Fashion—styles and trends in clothing and accessories—is an important part of our culture and economy. The fashion system is a term used to describe everything that is part of fashion—its art and craft, business and industry, production and consumption, and the language and imagery it uses.
The evolution of modern fashion and a modern fashion industry has depended on the development of technologies that have made possible mass production in factories, mass distribution using trains and planes, and mass consumption through retail outlets such as department stores and boutiques.
At the most basic level the fashion industry involves the production of fashion goods, sales, and promotion. This includes a very wide range of processes, stages, practices, and jobs which are carried out in research, design, manufacturing, advertising, public relations, brand development, distribution, marketing, retailing, merchandising, and customer relations. The fashion industry includes a very wide variety of businesses, from high-street retailers to leading fashion houses and from one person start-ups to huge global brands.
‘Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably’ (The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2016). Marketing includes the activities which help businesses to develop, promote, and sell products to customers. Modern marketing was made possible by the development of mass production, distribution, and advertising in the middle of the 20th century.
Above all marketing is about communication. While it is helpful to talk about a marketing cycle with distinct stages, remember that in practice these will all be taking place at the same time for a fashion marketer.
In the first stage (analysis), market and marketing research make use of sales tracking data, fashion forecasting, trend analysis, surveys and focus groups, the examination of media coverage, and customer profiling to identify market opportunities. This stage of the marketing cycle focuses on defining products, brands, and potential customers.
In the second stage (planning), the development of a marketing strategy draws on all of this information to target particular segments of the market, whether these are existing customers or new markets.
In the third stage (action), marketing tactics focus in more detail on what products to offer at what price and where they will be promoted. Marketing communications, campaigns, and advertising are used to develop these.
In the final stage (measurement), the performance of strategies is analyzed in order to assess their success. Sales, consumer behavior, customer feedback, media coverage, and web analytics all provide ways of measuring the marketing strategy and these inform the research which marks the start of the next marketing cycle.
Fashion shows date from the early 20th century, later becoming a regular part of the fashion calendar. They have become increasingly spectacular, with music, models, and catwalks and an audience of clients, buyers, journalists, bloggers, fashion figures, and celebrities.
Increasingly fashion promotion has taken the form of branding. Promotional activities are used to establish brand recognition and reputation. It has become important to consider which marketing channels to use or to adopt multi-channel marketing, using a mix of print, broadcast and online advertising, catwalk shows, and visual merchandising. It is also becoming more common to employ an omni-channel strategy to ensure a seamless experience for the customer.
Fashion and fashion shopping have been transformed since the beginning of the 21st century. Luxury brands have become more profitable and visible, and they have also become more accessible through their collaborations with the high street. There have been moves towards cheap, disposable ‘fast fashion’ and copies of designer garments, but at the same time there is also a concern with developing long-lasting and environmentally-friendly clothing, ethical fashion, and forms of ‘eco chic’.
Fashion designers are increasingly important cultural figures. They are the subject of blockbuster exhibitions, such as ‘Savage Beauty’, commemorating Alexander McQueen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2015. The stories of designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel are turned into documentaries and full-length feature films.
Other kinds of celebrities—performers, musicians, and actors—have also become prominent within fashion, on the covers of magazines, in advertising campaigns, and on the front rows of catwalk shows. Some celebrities, such as Victoria Beckham, have created their own fashion lines and become famous because of their personal style.
There are also more crossovers between the worlds of fashion, art, film, and TV. Some design houses have opened their own art galleries, funded major art exhibitions, or asked artists to create fashion merchandise for them.
Shows like Sex in the City and Mad Men and films like The Great Gatsby have provided inspiration for fashion looks while reality shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians have become influential, with the Kardashian sisters, Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney, launching their own retail empire.
As well as these forms of collaboration in existing media, new media and promotional practices have emerged. Bloggers and street photographers have become important figures in documenting fashion news and in advertising designers and stores.
Film audiences have been fascinated by stars for decades. Film stars’ onscreen appearances have made all kinds of fashion and other consumer items glamorous. This interest in the appearance and lifestyle of celebrities, both on and off screen, has intensified over time.
Glamorous occasions such as awards, red carpet events, and front row appearances at fashion shows provide important moments in the relationships between fashion and celebrity, but the focus has also moved to other kinds of media coverage and fashion advertising. Celebrities have become fashion icons off screen.
|Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson (2013)|
Micro-celebrities often use ‘a new style of online performance in which people employ webcams, video, audio, blogs, and social networking sites to “amp up” their popularity among readers, viewers, and those to whom they are linked online’ (Theresa M. Senft, 2008).
