CREATING MARKET BUZZ

Byline: Alison Maxwell

WASHINGTON — These days, accessorizing an outfit ranks right up there with finding the perfect dress or jeans that fit just right.
From a simple pair of silver earrings to a pashmina shawl or a pony hair bag, accessories have become the key to making a complete, and personal, fashion statement. And accessories firms find that a strong marketing staff and plan are the key to winning customers and raking in sales.
“Marketing is becoming increasingly important in this day and age, for several reasons,” said Barbra Musial, vice president of sales and marketing at the hat firm Eric Javits Inc. “The customer, the industry, the method of doing business are all changing, and the competition is intense.”
“As accessories become more and more important as a critical part of one’s fashion look, marketing is very important,” said Al Shapiro, vice president of corporate marketing at Liz Claiborne Inc. “Marketing may have been defined differently before, but it has evolved as brands have become more significant.”
“Firms are putting more into marketing,” agreed Ephraim Grinberg, president of the Movado Group. “It’s a reinvigorated and renewed effort. We’ve taken a more aggressive approach to marketing our brands as we continue to grow our business.”
Although accessories firms often tackle the issue differently, they are learning. no matter what their size, that the marketing push is on.
The marketing department at Movado is not new, but it has grown to about 40 people over the years. The company, which makes Movado, Concord, ESQ and Coach watches, soon will introduce a Tommy Hilfiger line and plans to expand the department as it continues its growth spurt, Grinberg said.
“We’re in an image business, so the strength of each of our brand names is built on the image,” he said. “And it’s the marketing that gives the products the image.”
Movado’s marketing group consists of a global department and brand-specific departments. Each department devises advertising strategies, conducts research, develops visual displays and deals with public relations every day. “They create the demand for our products, and that’s instrumental to our success,” Grinberg said.
Most recently, Movado’s marketing departments worked with outside advertising agencies to create the new print ad campaigns “Be Late” and “How Do You Unwind?” for the Concord and ESQ brands, respectively.
At Eric Javits, the marketing departments consist of Javits and Musial, and that suits them just fine.
“I would not want to have a staff of marketing people,” Musial said. “To be perfectly frank, I don’t need or want lots of people that can talk about what needs to be done. I would prefer having people that have the expertise and talent to execute what needs to be done.”
Javits and Musial work in “total synergy,” she said. “Without a doubt that’s how Eric’s products sell — through our marketing efforts.”
At Liz Claiborne, the corporate marketing department works with the two-person accessories marketing team to create a Liz Claiborne brand “with a certain attitude,” Shapiro said. As Claiborne’s accessories business expands, so will the marketing staff. “They are in the process of looking at restructuring in that area and expanding as the business expands,” Shapiro said.
Until then, the corporate marketing department collaborates with the accessories marketing team on advertising, in-store presentation and merchandising, fixtures, public relations, corporate relations and consumer relations.
“Marketing is central to the development of a brand. It creates brand awareness and brand preference,” Shapiro noted. “It insures that the image of the brand is consistent in all of the media in which it appears.”
The latest marketing push for Liz Claiborne accessories has been the development of the in-store shops program. The idea of the shops is to differentiate Liz Claiborne products on the selling floor by using special fixtures and displays that make shopping easier for customers.
“We’ve learned from our marketing research that consumers would respond to a more welcoming shopping environment,” Shapiro said.
Marketing has always been instrumental at Carolee Designs, the privately held Greenwich, Conn., jewelry firm.
“We’re a very marketing-driven company,” said Carolee Friedlander, president and chief executive officer of the company. “Clearly you have to have a terrific product, but understanding how to market to women is a prerequisite to our success.”
The 27-year-old company has a marketing staff of about 15 people. Most direction, however, comes from Friedlander, who has the final say about how to enhance a particular collection or season.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the jewelry firm, Friedlander put together a photo album of 25 women luminaries, including Diana Brooks, president of Sotheby’s; Evelyn Lauder, and makeup artist Bobbi Brown, all wearing Carolee jewelry. The album sold at high-end department stores and proceeds went to breast cancer research. The women featured attended an anniversary party with top customers, resulting in a sales increase of more than 20 percent for the year.
“Marketing is a way for us to convey the essence of our brand and our qualities,” Friedlander said. “But it also a way for us to communicate clearly to our consumer.”
But investing a great deal of money in marketing isn’t for every firm, Friedlander noted.
“You have to have the real estate, the consumer base and the jewelry to market,” she said. “I don’t think everyone should run out and do marketing. It probably isn’t the best investment for them.”
When it comes to small and medium accessories firms and marketing, there’s something about family duos and hard work.
Take for instance, the father-daughter marketing team at INDE, an up-and-coming handbag firm based here and in Milan. Yalanda Lang, the bags’ designer, and her father, Gerald, decided that while they build a successful brand, they’ll divvy up marketing duties.
“I do the creative side and he does the sales,” Yalanda said from Milan. “It would be a nice luxury to have someone in house to do it, but I get to meet a lot of different people this way.”
Yalanda handles catalog production, advertising and merchandising; her Dad, technically the vice president of marketing and sales, takes care of clients, makes cold sales calls and coordinates orders and shipments.
The duo lights up at the prospect of having an in-house marketing staff some day.
“Oh yeah, that would be great,” Yalanda said. “But right now, it’s fun. It’s work, but I’m young and it’s pleasurable.”
“I really want to learn every aspect of the business before I have to bring in anyone else that I may need to teach the ropes,” Gerald added.
The marketing strategies they’ve used so far are catching on. The bags won the approval of Julia Roberts in the September issue of Marie Claire magazine and have been seen on the arm of General Colin Powell’s wife, Alma.
Lang describes her bags, each of which is named for a member of her family, as “architectonic” because of their “simple, clean and linear design.” The handbags are being sold at small boutiques in Texas, Florida, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Rome and Denmark. Neiman Marcus stores are the only department stores selling the bags, which for $200 to $500.
Then there’s the sister team at Lisa Jenks Ltd. Together, accessories designer Lisa Jenks and her business partner and sister, Molly, work to market their sterling silver jewelry, handbags, men’s accessories and home and executive accessories.
“We focus not on a person, but the function of marketing,” Molly said. “Our goal is to take Lisa’s vision and to translate that into a strategy to deliver to our customers.”
At Lisa Jenks, the entire company, 30 people, helps to market the firm’s products.
“We get the input and utilize as many people as we can who are in touch with the product — our employees, our customers, our stores,” she said.
The goal is to keep up with an always-changing accessories environment.
“What we did two years ago is not necessarily what we do now,” she said. “We’ve had to refine our marketing strategy, but Lisa’s vision is the same. We all have to react to changes in the industry.”
For example, market research indicated there was need for a stylish alternative to the shoelaces people were using to string identification cards around their necks. So Lisa Jenks designed sterling silver chatelaines.
“That trend came from listening to customers and watching what’s happening out there,” Molly said. “Now, that is the essence of marketing.”