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When Justin Cooke joined Topshop as chief marketing officer nine months ago, the brand’s most viewed video on YouTube — a two-year-old short featuring Kate Moss — received less than 100,000 views. On Sept. 16 of last year, the first video initiative spearheaded by Cooke, a partnership with Facebook for the spring 2013 runway show, garnered over 2 million views.
In January, a Chinese New Year video — exactly 58 seconds long because eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture — had more than 10 million views on Chinese micro blogging site Sina Weibo.
“I wanted it to land on that time. I really think about every detail. It’s about understanding the consumer, and different moments, times and seconds in our lives. Everything online is a fleeting moment, so you have to make the feeling stay with them for longer. You have to capture them,” Cooke said of the impetus behind the nearly 450-door retailer’s innovative digital strategy, where video has begun to play a bigger role than ever. “Video is really platform specific, like 30 seconds is good for mobile, and if you’re on Facebook, no one really watches for more than 27 seconds. We tailor all of our programming of content around these learnings.”
He detailed a string of recent successful digital initiatives for the brand, leading with Topshop’s digital Christmas campaign that included a video featuring Kate Bosworth singing “Winter Wonderland,” directed by her boyfriend, Michael Polish. In the days leading up to the reveal, the brand teased the short on Twitter with the hashtag #whosthatgirl to spark the conversation and get consumers talking, and by the time it came out, #whosthatgirl was trending, as was #KateBosworth. The teasers received 500,000 views over the course of five days and the film got more than 2 million views, with 1 million on YouTube in the first three days.
Cooke had his team add a personal touch to this campaign, an idea spurred from an article he read about linguist Michel Thomas several years ago stating that on any given day, 500 words were used in The New York Times, and if you knew 250 of them you could understand everything in the paper. He called his team and inquired about how many people were on the retailer’s e-mail list (7 million), and from there found out that this list only comprised 1,000 first names. A list was compiled containing the top 200 names, and Kate Bosworth was taped saying each one. Depending on the consumer’s name, the videos were edited and personalized, and everyone named Lauren got a “Hi, Lauren” message from Bosworth before the video started.
But the 32-year-old, who spent six years at Burberry as head and then vice president of public relations, said he doesn’t look to peers in the fashion industry for direction in the space. Instead, his inspiration stems from the work of leaders in retail and technology like Google, Apple and Nike. He also looks to the BBC and TV and entertainment overall because, to him, these entities understand the way people want to move between platforms.
“In a year or so, people will walk into stores and you’ll be able to communicate with them on their mobile. We want to be at the front of that curve. You have to be progressive and moving, and all I’m doing is making the marketing live up to that,” Cooke said of creating a “perfect trifecta” of product, service and experience. “It’s social entertainment and there’s an opportunity to innovate within this innovation.”
For its fall Unique show campaign in February, Topshop partnered with Google+, and the runway show was live-streamed on a series of platforms — topshop.com, Google+, Twitter and in the Oxford Circus flagship in London, as well as embedded on numerous blogs and other Web sites. Views of the show and related content on YouTube and topshop.com topped 4 million.
“When you walk into the Oxford Circus store, it’s one of the greatest retail experiences in the world,” Cooke said. “Sir Philip Green’s dream is a girl can come do everything there — shop, as well as get your hair and nails done — and then go out. I want to break down those components and think about what they are. With a smaller store, it’s hard to replicate those things, but online you can take the music, the excitement and the energy, and use animation and video.
“It’s not just about selling. It’s a combination of talking to the customer and seeing what we can do to develop the awareness of the brand. We want to be first to market with the ideas, hence what we did with London Fashion Week,” Green, Topshop’s chief executive officer, told WWD. “We’re talking to millions of people, and the more people you talk to, hopefully you make a connection in some way or another.”