Increasingly we draw on digital technologies that use and store information in the form of digital signals. This makes it possible to produce smaller devices which are more powerful, have huge storage capacity, carry an enormous amount of information, and have a variety of functions. The Internet, mobile media, computer games, and interactive TV rely on digital technology.
Technologies are much more central to our lives today and much more embedded in the way we live. Phones, cameras, and clocks merge with television, radio, music, and digital networks. These have become more and more accessible, and today millions of people are able to use them, although a digital divide and unequal levels of access remain.
The Internet, World Wide Web, and digital technologies more broadly have had a huge impact on the way we live, as part of a transition from an economy based on industry to one based on information. We have ‘email, mobile phone calls, text messaging, instant messaging, chat, web boards, social networks, photo sharing, video sharing, multiplayer gaming and more’ (Nancy Baym, 2010).
Technologies have changed the way we get news, share information, do our jobs, learn, play, and form communities. We can access new public spaces and connect with people around the world. Individuals, groups, and communities can link together in different ways, while extended online networks mean that we can keep in touch with people more regularly than before.
The term 2.0 is often used to refer to the ways that people now use technology for communication, including creating user-generated content. Digital technologies also provide new ways of interacting. Images have become particularly important as part of the way that we express ourselves, communicate with others, make connections, and create bonds.
The development of mobile technologies has meant that new types of space such as social networks can be created and mobile devices such as smartphones allow us to be in different spaces at the same time. Information is more immediate and the physical world is overlaid with layers of information created by a range of individuals and organizations.
The development of new technologies has transformed retailing. Customers no longer need to be physically close to shopping centers, and they can buy clothes from around the world. ‘We can now shop in the middle of the night or in a cab, quickly survey a brand’s entire inventory in a single scroll, and read other customers’ reviews about how an item of clothing fits’ (Elizabeth Segran, 2015).
Many products are now mainly bought online, with electronic goods, books, and clothing the most popular items with online shoppers. There has been a dramatic rise in online trading and small-scale selling, with sites like eBay and Etsy providing new forms of marketplace for a wide range of products. Online-only brands such as ASOS and NET-A-PORTER have emerged and there is more space for small businesses, niche and specialist retailers, and new designers.
Developments in technology have also changed the way we shop. Brands can access consumers on social media and forums, and producers and consumers can interact with one another. Consumers can do their own research about products, communicate with each other, and publish reviews of products. Customers have become particularly valuable to brands as trendsetters and advocates and brands need to focus much more on building customer loyalty as part of their marketing strategies.
|Mark Deuze (2012)|
Fashion magazines first appeared in the late 18th century. Fashion photography emerged in the early 20th century, making it possible for fashion magazines to become heavily illustrated publications full of glossy fashion shoots and advertisements. Magazine advertising became particularly important as a way of marketing fashion. Cinema, television, and the rise of celebrity culture have also worked to make fashion more visible to more people around the world.
‘Convergence culture’ describes the way that old and new media are now merged together; media content is digitized, images are turned into information, and phones become devices that are also books, cameras, and music players.
In the past, marketing tended to focus on separate locations for promotion—for example, in fashion shows, lookbooks, and advertising, but today information is brought together on websites and marketers must consider how to develop a strategy that can be used online, across social media, and in bricks and mortar stores.
Digital fashion marketing began in the 1990s with basic fashion websites. Companies began to publish what was essentially little more than an online catalogue, lookbook or brochure, often directing customers to a physical store to make their purchases. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was no secure online shopping system in place until after 1994.
Consumers would not automatically Google the brand they were interested in, or assume that their favorite retail outlet had a website with all of the latest details of their new arrivals as we do today. Companies needed to publicize their URL (website address) to prospective customers, on bags, display ads, in commercials and banner ads, or through links from other websites or online fashion directories.
Gap, for example, were early adopters of online digital marketing and were quick to use a web presence to promote their brand. Their website had a simple functionality, typical of most early fashion websites. The main focus was on displaying a small range, using simple hyperlinks and directing the visitor to physical stores.
With the addition of secure online payments and PayPal, improvements in searching using a search engine such as Google, and the broader development of shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay, shopping online became more established throughout the early to mid-1990s.
A blog is essentially a website with unique features that make it much easier to update as materials don’t have to be uploaded to a server. From the late 1990s, with the development of publishing platforms such as Blogger, and later WordPress, fashion companies could post new features and upload images and these could be published instantly on the web. In some cases, blogs replaced existing websites, but more often blogs were used as a marketing supplement linked to the company’s website.
Blog addresses still needed to be publicized, but RSS feeds made it possible for followers to subscribe to a blog. This meant that if the consumer liked a brand or followed a blog, they would be notified via an RSS reader.
