Wednesday, June 8, 2011


NEW YORK — Forget those who “like” you. Go after the ones who don’t.

That’s the new strategy emerging in the ever-evolving world of social media. As fashion firms scramble to add even more content to their Web sites, they’re battling a shifting tide. Now the future of digital marketing isn’t about bulking up a firm’s own branded to inform followers of the company – it’s about getting their content onto someone else’s to reach more consumers.

The advent of social media and Web 1.0 allowed brands and retailers to build robust and loyal followings, but it’s converting new fans that will be paramount going forward. The single most important thing fashion companies can do in the digital space is seek alternative, off-site ways to spread their message to attract new visitors to their own sites, said Quynh Mai, founder and chief executive officer of Moving Image & Content, a digital agency focused on content and marketing.

Mai urges companies to shift their digital marketing approach away from branded Web portals to outside, third-party sites — although she maintains that editorial content is still a vital part of a brand’s social media persona. A Web site can house a brand’s messaging, Mai said, but the place to put it is on blogs, online publications, Facebook and aggressively encouraging fans and advocates to post and share on those outlets rather than simply on a company’s own site.

“I believe editorial content is necessary — it’s the crux of your company — but in 2.0, that content best lives off-site, outside of a brand’s site and drawing the consumer back to your digital flagship store. The whole purpose of branded content is to engage the consumer where they live, which is on Facebook, blogs and more, and to put that content primarily on the branded Web site is speaking to the already converted,” said Mai, who counts Yves Saint Laurent, Mugler, BeachMint, Shiseido, Natori, Acne, The Row and Olsenboye — Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s junior line for J.C. Penney — as clients.

Users visiting branded sites already are engaged fans — and while company-produced editorial content is paramount in maintaining a faithful customer that keeps returning, brands also need to concentrate on attracting those who are not yet part of their loyal audience.

Fashion brands continue to navigate the digital waters, taking what they’ve learned from the first social media wave and using it to secure a firmer hold on the medium going forward. A digital boom gave way to an influx of editorial content, blogs, livestreams and more — and designers and brands leading the industry digitally, such as Coach, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, H&M, DKNY, Juicy Couture, Ralph Lauren and Diane von Furstenberg, are now strategizing their next moves accordingly. The same goes for more recent adopters of social-based platforms — including Oscar de la Renta, Rebecca Minkoff and Alice + Olivia — who have all been aggressive over the past year about ramping up their digital outreach.

Brands that want to remain on the digital forefront must fine-tune existing strategies — whether this is cultivating a voice or establishing if the manner in which they engage is through broadcasting messaging or a two-way conversation (both equally effective, yet entirely different approaches). By carefully studying strategies past and present, companies can alter, update or get rid of initiatives altogether that failed to garner consumer response or drive traffic and sales.

Karen Robinovitz, co-founder and chief creative officer of Digital Brand Architects — a digital agency that works with Juicy Couture, Olsenboye, B Brian Atwood and Nine West — agrees with Mai that brands need to reallocate their energies online and put their focus off-site.

“I think that you have to be where your consumers are —which is everywhere — and you need to have meaningful and authentic dialogue on those channels,” Rabinovitz said. She believes that brands need to organize around people, and people live in such a distributed manner online that in order to connect with users, brands must operate in a similar fashion.

“You have to start communicating with the consumers who have a propensity to shop your brand, versus doing your marketing on your site, which speaks to the already converted. I’m seeing this as a major shift,” said Mai. “When you look at brands’ unique monthly visitors, they are actually very low, so as brands are robustly building this content, the best thing to do is use their marketing prowess to find multiple and diverse distribution points for that content to draw the consumer back to their digital flagship.”

Diverse distribution points: Check. Elaborate editorial content both on- and off-site: Check. Satiating current consumers while continuing to raise brand awareness: Check.

In addition to its content on the recently revamped, Tory Burch maintains active Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as a Tumblr page and a recent blogger collaboration with The Man Repeller — whose founder Leandra Medine cross-promoted a Mother’s Day post on her  own site at that also appeared on Burch’s site.

But the brand is now going beyond that. It recently tapped Demandware for its new e-commerce and mobile commerce sites built upon the Demandware Commerce platform — the fastest-growing channel of revenue for the company, according to Miki Berardelli, Tory Burch’s chief marketing officer. Berardelli told WWD that while e-commerce transactions that occur through mobile commerce may not be the largest channel of revenue for the company, she believes m-commerce will soon become the most important, usurping desktop and laptop access.

