Fashion aims to be at the cutting edge, but in the days of round-the-clock tweets, Facebook updates, editorial content, multiplatform strategies and image-driven Instagram and Tumblr posts, it’s hard for designers to keep up with the constant change in the social media world. Some are doing it a lot better than others.
This story first appeared in the November 14, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
OVERALL PERFORMANCE: On Oct. 11, Burberry took the coveted top spot in the third annual Digital IQ Index compiled by New York University think tank Luxury Lab, or L2. The index ranks fashion brands according to online competence. One of the first to livestream its runway shows to a global audience a few years ago, Burberry’s success in digital was attributed by L2 to a global site launch this year that received strong e-commerce ratings. In April, the company was also one of the first to launch a mobile-commerce site, and it’s also offered buying off-the-runway of certain items. The brand has more Facebook fans (more than eight million and climbing), YouTube uploaded views and Instagram followers than any of its industry peers. It is second only to Yves Saint Laurent for the most Twitter followers with 564,400. YSL has more than 603,000 followers. The brand is also active on Instagram, where it has almost 100,000 followers. “Digital communication is at the forefront of both the way we engage and connect internally with the company and externally to all the Burberry communities around the world on different creative platforms; be it Art of the Trench, Acoustic, Bespoke or our own social media pages,” Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey says. “It allows for a cohesive and consistent point of view that is dynamic, inspiring and engaging—and as an old (over 155 years old) and young (young teams) company, it is an authentic, exciting and natural way for us to communicate.”
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MULTIPLATFORM VERSATILITY: Shenan Reed, co-founder and chief media officer of Morpheus Media, a Createthe Group company, believes that “transmedia storytelling”—or using the various social media platforms to tell a story in a way that’s fitting for each medium—is paramount to a retailer’s digital strategy, and that Bergdorf Goodman excels at this. For example, it took advantage of Instagram’s growing popularity and used the medium as the basis for a recent social media project. To coincide with the opening of its newly renovated and expanded shoe department, a “Shoes About Town” project was introduced August 26, and users were encouraged to Instagram photos of shoes against cityscapes and other creative backdrops. The images appeared on an interactive map of the city on the store’s 5th/58th blog, and the photos—also hashtagged with #BGShoes—became part of an in-store installation. Currently, the store is active on Twitter, Facebook, its 5th/58th blog on bergdorfgoodman.com, YouTube, Foursquare, Tumblr, Instagram and Hunch.
The human element is key to keeping the voice of the brand consistent throughout the various channels, according to Mallory Andrews, Bergdorf’s senior vice president of sales promotion, marketing and public relations. “Our entire social strategy relies upon a fully integrated team. They ensure that everything we present on our social platforms reflects Bergdorf Goodman in a friendly, appropriate voice,” Andrews says. “People want responses to what they post on our Facebook page, and sometimes they need assistance after the store has closed. Even in the digital world, you want to make a human connection. And it is our priority to maintain that relationship within all of our platforms while tailoring content to each community.”
Among these initiatives were a “Dress Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo for Fashion Week” challenge earlier this year on Polyvore, a community fashion site known for its “sets” and collages created with content aggregated from fashion outlets that span the Internet. In the challenge, users competed to design sets using clothing items curated by Fargo for a chance to win a $2,500 shopping spree and a ticket to Michael Kors’ fall fashion show. According to Polyvore’s September Intelligence Report, the site boasts more than 4.8 billion engagements for the month of September and over 10 million unique visitors.
Bergdorf’s also staged a handbag design contest in partnership with Fendi that took place on Facebook and a competition where users entered for a chance to model in the store’s Faces of 5F fall ad campaign. The winner appeared in Lucky magazine’s October issue and starred in a shoppable video. The contest received 1,500 entries, and BG gained 17,000 new fans on its Facebook page.
Gucci was only one of four brands to garner a “genius” label by L2—and in addition to being one of three brands to surpass five million “likes” on Facebook (along with Dior and Burberry) and growing its Twitter following by over 50 percent in the past year—it recently launched on Tumblr and has the fifth most fans on Instagram. The fashion house is also highly active in foreign social networks, including Weibo and Youku in China, as well as a curated stand-alone blog that recently launched. It also has a Japanese Facebook page and a localized blog on Ameba.
But according to Robert Triefus, worldwide marketing and communications director at Gucci, the brand is looking beyond social media networks and putting more emphasis on marrying editorial content with e-commerce. This summer, it unveiled a shoppable video on gucci.com, and this month, it presented the second edition of its interactive shopping magazine, Gucci Style, for the iPhone and iPad. With more than 750,000 upgrades and almost 300,000 downloads since its launch in August, the app is full of new content and encourages users to shop the current fall collection, discover the world of Gucci and choose from a selection of lifestyle features from travel to food and culture. The brand’s first app launched in October 2009, reaching the one-million-download mark this past March. As of last month, downloads had climbed to nearly 1.5 million.
