Lilly Pulitzer Launches First-Ever Brand Campaign

Lilly Pulitzer is introducing its first-ever brand campaign, combining AI with citrus-splashed apparel to create a message of creative empowerment.

“We’ve spent the past two years focusing on brand modernization,” says Eleni McCready, senior director of brand marketing and community at Lilly Pulitzer. “We realized that we needed a larger investment in true upper-funnel awareness. And while we’ve been investing heavily in influencers to do that and will continue to, we wanted to have a true brand campaign in the mix.”

The campaign, created by Yard, is built around a colorful video showing a woman with the same entrepreneurial itch as the original Lilly, who started her clothing brand in 1959. “I want to start something new. Something iconic,” the model says, with AI cleverly morphing her from one bright outfit to the next.



Previously, the company had directed about 90% of the marketing budget to lower-funnel tactics. And while McCready declined to say how much the company is spending on the effort, she says the investment brings the budget into a more balanced ratio.

Lilly Pulitzer is owned by Oxford Brands, the parent company of Tommy Bahama and Johnny Was. In its most recent quarterly results, the company says Lilly Pulitzer sales slid 9% to $76.3 million from $84.1 million in the comparable period of the prior year. Oxford attributed the decline to a more cautious consumer.

McCready says the campaign conveys everything she wants the brand to stand for: “We are all about helping people create their sunshine with this resort state of mind.” But that doesn’t mean the brand’s fans are just lolling by the pool. She says they’re essentially creative, always working toward a different vision. The spot signs off encouraging that: “When what you want doesn’t exist, create it.”

Ulrika Karlberg, chief creative officer at Yard NYC, says using AI for such an iconic brand felt like a major win. AI aligns perfectly with the brand’s ethos and heritage, she tells Marketing Daily via email. “It establishes how relevant Lilly Pulitzer is and will be for many years to come.

Lilly Pulitzer sells in three channels, including D2C ecommerce, 135 retail stores and many wholesale partners. McCready says the target customer is essentially the same, no matter where they shop.

The target audience is women aged 30 to 55 who live or travel to sunny locations. And while trips trigger purchases, “these are people who do want to create their own sunshine. They see the world as more colorful and a little bit more optimistic. It's inherently brighter and more fun.”

Like many other legacy fashion brands, the challenge is to communicate a rich history without suggesting that the clothes belong to a bygone era. “Fashion is focused on the new and on what's next. And that’s our heritage since Lilly herself was always looking forward. She constantly pushed for more design innovation.”

McCready isn’t worried that celebrating Lilly’s 65th birthday conjures more images of Gramma and Social Security than of chic pink-and-green party clothes. “This anniversary is a very big deal to us. And about 50% of our sales come from dresses, so why not celebrate?”

The focus on a brand effort “is a big step forward for us. It’s been on our dream list for a while, and so has working with Yard.”

The campaign launch also signals some changed thinking internally. “Brand is not just marketing's problem. It’s everybody’s job, and we’re now thinking about how brand fits into everything from design to distribution to communication.”

Ads are running on Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, Meta platforms, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Within Meta,  the company is testing the performance of the brand campaign versus creator content, “making sure we better understand the impact of influencers in this context.”

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