However, the most significant change brought about by blogs was that consumers could respond to posts. Online two-way communication was now possible. Brands could post about new ranges and collections, special offers, new services, and fashion events, and customers could reply to those posts. Fashion companies could connect with their customers.
This connection made it possible for companies and customers to establish an online relationship and interact. In addition, it allowed companies to monitor customers’ responses through their feedback.
The introduction of social media and social networking sites in the early 2000s opened up fashion communication even further. Rather than the two-way interaction of posting and replying used on blogs, social networking and sharing made it possible for limitless numbers of people to curate, comment, and communicate across a number of sites like LinkedIn, Myspace, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Vine to form social communities.
|Henry Jenkins (2006)|
Participatory culture describes the move away from a form of communication with clear lines between producers and consumers. In participatory culture both producers and consumers become participants in the creation and circulation of content.
Traditionally consumers experienced fashion from the point of view of an audience, or more recently, as viewers who might be invited backstage for a more intimate ‘behind the scenes’ view. The use of social media platforms has enabled consumers to become participants rather than spectators.
As networks have expanded and consumers’ levels of engagement in them has grown, they have been able to create their own user-generated content and become ‘part of’ a brand, for example by uploading images and personalizing goods. Today, participatory engagement has become the focus of many marketing campaigns.
Zara, for example, choose not to have a huge budget for traditional advertising, preferring to use word of mouth in integrated marketing campaigns. In their ‘People’ campaign, launched in 2011, they invited consumers to upload images to show how they style Zara merchandise, with an option to share their photos on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
This has made it a lot easier for fashion businesses to pick up friends and fans. It has allowed them to communicate on social networks in more personalized ways and to take a more subtle approach to marketing.
Another advantage is the ability to share and re-share information. This means that a message can circulate ‘virally’, where people spread a message using technologies so that it is passed around quickly in a short space of time. Content is most likely to go viral if it is designed for public sharing, has social currency (making the person passing it on look good), contains triggers that make it easy to remember, tells a story, conveys or provokes emotion, and has value for people (Jonah Berger, 2013).
Businesses can also share video and pictures to promote new collections and upcoming events, enticing consumers to visit their websites, blogs, or stores. As many of the social network platforms such as Facebook and Twitter work together, they can use Twitter to boost their Facebook presence, and vice versa.
The way a fashion business communicates with consumers in the marketing of its products and services, including ‘advertising, PR, sales promotion, personal selling, direct marketing and visual merchandising’ (Tim Jackson and David Shaw, 2008).
The marketing mix also needs to take into account the people, processes, and physical evidence that are involved in fashion. Taken together, product, price, promotion, place, people, process, and physical evidence are sometimes described as the 7 Ps.
Digital technologies offer many new opportunities for ‘re-mixing’ marketing strategies (David Chaffey and P.R. Smith, 2012).
Those who are important for the delivery of a service or who present important information to customers about that service; for example, those who work in fashion PR and those who sell directly to customers or deal with orders, deliveries, and complaints.
‘Regardless of the approach to the mix the same principle applies – stick close to the customers; listen to them using social media or formalized marketing research to learn what they need; and supply it better than the competition by mixing the right mix.’
|David Chaffey and P.R. Smith (2012)|
Digital fashion marketing is the process of promoting a business using a mix of channels such as email, social media and networks, video, and websites. The Internet has transformed shopping, giving customers greater control over the buying process. The mobile Internet allows them to research, compare, and share their experiences across these channels at any time from virtually anywhere. Marketers need to be able to work across channels simultaneously in order to capture consumers’ attention and respond to their needs.
In many sectors, traditional marketing channels such as radio, mail, print advertising, coupon, and printed promotional materials known as ‘printed collateral’ have become less prominent, while mobile advertising has drawn consumers’ attention away from adverts, flyers, and billboards.
Customers can use multiple channels from a number of interaction points throughout their shopping experience. From a marketing perspective, most of these channels can be categorized into three main types of media: paid media, owned media, and earned media.
Omni-channel marketing is marketing that uses many channels in a seamless way. The customer’s experiences and interactions should be consistent across all channels, modes of delivery, and devices used.
|Mark Larson, Global Head of Retail with consulting firm KPMG (2014)|
A company’s marketing efforts also need to have key performance indicators or KPIs. These need to be measurable in some way, for example the number of people that visit a website or how many units have sold within a given time period. KPIs are used to measure marketing efforts and monitor performance.
Marketers need to identify what is needed for the online paid, owned, and earned media available to them and to decide which channels to use. This is a process that must be continuously developed and improved alongside new objectives, new technologies, and new target customers.
