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Though some might feel that shopping at Neiman Marcus is a reward in itself, the company does go the extra mile to entice, educate and reward customers with a number of marketing vehicles.
This story first appeared in the October 15, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
These include the award-winning advertising campaign called The Art of Fashion, a sleek monthly fashion and lifestyle magazine called The Book and a frequent shopper reward program, InCircle, and its accompanying magazine, named Entrée.
With deep pockets and discerning tastes, Neiman’s target shoppers have average household incomes of at least $250,000 per year and are between 45 and 50 years old, though younger and older consumers – even teens to those in their 60s — are an important part of the business.
“We’re definitely talking to the upper end of the marketplace,’’ said Steve Kornajcik, senior vice president of marketing and advertising at Neiman’s. “They are affluent and sophisticated consumers who appreciate quality. They understand why a blouse costs $500 instead of $100 and know the finer points of fashion, such as luxury fabrics and construction.’’
Neiman’s reportedly spends at least $50 million per year on marketing and advertising, according to industry insiders. The chain does almost no broadcast marketing and little newspaper advertising outside of weekly ads in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, along with regional newspaper ads detailing in-store events such as designer personal appearances or trunk shows.
Neiman’s was the first retailer outside New York to advertise in national fashion magazines with an ad in Vogue in 1936, which was placed at the behest of Stanley Marcus.
“Everything we do in marketing is about the relationships we have with our customers,” said Kornajcik. “From the very beginning, the founders of Neiman Marcus knew the value of maintaining relationships. That has never changed. We do lots of research getting to know our present customers and defining potential customers, including demographic and psychographic studies and how we can market to them.
“We look at patterns of wealth, spending habits and home values, among other demographics. But there are also places in the U.S. where there’s plenty of wealth but no desire for upscale designer products. With psychographics we’re studying consumer purchasing behavior, how it aligns with our marketing strategies and who we target with our marketing vehicles.’’
Neiman’s narrow but upscale advertising tactics are reflected in The Art of Fashion, a twice-yearly campaign running this year in W (the sister publication of WWD) and Vogue magazines. The campaign launched in 1994 and has since won several art direction and advertising awards.
The campaign, which averages about 32 pages in length, is an artistic and subjective presentation of Neiman’s top seasonal designer offerings through the eyes of an of-the-moment photographer, artist or illustrator. Past campaigns have been shot by Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Geof Kern, who in 1995 cast stoic models to do mundane domestic duties in some unexpected places, such as vacuuming the front lawn of a stately mansion. The 2002 campaign was shot by Miles Aldridge and features women posing as The Bohemian, The Explorer, and The Social Climber, dressed up in looks from Céline, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Oscar de la Renta, among many others.
“The Art of Fashion is probably our strongest statement as far as presenting the lineup of important designers that we carry in our stores,’’ said Kornajcik.
“What’s also important about the campaign is that it becomes a section. It’s not just a single page of advertising. Our goal is to break through the rest of the advertising that is in other publications.’’
Neiman’s most popular marketing vehicle is The Book, a monthly fashion and lifestyle magazine with a circulation of between 600,000 to 750,000 per issue. It is mailed, free of charge, to a cross-section of Neiman’s shoppers, depending on buying patterns, along with InCircle members and potential new customers.
The Book, which premiered in 1996, averages between 180 and 200 pages per issue, and features trendy seasonal fashions, accessories, home furnishings and beauty products from Neiman’s vendors.
There are also lifestyle features, including a big focus on travel, highlights of sales at New York auction houses, and a compendium of Neiman’s in-store events.
“What’s featured in The Book is what our merchants want to sell at that time. It’s seasonal and driven by our buyers,’’ said Ann Richardson, vice president of creative advertising services at Neiman’s. “All our top customers get each copy of The Book. Beyond that, it’s based on what subject matter is covered in a particular issue. We track our customers’ transaction histories, so if we know that a customer shops for furs, then we’ll send the issue of The Book that focuses on furs. It would be the same with shoes, men’s apparel, etc.’’
A staff of 18 at Neiman’s helps create The Book, which is circulated in the U.S. and is not reproduced in any foreign language editions.
The October issue, at 192 pages, features a brightly festive abstract oil painting on the cover by James Rosenquist. Using bold sweeps and splashes of colors such as red, blue, yellow, gold and silver, the painting was conceived as a tribute to the state of Florida, where Neiman’s has two new stores.
