BERLIN — The second edition of Bread & Butter as a consumer-oriented event under German e-commerce platform Zalando explored direct communication opportunities with new digital technologies and exclusive on-site specials.
The lifestyle proposal included a newly introduced beauty parlor, more than 50 fashion brands with 400 event-exclusive products, and an active area where sportswear brands offered live workout sessions.
This year’s event saw nine runway shows, including Viktor & Rolf, Jil Sander Navy and The Kooples, a Vivienne Westwood exhibition, and panels with the likes of Adwoa Aboah, Virgil Abloh, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Viktor Horsting. (Horsting’s business partner Rolf Snoeren was “in the desert on drugs somewhere in the U.S.” at Burning Man, he joked.)
The most important aspect of the event was the experimental outlook as a “future lab for marketing,” as Carsten Hendrich, Zalando’s vice president of brand marketing, described it.
“There’s a reorientation happening across industries. Communication is much less controllable than it used to be. Social media made it much more difficult for brands to reach consumers and deliver messages, so they have to become more agile and innovative in the way they communicate. Brand and performance marketing are increasingly growing together and we have to be open to see which channels can eventually be commercialized and where the transactions are made at the end of the day,” Hendrich added.
The second time around, Zalando further pushed the interconnectivity of the event with the debut of RFID technology, already in widespread use for events like Coachella, as a shopping tool. Visitors received an RFID-wristband that allowed them to book events at the festival, stream live content from 350 RFID spots throughout the Bread & Butter area, and shop digitally on-site by adding products to their wish list or cart via RFID contacts and get them delivered home after the event.
Furthermore, the digital outreach quadrupled compared to last year: Through the newly introduced Facebook augmented reality filter, live-streams and other social media channels, the event reached 26.5 million users throughout the three event days, the company reported.
On-site, many of the exhibitors opted for interactive setups: Wrangler, part of VF Group that was present with another four brands, installed a roller skating arena, while Tommy Hilfiger staged dance performances by Les Twins and Levi’s offered customizing activities.
“We do a lot of events all over the world, and the digital footprint of live events is noticeable. We were present at the first Bread & Butter by Zalando last year, we are very satisfied how the event developed this year and we will come back for the next edition,” said a spokeswoman at the Levi’s booth.
“It’s a great opportunity to talk to consumers about what they like and what they don’t like about our brand. The show is on a good path and Zalando is very open to try out new things,” said a spokesperson for Nike, which launched an exclusive shoe for the event and staged workout sessions.
Selected, part of Danish clothing company Bestseller, was equally satisfied: “It’s a good way to present our brand. We did a runway show and a booth and we had a lot of end consumers. We also launched 20 exclusive styles for the event and we made good sales through the new sales system, with some of the exclusives almost sold out after the second day,” reported sales manager Tina Drohse.
While some of the largely young crowd of visitors came only for the music acts, the majority of the audience viewed Bread & Butter positively.
Sisters Theresia, 25, and Lutricia, 19, from Berlin said: “The show itself is rather mediocre. There’s a lot to see, but we feel a little disoriented and expected a little more interaction. The customizing options were nice, but we didn’t come to buy anything but because we wanted to see M.I.A.”
Another group of girls who came on a class excursion of an Austrian secondary school for fashion was more excited: “It’s very impressive. The crowd is really cool and we like the brands. We also saw a lot of people we know from Instagram,” said Lea, 16.
“We were here last year and we liked it, so we came back. This year was much better organized; there was just the right amount of people and the vibe was good. The Vivienne Westwood exhibition was amazing. We would have liked to get more insights into production processes, though,” said Lars, 49, who was visiting with friends.
Sidney, 20, and Julian, 22, also visited the event for the second time: “We got tickets for two days this year. There are interactive activities and limited editions launched just for the event. And it’s really great that we get to see fashion shows.”
While Zalando did not disclose any numbers, the company claimed that last year’s debut created noticeable traffic online and attracted new customers, an effect potentially boosted by this year’s offer to use the 20-euro-entrance ticket as a voucher for online purchases following the event.
Bread & Butter was Zalando’s first big venture into the off-line business that is to be expanded with brick-and-mortar stores in major cities, as the company revealed earlier this year. In a twist, the event also serves as a platform to enhance brand partnerships and boost exclusive collaborations – 80 percent of last year’s exhibitors returned this year.
“Bread & Butter is an experimental stage where brands can explore how to interact with consumers. Nowadays, everybody knows about the importance of direct marketing, but only very few know how to actually do it,” said Kai Zollhöfer, Zalando’s assortment lead who oversees brand relations for the event. “Brands need a ‘Sneaker Drop Moment’ in order to create a buzz” — a moment that a comprehensive platform like Bread & Butter can provide.