It's Fashion Week, when retail conversation normally runs to leggy 19-year-olds sailing down the runway. This year, however, everyone from Women's Wear Daily to Vogue is talking about older women, like 48-year-old Sharon Stone, who just bumped the 20-year-old Olsen twins as the spokesmodel for designer Badgley Mischka, or 47-year-old Madonna's ads for hip retailer H&M.
That makes it a great week for Forth & Towne, the Gap chain aimed at 35-plus women, to introduce its new ad campaign, "The Chic Revolution Begins." The print ads, done by New York-based agency AR, support the 14 Forth & Towne stores opening this fall in Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, and throughout California. (The chain already has locations in Illinois and New York.)
At first glance, it might seem that targeting older women is a slam-dunk. For one thing, there are 41 million Baby Boomer women in the United States. Plus, clothes aimed at this segment have been a hit: In addition to Eileen Fisher and J. Jill (now part of Talbots), Chico's and Coldwater Creek are among retail's biggest success stories. Women also respond to age-based appeals, which is why marketers are signing up older spokespeople, like Christie Brinkley, 52, for Cover Girl; Diane Keaton, 60, for L'Oreal; and Stone, who also pitches Christian Dior's skin-care line.
By skewing slightly younger, Forth & Towne is hoping to dodge the dowdiness factor associated with some of the shops aimed at older women, and a fit factor many women dismiss as "pajamatization"--elastic waistbands, "generous" seats, and long, boxy jackets. And the ads, which will run in fashion-oriented magazines like More and Elle, play up the new chain's style.
But not everyone expects Forth & Towne to do well. "Gap was too tentative in their market selection," says Marti Barletta, president of The TrendSight Group, Winnetka, Ill., which specializes in marketing to women. By focusing on women in the 35-plus range, she says, "they have not made enough of a commitment to Baby Boomer women."
The issue, Barletta says, is that the over-50 segment of the market is a very different demographic than the youngest Boomers, who are 42--and even more different than the 35-year-olds that Gap is trying to reach. "At 35, a woman has much more in common with a 25-year-old than with someone who is 45," says Barletta, who is also the author of the forthcoming Prime Time Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds and Business of Boomer Big Spenders.
"In their 40s, women are going through all kinds of angst about their age, and about wanting to look younger. But by the time they turn 50, women are much happier with who they are," she says. Chains like Chico's and Coldwater Creek have been so successful, she says, because they appeal to that older woman's stronger sense of authenticity.
Forth & Towne's offerings, while more high-fashion, are also less distinctive, Barletta maintains. "This woman knows who she is, and wants to look interesting," she says. "She's not going to buy ruffles or ruching because they are in this year."
Estee Lauder is going mass by expanding distribution for its prestige Clinique cosmetics brand to include Shoppers Drug Mart, the largest drug store chain in Canada.
At first glance the move seems a departure for the brand, which in North America has been sold only in department stores and the cosmetics emporium Sephora.
The plan is for Clinique to be in Shoppers Drug Marts by next fall, merchandised in Beauty Boutiques that also carry prestige brands such as Christian Dior and Lancome.
Industry analysts did not seem particularly concerned that distribution in an "assisted self service" channel would harm Clinique's image.
It's good to test different channels, said Suzanne Grayson, industry expert and president of the consultancy Grayson Associates. "If it's executed well -- and I'm sure it will be -- with the mix of other high end brands already [in the shopping venue], it won't affect the brand image."
Clinique is Estee Lauder's top seller and is considered its entry-level prestige brand. Its other lines include Aveda, Bobbi Brown, and MAC.
"It is a positive signal that EL appears to be getting more open minded about new ways to boost the visibility of its brands with consumers," Citigroup equity analyst Wendy Nicholson wrote in a research report. She estimated an additional $20 million in incremental revenue would come from Shoppers Drug Mart sales, which is a fraction of Estee Lauder's fiscal 2006 revenue of $6.5 billion.
Industry consultant Allan Mottus said the move makes sense because it puts Clinique in new regions. He speculated that if the relationship is successful, Estee Lauder might try other brands there as well.
To foster a culture that embraces creative risk-taking, Campbell Soup Co.'s leading advertising officer makes training a top priority.
"I devote 25 percent of my time to training," Paul Alexander, Campbell's vice president of global advertising, told several hundred marketers and their agencies in New York Wednesday at the Association of National Advertisers' Agency Relations Forum.
What separates the extraordinary marketers from the merely great is the ability to recognize and nurture great advertising ideas, Alexander said. But many of the junior marketers he works with have had little chance to witness great advertising campaigns in their lifetimes.