“These initiatives are all building a new level of direct engagement for the brand. In essence, we are our own media now, allowing us to connect in a much deeper and richer way with our existing and future clients,” Triefus says. “We are literally living in a digital revolution, and if you don’t build the foundations now, you will get left behind, as many luxury brands have been with e-commerce. Ten years ago, no one thought people would buy luxury online. Now, luxury brands are falling over themselves to open e-commerce channels. In a few years, mobile and social commerce may well be the standard way of shopping online.”
Macy’s also executes a multifaceted approach to engage its fans. The response to this spring’s Million Dollar Makeover initiative exceeded the company’s expectations by four times, according to Jennifer Kasper, Macy’s Inc. group vice president of digital media and multicultural marketing. The project was primarily a Facebook activation with components on YouTube, Twitter and broadcast advertising that gave one customer the opportunity to win a whole-life makeover worth $1 million. The retailer thought it would receive about 5,000 entries; instead it got almost 20,000. Macy’s has also used social media to drive traffic in-store. Kasper adds, “When we launched Someday by Justin Bieber this summer, one tweet from Justin had kids sleeping on the street for two nights so that they could buy his fragrance. When Rihanna came to Herald Square this spring, she tweeted an hour before arriving, and 1,000 fans came to see her.”
Dolce & Gabbana—the first to launch a mobile site, to livestream and the first to livestream on a mobile platform—continues to innovate across digital platforms. It revamped its Web site in July, marrying commerce and content, and the brand boasts almost 4 million Facebook and more than 130,000 Twitter fans. The Facebook page mentions its more than 20 social media, Web and mobile-based projects—and its m-commerce app integrates content from all of the above media. Stefano Gabbana, whose personal account has over 150,000 followers—garnered a lot of attention last year for his tweets about, among other things, naked models and his unfamiliarity with Stella McCartney as a designer.
EDITORIAL CONTENT: Net-a-porter, Tory Burch, Kate Spade and Ralph Lauren lead the pack when it comes to editorial content for retailers and brands. Net-a-porter.com has been producing a weekly, online magazine since the company’s inception in 2001 (born from Natalie Massenet’s original vision to create a “shoppable magazine”) and now has an editorial staff of more than 40 writers, stylists and art directors. “It’s just like any other magazine,” contends Net-a-porter’s editorial director Claudia Plant, whose comment perhaps indirectly addresses the increasingly direct commercialization of the magazine industry. With a mission to “advise, entertain and inspire,” she notes that this is the only magazine that actually has bought the stock it features in its editorials, showing its “conviction in the product beyond making pretty pictures.”
Plant says the retailer’s social media strategy is a combination of content planned six months in advance and pertinent news as it arises, such as trends or sightings of celebrities wearing key items. Examples of trend-driven editorial produced by the retailer include “The Superstar Sweater,” a comprehensive guide that came out this month featuring the season’s best sweaters, showing them in a vast array of colors, silhouettes, materials and patterns across dozens of brands. “Smooth Operator” was a story about velvet and how to wear it, which the site calls “FW11’s ultimate indulgence for day,” while a feature called “She’s So Fine” showed customers how to wear supersize diamond rings, chunky bangles and precious stones via compelling imagery.
Kate Spade, which nabbed the number-two spot in Luxury Lab’s Digital IQ Index, unveiled a redesigned Web site last March that added greater editorial content to its previously e-commerce-focused site.
Katespade.com now fuses a 50-50 ratio of shopping and editorial content, says digital marketing manager Cecilia Liu. Previously, editorial occupied just 15 percent. When users arrive at the homepage, they are welcomed with a split screen that gives them the option to “shop” or “play”—the latter directing them to an image-driven insider world of the brand that includes “How She Wore It”—detailing the ways celebrities like Anne Hathaway or Sandra Bullock wore a handbag from the brand—and last month’s “Crazy for Cocoa,” a list of the brand’s “favorite melt-in-your-mouth chocolate treats.” It included Doughnut Plant’s Valrhona chocolate doughnut, Mariebelle hot chocolate and Bisous Ciao dark chocolate macaroons.
Then there’s Tory Burch’s “Tory’s Blog”—the editorial leg of toryburch.com that’s updated daily and run by editor in chief Honor Brodie. “We create daily features with different tastemakers who share their thoughts and recommendations on fashion, art, music, culture, travel and entertaining,” says Brodie. “Spotlight On,” “Tory On,” “Best Dressed,” “Book of the Week” and “Tory Entertains” are among the content rubrics—and recent features have showcased trends like graphic prints, the style of Ann Dexter-Jones, the novel The Marriage Plot and Waris Ahluwalia’s fall wish list. (That list included José Saramago’s The Elephant’s Journey, APC Jeans, Esquivel shoes and a red velvet blazer he wished Tory made in his size). Toryburch.com was sixth in L2’s index. The brand sees little difference between customers who shop in stores and those who shop online (although the social community on Facebook skews slightly younger than the core customer). The company launched e-commerce at the same time that it opened its first boutique.
