It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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In France, Evian banks on 1998 nostalgia

Friday 4 July, half-time during the France-Germany World Cup quarter-final. Germany is leading 1-0 but Evian has taken a gamble, rebroadcasting its 1998 TV spot featuring swimming babies. “1998, a year we dream to re-live,” the ad declares over a background of referee whistles.

With perfect and studied timing, Evian had added the video to its YouTube account on 15 June, as France played its first match against Honduras. The brand announced the campaign on Twitter on 25 June, just as France went through to the last sixteen after the match against Ecuador. The tweet said: “In 1998, our babies were swimming. What are your memories of this mythical year?”

So far, the YouTube video has been watched 158,716 times. The tweet has gathered 178 retweets and 102 favourites, with the ad picked up and commented upon independently in other tweets too - a decent though not high level of engagement. In comparison, a tweet featuring tennis player and Evian poster-woman Maria Sharapova, posted on the 3 July, has so far gathered 214 retweets and 508 favourites*.

User responses to the tweet vary: some tweeted back it was the year they were born, the year they got married, the year they saw their first gig…  Many tweeted that for them, 1998 was all about France’s win. In short, the swimming babies succeeded in linking Evian to positive emotions and often life-changing memories.

Known for its imaginative and cute TV ads that play on its trademark theme of youth by water, Evian had a great marketing idea in rebroadcasting its 1998 ad. Though I remembered the spot, had I seen it without background information, I would have been incapable of dating it. Once I knew, it was as if it had dropped me in a comforting bath.

Calling on nostalgia is nothing new in advertising. Analysing the trend last year, specialised publication AdWeek remarked: “In a study of brands that had consumers buzzing during the first quarter, NBCUniversal Integrated Media noticed that those connecting to the past resonated strongly with consumers and shot to the top of its Brand Power Index (BPI)”.

Although nostalgia is a proven advertising strategy, Evian did take a risk by betting that France would get behind its national team. After the team’s skin-of-the-teeth qualification in November 2013, 79% of the French population had a negative opinion of Les Bleus. By the quarter finals, 62% of the French population had a positive view of them. News analysis has been focusing on this regained popularity as much as they have been discussing the team’s sports qualities. This might have been a factor in Evian deciding to spend the €200,000 or so the 32 seconds spot broadcast at peak time would have cost.

As with any bout of nostalgia, it doesn’t matter that 1998 wasn’t actually as good a year as France now remembers, since the World Cup title has thrown most other events in a pink fog. In a 2010 article about “The Power of Nostalgia in Advertising” for Branding Strategy Insider, brand consultant Derrick Daye explains that “every time we remember a past event it not only evokes the earlier memory, but can re-cast the past into a more pleasing “remembered” version. Memory, thinking and feeling are an active, shaping process.” In 1998 France, unemployment in Q2 leading up to the World Cup was at 11.7%, two points higher than what it is today. The French economy was restarting independently of football, after some tough times in the mid-90’s, thanks to a strong US growth. Had France won against Germany last Friday, and gone to hold the trophy, economists agree that it wouldn’t have resulted in similar economic results because the current landscape is too different.

But that’s irrelevant to Evian’s advertising strategy because, four World Cups from now, we would have remembered 2014 as a great year for France. Nothing shortcuts memory like happiness.

*As of 9am on 06 July 2014

Posted at 4:49pm and tagged with: marketing, Brand communication, world cup, Social media,.

My Little Paris, a lifestyle website dedicated to everything Paris, is having a sample sale of apparel from womenswear fashion brand Des Petits Hauts today. Only on its iPhone app. The sale was advertised on Facebook and half of the comments published so far are from annoyed, iPhone-less followers.

iPhone-only apps are a branding black hole. Once upon a time, the photo-based social networks Instagram and Pinterest were reserved for Apple users. Then as their user numbers grew, they adapted and introduced apps for Android. 

It’s not just that the iPhone was the most developed of any smartphones, but rather having your product on Apple, which many confused with aligning with Apple values, made you one of the cool kids. Availability for iPhone users isn’t just about serving the customer, it’s about the perception the customer has of the brand.  

Companies like tagging on Apple’s reputation for disruptive innovation and on its authority in cool design. They also like the female-dominated, city-living, degree-owning, country-hopping, HBO-watching, Woody Allen-loving, high-earning iPhone user, who is bang in their demographic, real or ideal. 

Brands seem to be picking up though. Last October, Apple and Google announced equal numbers of apps were available for iPhones and Android phones, at 700,000. 

