As fashion and luxury brands prepare for yet another season of digital shows in February, the importance of understanding how to make the best impact amidst all the online activity has become even more significant during these times, particularly when you consider the challenges of bigger audiences, consumer engagement and the need to create “buzz” to really stand out from the crowd.
It is no secret that brands have needed to reinvent the playbook on how to present their collections, traditional fashion shows have been under scrutiny for a number of years now, and many have questioned their relevance in an increasingly digital and fast-paced environment. Throw in the global COVID-19 pandemic into the mix and companies have little choice but to adapt to a new situation where a successful “moment” on social media platforms can make or break them.
With physical shows still off-limits, despite the various iterations and blends that have occurred since the first European COVID outbreak in February 2020, brands must find new and innovative ways to present collections. And there is no better channel than social media to communicate this, particularly when they embrace storytelling, new technologies and partnerships into their marketing strategies.
With social media platforms becoming more crowded by the minute, brands can only cut through the noise if they offer something users want or a story that makes them feel good. So, ask yourself the question, what does your audience want to see? And what can your brand offer users that others won’t?
Take Gucci. The Italian fashion house has been an industry leader in terms of showcasing how to embrace enhanced storytelling to captivate its audiences. This can be seen with “GucciFest”, the brand’s own version of fashion week in November, a seven-day long film festival orchestrated by Alessandro Michele and award-winning director Gus Van Sant.
The mini-series of seven episodes showcased the brand’s pieces that will be available during the second half of 2021 and was available on YouTube and Weibo. The digital event was an immersive presentation that not only appealed to industry insiders but also to the numerous fans of the brand because it created original digital content that offered new opportunities to convey its messaging through curated videos, authentic dialogues and participative presentations in a way physical shows would be unlikely to achieve.
Gucci used its strong relationship with the artistic scene to foster an online community around its show, demonstrating a unique point of view and use of storytelling suited to the brand.
Likewise with Loewe. For the presentation of its Spring/Summer 2021 menswear collection, Loewe delighted its audience with 24-hours worth of content shared on the brand’s Instagram content. The day’s programme included a musical performance, a tour of Loewe’s factory, a virtual dinner with designer Jonathan Anderson and many other activities which gave viewers a much deeper understanding of the brand’s universe and its new collection.
Creating an emotional bond with viewers online through unique content and authentic dialogues will not only boost short-term online performance but also create long-lasting impact for the brand in a post-pandemic world.
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Another way brands can connect and engage with their consumers is to experiment with new technologies. Trying out new platforms and new formats is a great way for brands to not only assess potential with existing communities but also to tap into new audiences that would be less accessible with traditional channels. At the end of the day, brands should test and learn their way to the top of the digital game.
Even though Instagram remains the fashion industry’s first love, new platforms and technologies have emerged and brands are now going beyond the use of the Instagram Live to showcase their collections online.
Last September, TikTok hosted its own digital fashion week during which brands and creators joined forces through a series of livestreams. The platform also allowed its users to get creative through creative effects and challenges, a few of TikTok’s favourite features. Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent and Prada were among the participating brands tapping into the platform’s growing GenZ audience.
Burberry partnered with live video streaming service Twitch to present its Spring/Summer 2021 collection, taking advantage of the platform’s unique features. For example, the Squad stream option provided viewers with the ability to see multiple perspectives of its show at once while a chat room allowed for a more personal experience.
Going even further, New York label Khaite offered an augmented-reality experience to its audience while presenting its collection. Guests received a printed lookbook which created 3D renderings of the new pieces when scanning over the book with one’s phone. A truly innovative way to present the shopping experience during fashion weeks.
With consumers’ growing appetite for diversified digital content, it will become increasingly important for brands to challenge themselves with new technologies in order to keep up and retain their audience’s interest.
Lastly, brands should consider the power of having influential partners.
A key source of media impact generation for brands are models, social influencers and partners, and these partnerships should be leveraged to spread the word on upcoming shows and engage online communities.
Identifying the right partners has become very crucial for brands. Developing long-lasting relationships with opinion leaders over short-term collaboration with a roster of influencers will not only strengthen the authenticity of the partnerships but also have a stronger impact on audiences.
Just recently, for its latest couture show, Dior worked with several influencers and partners to announce the presentation of its Spring/Summer 2021 collection. A wide variety of influencers from Rianne Meijer to Alexandra Pereira told their followers they were tuning in at 2:30pm to watch the show on Instagram.
French influencer Camille Charrière interviewed designer Maria Grazia Chiuri for the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s digital platform, meanwhile German influencer Leonie Hanne took over the Vogue Germany Instagram account to show her outfit and tune into the show.
Another great example is Burberry, whose Media Impact Value was boosted after the British Fashion Council shared pictures of the show on their Instagram account during London Fashion Week. Diversifying the sources of information online will help in maximising visibility and word of mouth around the show.
In the end, it is very unlikely that fashion shows will get back to their previous format in a post-pandemic world. Digital presentations have given brands the opportunity to more effectively connect with global audiences and to present their story and products in a more impactful manner.
Those that succeed will be the ones who manage to seamlessly combine off- and online presentations through inspirational, innovative and shareable content.
Cover Image: Burberry Spring/Summer 2021. Photo: Courtesy.