For fashion brands, marketing often comes dead last. That’s not necessarily because they don’t care about marketing, but that it’s often relegated to a campaign approach. That makes a lot of other things difficult, including responding to a digital era that demands that marketing come first.
On this week’s Glossy Podcast, Tony King, founder of King and Partners, and Inii Kim, creative director, (who are also a couple) joined us to talk about the changing mores inside fashion brands, how digital demands better marketers and what it was like doing e-commerce for Gucci two decades ago.
Edited highlights below.
Brands have grown up …
King recalls when he was brought on board as a digital director for Gucci and put in charge of building the brand’s first website and setting up its e-commerce business. “It was an uphill process,” he said. Back then fashion brand websites essentially online catalogs. They also worried about seemingly silly things, such as making sure images weren’t big enough for people to copy designs. And they tested in also small ways: If an order came in, KIng would run down to the stock room and see if it was available, then process it. “Nobody cared about the Internet.”
… But not a lot
But while that sounds like a bygone era, King and Kim both said that many brands are still afraid to take risks in e-commerce. “A lot of brands, funnily enough, still don’t believe e-commerce is going to work on them,” said King.
Another problem is a reluctance to try new things. Brands that used to be worried about websites are now worried about taking too many risks with websites. Something as simple as a navigation bar placed to the right, not the left, worries them. But the key is to try and modify, if not replicate, a delicate in-store experience as much as possible, said King. Still, brands are so obsessed with so-called “best practices” that end up catering to the “lowest-common denominator.”
Luxury brands need to separate branding from product
Social media changed the game for brands, as did the influx of smart digital talent and the growth of digital competition from startups like Everlane. But ego still drives plenty of decisions inside high-fashion companies, said King. That means that marketing decisions are left to designers who may not understand complications with mobile conversions or campaigns, for example. Creative directors often don’t know anything about marketing but “get to control branding decisions,” he said. Sometimes it works fine, such as Hedi Slimane at YSL, but often, it implodes, such as Public School taking on redesigning logos for Donna Karan.
“Creative directors should focus on design of the clothes,” said King. “A good brand has a good CMO that separates what the fashion designer is doing from branding and marketing.”