Hot Topic

Assignment: Refresh a fading retail brand

Getting people in the door

When it comes to branded communication, we know that our target is skeptical. They don’t want to be targeted or spoken for. So, we’re going underground and anonymous to engage them directly and build intrigue.


Our campaign begins with the underground distribution of an anonymous Zine – the first volume of a series called “Future-Proof.” It will be hidden in existing Hot Topic mall stores, coffee shops, cafés and other fun places. The zine’s voice will be cryptic, yet opinionated – sharing young people’s stories and ideas in typical zine fashion. It will be the materialization of Hot Topic’s new voice, but it will be anonymous. The only call to action will be to follow @lolz_and_causes on Instagram.


Finsta-inspired social

Our target creates secret, secondary instagram accounts called ‘finstas’ (fake Insta) to express their unfiltered and ever-changing identities. Hot Topic can’t speak to this target from the brand’s existing social channels without coming off as too commercialized. Our campaign’s Instagram handle, @lolz_and_causes will play off the finsta model to express Hot Topic’s reborn voice, creating mystery and intrigue.

The reveal: people still won’t know this is Hot Topic talking, and that’s the point. As HT Rockville is about to open, @lolz_and_causes will reveal a date and an address. By partnering with local artists to also tap their audiences, we can communicate this message authentically and get people in the door.


Out-of-home campaign extensions

“We’re young, not dumb”

Once HT Rockville is up and running, this is how we envision an actionable, non-traditional campaign taking shape. Rockville is a politically-charged region simply because of its proximity to DC. So, ahead of election day, HT Rockville will place provocative questions on prominent buildings around the city. These rhetorical questions invite people to kick back, collaborate and question at HT Rockville.


“I basically voted”

As a more actionable extension of this campaign, HT Rockville will publicize ways for individuals to get involved in political activism, even if they aren’t quite voting age. When young people contact their representatives or volunteer at campaign offices and organizations that provide transportation to the polls, they will receive one of these buttons. This demonstrates that anyone with an opinion and a willingness to act on that opinion is fearless. By acting with conviction, these teens are still able to make their voices heard and influence their community.



Go team

Robert Clark, creative brand manager
Sarah Matheson Harris, strategist
Catie Frech, strategist
Joelle Halle, experience designer
Ainsworth Kerr, copywriter
Molly McCarvill, art director

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