Blame it on brand consolidation, media fragmentation, and the nature of marketing today, but there is little chance to cut one's teeth by developing ads for small brands whose fate won't affect the bottom line of the franchise, Alexander said.
Training gives junior marketers the confidence to take risks and reassures managers they made the right decision to join your company, Alexander said, calling it a "stealth weapon" for retention. Campbell's marketers spend 25 percent of their time studying strategy, positioning, media, commercial production, and case studies.
The core of the curriculum, he said, is: 1) Treat agencies as true long-term partners. 2) Place an unrelenting focus on big ideas and compelling drama. 3) Teach humility.
It takes big ideas to break through and that's what makes strong agency relationships critical, Alexander said. "I remind the folks at Campbell's that if we were so great at advertising, we'd do it ourselves."
On a more immediate concern of the audience, managing agency financial relationships, Alexander said Campbell Soup uses a fee commission with the potential for bonus to reward agencies for creative work. The bonus is based on the quality and number of ideas, and can be awarded after a formal performance review of the agency against the original scope of work.
Sprint Power View, a free original sports and entertainment video network for mobile phones--complete with celebrity anchors, high-profile guest hosts and a news studio in New York--is a first for the industry. Sprint Nextel hopes it will also keep customers loyal to the brand.
Reston, Va.-based Sprint Nextel partnered with IMG Media, a division of sports marketing and entertainment powerhouse IMG, to develop the network's content. It is the industry's first original mobile programming network.
"Our new brand positioning is around Sprint having the most powerful network--and with Power View, that's being passed on to the customer," said Michele Emerson, director of brand development for Sprint. She said Power View embodies three pillars of the Sprint brand: powerful networks, value offering to the customer, and innovation.
Power View's upcoming show schedule includes daily coverage of entertainment news and high-profile sporting events, with a heavy emphasis on football. In August 2005, Sprint signed a five-year deal with the NFL for content that the company says will be leveraged for Power View. Sprint already offers a free NFL mobile application to its current Vision and Power Vision subscribers.
Sprint is considering ways to incorporate advertising and cross-selling opportunities in such categories as ringtones and wallpaper. The decision to offer the content free is a landmark in mobile entertainment pricing. The content will be free for 15 million Sprint Vision and Power Vision data-package subscribers--a customer base the company calls "stickier" than the average customer.
"[Sprint Vision and Power Vision subscribers] already are loyal customers and high-end users who use their phones for more than just voice," said Sprint spokeswoman Cristi Allen. "Power View is a tremendous value add for those customers."
The company also hopes it will be a churn reducer, and that it will strengthen the Sprint brand as it marks a year since its merger with Nextel.
Offering free content is a wise strategy in the wake of recent research findings that highlight customer resistance to paying for mobile content. A recent study by JupiterResearch reported that while 11 percent of mobile phones will be video-capable in 2006, only 1 percent of mobile subscribers say they will pay for a subscription to such services.
However, in the long term, non-voice services such as headline news could help mobile data revenues reach $37.5 billion by 2010--up from $5.4 billion in 2006, according to a new report from New York-based market research firm eMarketer.
eMarketer Senior Analyst James Belcher found that growth of mobile entertainment has been limited by mobile providers' segmentation of mobile content among the music, gaming and headline news categories and incompatible platforms.
One of life's little annoyances is the practice of banks charging for ATM withdrawals when you are not their customer. It will add up to an estimated $4.2 billion in fees this year. So when tiny TD Banknorth was looking for a sure way to build name recognition and new customers in some of the most competitive banking markets in the country, it turned to what many consumers view as the ultimate come-on in banking: totally free checking plus a rebate of ATM fees charged by other banks.
Within six months, TD Banknorth will decide whether to roll out its "Bank Freely" ATM card program to all 1.5 million customers in the Northeast, says Thomas J. Dyck, executive vice president and director of marketing.
The Portland, Maine-based bank piloted its no-fee ATM program in June after acquiring Hudson United Bank, which operated some 200 retail branches in metro New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
According to Dyck, early results from the pilot indicate that it is working beyond the bank's expectations.
"Bank Freely" caught more than customers' attention. Competitor PNC Bank launched a similar free ATM program for its customers in August. PNC requires its customers to maintain a $2,500 minimum balance. There is no minimum balance requirement at TD Banknorth.
TD Banknorth bulked up on ads to promote its name and its "Bank Freely" concept. The estimated $30 million-plus campaign includes print, television, outdoor and online advertising, as well as a grassroots effort. Dyck noted that the amount spent on advertising and promotion for the pilot exceeded its previous spending in some categories 50 times over, particularly on the Internet. Via of Portland, Maine is agency of record for TD Banknorth.