The brand also unveiled “Torypedia,” its Tumblr blog, following a total Web site redesign in January, completed by Wednesday London, a digital creative agency based in London that specializes in the fashion and luxury category.

“Our viewpoint is from that of brand and content creation and brands becoming content owners so they could have that dialogue with consumers one-on-one,” said Oliver Walsh, founder and managing director of Wednesday London, whose clients also include J. Crew, Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Bobbi Brown.

Walsh contends that consumers get the best engagement when there’s a tailored strategy, which takes into consideration not only the specific nature of the platform, but how users interact with that platform and the mind-set that they’re in when interacting. He advises clients to ask themselves if they are engaging with a consumer in a way that resonates, which has to take platform specifics into consideration, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Polyvore or Lookbook.

“Content comes in many guises, and obviously if a consumer is in a frame of mind where they want to be engaging with a brand such as Tory Burch or Mr Porter — they are visiting the site cognizant that any information is coming from the brand, and of course has a motive,” said Walsh.

He stressed that in addition to authentic, relevant content, the main issue moving forward is that brands are now media owners and generators — and they need to live by the same rules as other media content creators in order to maximize investment. This means that fashion brands must have criteria in place about the nature of the information they cover and don’t cover, set guidelines as to how they interact with users on the various platforms and very clear messaging, which includes what the message is about and how they respond to questions.

“The market has changed a great deal over the past few years, and at first, brands were just diving head first into what they saw as a new phenomenon,” Walsh said.

Some of them learned the hard way, he added. “Many brands weren’t getting the traction they anticipated, or even worse, some started commenting on how inadequate their approach was. That’s when brands also started to realize the power of this platform and investing in the strategy and resources and infrastructure required.”

Those with a firm grasp on the medium know that figuring out their brand’s voice online should be a priority. According to Kate Spade’s senior vice president of global brand marketing Kyle Andrew, social media 2.0 is less about particular functions and more about the tone.

“The tone we are learning has to be much more human. It’s about creating a relationship and giving value to them [the consumer] rather than just trying to push out promotions and what we think we want them to hear. It’s about a conversation,” Andrew said. “When we first started it was very one-sided, and it was us telling them what we wanted them to know, such as the latest bag or promotion. And we realized that we just can’t do that. You have to treat them more like a group of friends, just like you would update your Facebook page with what you’re doing with  friends.”

Andrew said that it’s the more mundane posts that get the most reactions, such as images of root beer floats and cupcakes from an office party that were uploaded to the brand’s Facebook page, which differs from what the brand initially used the platform for. Content has to be adjusted per channel, and Kate Spade learned that Facebook is turning into a place where consumers can voice their dislikes, concerns and questions about the brand and product. Twitter, on the other hand, is fun, inspirational, quicker and very much in the moment, while Tumblr is the most visual of the mediums.

She cites a limited edition tote bag the brand designed to help with relief efforts in Japan — and how posting a preview about the new product on Facebook unleashed a strong response and ignited a conversation among fans without the brand even interjecting. While the bag sold out within 20 minutes on Kate Spade’s Web site, Andrew learned from the reactions that consumers who love the brand want product right away and don’t want to be teased about it.

“It’s more about constantly refining and loosening up about how we handle the whole thing and not being so uptight about it. It’s about experimenting and trying different things and realizing that this world changes so quickly,” Andrew said. “You can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing because it moves too fast. You have to have confidence to try things and pull out if it’s not working.”

Next up for Kate Spade: figuring out how to monetize the Facebook experience, currently approaching 272,500 fans, and taking mobile commerce to the next level.

David Duplantis, Coach’s senior vice president of global Web and digital media, agrees with Andrew when it comes to starting and maintaining a dialogue with fans. Although he said he firmly believes in engaging with consumers, he also learned that brands — as much as they originally wanted to speak at people and be the originator of the conversation — need to sit back and let the fans spark their own dialogue.

He cites blogs as being especially instrumental in this — and boasts strong relationships in the blogosphere as the reason why last year’s design collaboration with personal style bloggers was so successful. The founders of Cupcakes and Cashmere, The Glamourai, Karla’s Closet and What is Reality Anyway? worked with the brand on the design of their ideal handbag, which was sold online and at several flagship locations — and all four styles sold out.

