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Gill Linton: Fashion Democracy And The Marketing Hall Of Naff

When it comes to marketing, broadly speaking, the fashion industry is frankly a bit naff, (for my American friends; naff adjective Brit., informal...

Gill Linton
Gill Linton on April 27, 2010.

When it comes to marketing, broadly speaking, the fashion industry is frankly a bit naff, (for my American friends; naff adjective Brit., informal lacking taste or style.)

Naff, in the same way that the masses latch on to the latest trend and ruin it for the rest of us. And while I recognize this is part of the cycle of natural selection that leads to cultural change, there’s still so much more of the lowest common denominator kind than the meaningful and creatively extra-ordinary.

I’m mostly disappointed by how it latches on to the latest marketing buzzwords and technical possibilities to get more clicks.

For the record, my top 4 marketing naff list is:

4. Consumer generated content, otherwise known as a promotion or cheap stunt. Otherwise known as a bribe for eyeballs.

3. Viral films. It’s not a film it’s an ad. Calling it a film doesn’t make it any more effective.

2. Branded content. A long ad.

1. Online magazines. It’s not a magazine. It’s a cut and paste sales brochure or another blog banging on about Lady Gaga.

It all boils down to chasing eyeballs. I’m on the side of the fence that believes this is a meaningless measure of a good or bad idea. I also believe that people should pay for quality online media products and services, and that paywalls separate the good from the, well, naff. It might result in a smaller number of impressions, but in terms of efficiency, its got to be a better quality conversion.

In an online world dominated by fast and free mediocrity, the purpose and role of a brand is more important that ever. And while the decision to charge or not to charge is still uncharted territory, is not charging a sign of insecurity about what makes one brands output better than another? And I purposefully mean better not different. That line on a creative brief that says, ‘What makes the brand different?’ It should read ‘What makes the brand better.’

Can we please move on from the online democracy age (the hall of naff), and into an era of online quality and closed walls (‘gasp, stone her!’ they cried), where discerning people value the extra-ordinary and the only thing that is democratic, is that quality gets a meaningful paycheck. There’s a reason why HBO is consistently brilliant and why the BBC is the most revered news and entertainment media brand in the world. People pay for it.

I’m not suggesting that fashion brands start charging for the content they produce, the online content they produce is cost of marketing, (although I believe that all brands should have revenue streams beyond their core business, but that’s a whole other article.)

My point about chasing eyeballs vs. quality is the same. My hope is that more fashion brands will approach the possibilities created by new technology with the same degree of thought and integrity they put into design. Instead, churning stuff out quickly, because that’s the accepted nature of the digital beast, with nothing to say.

Anthony Sperduti and Andy Spade of Partners & Spade spoke about big brand behavior in a real retail world, at the PSFK conference. I asked Anthony how brands should behave in the virtual world.

“The online space is no different than any other vehicle for communication or marketing – can be used with intelligence or used as a gimmick. The lure of some of the new technology (and buzzwords) seems for some brands to have generated more gimmicks unfortunately. The exciting part of the online world that it’s opening up to us is the ability to speak with depth to the consumer. Things do not have to be: 30 sound bites – or single headlines or glossy images – there is a much lower cost of entry for potentially a much larger mind share. Even the smallest brands now have an ability to tell their complete, nuanced point of view and the successful ones will be those that understand that. Like using retail as a marketing tool as much as a point of distribution, savvy brands will learn to tell their story well and truly connect with their customers.”

Take the Burberry 3D fashion show, which included a ‘pre-show event.’ An example of where technology drove their decision – to their own admission during the pre-show itself, they only decided to do it a few months before – not the quality of their message and creativity. And it showed. The collection itself was flawlessly brilliant in design and production. While Christopher Bailey stole the show, the rest of it was a cringe worthy insight into a world where marketing and design collided and marketing won. I don’t know that to be true, but in trying so hard to create authentic content, the savvy fashion audience giggled their way through a fashion 101 marketing infomercial of paid for celebrity interviews hanging by a thread of awkward silences.

Joe Frydl is a co-founder of Indigenous Entertainment – a company that creates entertainment driven marketing programs on behalf of brand and media clients. Joe has a more charitable and forgiving view of the Burberry show, and thinks that,

“While it may not be the slickest or the most carefully produced material, it does have some things going for it, they did I, it’s timely, as a result, it has an immediacy to it. They got stuck in and are in the mix by trying to get something to their audience so that they can share in an experience that normally would be unavailable to them. Granted, every label streamed their show this year so no big points for huge originality.

When I see something as well planned and executed as “The Art of the Trench”, I’m more forgiving with things like this. They are TRYING when a lot of brands just can’t even leave the starting blocks with content. I’m sure they got some great education from doing this and I bet the next time will be better. Pollyanish? Perhaps. But just like the best TV and Film producers, the key is to keep at it. Not arguing for throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks, but sometimes we get a little too precious and frozen with analysis paralysis.”

I’m sure a lot of people saw it. How democratic.

Gill Linton- Fashion Democracy And The Marketing Hall Of Naff-2

Rumors after the event were that Burberry was not happy that Kate Hudson didn’t wear the Burberry coat they gave her, having paid for her to be there.

Gill writes about the business of fashion for Mpdclick – a leading commercial online fashion trend forecasting service. To discover more, please visit www.mpdclick.com.

Gill is a creative strategy consultant in New York. Contact her at Gill@thejoneses-nyc.com

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