In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Louise Camuto, click here.
High fashion marketing is an extremely specialized subset of advertising, but behind the double-page spreads, ultra-luxe events and breathtaking photo shoots, there's a science to creating compelling marketing that connects with your audience. So to gain insights into this unique corner of business, we turned to Louise Camuto, CMO of The Camuto Group, who shares how her company reaches their audience, making personal connections that never go out of style.
Louise and her company faces a complex marketing challenge, as the Camuto group is in charge of almost a dozen brands, including Vince Camuto, Jessica Simpson, BCBG Max Azria and Arturo Chiang. And even though each of these brands have their own style, all of them share common positioning, which means Louise and her team have to strike a delicate balance between differentiating each while showcasing their common pedigree of excellence.
"I think we constantly need to push the envelope in marketing to be ahead of the curve and innovate so we are always an intriguing brand for our woman," says Louise. "At Camuto Group, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can interpret product - from footwear to apparel - in the most on-brand manner. "
As they say in fashion, you're only as good as your last look, and Louise Camuto takes this adage to heart creating new looks. "We sit as a team and determine what items are appropriate for each of our brands and we spend a lot of time analyzing the marketplace for trend direction as well as what's happening at the consumer level," says Louise.
But this always-relevant ethos expands far beyond the runway. For all eleven of The Camuto Group's brands, keeping the marketing on trend is just as important as creating fashion-forward apparel. "I emphasize the importance of image and brand consistency daily with my team," says Camuto. "When we work on our campaign looks we collaborate with our marketing team and with PR to ensure we are on trend and delivering something exciting to the customer."
Keeping all of these brands current means The Camuto Group's brands all excel on social media, where ultra-relevant looks and high-end photography help to increased follower count and greater influence in the industry. This recursive nature has a unique impact in the fashion industry: the better your marketing is, the more on trend the clothes will become; and the more on trend your clothes are, the better your marketing will be. For Louisa and her team, this means that her looks don't just have to be stylish; they have to be remixable. "The influence of bloggers in today's world is a breath of fresh air to me. You really see how the customer actually wears and styles your product," says Louise.
But keeping so many brands, each with slightly different audiences, trendy in fashion means looking backwards as well as forward, and being able to shift strategies based on market forces. "Delving into the online space has really helped with the design process as I continually think about the end use of a skirt, top, pant, dress and what she would be looking for coming up in the next season." Louisa also raves about social media specifically, saying: "[Social is] also a great way to share new product and immediately test the response."
By leveraging a large, vocal online audience, The Camuto Group can test out different approaches they're thinking of and see how the audience reacts online, completing the marketing cycle and giving the customer an unusually large voice in the design process.
Even though the digital influence on high fashion grows stronger every day, the best piece of marketing for any piece of clothing is the item itself. This has many benefits for a marketer, especially if they use every moment the public is wearing their brand to reinforce fashion bona fides. "I absolutely believe everything is marketing and marketing is everything," Louise says. "Marketing occurs across every channel and touch point and I think the total experience is what drives a customer to love a brand and become a loyal enthusiast."
This total-experience focus can be a key differentiator for brands in a field as competitive as fashion. And even though it's tempting to be envious of another brand' looks, at the end of the day high-end fashion is about making something relevant and new, giving the customer an experience that they didn't realize they can't live without. Or, as Louise puts it, "I believe in always trying to lead and not follow, and I work closely with the team to always be at the forefront of what's happening with the consumer so we reach her every day, in every way."
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today column published every Thursday.