By Lori Riviere
The categories of swimwear, resortwear and beachwear are a few of the growing segments in the apparel industry, expected to exceed $20 billion by 2019, according to Technavio’s latest report, reflecting a growth rate of over 5% during the forecasted period. This translates into an opportunity for new brands to enter the industry and grab some of the market share, but in an ocean of competition, how does a retailer effectively stand out from the crowd?
Along with great style, design, fit and innovative product development priced appropriately for the target audience, having a sound marketing strategy is key to success in this growing yet competitive industry. Oftentimes, stores and brands focus on only one aspect of marketing, believing that strategy will catapult them to fame and fortune. However, it is important to have a more rounded strategy in place, encompassing all categories that fall under the marketing umbrella—including advertising, social media and public relations.
Following are some helpful tips and guidelines in each of these areas to help manufacturers and retailers build a winning marketing plan.
Advertising is the only guaranteed way to get your brand or store name out there in the marketplace for large numbers of people to see in a manner where you have 100% control over the messaging and the outlets where the advertising appears. Whether reaching consumers or buyers or both, a portion of the overall marketing budget should be allocated to advertising. Trade publications are great resources to reach buyers and often have affordable options. On the consumer side, digital and social media ad buys can be effective, but definitely should not be the sole area of spending. No matter what you budget for advertising, it is important to follow the three Cs for marketing your brand or store: Consistency, Continuity and Combining mediums.
Digital advertising is great for reaching consumers and driving traffic to your website, but there is also an element of oversaturation and fatigue that consumers and industry professionals experience through the bombardment of digital ads. Print is a great way to break through the clutter and reach buyers and consumers. Buyers in particular are reading both trade and consumer publications, so print advertising can have a real impact.
Advertising can often be expensive, so budget-conscious brands and stores tend to skip it, but it is not a marketing component that should be overlooked. It is critical to disseminate some branding elements where you control messaging as well as the look and feel of the placement.
Consistency is key when it comes to advertising. Don’t underestimate the power of print media. Multiple studies have shown that people still prefer to read print publications. An ad needs to be seen multiple times before the message begins to resonate and become absorbed. Once the general brand awareness has been established, it needs to be reiterated. The best way to do this is to put a consistent ad plan in place in the outlets you select over the entire season or year. If budget is an issue, it might be better to place several smaller ads over multiple issues rather than a single large ad in one issue.
Continuity is important because you want to maintain the same brand image and message across all of your advertising and marketing efforts. Large brands have style guides that they share with partners that list acceptable fonts, colors and ways that the logos can be used when depicting the brand. It is a great idea to develop your own style guide even if it is a simplified version that shows how logos can be displayed in landscape, portrait and square view, along with fonts that are acceptable for portraying your brand.
Combining mediums is equally important. Again, you should allocate funds to all of the areas that fall under the marketing umbrella. Different members of your target audience are going to be tuned in to different mediums. Additionally, you want buyers and consumers to see your brand message in more than one place as it helps them perceive your store or brand as legitimate and one to watch or shop since your message is being seen through multiple channels.
One of the fastest-growing segments of marketing is social media. Brands and stores are desperate to build a strong social media following and are looking for the magic bullet that will catapult them to instant fame. While professional social media management services are available, we strongly feel that the day-to-day posting and engagement should be managed in-house.
Having beautiful photographic content and regular posts with appropriate hashtags is key. The number-one area where brands and stores fall short in the social media space is having enough appropriate imagery to post on social channels, particularly Instagram, where the emphasis is on photo content. For instance, if you were going to post on Instagram once per day, you would need 365 images that are beautiful and “Instagram-worthy,” while having enough variance in terms of setting and styling to keep followers interested and attract new followers. A social media marketer should plan a social media content shoot at least once a month. These shoots can be costly to produce, but this is where a PR agency can be helpful. A lot of people think that they can do the shoots themselves, but very few are properly equipped to capture the overall brand essence or store aesthetic, while appearing fresh and different from previous shoots.
Allocating some product and marketing budget to influencer collaborations and celebrity seeding is another element of social strategy that is vital for this industry. Working with influencers and celebrities is a great way to potentially see more rapid growth on social channels. Not only should you be allocating product to be gifted to influencers, but some budget should be earmarked for paid collaborations as well. This is also a great way to secure imagery and content for use on social channels. If you don’t have the contacts or the time, hire an agency that does. They have the expertise and relationships to ensure a strong celebrity program.
Promote your Instagram and Facebook posts. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, changed its algorithm a little more than a year ago, and this change basically made it necessary to allocate some dollars to promoting posts in order to grow your following. The budgets can be small, but at least some marketing funds should be designated for Instagram and Facebook. I can’t stress enough that this is only one component of a strong marketing strategy, and some budget should be allocated to print publications. Trade publications will reach buyers, while local and national consumer publications will reach potential customers.
Public relations is often referred to as “earned” media. These are placements of your product, brand or store in editorial stories in media outlets. It can also be connected to an event, such as a trunk show or fashion show. These stories can appear in digital outlets, print publications, radio or television. The benefit of editorial placements secured through your own efforts or those of a public relations firm adds to the legitimacy of a brand or store by showing that industry insiders, or editors, feel that your brand, product or store is worthy of an editorial mention, showcased imagery or feature. Public relations and editorial placement is a very powerful tool to build and grow brand awareness, but you can’t automatically assume that you will receive valuable editorial exposure. It is important to have someone with a background in public relations with direct access to and relationships with editors to help spearhead your public relations efforts. One word of caution: Not all PR companies are alike; be sure to select one that reports all inquiries to you and follows up appropriately.
Overall, creating a marketing strategy that incorporates advertising, social media and public relations will provide the building blocks to brand success and longevity.