By  on September 13, 2005

DALLAS — A|X Armani Exchange, the 94-unit licensed retailer that offers Giorgio Armani at lower prices, is trying to reach new customers with a marketing strategy that taps into the core of their lifestyle: music, culture and fashion.

The company is seeking to affirm the brand's focus on the young, urban and hip by sponsoring events at the grassroots level such as music festivals and fashion shows in college towns like Austin, Tex., and a club music festival in Miami.

Harlan Bratcher, president of New York-based A|X Armani Exchange, described the strategy as "acupuncture marketing," which translates into pinpointing the passions and interests of the brand's 18- to 24-year-old target demographic, which includes professionals and trend-minded students.

It's a market that relates to the lower price points and to the style sensibility of the line, which for fall is all about dark colors and tailored, fitted silhouettes in luxury fabrics. Retail prices are $40 for a top to $295 for a leather jacket. Denim is an integral part of the fall collection and retails from $88 to $128. Women generate at least 45 percent of total company business. Giorgio Armani personally approves every item in the collection and has major creative control of every aspect of the company.

A|X Armani Exchange is using the acupuncture strategy in a bid to stay ahead of the competition for the lucrative youth market, including Marciano, Guess, Benetton, Club Monaco, Sisley, Diesel, Baby Phat and JLo.

"It just makes sense to have a focused market outreach that allows us to advertise and target shoppers regionally such as in northern and southern California and different cities in Texas and Florida," Bratcher said in an interview. "We have been very successful in growing our businesses in each city where we have stores by partnering with events or doing in-club events to promote our brand, which inspires business back at the stores. We focus on events and venues that fit the A|X Armani Exchange sensibility."

In March, the company was a sponsor of the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, which includes dance and club music events. Dance and club music is such an integral part of the brand's marketing that the company hires top DJs to spin the latest tunes at its stores during peak shopping times to boost sales and for its in-house produced dance CD compilations that are sold throughout the chain as well as at other music retailers."The dance music CDs give texture to our brand and further play up the synergies between urban music and A|X Armani Exchange, and it helps support the inspiration for our fashions," Bratcher said. "It's all about having a laser-like approach to knowing and targeting our young, urban and sexy customer. It's an approach that I've always subscribed to, but continue to refine, that also includes offering more seasonal advertising campaigns that change more ... than just a few times a year. And the grassroots marketing strategy is directly tied in to our advertising messages and in-store marketing messages that continually change."

The brand's fall advertising campaign is called "Industria" and was photographed by Tom Munro. The images include a dark, gritty and spare loft setting and lots of leather, denim and men's wear-inspired wool, velvet and tweed fashions. The ads first appeared in-store in August and broke in September fashion magazines. They are appearing on outdoor billboards in key regional markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Texas. The store, print and outdoor campaigns complement A|X's direct mail and online marketing outreach.

"We designed our creative and media strategies for the fall 2005 season to reflect the increased pace at which we are doing business," said Tom Jarrold, vice president of marketing and creative at A|X Armani Exchange. "A|X is a fast company with new product offerings monthly, so it's important for us to convey a fresh approach. By using an 'acupuncture' approach to media, we are able to pinpoint a strategic focus that will capture the attention of the A|X customer in a competitive and constantly changing marketplace."

A|X Armani Exchange is owned by Presidio International Inc., Singapore, which pays royalties to Armani Group. The group includes licenses for apparel, accessories, eyewear, watches, jewelry, home and beauty under the brands Giorgio Armani, Armani Collezioni, Emporio Armani, AJ/Armani Jeans, A|X Armani Exchange, Armani Junior and Armani Casa. Armani Group also includes a global retail network under its various brand nameplates.

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