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The Strategy Behind Skims’ Viral White Lotus Campaign

The brand’s latest celebrity-fronted ad serves as another example of how it is wielding star power beyond its famous founder.
Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò star in Skims' Valentine's Day campaign
Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò star in Skims' Valentine's Day campaign (Courtesy Skims)

Key insights

  • Skims' Valentine's Day campaign, starring 'White Lotus' actresses Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò, went viral last week.
  • The campaign is another example of Skims' evolving approach to celebrity marketing, which is centred around creating cultural moments.
  • As the company, which crossed $475 million in revenue last year, grows, its marketing will continue to expand beyond Kim Kardashian herself.

Skims may have one of the world’s most recognisable faces as its founder, but lately it’s been leaning on celebrities with more subtle star power in its marketing.

For its Valentine’s Day campaign, which dropped on Jan. 23, the shapewear, intimates and loungewear label cast Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò, two Italian actresses who have recently shot to the top of the cultural zeitgeist thanks to their roles as swindling sex workers in HBO’s hit series The White Lotus.

The campaign’s creative is fairly simple, as is standard in Skims’ marketing. The two actresses — who are also best friends in real life — are clad in coordinating pink bra-and-panty sets against a no-frills grey backdrop. Much as they often did on the show, they have their arms around each other as they whisper and giggle into each other’s ears. It ends with Tabasco saying “Tutti indossano Skims,” with Grannò repeating the phrase in English: “Everybody’s wearing Skims.” Accompanying images are much of the same: The two together, against a simple backdrop of grey or an over-sized red heart, in matching Skims sets.

Simple though it may be, the campaign was effective. Though it’s too early to determine EMV (earned media value) across social media, according to Tribe Dynamics, the firm that calculates the metric, the ensuing online chatter was quick and obvious. “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that,” one marketer wrote on Twitter. Consumer reception was positive, too: “Not me wanting to buy everything from Skims because they got the two women from White Lotus as a part of the campaign,” another Twitter user wrote.

“When the casting is this strong, this relevant and has such a nice tie to your brand story, you don’t really have to have too much more,” said Kylie Vandeven, associate creative director at ad agency VMLY&R, who did not work on the campaign. “The casting itself was the campaign.”

Employing clever casting as the bulk of the creative strategy has become Skims’ marketing calling card. In April 2022, it rolled out its “Fits Everybody” campaign, which starred former Victoria’s Secret angels Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Candice Swanepoel, and Alessandra Ambrosio in their first campaign together. (It did receive some backlash online, due to lack of body diversity.) When it launched bras in September 2022, it recruited a cast of 50 women representing various ages and body types, including model and actress Brooke Shields, singer Becky G, actress Juliette Lewis, comedian Chelsea Handler and musician Cassie. Skims’ holiday campaign in 2022 featured Snoop Dogg and his entire family in matching plaid pyjamas.

Former Victoria's Secret angels Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, Alessandra Ambrosio and Candice Swanepoel all star in a 2022 campaign for Skims.

“We are a brand and a company that participates in popular culture, and we actively try to create [based on] what’s happening around us in that moment,” Jens Grede, the co-founder and CEO of Skims, told BoF.

Making Magic Happen

This time, Grede said that the campaign’s genesis was simple: Both he and Skims co-founder Kim Kardashian are fans of the show. The morning after the finale aired, Kardashian suggested casting the two as the stars of a Valentine’s Day campaign. They felt that the show’s momentum would continue throughout awards season and charged ahead with getting the campaign together. It ended up dropping just over six weeks after the finale — and just a few weeks after it picked up two trophies at the Golden Globes.

“The ability for them to be able to identify people who are, whether they’re emerging or they’re of the moment, are so in the thick of culture, and get that into a campaign in a very expedient way is their magic power,” said Eunice Shin, partner at brand strategy firm Prophet.

What also helps, Grede said, is letting the talent speak for themselves — in more ways than one. Skims’ campaigns usually take a minimalist approach that puts whoever is appearing in them centre stage, not competing for attention with a storyline or even an elaborate backdrop. But they also allow the talent to be partners in imagining what the campaign will look like, according to Grede.

“We don’t script anything,” said Grede. “It’s a modern approach, where you’re not micromanaging talent, but really starting from what the talent wants to say and to create. It’s really led by them rather than by us.”

He added that much of the brand’s marketing strategy is led by the idea of creating moments in culture, much as, he said, Kardashian’s own career has been. (He pointed to her wearing Marilyn Monroe’s gown to last year’s Met Gala as an example.) That could include hopping on current trends, like the Valentine’s Day campaign, or striking a nostalgic note. Shields’ appearance in Skims’ bra campaign, for example, was her first underwear shoot in three decades.

And though Kardashian remains Skims’ most important ambassador, as the company grows, it is increasingly looking beyond her when it comes to casting campaigns. The brand, which hit $475 million in revenue last year, hopes to follow a trajectory like that of the Jordan brand, which also began as a celebrity label but has evolved to be bigger than its famous founder.

“Kim is the Michael Jordan of the influencer generation,” said Grede. “We’ve been lucky to have this platform, but we want that platform to be broader than any one person and to be really combined in spirit rather than anything else.”

Further Reading

About the author
Diana Pearl
Diana Pearl

Diana Pearl is News and Features Editor at The Business of Fashion. She is based in New York and drives BoF’s marketing and media coverage.

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