The same pattern has emerged so far this year, as brands sample new digital and mobile technologies to market to and engage with consumers. In particular, brands took to location-based social network Foursquare to build buzz around new product launches, like Jimmy Choo’s line of trainers, and Oscar de la Renta’s limited-edition series of python iPad clutches.
In addition to campaigns, fashion brands released a significant amount of behind-the-scenes content on a regular basis, ranging from blurry mobile snapshots of runway models for quick distribution over Facebook and Twitter, to professionally produced short films delivered exclusively on company websites and mobile apps.
Perhaps the most gratifying development this year began with LOFT — specifically, LOFT’s Facebook Page. The company’s corporate staff answered a widespread call for “real women” models by modeling the clothes themselves and posting them to Facebook, sparking a flurry of positive media attention and several imitators within the industry.
Let’s take a look at how the Internet has affected the fashion sector — in particular, marketers and media — thus far in 2010.
Marc Jacobs was the first major designer to take advantage of the network. During New York Fashion Week in February, Marc Jacobs distributed “Fashion Victim” badges to those who checked in to one of its stores around the country. Four users who checked in to one of its New York stores were also awarded tickets to its runway show, notoriously one of the most difficult to get access to during Fashion Week.
Several other brands also took advantage of location-based networks to build buzz around big events. Louis Vuitton awarded a “Vuitton Insider” Foursquare badge to followers who checked in three times at its new London boutique. Oscar de la Renta gave away an iPad clutch to the Foursquare mayor of its flagship store in July.
In addition to location-based networks, fashion marketers also continued to use Facebook and web-based social styling platform Polyvore to promote new product lines. To coincide with the release of his first men’s fragrance, dubbed Bang, Marc Jacobs built a Facebook game titled Bang! You’re it! which encouraged users to “Bang” their friends and crushes for chances at giveaway prizes. Online retailer Yoox also launched a Facebook application to draw attention to its fall catalog. Polyvore hosted many brand-sponsored contests to encourage users to explore new collections; American designer Prabal Gurung even premiered pieces of his Spring 2011 collection to online consumers before his New York Fashion Week show in September.
The most common of these were behind-the-scenes shots, which were quickly captured via mobile phones and digital cameras and distributed over Facebook and Twitter. Livestreams of runway shows also proved enormously popular this year. During fall fashion shows in February, only Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana live-streamed their shows via the web and their respective mobile applications; by September, nearly every brand provided live footage of their presentations to fans on the web. Fashion Week, once an exclusive series of events for media and buyers, became a global spectacle for consumers.
In addition to Twitpics and livestreams, many brands also released professional-quality celebrity interviews and short films, like the one produced by Chanel lead designer Karl Lagerfeld above. These videos were not designed to sell individuals items (Chanel does not even sell online) but rather to bolster brand luster.
During London Fashion Week, Burberry Creative Director Christopher Bailey observed (via Twitter, no less) that Burberry is “now as much a media-content company as [it is] a design company because it’s all part of the overall experience.” Like many other fashion houses, Burberry released a heavy amount of video and photographic footage of its September catwalk show, giving fans the ability to peak backstage and watch the show live online.
The next day, LOFT posted pictures of its own corporate staff — ranging from sizes 2 to 12, and from 5′3″ to 5′10″ — posing in the cargo pants. Each styled the pants according to their own aesthetic, and explained why they liked the fit and drape of the product.
Fan response was overwhelmingly positive. “I sooooo appreciate you taking the time to ‘listen’ to our comments and show these pants on ‘real’ women,” one woman wrote. After Mashable’s initial report, a number of other media outlets, including Jezebel, WWD and The Huffington Post re-reported the story, drawing even more acclaim for the brand, which has since continued to post photos of “real women” modeling its clothing. Other brands, like Nanette Lepore, soon began posting photos of staff modeling their own clothing as well.
While a number of large companies, such as Comcast, Ford, Virgin Airlines, Starbucks and Best Buy, have used social media to inspire customer loyalty and satisfaction, we hadn’t before seen this level of engagement between a fashion company and its fans. It’s a trend we hope continues to develop for the rest of 2010 and into 2011.
With two months to go and the holiday campaign season just around the corner, there’s still plenty of opportunity for new ground to be broken by industry pioneers. Expect to see plenty of behind-the-scenes footage from holiday parties, a winter-themed short film or two and location-based marketing initiatives designed to drive customers into stores this season.