Saving Joe Boxer

Off to a Good Start (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Caulfeild Apparel Group Ltd.
Mike Purkis; President
Stephanie Veltmann; Brand Manager
Murray Blair; VP Sales and Marketing
Dan Workman; Creative Director
Tanya Grenville; Account Supervisor

Agency Credits: Red Lion
Brett Channer; President, Chief Creative Officer, Copywriter
John Schofield; Managing Partner, Chief Strategy Officer
Zack Vitiello; Art Director
Dave Savoie; Senior Copywriter
Sarah Jones; Copywriter
Dave Pigeon; Copywriter


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):September 2012 – March 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: September 2012 – March 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: September 2011 – March 2012

a) Overall Assessment

Founded in 1985 by Calgarian, Nicholas Graham, Joe Boxer quickly became the market leader in unique, fun, novelty underwear with a loyal customer base that has remained steady to this day. Known for quality underwear, fun fashion, and a great fit at a moderate price point, in 2010, Joe Boxer sold over 1 million pairs of underwear in Canada.

At the same time, Joe Boxer’s largest retailer, The Bay, was undergoing rapid and massive change. Moving from a department store to a premium destination, the “Hudson’s Bay Company” was re-evaluating the underwear brands they carried. Making way for more expensive and contemporary brands like Diesel, Emporio Armani, and Hugo Boss, Joe Boxer was at risk of being de-listed. The potential of losing their largest retailer put the brand at risk of extinction. (See “The Evolution of Underwear at HBC.pdf")


Joe Boxer was faced with a dilemma – how would they make their unique and fun novelty underwear feel more contemporary and premium to young men making their own choices without increasing the price or isolating their existing customer base?


In this case study, we’ll demonstrate how we leveraged an insight about men and their underwear to defend and expand the footprint of a brand that was on its way out.  

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Joe Boxer needed to defend their retail space at HBC. To accomplish this, we needed to convince this evolving retailer that Joe Boxer would be a profitable fit in their now premium underwear catalogue. To do this, we assigned three business objectives:

  1. Upgrade the brand with a more premium visual appeal
  2. Increase sales / sq. foot by 10%
  3. Increase Joe Boxer’s sales at The Bay by 25% in the first year post-launch
  4. Reconnect with young men

c) Annual Media Budget
$100,000 - $200,000

d) Geographic Area
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan

a) Analysis and Insight

Our biggest challenge was convincing The Bay that a line like Joe Boxer had a place on its shelves. From qualitative research, we confirmed our suspicions that as it was, the Joe Boxer brand just didn’t stand for anything compelling enough to outperform its more premium rivals. Brands like Diesel, Emporio Armani, and Hugo Boss stood for values that The Bay’s new premium target could be said to aspire to: style, fashion, power, masculinity. They were more contemporary and desirable, and could command a higher price.

We needed to create distinction between Joe Boxer and the less expensive comfort brands it was being associated with, and move closer to the more premium brands that were holding their ground at The Bay.

Like a kid at recess, Joe was looking from the sidelines, trying to get in with the beautiful crowd. But we knew we couldn’t try to be something we’re not, nor should we want to be, especially with an already established fan base that liked us a little more laid back.

We took a look at our competitors. They all had something in common – they all portrayed the perfect man with a perfect 6-pack – not very realistic for most of the men buying their underwear. Our competitors weren’t allowing men to be comfortable with who they really are underneath all the layers. This became our white space.

We used this white space to create a new brand platform: “It’s what’s underneath”, based on the insight that men want to feel comfortable with who they are as they are.

b) Communication Strategy

Our strategy was focused on men buying their own underwear. There is a brief period in a man’s life when he primarily buys his own underwear – 17-34. This is the period between when his mother would buy them for him, and when his wife or girlfriend would take over. We wanted to reach men at the entry age and become their brand of choice. With a lack of knowledge and low interest as they start buying in the category, we wanted them to identify with Joe Boxer and build an immediate connection.

We wanted to reach these men at the very moment they were choosing their underwear, in fact, our sole priority was to do this and build the brand exclusively in-store, so we focused on POS materials and packaging. Surrounded by boxes adorned with the perfect man, Joe Boxer needed to stand out. A 47% spike in sales in the first three months of the launch proved that we did.

Our brand platform, “It’s what’s underneath”, needed to be brought to life across all touch points. But before we could even start, we needed to convince The Bay to even give us a shot. We had to prove that Joe Boxer was (1) contemporary, (2) premium, and (3) desirable. If we could be all three, we were confident we would increase sales and prove Joe Boxer worthy of their retail footprint.

