Whether signaling a shift in brand positioning or heralding a new design project, premium denim brands are pursuing new advertising strategies this fall to differentiate themselves from competitors at a time when many of them are benefiting from an industrywide recovery. At the same moment, the companies are adapting to a rapidly shifting and fragmenting landscape in the advertising industry, which is driven by incessant demand from consumers for around-the-clock content, especially on social media.
“Content, content, content — everyone is talking about content,” said Peter Kim, chief executive officer of Hudson Jeans, who sounds simultaneously stoked and perplexed by the challenge to communicate what he aims to be a “wholly new and impactful” marketing message. To that end, the Commerce, Calif.-based company has reunited with marketer David Lipman after working together between 2009 and 2012 on a series of Mario Sorrenti-lensed campaigns featuring Georgia May Jagger.
Not all content is worth sharing. “First and foremost, it’s about creating meaningful content that people want to hear about it,” Kim said. “It’s got to be real.”
Authenticity isn’t the only noticeable change in advertising. With all the marketing channels in print, digital and social media, one executive estimates that it costs 10 to 20 percent more to realize their vision. The days of a famous face lensed by an esteemed — and expensive — photographer for a seasonal print-centric campaign are a distant memory. The new order calls for social media savvy, a long-term investment and a constant stream of photos and videos that, in the quest for authenticity and quantity, don’t exactly have to be polished.
“If you have $100,000, you can spend it on one photographer,” explained Andy Griffiths, vice president of marketing at Seven For All Mankind. “Or would you rather spend it on having more and more content?”
Los Angeles-based Seven For All Mankind is dispersing that content on a new 12-month schedule supported by a revised photo budget that lets it shoot images for social media every two weeks, rather than six months. It launched a campaign with model Sam Webb in January for Foolproof, a men’s line that it claimed wouldn’t shrink regardless of daily wash and wear. This month, it plans to follow a similar path with Bair Denim, a women’s line of stretchy and form-fitting jeans cut from technologically advanced fabric.
“When you have something new to talk about, you have to stay with the consumer longer,” Griffiths said. “We as a business and brand move really quick. We move faster than our consumers.” Besides, the yearlong schedule is better aligned to consumers’ shopping habits. “We know the customer buys year-round,” he said.
On the other hand, the mind-set that a company needs to be all-in to play in the advertising game excludes small brands. “If you don’t advertise every month, people don’t pay attention,” said Alain Lafourcade, chief operating officer of Siwy Denim in L.A.
For brands that can afford it, a celebrity can put them on the map. Last year, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley emerged as muse, collaborator and the face of Paige Denim, which is steadily expanding its nationwide grid of freestanding stores. Her fourth seasonal installment for the Culver City, Calif.-based brand premieres this August.
DL1961 is banking on not only Jessica Alba’s fame but also her fashion sensibility. In addition to posing for this year’s spring and fall ads, the actress also drew up a jumpsuit with ankle zips, drop-crotch twill pants and 16 other styles for a design collaboration. “She was designing it with all her friends in mind: What’s going to look good on Nicole Richie and Taylor Swift?” said Sandia Sivilli, DL1961’s director of sales. Since launching eight years ago as an offshoot of Pakistan’s Artistic Denim Mills, the New York-based brand has relied on word-of-mouth to grow. Now, with Alba on board, “it was just time to invest in a larger-scale marketing initiative and reach a customer who hasn’t tried us before,” Sivilli said.
Bella Hadid is shepherding Joe’s Jeans back into the advertising industry after a five-year absence. Now owned by Global Brands Group, the Commerce, Calif., company staged its biggest shoot ever with photographer and videographer Anthony Mandler as part of a 100-person crew setting up photos and video for the spring campaign that it promoted worldwide in the U.S., France, England, Germany and Japan. Its last major campaign revolved around “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta, photographed by Tao Ruspoli.
With 5.2 million followers on Instagram, Hadid’s social media reputation precedes her. “She’s new to the market but she’s also well-known,” said Joe Dahan, the brand’s namesake founder and creative director. The 19-year-old’s male counterpart in the campaign, Matthew Noszka, is no slouch on social media either, with 419,000 Instagram followers. Committed as the faces of Joe’s through the end of the year, the duo was first seen in digital and outdoor ads this spring, and they’re returning in print ads and placards on taxis and kiosks this fall.
The company said its retail partners are giddy about getting their hands on these assets. “They’re 5,000 miles away and don’t have Joe in their office,” said Suzy Biszantz, president and ceo of Joe’s Jeans. “Bella’s reach is so important.”
The same can be said of Alexa Chung, the British It Girl with more than 3.8 million followers on Instagram and Twitter, who has signed on for a one-year gig as AG’s new face. Ending Daria Werbowy’s two-year-long run with the South Gate, Calif., brand, Chung is staging a homecoming of sorts. Last year, she designed two collections with AG, and the retro-inspired items she modeled in the print ads supporting the collaboration sold out immediately. In her new role starting with this fall’s promotions photographed by Theo Wenner in Brooklyn, N.Y., Chung represents a shift in AG’s efforts to target more people like her — tastemakers.
“Our focus right now is to grow that brand awareness but for a more fashion-forward customer,” said Johnathan Crocker, vice president of global communications, who oversees AG’s marketing and branded partnerships. “She very well embodied the brand and where we want to go.”
Mavi Jeans turned to Hosk to symbolize its expansion from Europe to the U.S. Best known for ascending in the modeling industry as a Victoria’s Secret angel, following a brief career playing professional basketball in her native Sweden, Hosk is fronting the campaign for Indigo Move, Mavi’s ath-leisure line that is designed by Adriano Goldschmied and launching for fall. North America accounts for roughly 20 percent of Mavi’s total business, and the company expects the market to outpace Europe over the next five years. The company’s sales are projected to grow more than 9 percent to $465 million this year from $425 million last year. Currently signed for one season, Hosk is bound to promote the jeans that retail from $98 to $148 on fashion web sites as well as the August and September issues of style magazines.
“Sport is not for fitness,” said Mavi president Ersin Akarlilar. “It’s a lifestyle. It’s a way of living. It’s also combined with the product and the performance levels as well. We just thought it would be a great fit. And she’s pretty. That helps as well.”
Not all brands chase pretty young things, nor do they single out one person.
“I don’t believe a face can represent a brand anymore,” David Lipman said. While careful not to leak the stratagem his New York firm, Creative Brand Craftsmanship, has devised for Hudson, he won’t follow the industry trend of employing influencers. Hudson will stick with the policy it adopted two years ago of avoiding Photoshop as a tool to perpetuate overly idealized images. “This is a world made of a lot of different people,” he said.
Sticking with its track record of never advertising, Citizens of Humanity is instead putting the spotlight on septuagenarian photographer David Bailey, among two dozen cultural figures, in the next issue of its semiannual magazine, titled Humanity, which is edited by Jared Freedman, its brand and marketing director. The Huntington Park, Calif.-based company began publishing the coffee book-sized magazine in 2012, once it extracted its women’s business from the trade show circuit. The 5,000 free copies from each January and June issue are distributed worldwide to fashion and art destinations such as Colette, Bookmarc, Ace Hotel and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, whose director, Michael Govan, also appears in the new issue. Wrapped up with Citizens’ sales package, the magazine has opened doors for Citizens and its sister brand, A Gold E, into new retail accounts like Moda Operandi and The Webster.
As Citizens ceo Amy Williams noted, compared to an ad campaign, “frankly it has more lasting impact.”