In the US, Android currently owes 51.7 percent of the smartphone market (down two points since the beginning of the year). Shouldn’t that market share be enough for Chanel, and Diane von Furstenberg (despite her partnership with Google on Project Glassto factor the development of an Android app into their budgets

A survey by the Reynolds Journalism Institute last August showed that the Android market is dominated by the under 34’s, the very millennials who shop and get their information on their smartphones. It’s time fashion brands and publications caught up with their customers.

Disclosure: I’m an Android user (obviously).

Posted at 4:36pm and tagged with: Chanel, marketing, smartphone, technology,.

Conan O’Brien called it “nonsensical ramblings”, Saturday Night Live parodied it and Tumblr has got its own Fuck Yeah! Inevitable Brad! page. Brad Pitt’s Chanel No 5 ad is probably the actor’s most criticised film to date, far ahead of Troy, The Mexican and Mr & Mrs Smith. Yet this very pan is what has made the ad so successful.

Immediate reactions to the ad ranged from the mocking to the lukewarm with the actor, rather than Chanel, bearing the blunt of criticism. Reviewers are questioning the rationale of the move in terms of image and career for Pitt, only a few wondering whether its quality can affect the French fashion house. The industry seems more worried by the EU threatening to ban tree moss, a key perfume ingredient, for being allergen, than by Pitt’s performance.

Early reviews focused on Pitt’s shifty gaze and the intensity of his delivery rather than the ad script or Joe Wright’s direction. Media outlets which would normally have little interest in Chanel kept reporting the story because it attained the holy grail of 2010s marketing: it went viral, supported by a strong media buy. People made it theirs, embracing the asset in their own way.

For a brand like Chanel, which has in the past taken strong steps to protect and enforce its trademarks such as a full page ad in WWD warning editors against the inappropriate use of the term Chanel jacket, there seems to have been very few, if any, cease and desist letters. The fashion house is letting the buzz run its own course, which is the only way to sustain it. Would Chanel have preferred the short to be lauded as an oeuvre d’art of cinema and marketing? Probably, but it wouldn’t have had the same result. Having a go at the perfect professional, perfect husband, perfect dad is an integral part of the Jolie-Pitt narrative played out in media outlets, and with its less than perfect ad, Chanel has gotten itself on that bandwagon.

By hiring a name with brand power equal, if not above its own, Chanel has not only generated interest and earned media beyond the fashion sphere, it has taken an insurance that its most lucrative and best known product would be left unscathed. It’s too early to see which effect the ad is having on No 5 sales in the key Q3 festive period but in terms of online success, Chanel is one step ahead of its competitors in the Christmas ad race.

Posted at 1:44pm and tagged with: chanel, Brand communication, advertising, marketing, cinema,.

The jury for smartest Valentine’s day email of 2012 is still out, but French menswear and womenswear brand The Kooples blasted a strong contender this morning. Happy The Kooples Day it claimed, encouraging openers to

Celebrate actual and future Valentines, the shipping from our online store is free until February, 14 with the following code TKDAY

References to Valentine’s day were kept minimal, assuming instead that calendar context combined with customers’ knowledge of the brand’s couple imagery would make clear what The Kooples Day refers to.

Not even mentioning Valentine’s day in the subject line, “Do not miss The Kooples’ Day”, is a bold move, suggesting The Kooples is confident its market is educated enough in the brand’s (couple) identity . Either that, or it has complete faith in the power of its name when it comes to opening rates.

Whereas many labels chose to go for red capsule collections or stock edits, in keeping with Valentine’s day traditional colour, The Kooples innovates by using its campaign theme to introduce its SS12 collection to its database. The Kooples doesn’t need an edit to celebrate love, it’s already about relationships, every day of the year.

Previously: Is The Kooples love story at risk of eroding?

Posted at 9:05am and tagged with: The Kooples, email marketing, Brand communication, marketing,.

This December, by subscribing to some popular glossies , you can receive a lipstick, a blush and a mascara (ELLE) and a votivo scented candle (Tatler), not to mention savings of over 50%. Not so much if you subscribe to Monocle, the 10-issues a year magazine covering everything going on in the world. Editor-in-chief, chairman and founder Tyler Brûlé believes in the quality of his magazine, and knows his audience would rather pay for quality information, amazing lay out and researched, concise writing than get yet another inane report fed by press releases. Buying a subscription to Monocle, which gives you unlimited access, for a year, to the magazine archives (and a Monocle-branded tote), is 60% more expensive than buying it by the issue (£80 versus £50 from the newsagent). Just like he pioneered a new type of lifestyle magazines with Wallpaper* and Monocle, is Brûlé on to something with this subscription business model?

