When Neiman Marcus emerged from bankruptcy in September 2020, it didn’t publish its standard catalog last fall. But this season, it’s back under its former name “The Book” (Typically, Neiman Marcus publishes two seasonal catalogs and one Christmas edition each year). Daz McColl, CMO of Neiman Marcus spoke about the moves behind the fall “Reintroduce Yourself” campaign and the changes in the company’s marketing strategy at the Glossy Summit in Miami, Florida. The fall 2021 edition contains interviews with Chloé’s Gabriela Hearst and Virgil Abloh of Off-White and Louis Vuitton, among other content.
Here are five takeaways from the conversation between Daz McColl and Glossy editor, Jill Manoff.
A balance between digital and physical content
While the brand works with core channels similarly to other retailers, the focus in the latest strategy is on individual consumers and how they interact with content, especially in how short content snippets have taken over social media platforms. “In fact, that’s only one video in our collection for the fall season — we’ve actually produced 270 micro-videos, 17 teaser videos, and seven full-length videos and the full length is 60 plus seconds each,” said McColl. “The idea is to be relevant to the customers at the moment. We have to produce a lot of content because you all consume it so quickly and we have to keep up with that because there’s so much to offer and we have an insatiable appetite for great content and inspiration. From a marketing point of view, our job is to inspire you. Luxury marketing is, to me, a really interesting opportunity for personalization. I don’t think of personalization like a lot of marketers would, using first-party data to feed content. To me, personalization is really about the individuality of our customers and understanding that everyone is an individual. As a marketer, one thing I’ve worked hard at internally is to not turn into a world where we have personas for target groups, because, to me, that just means we’re just putting labels on people when I want everyone to be seen as an individual customer.”
This extends to specific channels that Neiman Marcus utilizes as well that offer more individualized opportunities based on data. “We have also started to use a lot of connected TV because we can really highly target our customers,” said McColl. “The Neiman Marcus customer isn’t everybody, we recognize that. What we do is we try to target the right people using both our first-party data and third-party data. We use video in those formats through streaming services, subscription services, plus, obviously YouTube and all the social media.”
As one of the few brands that still uses a catalog for its new launches, Neiman Marcus wants to bring that luxury vehicle to doorsteps across the U.S. “Through the first part of the Covid pandemic, when we had to close our stores, we took a lot of time to rethink our print marketing strategy, partly through the evolution of our data management and building our customer data platform. We now use our print marketing as a very, very targeted vehicle to the right customers, who purchase the sort of product that is in those marketing books. We still do them both for historical reasons, but also they’re a very powerful marketing idea for us because we can leverage the portrayal and the storytelling to tell a great story about our brand. Our role as a curator and editor of fashion is very important.”
Focusing on an omnichannel campaign
The fall “Reintroduce Yourself” message is spread via visual imagery across social media, in-store layouts, events and print content. “I actually also have responsibility for our store, merchandising team and our special events,” said McColl. “So, we literally take out our campaign all the way through to the Florida store. If you go into our stores now, one of the symbols of the ‘Reintroduce Yourself’ campaign was that we used a large-scale door on the front of our book as a visual metaphor for literally reintroducing yourself. We’ve built similar things in our windows in our stores and ones that travel around where special events for photo opportunities for social videos. We also partner with some of our amazing brand partners to create exclusive experiences in-store as well. So sometimes it’ll be in five or six doors, but we’ll put in a pop-up or a special display that also fits into that campaign in partnership with our great brands.”
Neiman Marcus works with influencers on an individual basis, making the pairings tailored to their consumer base. “We occasionally work with influencers. It’s a part of a very big strategy,” said McColl. “We are very tactical and dynamic in different things. We don’t necessarily have a single collection, we have a number of influencers we use on and off for different things. To me, it’s as relevant and important as whether you do performance marketing, or whether you do display marketing, or whether you put up windows in your retail store. I think it’s a part of the mix today and is going to be about being smart and not overspending, making sure you’re getting value.”
Stylists are more prominent in marketing
Rather than hiring models, the stylists featured in the campaign are real-life members of the Neiman Marcus team, currently working on creating a personalized service to customers. “We truly recognize that style today is as much about you and your story and your place in the world, and the transformations you’re going through – it’s not about just picking the next thing, said McColl. “It’s about what does that go with, for what purpose and what occasion? Our fashion director said to me the other week, ‘I don’t get out of bed in the morning thinking I want to wear Versace, I get out of bed in the morning thinking, What am I doing? Where am I going? Who am I going to see? What do I need to wear?‘ So our style advisors are tuned into individuality and customers and they work in the context of your life to help you make those choices.” Thus, begins a deep relationship between the brand and consumer, helping create a bond that focuses on a long-term user experience.
Using the NM Connect style advisor app, the retailer can access first-party data that looks at buying habits of their customers, allowing them to suggest items when they are most likely to be needing them. “To me, that’s really meaningful personalization. It’s all data-driven because truthfully, our style advisors can’t remember everything and every purchase and every opportunity,” said McColl. “At the same time, we can use our data to be smart, if we find that a large percentage of customers are buying certain items and not others, we will then tell our style advisors that this customer bought this top and didn’t buy this handbag, but maybe they might want to consider it.”
The app also allows for easy outfit visualization, with options for style advisors to send full looks to customers. However, it is most importantly used to tailor content to current and prospective customers. “That’s part of the reason we produce hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pieces of content because not everyone wants to see the same thing,” said McColl. “So with 3 million customers, there’s a lot of different points of view out there, lots of different styles and lots of different expectations, we try to get closer to what matters to them most.”
Gen Z, influencers and TikTok
Neiman Marcus functions as a heritage brand that is growing in the digital age. It caters to long-term customers as well as hopes to attract new ones with different content offerings. “When I look at the age demographics of our customer base, it’s always quite surprising and to me, it’s more about mindset. Some of our more long-standing customers — the politest way of saying, born in my generation — are the coolest and savviest fashion-orientated following people I know,” said McColl. “To me, age is less relevant than interest and appreciation for fashion, luxury, mindset, values and the propensity to invest. Luxury designer handbags are not cheap. That’s the truth. They are beautifully crafted exquisite artifacts. If people really want it and have money, it’s worth saving for.”
Talking about new channels like gaming and TikTok, McColl wants to see how the brand will function in the space before delving deep. “Sometimes being first is great,” said McColl. “Malcolm Gladwell did some great talks a few years back and always said that being third is best, not first or second because you get to learn from two other people when you’re third. I would like to say that I would like to be third metaphorically and when I know there is a true market and a role for us to play. When we can define that, it makes way more sense to me to indulge in those sorts of areas. I have a team that’s very enthusiastic about us jumping into TikTok. Honestly, I’m not 100% convinced yet because the numbers from a customer profile point of view are not quite there yet, but I don’t think it will be long…We’re in the micro-content game and Tiktok is a great platform for that, but it’s also participatory and inspiring, so don’t be surprised if you see some stuff soon.”