But in terms of the most growth within a specific social medium, Duplantis is quick to point to Facebook, where the brand just surpassed 2 million “likes.” He said it’s the “rich visual and interactive environment” the platform provides that allows such a positive consumer response and engaged fan base.

“Social media 1.0 was the Wild West, but no one wants 2.0 to turn into boring tract housing. The brands that embrace authenticity, innovation and strategy over safety and sameness will succeed during the next wave,” Duplantis said.

As they enter Web 2.0, Kate Spade and Coach had to overcome a learning curve with respect to the dissemination of content and information. The two brands found that what worked best for them was taking a step back and learning to converse with fans, rather than just dictating the  dialogue — or what Mai refers to as becoming an “engagement brand.”

She divides the fashion industry’s digital initiatives into two categories: broadcast brands — where the communication message is based on broadcast, and companies produce the content they’re broadcasting through various channels — and engagement brands, where consumers are truly engaged in a two-way dialogue with the brand.

“Not all brands want that two-way dialogue, especially those that are higher end and more luxury. It’s not within their DNA and social structure,” said Mai, citing JewelMint as an engagement brand and Yves Saint Laurent as a broadcast brand. JewelMint is a social shopping e-commerce platform founded by MySpace founder Josh Berman, and it allows consumers to participate in the business. Users are encouraged to get involved in the creative process and vote on content, and the site also uses crowdsourcing to choose and name product.

Oscar de la Renta is another brand whose social media personality has had a strong year, even though it did not dive in as early as some other designers. Vice president of global communications Erika Bearman actively started tweeting under the handle @OscarPRGirl in 2010 (even though the brand launched the Twitter page in June 2009), and followers on the medium have grown by 133 percent since February 2011 to over 70,000 and almost 450 percent since September 2010, when the brand had just 12,800 followers.

Bearman cites a recent Facebook initiative that celebrated the launch of the fashion house’s new fragrance Esprit d’Oscar as being effective in attracting fans on the platform. The brand’s “likes” grew by 40 percent in a one-week period, and 5,000 users participated in a feedback survey on the scent, post-sampling (25,000 fans “liked” de la Renta’s Facebook page in order to receive a sample of the fragrance).

Bearman added, “Every day we look more like a publisher — creating stories for our fans, and tailoring them in a unique way for our different social platforms. This is social media 2.0, and brands are not just creators, but distributors of content. As the landscape quickly changes, we feel it is important to be somewhat fluid. We are constantly evolving the way that we communicate.”

With hardly any social media outreach in place just over a year ago — Alice + Olivia had just a few hundred Facebook “likes” in early 2010 and now boasts over 7,000, as well as 20,000 followers on Twitter — the brand plans to aggressively forge ahead in terms of engaging with its fan base.

“It took me so long to find someone that I thought could create a site and understand my aesthetic. I really refrained from all Internet until I felt I found someone that could bring to life what I wanted,” said Alice + Olivia founder Stacey Bendet, who announced a relaunch of the company’s blog today.

She is quick to acknowledge that she sees more of a response from fans when she personally tweets from the brand’s Twitter handle herself — versus another member of her team — and certain things, such as sending e-mail blasts twice a week, aren’t as effective as sending one a week. The same goes for Bendet’s “4AM Finds” column (where she highlights what she’s inspired by at the moment): She found that when she produced two a week it was “getting diluted.” When she tried penning one post per week, people were opening and viewing the link in much higher numbers. She adds that the new blog will be produced by herself, an in-house stylist and plenty of contributions from Bendet’s famous friends — including Gwyneth Paltrow, who edited this week’s edition of “4AM Finds.”

“The content is changing. It’ s becoming this sort of Alice + Olivia world magazine, a combination of my voice and all the images, ideas, people and places that inspire us here,” said Bendet. “I think it’s a true look inside our world. It’s like written reality TV and a glimpse inside what happens here in a very organic, everyday way.”

Rebecca Minkoff, one of the more active in fashion’s digital sphere, was another to join the party a little later than some of its contemporary counterparts (the brand currently has over 35,000 fans on Twitter and almost 26,500 “likes” on Facebook). But this has only affected the company positively, and according to ceo Uri Minkoff, in addition to learning the value and power of directly connecting with the consumer, the brand has only grown through this direct involvement, coordination and inter action.

