Some of the lockdowns put in place to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to ease up as countries around the world cautiously try to re-open the economy and return to a sense of normality. Still, in most places, non-essential stores remain closed and the massive machine of global distribution continues to struggle.
Even if cities re-open and people get to leave their homes again, things won’t be the same as they were before immediately. Crowds won’t gather in stores, restaurants and malls the way we did pre-COVID. Instead, we should expect a return to a ‘new normal’. This means new social rules, new behaviour and new expectations.
Naturally, finding your place in the new normal is a challenge for everyone and it has led fashion brands to completely reassess their marketing strategies and the way they engage with their community. Instead of putting everything on hold and taking a wait and see approach, fashion brands have found new ways to increase their role in consumers’ lives to build stronger relationships that will last far beyond this crisis.
If you thought fashion brands were done for, think again.
A collage of fashion-forward brands
Social media is the global stage where this change is most visible as we can see a shift from ads conveying a lifestyle to interactive campaigns involving challenges, games, live sessions, tutorials, classes and many more things. Fashion brands have taken a creative approach to engage with audiences, taking more risks than they did before.
In the spirit of preserving culture at a time of social distancing, Dior has made its Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition available online. The exhibition was originally held at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs, featuring the evolution of the house of Dior as it ushered in an era of elegance with its revolutionary ‘new look’ in the past, to the creative direction it takes today.
Now that the exhibition is digital, everyone can experience it from the comfort of their own homes. Plus, Dior has created a lot of extra material such as a virtual tour of each room, a series of related posts on Instagram under #diorheritage, and a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the exhibition with a documentary on YouTube which has over 500K views.
French fashion brand Chanel has taken a different approach by connecting with their audience through live events hosted on social media. The fashion brand invited Belgian singer Angèle to stage a live performance on Chanel’s Instagram Stories under the hashtag #LiveWithChanel. Prior to the event, Chanel said it “wishes to express its solidarity with everyone staying at home or affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during this sensitive time.”
With this campaign, Chanel is in good company as a number of other fashion brands such as Alexander McQueen, Karl Lagerfield, Balmain and Gucci have also begun connecting with their followers through live events.
Additionally, Chanel will continue to accompany your days at home with an exclusive selection of tracks in playlists under the name “Sound of Chanel”, available on apple Music.
Italian luxury fashion brand Bottega Veneta has taken an even more comprehensive approach, blending all their major social media channels under the same Bottega Residency campaign. The campaign is centred on the creation of a “virtual residency”, a long-running series of daily activities to keep us inspired and entertained during social distancing. The events involve getting to know famous artists, enjoying live music, learning recipes shared by renowned chefs and diving into culture-defining Sunday night cinema. Followers can tune in on Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, YouTube, Weibo, Line, WeChat, Kakao and on the brand’s own website.
What’s important to note is that the campaign is centred on values that are true to the fashion brand’s core. It’s more than just entertainment. Creative director Daniel Lee said “creativity and strength lie at the heart of Bottega Veneta. In this highly distressing time, we feel a responsibility to celebrate those values and ignite a sense of joy and hope in our community and beyond.”
The list of fashion brands doing new and exciting things on social media is endless. Shrimps ran a competition on Instagram asking for people to post their #StayAtHomeShrimps outfits. Alexander McQueen invited followers to submit their own interpretations of the Rose dress that closed the Autumn/Winter 2019 show. As photo shoots were cancelled, Paloma Wool turned to customers for their marketing materials asking everyone to submit photos of their favourite pieces with complete freedom to portray them in their own personal way.
The new principles of fashion brand marketing
It’s safe to say the landscape of fashion brand marketing has changed a lot in the last few months. To see how this will shape marketing in the fashion industry going forward, it helps to define a few key principles.
1. Invite people to join your movement
A lot of the activities listed above draw people in based on a shared interest in culture and values. This approach gives people access to a brand’s world without making owning a product of that brand as the single most important way to do that. People want to join a movement and be part of a brand, not just buy things. The social media challenges encourage people to create content together with a brand, which creates the basis for loyal and long-lasting relationships.
2. Expand the creative playground
Reaching out to people at home provides a rare sense of authenticity, both from employees as well as the customers of a brand. Giving a behind-the-scenes insight into a brand is a refreshing way to position a fashion brand in a more attainable and relatable way. The lesson is that many brands are engaging new customers in new ways who may otherwise have overlooked the brand, but they are seeing something now in this type of content that connects with them more deeply.
3. Refresh your digital marketing campaigns
When it comes to developing digital marketing campaigns, fashion brands need to consider their retail experience and activation strategy and apply a digital first approach. This means interactions, meaningful messaging, collaborations and, for the time being, relatable at-home brand imagery. It might be tempting for some brands to pull back on digital ad spend, but that will only impact the brand’s resilience in the long run. People remember who have helped them, and they will remember your brand if you take on that challenge.