NEW YORK — “There’s no magic bullet in a fashion campaign,” observed Drew Neisser, president and chief executive officer of Renegade Marketing. “It’s about a mix.”
That observation sums up the path fashion labels are beginning to pursue in greater numbers: a diversified marketing approach that complements an already heavy emphasis on magazine advertising. The precise direction a given brand takes, however, ought to be guided by a raft of considerations, from the traits of the target consumers and budget of the fashion marketer to the nature of the brand itself.
Neisser, among others, believes it all starts with what he termed a target insight, which, in the case of fashion, often stems from the way experiencing a brand makes someone feel about herself. For example, he said, a brand perceived by people as one they wear when they’re ready to party might best be marketed with a mix of exclusive parties for social influencers who would spread the brand’s message via word-of-mouth; brand exposure in editorial portrayals of the party scene, and public relations efforts that highlight celebrities out partying while sporting the brand.
Such an integrated platform could be further supported by print ads containing sound chips with party music or confetti that releases when an ad spread is opened.
“Once we have the insight, building the communication plan is quite simple — find the places most relevant given the insight,” offered Neisser, whose clients include Nike, Panasonic and HSBC.
Ironically, communicating a single theme succinctly plays a key role in conveying a brand’s image in a complex marketing effort integrated across multidimensional platforms. Marketing experts noted these efforts stand in contrast to ones confined to traditional mass media and overly reliant on fashion magazines, which provide an audience of enthusiasts but alone are inadequate in addressing a broader base of today’s consumers. Such strategies have been gaining favor as people’s media consumption becomes increasingly fragmented, ad clutter keeps climbing and emerging technologies like digital video recorders and satellite radio enable people to skip advertising altogether.
In fact, Daniel Lalonde, president and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Watch and Jewelry North America, for one, contends, “The most important question facing marketers today is how to break through the clutter of advertising and fragmentation of media.”
LVMH’s Tag Heuer brand, for instance, aims to do so by using an array of seven marketing platforms to consistently communicate three brand values: performance, precision and prestige. Those vehicles include print, which accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the brand’s media plan; billboards, 15 to 25 percent; TV, 10 to 20 percent; the Internet, 5 to 15 percent; direct mail, less than 10 percent, and sponsorships and public relations, a combined 15 percent.
“Tag Heuer likes to be in spaces that are unique,” Lalonde related. To associate the brand with high performance, Tag Heuer has been working with endorser Tiger Woods to market the first-ever golf watch, designed to assist golfers in some aspect of the game, such as time or speed; is the official timekeeper of the Indianapolis 500, and is continuing its sponsorship of a Formula 1 racing team, U.K.-based West McLaren Mercedes.
Observed Kevin Roberts, chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, “All great brands are built when the equity of a brand — its personality, attributes — can be boiled down into a sentence, a picture [and cast] in emotional terms, particularly in fashion.
“Women today are liberated, wired and selecting media on demand,” Roberts continued. “The customer today is changing daily and needs to be the center of communication. The future of fashion advertising lies in emerging media.”
In part, that’s because the consumer’s mind-set has shifted to one marked by what Robert Rosenthal, chairman of TBWATranscultural, characterizes as a desire to avoid advertising, from one of grudging acceptance. “Marketers have become more assertive and intrusive; consumers have become more active in trying to circumvent ads,” Rosenthal noted.
For that reason, the element of surprise can be employed by marketers to concoct a persuasive brand cocktail. “Trying to reach people where people do not expect you is a particularly effective way to reach them,” counseled Marc Gobé, president, chief executive officer and executive creative director at desgrippes/gobé, a brand-image creation specialist. “I don’t know of any fashion brands that have done this successfully.”
For example, Gobé said, Prada might raise exhibits in its stores about interesting architectural sites or nightclubs around the world, creating a sense of those stores as centers of influence. Such displays would conjure a world of Prada and provide a means by which the brand could connect with those who cannot yet afford it but are drawn to it. “If they can provide such information, they’d continue a dialogue with people,” Gobé said of Prada, a brand he described as an arbiter of taste for the wealthy.
Indeed, the proliferation of stores and catalogues offer numerous venues in which fashion brands can communicate more directly with consumers than in many other marketing vehicles, one reason people are less reliant upon fashion magazines for their style cues than they once were, marketing executives and brand consultants pointed out. “Print ads are increasingly competing against catalogues for people’s time,” observed Marian Salzman, executive vice president and chief strategy officer, Euro RSCG Worldwide.
Similarly, exposure on fashion TV programs, in product placements, or in online media, among other entertainment vehicles, provides what Gobé called a “vivid, alive way of influencing the way people are looking at brands.”
“The ground has shifted because people have different options today,” Gobé observed. “In the past, you had to buy a fashion magazine for information. Today, print is passé, compared with TV or the Web.”
Tag Heuer is one of a relative few fashion brands taking to the TV screen, and the 10 to 20 percent of the brand’s media plan it commands is “quite a bit for the watch sector,” as Lalonde put it, pointing out FOX’s “Late Night With David Letterman” and ESPN’s “Sportscenter” are its primary TV venues. Too, Tag Heuer is exploring possible advertising alliances with Internet search engines, like Yahoo, MSN and Google, which would make it a pioneer in advertising luxury goods online.
Why hasn’t more fashion advertising taken hold online to date?
“Banner ads are too small, pop-ups are too pushy, and the content on many sites isn’t suitable for branding of luxury goods,” said David McIntyre, publisher of ZooZoom, a four-year-old luxury fashion e-zine, which claims 35,000 readers and will display ads for the first time in January. Thus far, Diesel is the lone advertiser signed, but McIntyre said ZooZoom is talking with such potential clients as Calvin Klein, Gucci, Burberry, L’Oréal, Lancôme and Chanel, and is aiming to sign 15 advertisers for the January edition.