But he admits he might have taken it a bit too far when colleagues tried to answer and please “everyone.”

“This can be tough when the numbers get overwhelming, so we created a better system,” Minkoff added. “It was a better business intelligence system to filter data and get weighted opinions. There is the sorting of key data from taste makers, bloggers and press, as well as general consumers, and how to best process this data for consumption internally to key resources who need to know, and then how best to go out to each segment with replies and responses.”


Monday, October 4, 2010

3 Key Traits Of Top Performing Sales Professionals

... An insightful Summary to archive:

Beginning in 1997 and continuing through today, the Gearner Research Group has conducted interviews with over 85,000 sales professionals in one of the largest ongoing research projects in the field of sales. The goal of the study has been and continues to be, to ascertain the traits and characteristics of the most accomplished sales representatives when compared against those deemed less successful.

The overarching question we set out to answer was, "Are the most successful sales professionals doing something fundamentally different than those who are less successful?" Not surprisingly, there are considerable implications of this study on selection and development of sales professionals.

Background: We initially developed a list of 38 traits we felt that were important for success in sales. Our goal with the study was to not only determine the traits of top performing sales professionals but also to identify the behaviors or traits that were missing from those less successful.

Participants in our study were nominated by their sales leadership. Our observed interview population consists of 65% sales professionals deemed by their organizations and by quantitative sales results, as being in the top 8-10% in their company or industry. The remaining group (35%) were specifically interviewed and observed as a comparison group. Subjects in this second group were ranked in the lower 20% of their sales organization on their quantitatively measured sales success over multiple years in selling.

• Financial services • Technology (software)
• Real estate • Educational services
• Manufacturing • Pharmaceuticals
• Retail • Consulting
• Insurance • Marketing & Advertising
• Wholesale goods • Automotive
• Technology (hardware)

While there are a number of traits and characteristics that are common to most sales professionals three key traits were found to be high predictors of success. Our findings are as follows:
Three Key Traits For Success In Sales Professionals
Trait #1: Emotional Intelligence. (A 73% correlation with sales success.)

Emotional intelligence (EI) describes the ability capacity, skill to identify, assess, manage and control the emotions of one's self of others, and of groups. Different models have been proposed for the definition of EI and disagreement exists as to how the term should be used. Despite these disagreements, which are often highly technical, EI has successful applications in the sales domain.

In the 1900s, even though traditional definitions of intelligence emphasized cognitive aspects such as problem solving, several influential researchers in the intelligence field of study had begun to recognize the importance of the non-cognitive aspects. For instance, as early as 1920s E.L. Thorndike used the term social intelligence to describe the skill of understanding and managing other people.

In 1940 David Weschler described the influence of non-intellective factors on intelligent behavior. In 1983 Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences introduced the idea of multiple intelligences which included Interpersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people).

The first use of the term "emotional intelligence" is usually attributed to Wayne Payne's doctoral thesis, A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence from 1985. We observed that traditional types of intelligence, such as IQ fail to fully explain sales success while subjects testing high on EI consistently fell into the ranks of superior performance.

As a result of the growing acknowledgement by professionals of the importance and relevance of emotions to work outcomes, the research on the topic continued to gain momentum, but it wasn't until research by Geartner that the link has been fully established between EI and sales success.

Trait #2: Active Listening: (An 88% correlation with sales success)

Active listening requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear. The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding. This traits was observed in 93% of those in the top group of sales performers yet only observed in 8% of those in the lowest percentiles.

We observe that when in a sales situation the less effective sales representatives are often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next. Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the speaker.

It is important for a listener to observe the prospective clients demeanor and body language. Having the ability to interpret a person's body language lets the listener develop a more accurate understanding of the speaker's message.In sales call we found the most effective sales professionals actively listenedfor feeling and emotionally charged words. Rather than merely repeating what the speaker has said, the active listener used these clues to address concerns and reduce fears through the use of stories (see trait #3).

Author Thomas Gordon who coined the term "active listening", states "Active listening is certainly not complex. Still, learning to do Active Listening well is a rather difficult task." The relationship between active listening and sales success is clearly apparent which leads us to conclude that this is a trait sales leaders should use as a part of their sales selection criteria and reinforce through training and coaching.

