Starting a fashion or lifestyle brand requires: a) a good collection and b) a clearly defined communication strategy. Some tend to underestimate the value of a marketing plan that helps on all the levels of brand creation – from defining your identity to delivering your product to the right place and audience. We asked PR professionals to share their tips and experience to help you develop your own strategy.
When planning a PR strategy, it is essential to define the size of the venture and its original ambition. Eric Thazard is the Director of Creative Door – a multi-label showroom based in Paris – offering PR and consulting services. He recommends to start with a ‘3 question’ approach:
“Why? Think of what is your story and what differentiates you from what is already on the market. How? Will it be an innovative social media/viral type of communication or a more classic editorial presence? You can also include seasonal events such as catwalk shows, exhibitions or celebrity events as part of the media plan. It should be set 6 seasons (3 years) ahead. When? It is fundamental to prepare a schedule of ‘key moments’ that will help you set brand’s milestones and draft the potential story of ‘brand evolution’, both in a short and long time perspective.”
Rike Dopp, the co-founder of an international Agency V carrying brands such as Cheap Monday, Timberland and MYKITA, adds: “You don’t have to revolutionise fashion but in no case should you have a product that already exists. You need your elevator pitch and all the materials – a website, webstore, pack shots, press text, price list line sheet. People will lose interest if they have to ask for the basics.”
Some brands want to quickly jump at editorial or media coverage opportunities, but Thazard thinks it is important to take time to clearly define brand DNA and assess one’s relevance in the market. It will facilitate to create a strong message.
Instagram is considered one of the most effective tools to deliver your communication. “Lookbooks are not as important as they were before. Great product pictures and explanations of the products are essential,” says Aida Vrazalica, the Head of PR at Agency V’s Stockholm branch.
Writing a proper, short press text that will describe your brand and product is also key. “If you write ‘I felt XYZ was missing’, it is not helpful, because the chances that your collection will change fashion forever are small. ‘A collection of my favoruite pieces’ sounds just random, while using the argument that your friends suddenly started to buy your pieces does not add validation to your work. Above all, a press text has to be descriptive! Imagine that you are trying to describe your collection to a blind person,” adds Dopp.
According to Thazard, planning your PR strategy should be taken as seriously as the design itself: “You should not compromise on art direction, the visuals or on how you describe your brand. The beginners have little commercial pressure so high degree of freedom offers an opportunity to build a strong base.”
To formulate the right message, brands should make an effort to understand their target audience. “Research is very important. Build small focus groups you consider as your target and listen to them. Also, think of people you wish to reach. It takes time to get to know your audience thoroughly,” says Vrazalica.
“Spend time on Instagram and remember your price has to be right. If you target a group of 25-year-olds, your sweatshirt should not be €700. A lot of brands think they can start like Vetements but that was not the case with their first collection,” adds Dopp.
SOCIAL MEDIA & INFLUENCERS
In the digital era, social media strategy is big part of the communication. Brands need to handle it wisely if they want to keep their online and offline activities cohesive. It also applies when it comes to picking right fashion influencers.
“Depending on your budget, your ambassador should relate to the brand not only in terms of style, but also when it comes to core values,” says Thazard.
“Look at the ambassador as an additional person to your team – does she communicate in the same language as your brand?” points Vrazalica. She also thinks that brands should retain consistency on social media: “If you want to change the direction, start over. Don’t jump back and forth. It will confuse your followers and fans.”
High level of engagement is yet another element young brands need to reflect on. “Don’t even start if you have less than two hours a day to dedicate to social media. You need to engage with comments and likes. You can also create a dummy account to follow people, so you can see their content without ruining your followers/following ratio,” adds Dopp.
Managing your own PR is a time-consuming and complex task that needs to be planned in advance. One blunder can cost your reputation and cause confusion in the eyes of potential customers. “Many young brands think of PR as a side activity to their creative work. It is a classic mistake that can be difficult to fix,” warns Thazard.
It is vital to create a communication that is fitted with your brand identity, budget and overall vision. “Don’t do anything before you’re ready,” points Dopp, “real designers can do shows, but bear in mind, not everyone who does a show is a real designer. Don’t rely on sponsors so that you can stay independent. Even if the budget is tight, it is better to spend €300 on sending an exciting gift rather than organising an event where you will serve a headache prosecco.” With that in mind, never bite more than you can chew and try to think out of the box. It is often at the very beginning that you are free to make the most unconventional and creative decisions that can determine your success.