We started with packaging. “It’s what’s underneath” became our tagline. This was a complete re-brand. We said goodbye to the smiley face and opted for a more contemporary Joe Boxer logo. We shot models in their natural state and environments. We didn’t dictate what we wanted them to do; we let their personalities come out, and captured it. We wrote headlines for each style of underwear that were confident, comfortable, and self-assured. The Bay loved it. And we would soon find out that their customers did too.

Footnote 1: Tipp Tatler. "Men, who buys your underwear?" November 11, 2009.

Footnote 2: We referenced proprietary research provided by The Bay's buying department on brand choices.

a) Media Used


In-store display

Point-of-Sale (POS)


All media have been running inclusively since the September 2011 launch.

b) Creative Discussion

We believe that a brand is judged by how it behaves, not by what it says, so we create patterns of behaviour for a desired outcome. Our behaviour is guided by our brand platform, through our activation ideas and ultimately the tactics. Since this was a new launch for the brand, in the first year, our Brand Platform was also our Activation Idea.

Brand Platform: Men feel like themselves in their Joes.

Activation Idea: It’s what’s underneath.

Tactic: Make the in-store experience the advertising campaign, right down to the box they pick up in their hand.

What’s underneath? That’s what really matters. Underneath is the real, genuine You. The one that, from time to time, has to have a veneer layered over top just so you can fill the role that is expected of you – so you can ‘play the game.’ But underneath that role-playing layer is the actual You. It’s the heart of who you are. The You that is most comfortable for you to wear. It is the You that you love to let out and shout, “hey world! This is the real me!” That’s why Joe Boxer makes underwear that you are truly comfortable in. It’s underwear you love to wear because it reflects the real You – and that’s something you’re always going to be comfortable with. Joe Boxer is underwear that understands that there is a real you underneath it all, and that You needs to be expressed. Because in the end, it’s what’s underneath that counts.

We sought out models with big personalities – guys who weren’t afraid to show who they are underneath.  We held our shoot in more comfortable and natural environments, places where you feel more like the real You. We let our models do their thing, and tried to capture the essence of who they are. Each package featured a different style, so we wrote unique headlines for each that were confident, comfortable, and self-assured. The look-and-feel established in the packaging was extended to POS and the website to create consistency across all touch points.

See "Joe Boxer Packaging and In-Store.pdf"




Branding extended to website (See "Joe Boxer Website.pdf")





c) Media Discussion

We believe in starting every campaign with a media neutral approach. We considered traditional media options, but knew that reaching our ambitious goals would be a challenge with our tight budget. More importantly, our research told us that almost all men within our focused target make purchase decisions about their underwear in-store. This is where we decided to focus our efforts.

Because of the nature of the product, packaging was our best opportunity to change perceptions of the brand, both of The Bay and consumers. Because all the competitors were doing something very different on their packaging – portraying the perfect man – our “real guy” photographs and contemporary design stood out. We created a meaningful distinction for the brand that real men could aspire to.

Footnote 3: We referenced proprietary research provided by The Bay's buying department.

a) Sales/Share Results

“It’s what’s underneath” saved Joe Boxer.  The Bay decided to keep Joe Boxer on its shelves and dropped a key competitor instead. The new brand allowed us to expand the line, resulting in a 47% sales unit increase in first three months, with a sustained increase of 32% of re-branded product. 

Our new packaging lead to increased full-price sales – sales unit of the Basics line increased by 3%, while sales dollar increased by 8%.

We even accomplished this with a reduced footprint. Reducing from 92 to 79 doors, sales were up 32% with a 14% reduction in presence.



Upgrade the brand with a more premium visual appeal

Because of the re-branding, The Bay decided to keep Joe Boxer and dropped a key competitor instead. This allowed us to introduce a new colours line that increased sales by 47%.


Maintain Joe Boxer’s current footprint and increase sales / sq. foot by 10%

Even with a 14% footprint reduction, sales were up 32%, a 40% increase in dollar sales per sq. foot.


Increase Joe Boxer’s unit sales at The Bay by 25% in the first year post-launch

Unit sales at The Bay have sustained an increase rate of 32% in the first 6 months.


b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

We used untraditional advertising means to surpass business objectives and save Joe Boxer from being de-listed. All internal and external factors remained constant  – spend, price versus competitors, distribution, promotions, and category environment. The only variable was the rebrand applied across packaging, POS, and digital.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Our spending levels were not substantial enough to buy these results. We achieved them with a minimal budget.


There was no unusual price discounting during the BRP. In fact, our new packaging lead to increased full-price sales – sales unit of the Basics line increased by 3%, while sales dollar increased by 8%. 

Distribution Changes:

When we started the campaign, The Bay had already committed to removing Joe Boxer from 92 to 79 stores. We achieved these results despite a decreased footprint.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

There was no unusual promotion activity.

Other Potential Causes:

The product itself did not change. The only difference to the item was the rebrand.