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NEW YORK — In an effort to extend their reach beyond North America, Cotton Council International and Cotton Inc. plan to kick off a consumer advertising campaign in India next month.
The program is not so much an effort to stimulate demand for U.S.-grown cotton, as it is an experiment to see whether, in a global market, boosting demand in one country can help suppliers elsewhere.
“One of the biggest problems that we face is that we have very strong consumer demand in the U.S., but when you get outside the U.S., it’s less so,” said J. Berrye Worsham, president and chief executive of Cotton Inc.
Since last fall, the cotton-promotion organizations have been working with Indian apparel and textile manufacturers and retailers in an effort to sign them up to use the cotton seal on their products. The idea is to get Indian manufacturers to try to sell domestically products that they’re already manufacturing for export markets, such as the U.S.
The program, called the Cotton Gold Alliance, has signed up about 40 Indian companies. The three-year pilot venture has received $2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
CCI hired J. Walter Thompson’s Bombay office to create the ad campaign, which bears the tag line “The New Face of Cotton.”
Ric Hendee, vice president of marketing, explained that the campaign’s goal is to convince Indian consumers that cotton fabrics are modern and easy to use, overcoming the perception that cotton is a home-spun fabric and that synthetic fibers are the choice of a modern consumer.
“We have to change this sense that cotton’s hard to care for or scratchy,” he said.
It’s a similar challenge to what Cotton faced when it started its promotion efforts in Mexico — or even in the U.S. market when the organization was founded in 1972.
The ads themselves feature cotton clothes on models whose faces have been airbrushed out of the photo. The models’ faces are replaced with masks, which Hendee said would appeal to Indian consumers according to market research.
The ads, which are in English, are to appear in 30 Indian newspapers and 25 magazines.
Cotton’s previous foreign ad campaigns have been limited to Mexico, Canada and a minor presence in Latin America that is aimed more at industry executives than consumers. Worsham said the goal of the program is to encourage Indian manufacturers to fund the promotion effort, making it self-sustaining and allowing the promotions organization to conduct similar development programs in other countries.