Ralph Lauren—which ranked seventh in L2’s index and was one of the earliest and most sophisticated adopters on the medium—became the first brand to purchase the advertising inventory of the New York Times iPad app in its entirety in September. Besides registered users that surpass 2.5 million on the newspaper’s app, the partnership gave the brand a platform on which to share editorial content, including a livestream of its spring 2012 runway show and RL Magazine. Readers also gained access to rich media ads. Ralphlauren.com’s Style Guide is full of content showing consumers how to wear the latest trends, such as “Fall’s Top 10: See Which Iconic Items Create a Complete Wardrobe This Season” (the camel coat was number one), while RL Magazine is a lifestyle quarterly that delves beyond the brand’s clothing—it gives enthusiasts interviews and articles on topics ranging from the “wildest golf holes on the planet,” to “Remembering Cary Grant” and even how to create a “stellar wine cellar.”
BLOGGER COLLABORATIONS: As a brand, Coach was one of the first to partner with bloggers to design, style and blog about new product and to have them appear in its ad campaigns. To date, the brand has launched nine blogger-centric programs—the first of which occurred in November and December 2009, when 30 bloggers participated in holiday-themed posts. The Guest Blogger feature in particular, an ongoing monthly installment launched in October 2010, has been one of the most successful, according to David Duplantis, Coach Inc.’s senior vice president of global Web and digital media. Participants have included Meaghan Mahoney Dusil of Purse Blog, Lindsey Calla of Saucy Glossie, Keiko Groves of Keiko Lynn and Christine Cameron of My Style Pill. Recently, the brand enlisted seven bloggers to celebrate the return of the Coach Duffle. Each blogger styled an iconic bag from the brand, infusing their own sense of style, and posted it. Hanneli Mustaparta paired her cognac 1973 Coach Duffle with white Chloë Sevigny for Opening Ceremony shorts, a white sleeveless Zara top and Karen Walker shades. The Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine took her cherry red bag and wore it with a lace Charles Henry blouse, an Isabel Marant miniskirt and a houndstooth Balenciaga vest.
TWITTER AND FACBEOOK: DKNY PR Girl—whose handle on the medium describes her as “your well-placed fashion source bringing you behind-the-scenes scoop from inside Donna Karan New York & DKNY and my life as a PR girl living in NY”—has managed to garner more than 365,000 followers since she started tweeting for the brand in May 2009. “Our followers are the best judges of how DKNY PR Girl has affected the brand. They are the ones who consistently share the joy that they experience from the brands, whether tweeting an image of a new purchase or joining me in obsessing over our cape dress. They communicate, support and inspire the conversation,” says DKNY PR Girl—who on Oct. 22 outed herself as Aliza Licht via an embedded YouTube video on her Tumblr. “People constantly talk about the return on investment on social media and how to define it. For me, it’s brand evangelism.” Her chatty, youthful voice regularly Tweets as she tunes into Gossip Girl every Monday night, and she’s also been known to gripe about certain celebrities and their demands (keeping them anonymous, of course).
Over at Oscar de la Renta, vice president of global communications Erika Bearman has helped propel the fashion house’s Twitter following into one of the best known in the industry. As the person behind the brand’s Twitter personality, Bearman actively started tweeting under the handle @OscarPRGirl in 2009. Followers on the medium have jumped to over 87,000—increasing nearly 600 percent since September 2010, when the brand had just 12,800 followers.
This month, it was also the first luxury brand to launch a Facebook commerce, or F-commerce, initiative contained entirely on the social network. The brand commissioned social commerce solution 8thBridge to create the Facebook shopping experience for the debut of its $65 Esprit d’Oscar solid perfume ring. While not the first high-end fashion company to introduce an F-commerce component, it is the first to offer a complete commerce experience without leaving Facebook. (Bulgari launched F-commerce in May with jewelry that retailed for $12,000 and up, and Chanel did a limited-time, pre-release F-commerce offer for its Rouge Coco Shine for fans in April. Although shopping and putting the product “in cart” occurred on Facebook, checkout was done through each brand’s e-commerce site.)
With respect to pure numbers, it’s Yves Saint Laurent that tops the list for brands with the most followers with more than 603,000 fans. For the former, a combination of a tremendous worldwide following is probably the main driver and reason for such a large fan base on the platform, as the brand doesn’t have a definitive social media “personality” like DKNY or Oscar de la Renta. @YSL also doesn’t tweet at the same frequency as some of its contemporaries, as nearly three weeks lapsed between Twitter updates last month between Oct. 11 and Oct. 31.
There are only three fashion brands on Facebook that have passed the five million “likes” milestone: Burberry, Gucci and Dior, with 9 million, 5.5 million and 5.4 million fans, respectively. According to L2, each brand’s fan base has grown respectively on the medium by about 450, 290 and 1,400 percent from September 2010 to September 2011. For Dior, though, it’s not just a numbers game, as the brand believes engagement is imperative to achieve success in the digital world, Facebook in particular. “Beyond the great number of fans, what matters the most is that they are extremely involved. We hope that this is a sign that we have succeeded in sharing our passion for the House of Dior,” says a house spokesman. “Information has become something that evolves very quickly. It gets picked up on the brand’s official Web site, then it travels to Facebook, it spreads, it appears on all the blogs, it goes to Twitter, Tumblr, Weibo in China or Kaixin. This is why Facebook has naturally become a major communication medium for Dior.”