Brûlé has been developing Monocle against all publishing trends: he’s shrugged off the iPad and social media, considering the first as “an enormous distraction from getting accurate words on the page”, arguing that “if you want journalism across six different platforms then something’s got to give and there’s a lot of mediocrity across six platforms”. By so doing, Brûlé has ignored the Millennial reader most publishers go after by putting celebrities on magazine covers and offering exclusive Facebook content.

Putting a premium price to magazine content gives a quality message. How much credit are you willing to give a publisher willing to slash the subscription prices so much a single issue ends up costing less than a pack of bacon? Monocle caters to the happy few who can afford to pay, are happy to pay, and are happy to show they can pay. Monocle isn’t just a read, it’s a status statement suggesting you travel with blankets made of baby alpaca and listen to the news on an Heritage Revo Radio. It is profitable not because it caters to the lowest common denominator of readers but because Brûlé knows who he’s after and single-mindedly publishes content to make this reader happy. And if new people are converted, all he better, but they won’t be lured in by the promise of cheap goods.

Monocle Stack, Flickr user Michael Dales

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: Monocle, magazine, marketing, financial times,.

To celebrate the launch of the Mad Men Season 4 DVD, womenswear high-street chain Jigsaw offers its customers the possibility to "Win the Mad Men lifestyle". I’ve written about my love of Mad Men, and my issues with the commercial deals which have ensued, in this blog before.

The Mad Men style and the latest Jigsaw collection, all in full skirts and narrow waists, are well aligned. The Mad Men lifestyle however is about more than girdles and sharp tailoring. It’s about women fighting to get out of secretary-only roles, dealing with sexism in the workplace, about a time when marital rape wasn’t recognised and when being a screwed-up philandering alcoholic was acceptable if you were a man. Because when it comes to screwed up men, Don is about as good as they get. Even though seeing women civic and professional awakening is inspirational and serves, season after season, as a summer reminder of how far women have come in five decades (or have we?), celebrating Mad Men lifestyle is ill-placed nostalgia.

Of course, the Jigsaw contest is about the style rather than the more sordid aspects of the 1960s. "Up for grabs is a new summer wardrobe from Jigsaw, as well as a trip for two to New York, His and Hers Classic TIMEX Originals watchers, a double decker manicure and pedicure from Nails Inc. and finally a PURE Evoke Retro Digital Radio”, not a full-blown time travel,

I can’t help but think, however, that the word lifestyle, with it all encompassing sense, was poorly chosen.

Images: Mad Men Season 4 cast, Jigsaw contest, Jigsaw display windows

Posted at 12:01am and tagged with: Mad Men, Brand communication, high-street, marketing,.

2 plays

2010 is the year of Serge Gainsbourg. In addition to the Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque) movie, out in the UK at the end of the month, l’homme à la tête de chou (the man with the cabbage head) is fronting Caron's “Pour un Homme” advert.

Every morning, French radio station Europe 1 plays an extract from the 1972 song he did with Jane Birkin to promote the perfume. As Géraldine Dormoy points out in L’Express, the singer wasn’t picky with the brands he represented: the suit-maker Bayard, the razor company Bic and the electrical store Connexion.

Caron isn’t the first parfumeur to choose a legendary French star as the face of its product. Since May 2009, Alain Delon, in his 1966 glory, has been the face of Dior’s “Eau Sauvage”.

Before Gainsbourg, rugby player Sébastien Chabal represented “Pour un Homme”. I doubt you can find two men more different, besides their obvious issue with face grooming. They both stand for very different aspect of the macho man cliché, one strong and bulky, the other a real tombeur, lady-killer.

By going back to a 1970s icon, “Pour un Homme”, one of the oldest perfumes on the saturated men-fragrance market highlights its history and heritage. The key marketing question is: will Caron win new customers? Is Gainsbourg the right man to convince the 20-something market to buy the minimalist green bottle? Will it get the over-40 market and it strong purchasing power back to the lavender and vanilla notes of the fragrance? Will Gainsbourg’s voice seduce the girlfriends, wives and daughters who buy a perfume as a default birthday/anniversary/Christmas present?

Posted at 8:51am and tagged with: Caron, Gainsbourg, brand communication, marketing, perfume, nostalgia,.