Using digital technology within a fashion marketing mix is not a box-ticking exercise. If companies try to use digital marketing just because their competitors are, or if they try to incorporate digital technologies without a strategy in place, the chances of a successful return on their investment are greatly diminished.
Burberry is an example of a luxury company that has embraced digital marketing and e-commerce to become a digital leader. Established in 1856, Burberry is an iconic luxury fashion brand selling clothing, accessories, fragrances, and cosmetics. Since 2006, with the appointment of CEO Angela Ahrendts, in partnership with Christopher Bailey who succeeded her as Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer in 2014, Burberry’s vision has been to be ‘the first company that is fully digital’.
Burberry dedicates a significant part of its annual marketing budget to digital. It has almost 40 million followers around the world across 20 social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, We Chat, Line and Kakao. On its website it showcases new music talent from the UK on Burberry Acoustic and offers audiences the chance to showcase their own unique styles and ways of wearing their trench coat via the Art of the Trench platform. On the e-commerce site that offers the full Burberry collection, customers are able to personalize key products from its British-made Heritage trench coats and scarves to fragrances and bags.
Burberry’s stated aim is to provide a seamless transition between its physical and digital brand experiences with its flagship store in Regent Street, London, designed to mirror the experience of online shopping. Products in the store have RFID digital chips embedded in them that turn mirrors into screens, activating short films that tell the story of the product’s creation, starting with the roll of fabric from which it was made and moving on to sketches and runway clips. And at the end of a store journey, instead of queuing up to pay at a till, customers can sit on a sofa and use a swipe machine or services such as Apple Pay to make their purchase.
|Christopher Bailey, Burberry CEO (2012)|
Since 2010, Burberry has been live streaming its runway shows on Burberry.com and social media platforms such as Facebook and Periscope. To mark the launch of live streaming, guests in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, and Dubai were able to experience the show in 3D through real-time screenings. Digital also plays a part in the shows and launch activities of its flagship stores around the world.
For the launch of its Beijing flagship in April 2011, Burberry hosted an event using ground-breaking virtual image technology. The event was a showcase of the brand, capturing all facets from music, heritage, innovation, fashion, and technology using holograms, projections, and animation mixed with real models and musicians.
In April 2012, Burberry hosted a fully immersive, touring, 360° brand experience in Taipei. The first Burberry World Live event, staged in a custom cylindrical space, combined an eight-part 360° film, live musical performance, and digital weather experience. The multi-sensory event was the first to blur the physical and digital dimensions of the brand in front of a live audience, bringing to life the Burberry worlds of British heritage, fashion, music, and weather.
In 2014, the launch of the Shanghai flagship was celebrated with an immersive event featuring fashion, dance, and music for an invited audience of 1,500 people. Through a partnership with the mobile messaging platform WeChat, Burberry created interactive panoramas with dynamic 360° views of the show space that allowed many more people to enjoy the experience beyond those who were in attendance.
The Shanghai store itself has a facade featuring animations that respond to light and to the weather, another instance of the brand’s stated aim to make shopping a multi-sensory experience and to create outlets that are ‘part event space, part entertainment hub, and part store’.
It has been this gradual incorporation of digital into all aspects of the business that led to the brand’s most recent announcement that, from September 2016, it was changing its show calendar to make its collections available to buy as soon as they had gone down the runway.
As Christopher Bailey explained, ‘The changes [will] allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves. Our shows have been evolving to close this gap for some time. From livestreams, to ordering straight from the runway to live social media campaigns, this is the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve.’
In order to connect with customers online you need to start building an online presence. As a fashion marketer you will need to use online tools to establish and cultivate a positive buzz around your business. This exercise is designed to help you think through the stages of building an online presence.
It’s important to remember that when you have an online presence you are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People will be viewing your products and having conversations about you and the service they received. It’s important that you care about their views and look after their needs.
Most big fashion businesses use a mixture of online platforms and often have a dedicated marketing team to manage their online landscape. If you are a smaller business or a fashion start-up you need to find where your online customers are in order to choose the platforms that are right for your business.
Start by searching for potential customers across different platforms to find out which networks might be the most beneficial to your business. For example, by using the built-in search features provided by social networks, you can find conversations from all over the world from potential customers who may be already talking about a business like yours or who are buying similar items or services to the ones you are selling.
The look, layout, and design of your online presence is important. It should have good and relevant images, compelling headlines, useful information, and clear calls to action. Online visitors should be able to understand the nature of your business and your content should express clearly who you are and what you do.
You will need to develop an asset package. This should contain all of the images and text you will be using across your platforms. It should include header graphics (the main image), profile images, and text documents. Graphics should usually be horizontal.