Cloudraker gets sneaker freaks purring about Onitsuka Tiger

Web influencers lead the way in seeding word-of-mouth marketing to a hyper-niche crowd.

Cool kids and sneaker heads can be a tough crowd to crack, so when Japanese sneaker brand Onitsuka Tiger approached Montreal-based creative agency Cloudraker to promote a limited edition of its magazine Made in Japan, the agency knew using traditional advertising and media wouldn’t cut it.

Instead, the agency launched a web-based word-of-mouth campaign with the goal of targeting a small, exclusive group of sneaker fans in NYC. To gain the credibility needed to reach this audience, Cloudraker reached out to influential design and fashion website, to feature content about Made in Japan on the site and to co-host a launch event.

The buzz-building strategy worked, thanks largely to the influence and respect Limited Hype garners with that particular crowd, Christina Brown, VP  creative at Cloudraker, tells MiC. The seeded content about the mag and the launch party soon spread across the web, garnering 150 mentions on social media sites and on cult design blogs such as and Of key value to the campaign was Limited Hype’s ability to secure the exclusive Reed Space boutique as the site of the launch party, says Brown, a feat that may not have been possible without the site’s cred-building involvement.

‘In this case, the content we had to promote was hyper-targeted at a very exclusive influencer set,’ she explains. ‘We couldn’t promote through regular channels or we would have run the risk of denigrating [Made in Japan's] gorgeous, rich content by making it feel like an ad initiative. The word of mouth was launched by credible bloggers in the world of sneaker freakers by Limited Hype. They knew how to speak the language of our core target because, well, they are members of our core target.’

As conscious of having credibility as Cloudraker was, the campaign probably would not have worked had Onitsuka Tiger been less subtle in branding Made in Japan as an advertising vehicle for shoes, notes Brown.

‘Had the magazine not been as relevant and restrained in its content, it would never have been picked up by tastemakers the way it was,’ she explains. ‘It was also a great example of how brands need to hand their story over to loyalists and not try to control and manipulate the message. The accolades and endorsement need to come from consumers to generate real value online.’