What's In Fashion In The Inbox

A few weeks ago on "Mad Men," the creatives at Sterling Cooper put together a commercial for Patio soft drink, using a scene from "Bye Bye Birdie" as their inspiration. The scene they chose happened to feature Ann-Margret singing the title song. While the final ad featured a dead ringer for Ann-Margret in the starring role, the client hated it. Why? Because while it looked like Ann-Margret and sounded like Ann-Margret, it simply wasn't Ann-Margret. So, what's the lesson here? Go for the real deal or don't go at all.


Supermodels, sports stars, and celebrities have been touting products from cosmetics to cameras for ages -- and no one uses stars better than Nike. Whether it's Tiger Woods sinking a shot in a commercial or Candace Wiggins of the WNBA giving a quote in an email, Nike draws on real-life athletes to elevate its brand experience. But lately, a new kind of celebrity personality has started to emerge out of the inbox. A few of the biggest names on the retail block have turned their behind-the-scenes visionaries into front-and-center marketing campaigns.



As the Creative Director at J.Crew, Jenna Lyons is the ideal voice for the brand. By devoting an entire email to Jenna's Picks and supporting the story in-store, in the catalog and online, J.Crew is inviting people into Jenna's office to see what inspires her. The founders of Serena & Lily take this idea a step further by devoting two separate emails to its distinct styles: Serena Hearts and Lily Loves.

Ann Taylor recently introduced email subscribers to Lisa, its new head designer, in a gorgeous email, and then followed up with this email. Although it seems like the idea came straight from the J.Crew playbook, the creative execution is solid and the landing page experience was really inspired (until the company refreshed it and took out the story about Lisa!). 

Piperlime's strategic partnership with Rachel Zoe is simply brilliant. Since the company doesn't design its products in-house, it needed to pull in a recognized fashion goddess to give its assortments clout and a voice of authority. As the eternal Guest Editor, Rachel Zoe fits the role to perfection. She's exactly the person who Piperlime's audience is going to trust and follow. To support the relationship, the company feature her seasonal picks in a special section on its website as well as in its emails. As a fantastic bonus, Piperlime gets to relish the exposure on her show, "The Rachel Zoe Project," which is promoted in  emails, too.

On the heels of Fashion Week in New York, this email from Saks Fifth Avenue couldn't have been more perfectly timed or perfectly designed. By partnering with Harper's Bazaar's Editor-in-Chief Glenda Bailey to showcase her favorite top trends from the spring shows, Saks instantly elevated its merchandise assortment and gave it credibility. Best of all, the landing page didn't disappoint. It was clean and compelling, highlighting the top five trends and offering Bailey's take on each.

On the other end of this name-game trend sits Old Navy's Supermodelquins campaign. Creating personalities for each mannequin, the company has even gone so far as to quote these make-believe fashion authorities in its emails. While this campaign seemed destined to fail when it launched, it must be working because Old Navy's sticking to it. That said, putting your brand image in the hands of mannequins doesn't exactly emanate authenticity, especially at a time when people need to feel a connection to the brands they buy.

In today's cluttered consumer climate, connecting your brand to a recognized, relevant, and real authority is a smart way to elevate your product in the eyes of your audience. To keep the cost down for this tactic, look for someone in-house whom you can promote as your trend visionary, or put together unique partnerships, such as the Saks and Harper's Bazaar one, where you both get something out of the relationship. Food for thought.

2 comments about "What's In Fashion In The Inbox".
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  1. Brad Koogler from BRK Public Relations, October 12, 2009 at 4:20 p.m.

    As a starting off point, the "Mad Men" scene really was about cultural disapproval of homosexuality via the aesthetic of the commercial. A small distinction perhaps but one worth noting. As an ending point, I think the Supermodelquins campaign is right on target. Thanks Old Navy for realizing (unwittingly perhaps) that a mannequin is as valid (or fake) a substitute for a customer as a model. The next step? Get rid of the mannequins and the models. If customers can blog, tweet, text or make videos about you, why can't they be in your commercials?

  2. Darrah Maclean from Smith-Harmon, October 12, 2009 at 8:45 p.m.

    Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that Mad Men episode! While cultural disapproval of homosexuality has absolutely been a theme this season (especially with last night's story development), with this particular episode, the client was not aware of Salvatore's personal story. Even Don didn't "get it" when Peggy showed him the storyboards and even the clip from the movie. In Don's own words, the issue was trying to recreate something without Ann Margaret. It fell flat.

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