Also included in the October issue: a roundup of top fall fashions for women and men, features on St. John Knits and Italian accessories and beauty vendor Bulgari and a fashion spread on men’s suits, modeled by actor Ben Kingsley. Fall coats are among the fashion offerings in The Book’s October issue, including Marc by Marc Jacobs’ navy wool pinstriped pea coat for $398, Max Mara’s brown napa bomber with browned dyed shearing collar for $920 and Feraud-Paris’s antique ivory, black and brown sheared beaver animal print coat for $4,995, a Neiman’s exclusive.
When it comes to styling The Book, Neiman’s spares little expense and uses top photographers such as Peggy Sirota, David Seidner, Liz Von Hoene and Amadeo Volpe and models such as Jacquetta Wheeler, Jodie Kidd, Bridget Hall, Helena Christensen and Alek Wek. Vendors are reportedly being charged $25,000 per full page to be featured in the December issue of The Book.
At 10 by 12 inches, The Book is slightly oversized and uses thick, high-quality paper. Many issues feature artistic riffs on butterflies, a long-time Neiman’s logo.
“The Book certainly breaks through the clutter. It focuses on who we are and the buying preferences of our customers,’’ said Kornajcik, referring to the lack of strong brand identity and unclear fashion presentation in some retailers’ advertising campaigns.
InCircle, Neiman’s consumer reward program that bowed in 1984, awards one point for each dollar charged on a Neiman Marcus credit card. It is the chain’s toniest and most exclusive marketing outreach and is geared to its top tier of customers. There are about 150,000 InCircle members, each of whom has spent at least $3,000 in a calendar year.
Shoppers can redeem points for myriad of products, from a round of golf at a Florida resort for 5,000 points, to exotic getaways to places such as the Galapagos Islands or Buenos Aires. For 5 million points, which means that at least $5 million in merchandise has been charged during one year, one can redeem a European vacation for 15 people via a privately chartered Boeing jet.
Entrée, a lifestyle magazine for Neiman’s customers with a circulation of 150,000, was introduced in 1998 and is published quarterly. It is produced in conjunction with Southern Progress, a division of Time Inc., which publishes Southern Accents and Southern Living magazines. Unlike The Book, Entrée accepts outside advertising. Recent advertisers, many of whom are Neiman’s vendors, include Yves Saint Laurent’s beauty division, Estée Lauder, Lancôme and Hermès, along with upscale hotel, travel and leisure businesses.
Each issue of Entrée averages about 150 pages and includes features on art, fashion, beauty and entertainment. The summer issue spotlighted the best of New Orleans, a tribute to the late Stanley Marcus, gardening tips and a profile of Hermès, among other features.
Marketing and media analysts praised Neiman Marcus for sophisticated and powerful branding tactics that never let consumers forget that Neiman’s is synonymous with luxury, fantasy and designer fashions.
“More than any other retailer, Neiman Marcus has really created a significant brand identity for itself with its marketing and advertising campaigns,’’ said Jill Glover of Jill Glover Associates, a New York advertising and marketing agency. “Neiman’s marketing and advertising has really maintained its uniqueness in a very tough economic climate, and the chain stays true to its unique beginnings and identity.
“The Neiman’s brand stands for the essence of Texas charm, tongue-in-cheek humor, elegance, worldliness and good taste in art and fashion. In a very sophisticated way, Neiman’s never lets consumers forget its heritage and continues to establish itself as a destination for the best. This separates them from anybody else.’’
“Neiman’s ad campaigns, in particular The Art of Fashion, are well executed and somewhat forward,’’ said Richard Kirshenbaum, a principal at New York advertising and consulting agency Kirshenbaum, Bond and Partners.
He did feel, however, that the dark mood of the current Art of Fashion campaign, while in keeping with the uncertain political and economic times, might not be in Neiman’s best interest. “The darker mood and tone, and the somewhat severe hair and makeup [on models] – although once again well done — give me pause, given what has been a turbulent and negative year.’’
Kirshenbaum universally praised The Book, however, and called it a wonderful tool for connecting with Neiman’s core shoppers. “I think The Book helps Neiman’s live up to their stellar reputation as a retailer.’’
“From the very beginning the Marcus family knew the value of maintaining relationships with its customers,’’ concluded Kornajcik. “That’s what we continue to do at Neiman Marcus, including with our advertising and marketing. Everything we do in marketing and advertising is about maintaining those relationships. It’s an evolutionary process that we’re constantly fine-tuning.’’