the Facebook Application (a.k.a. App), Staples achieved 211 million teen impressions (compared to 13 million teen impressions from a 2008 teen marketing program.)

Staples, Inc. PR team,

Love that case study, and it makes me want to get on board with Staples and gives me a sense of community.

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” -Goethe

Socialnomics: a perpetual wave.

Happy creative thinking!