Every industry is unique and so there are unique preferences for marketing tools in each industry. When discussing about communication platforms for the fashion industry, there is a knee jerk reaction to prescribe advertising and that modern-day solution to all marketing ills – sales promotion. However, nothing can be further from the truth.
Classical advertising is an expensive medium and so is often outside the reach of most designers who can be better labeled as small-scale business set-ups. Advertising is better suited to mass marketing where the per-unit exposure rate is low, but this is only possible with a big fat overall budget. Again, advertising has an impact with numbers, both in terms of reach and repetition. It cannot be finely tuned to the designers’ discerning and limited audience. As such, it would suit pret collections of strong designer brands. Perhaps the only example here in India would be of Anita Dongre’s Global Desi which is reportedly knocking sales of over rupees five hundred crores. For the rest, more mortal designers, what is left is a ‘mile-stone’ ad in a Vogue or Harper’s and that too with a much-needed gift discount from the publication. The publishers are happy to do this as they see good designer names as a cachet for their own journals.
The scourge of sales promotion has blighted Indian marketing much as it has down in the West. Unfortunately, it has short-circuited marketing minds into believing that it is a panacea for attaining targets which are usually impossibly stretched. Any ABC textbook of marketing will tell you that SP eats into marketing brand equity and if utilized indiscriminately long enough, can kill the brand for good. Marketing designer collections is all about building value into the label. As such, SF and designer wear are as far apart as night and day. Just picture JJ Valaya enticing customers with a rupee one lakh off of his five lakh lehnga! For the couture industry, SF is just a broom to clear the shelves of unsold merchandise at the end of the season. Done properly, it should be quick and gentle, lasting no more than two weeks.
What then are the most effective promotional platforms for fashion?
For the world of high fashion, appropriate platforms are those that are the most credible, visually impactful or those that heighten a sense of exclusivity. Perhaps, the most effective is publicity and it is well within the reach of struggling designers. Typically, publicity has to be combined with an event or milestone. A fashion show, thus, combines free publicity, highly targeted audience, rich visuals, and a sense of exclusivity. In a full-blown fashion week, the ‘up-and-coming’ can share the stage with the ‘arrived’! Brand ambassadors in the form of Bollywood starlets or even prominent socialites add power. Ultimately, the designer is the best ambassador for their own collections. The more cantankerous or shameless they can be the better for it adds gist to gossip and that all-powerful platform ‘word-of-mouth’. Page three has not lost its allure. Online sales may be the new necessity but what enriches the fashion label in both numbers and value is the trunk-show, pop-up store or the remote tucked away studio! Add to this relationship marketing and we have a winning combination.
Jt. Managing Director, ICoFP