“We learned very early on that if you can’t tell your story digitally, you might as well not tell it,” said Mary Beech, Kate Spade New York’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, in her presentation on brand storytelling in a digital world.

This story first appeared in the July 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The demographic of the Kate Spade customer has little to do with how the brand’s story is told. Yes, she’s 25 to 44 years old, has an average household income of more than 60,000 pounds, or $102,600 at current exchange, is married and college-educated.

Beech stressed that those stats were by no means authentic, aspirational or useful, particularly when it comes to defining brand voice, which Beech said is essential to telling a brand’s story.

“A brand’s voice begins with your brand promise; it begins with your customer, and not a ‘stats’ customer, but your real customer,” she said, adding that the company “thinks about [our customer] not as a demographic but as an ageless mind-set.”

To wit, Kate Spade has created a series of statements that are used internally to talk about the customer’s mind-set. They include: “She sings off-key, but with great spirit,” and “she has wallpapered the rental apartment.”

Beech said when Kate Spade launched e-commerce, which accounts for more than 20 percent of sales, the brand committed to content and commerce. “But the content wasn’t editorializing our products, it is true content — dance lessons, or recipes, or great tips for when you visit another place. The lifestyle side of Kate Spade was of equal importance to sales,” she said.

She gave as examples digital magazines and a shoppable video of how the brand is combining commerce with content on its site. Beech said the “Days of” travel content campaign, where the brand highlights a new city each month, is driving “huge” repeat traffic on the site.

Illustrating the value of brand storytelling, Beech said the opening of Kate Spade’s first London store was a “missed opportunity.” The unit opened in London with brick- and-mortar only, and with “everything from scented candles to jewelry, to ready-to-wear to handbags but no story, no place to go to understand how this lifestyle brand came to life.”

The company quickly added a worldofkatespade.com site that had no e-commerce element, but rather offered customers information about the brand. E-commerce in the U.K. is set to launch before the end of the year, and Beech said as the brand enters new markets, it would lead with digital storytelling, over and above physical locations.

Beech said social media is “one of the greatest venues for digital storytelling because you’re able to talk to your customer every day, every hour, even every minute.” In the last year, Pinterest delivered a 264 percent increase in traffic and a 100 percent increase in sales to be the second social sales driver after Facebook.

The brand launched a Pinterest product board a few weeks ago, and it already has more than 180,000 followers, but the overall mix is 20 percent commerce pins versus 80 percent pure inspiration.

Camp Kate Spade, a themed pop-up hotel the brand set up in the Hamptons this summer — fashion editors and bloggers were invited to spend the weekend — was listed as a physical concept that worked well socially. Over one weekend, the brand received 8.3 million impressions across its social networks as a result.

The physical-social interface was also successful on a store retail level, she said. Individual stores were assessed to determine which “voice elements might fit best.” Things like quotes on handbag walls, or “like?” printed inside a cartoonish bubble on a pull-down screen in changing rooms to allow selfie-prone shoppers to ask their friends for their opinions.

“We believe technology is going to drive the future of shopping, so we’re about a pure digital client,” said Beech. She was referring in part to the shoppable storefronts in New York that Kate Spade Saturday set up to target the Millennial consumer, who could have her purchases delivered to her home within an hour. The concept will be extended to Kate Spade New York this year.

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