Trait #3: Use of Anecdotes & Stories.(A 92% correlation with sales success)

Sales is largely about communicating a desire state. One in which the prospective client is no longer shackled by the limitations or restrictions of the particular problem they face. As such, the most effective sales professionals are highly gifted communicators of sales stories. However, it is interesting to note that the use of sales stories by the top 10% of sale professionals was a strategic rather than purely tactical tool. By this we mean that stories were developed and told that addressed a wide variety of issues. Our field interviewsshowed that on average the top performing sales professionals used 4.5 stories on a single sales call while those sales representatives in the lower 20% failed to use a single story on their typical sales call.

It is also interesting to observe that those in the lower 20% thought they used sales stories far more frequently than they did. On average individuals in this group claimed they told 5 stories per call when the actualobservable results were less than one.

Our conclusion for this behavioral disconnect between what the top sales professional actually did, and what the lowest performing sales representativethought they did, yielded someobservations and conclusions.

It is interesting to note that the top sales professionals did not attempt to make up stories as they were engaged in the sales call. Rather they had a total of 15-25 sales anecdotes and stories fully prepared and developed. These were described by multiple sales professionals as the "arrows in the quiver" that were then drawn out and used in response to verbal clues (see active listening). Again by contrast, the lower performing sales representatives had virtually no stories prepared except for an occasional "success story" that was developed by less than 5% of these lower performing group.

Conclusion: Although research is ongoing, it is clear that these three traits and characteristics have emerged as the top predictors of sales success across industries. Not surprisingly, only some of these traits may be considered developmental and will respond better to traditional training and coaching. Regardless, all three of these should be discussed among sales leadership from both a selection and development perspectives.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Branding Luxury

"Affordable luxury as a category is maturing," said Guy Salter, deputy chairman of Walpole, the association that represents British luxury goods firms. Since our recent economic downturn, consumers have redefined luxury. More than ever, masstige is the new mass. What was mass now now perceived as cheap and untouchable to savvy and discerning consumers. In this organic adjustment, luxury has lower its bar to affortable luxury. I am delighted to say, with strategic adjustments, most luxury brands are now [still] doing quite well.

Miles Socha's recent article in the WWD, DEFINING THE NEW LUXURY, is an interesting exploration of this evolution. More than ever, smart, consistent 360º branding is critical to success:

Lucian James, founder of strategic consultancy Agenda Inc., based in New York and Paris, said luxury was not only impacted by the economic crisis, but a “crisis of meaning” as well.

“Consumers spent some time away from luxury products, and the spell was — to some extent — broken,” he explained. “The recession was a time when consumers really connected to discount and fast-fashion brands and found them surprisingly good.”

To win shoppers back in the postcrisis period, luxury brands “need to create more powerful messages, not just evoke aspirational lifestyles and expect consumers to be seduced….They need to explore ways that they can connect the brand to emerging consumer lifestyles and emerging consumer moods,” James said.

"The clientele for luxury today is less tied to income levels than to which brands consumers choose to adorn themselves with, counterfeit or otherwise. “People don’t reach up en masse to luxury brands. They go to the ones that are meaningful for them,” he said.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


What a fun campaign!
Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz meets Hello Kitty:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Japanese design principles

The Zen principles of Aesthetics are derived from the Buddhism beliefs of Anicca or Impermanence where “everything, without exception, is constantly in flux, even planets, stars and gods”. Wikipedia


FUKINSEI (imbalanced)
Asymmetry, odd numbers, irregularity, unevenness, imbalance is used as a denial of perfection as perfection and symmetry does not occur in nature.

KANSO (simple)
Elimination of ornate and things of simplicity by nature expresses their truthfulness. Neat, frank and uncomplicated.

KOKOU (austere)
Basic, weathered bare essentials that are aged and unsensuous. Evokes sternness, forbiddance, maturity and weight.

SHIZEN (natural)
Raw, natural and unforced creativity without pretence. True naturalness is to negate the naive and accidental.

YUGEN (subtle profound)
Suggest and not reveal layers of meaning hidden within. Invisible to the casual eye and avoiding the obvious.

DATSUZOKU (unworldly)
Transcendence of conventional and traditional. Free from the bondage of laws and restrictions. True creativity.

SEIJAKU (calm)
Silence and tranquility, blissful solitude. Absence of disturbance and noise from one’s mind, body and surroundings.