It is essential to build a modern omnichannel brand to survive in today’s multifaceted and extremely complex worldwide fashion marketplace. But of all the business components, it is the brand overshadowing all else.
Brand building must never slow down. It can’t creep along. It buys your way into the big platforms, Amazon and Alibaba. It anchors your own web site and bricks-and-mortar stores. If designed right, it can easily move between all of a company’s different points of sale.
Putting effort into strengthening the brand is just as important as pouring more resources into selling products. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is filled with a lot of marching bands and floats, but what is it without its giant balloons that are constantly being added and updated?
Today, innovation is almost a constant. Someone will figure a way to get things to market faster, produce a product cheaper and create some artificial intelligence to help sell it. Fashion companies are all geared up to watch, quickly study and learn these new ideas and concepts. The advanced manufacturers and retailers have in-house technical capabilities that are able to keep up and sometimes lead. With all this going on, it’s easy to allow the seemingly smallish and tactical marketing ideas to lose the backing they require to keep a brand hot, and stay creative.
Take a look at Tommy Hilfiger, for example, who pays big time attention to coming up with new marketing ideas each season. Although he started his company in 1985, he is still truly a man of his time. His message, both in fashion and culture, is right on target with today’s customers. He is a leader who vigorously promotes diversity in his marketing. “We must continue to be more inclusive,” he said. Tommy uses his unique relationships with the music industry, models and influencers to interact with his younger followers. He is on the leading edge of the influencer market — in fact, he helps create and nourish it. He is a master at surprising his customers with new influencers and collaborators from within and outside the fashion industry. He has a P.T. Barnum-like touch for inserting something unexpected in the presentation of his fashions.
Last fall, he brought his collection to Shanghai, headlined by four-time Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who worked with Hilfiger to design a collaborative collection called Tommy x Lewis. Hamilton is British and certainly out of the main stream of the fashion world. Models Hailey Baldwin and Winnie Harlow, who are Tommy Icons, were also highlighted in the show. Instead of having a runway presentation, the collection was projected on a three-story-high waterfall. Tommy was ecstatic with the results, as was the audience.
He has hit home runs with his other capsules. It started with his four collaborative collections with Gigi Hadid that he showed in New York, Los Angeles, London and Milan. These road shows created lots of press and excitement. He was one of the first designers to successfully use the see-now-buy-now runway concept. Customers in attendance or online can buy the items presented immediately.
He has just signed “Spider-Man” star Zendaya, with 50 million followers, to create a Tommy x Sunday capsule collection he is preparing to take around the world.
The entrepreneurial spirit and drive cannot stop with a couple of successful collections. It must continue for the life of the brand.
A greatly underused opportunity to create brand excitement exists with the major retailers. The big department stores, big-box stores and even specialty chains have traditionally provided the major selling opportunities for fashion. Even in the digital age they are still by far the most significant source of sales. As the traditional retail sales channels evolve, great opportunities for brands to use them in significant new ways exist. While everything in fashion marketing is going at the speed of light, the retailers are still spending big resources to improve their sales, sometimes at the expense of brand building. The retailer is the perfect vehicle to provide vendors with dramatic, unexpected and surprising new ways to market their brand.
New collaborative partnerships between brands and retailers must be developed. The brand must consider the retailer as not just someone who sells their clothes but someone who builds their brand. New business models should be developed that include brands having great opportunities to make big, big splashes while paying fees to the retailer for the chance.
A smart publisher always asked, “Are we getting enough out of our circulation?” Smart retailers should ask: “Are we getting enough out of our customer traffic?”
Going forward it might be the most valuable asset for both brands and retailers.
Michael Coady is a media and marketing industry consultant, and the former ceo of Fairchild Publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.