Johanna Murphy’s a year into her job as chief marketing officer of Ivanka Trump and is thinking hard about how to build up a brand that not only exists in today’s world, but leans heavily toward the future.
This story first appeared in the October 8, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
To illustrate the point, she sketched out the tried-and-true path for success for fashion companies and guessed at how brands would break out in the future.
Traditionally, Murphy said, a creative young woman who worked in marketing was prodded by admirers to start her own business. Through friends of friends, she sold a small order to a department store and got a favorable mention in a fashion magazine. The exposure led to strong sales, more orders, a small business loan, a marketing budget, her own stores, a beauty deal, overseas partners and a global brand.
The successful brand would have a Web site, but it would be staffed by two college kids. And while mobile would be a consideration, it would represent just a small percentage of sales and funds would instead be funneled to a resort ad campaign.
“In the future, the story will go something like this,” Murphy said.
A blogger has an idea for a line of tech accessories. She raises money from venture funds or Kickstarter, launches mobile and desktop sites, opens mobile “stores” in trucks that park on city streets and at music festivals and launches pop-up shops in coffee shops.
“She does a small capsule collection for select department stores for marketing purposes,” Murphy said. “Instead of shooting two massive campaigns a year, she shoots weekly and monthly mini campaigns to keep all of her channels fresh. She has a big photography budget just for social. Her marketing team is mainly comprised of data analysts. And she has a lot of them. She has a big creative team. One for each channel and one big enough to create the numerous combinations and permutations she needs for real one-to-one marketing.”
Companies today are stuck somewhere in between her two idealized scenarios.
“We still run our businesses in the traditional way because, one, [comparable] sales,” she said. “We have to repeat what’s been working to make our numbers. This is especially true if you work for a publicly traded company. And money’s still to be had in these traditional ways of doing things and that’s really hard to walk away from.”
Ivanka Trump is also caught in between the two worlds, having already established a sizable business with 10 categories — including jewelry, bags and apparel — sold in several hundred U.S. doors.
But the brand, which is both established and a clean slate of sorts, is being buffed and solidified by Murphy and her colleagues with a very new-world outlook, focusing heavily on a digitally empowered consumer and social media, while embracing active engagement with shoppers.