Fashion


A very interesting blog post on the FT about changes in the fashion industry caught my attention and I wanted to share the most subversive etail initiative I have ever heard about. 

www.honestby.com is the brainchild of Belgian designer Bruno Pieters. The site will sell a collection of 56 pieces for men and women. But what is groundbreaking about it is its transparency. It is transparent both financially and in terms of manufacturing.

By the time you press “buy” you will know exactly what you are paying for – everything from the material used, weight, who spun it, whether it is organic, a website for the supplier and so on – and you will find this for the fabric, the zipper, the lining, the trim, the label, the buttons, the thread etc. Under “price information” you will find out the cost per meter of the fabric, how much was ordered, how much was used, how much labour was involved, what the mark-up was, and how the profit was used.

High-end fashion has historically been a business built on opacity. Things cost what they cost and the less the consumer knows about the literal value of these, the better off the brands are and the more they can charge. It is precisely this attitude that Bruno wants to change as he thinks it breeds consumer mistrust – and why he wanted absolute clarity in his own brand. He has even gone so far to have said that if orders go up and he achieves economies of scale, his prices will come down.

It seems to me this has the potential to be a real game-changer in fashion, because if consumers get used to having this sort of information available, who knows, maybe they could start demanding it from other brands…

@natfut

honest-by

The world can be full of contradictions and online stores going offline is another example. Some of the biggest names such as eBay, Amazon and Google are leading the way back to traditional roots.

With commentators at the start of last year announcing the end of ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, what is the reason for this fast turnaround? In my humble opinion it is the shopping experience. Love them or hate them physically stores can (I emphasise can) give a more fulfilling and satisfying experience than offline. I realise that online shopping is quick, simple and saves fighting the crowds but who has not bought something online and then been disappointed either because of the fit, look or size? We have all been there.

‘Bricks and mortar’ stores allows customers to touch, try and god forbid socialise with others which is just not comparable to the online shopping experience. However as we are all aware the online experience is hardly on the decline with record online sales this Christmas. In December, Amazon announced that 1.4 million orders had taken place on their website on Cyber Monday alone and on Christmas day itself 186 million pounds was spent online in the UK. Shopping online is quick, easy and hassle free, so it is no wonder that traditional offline stores are turning to non-traditional means to encourage shoppers in-store. House of Fraser is luring customers into their stores by offering free WiFi in-store; Marks and Spencer’s ‘brick and click’ campaign combining in-store and e-commerce offerings as well augmented reality changing rooms at Topshop that save queuing for the changing room.

It seems that the lines are blurring and both traditional and new retailers are seeing the benefit of each other’s position.

topshop

@t_bloore

It’s pretty safe to say that it isn’t too often that The European Convention on Human Rights, originally set out in 1950, isn’t something that gets cited too often in casual debates around freedom of expression. Yet two particular articles sit at the heart of many debates surrounding the press and, arguably, in many debates around our society in general.

Article 8 states:

“everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

A simple sentiment, but one which sits at the core of the spate of recent super injunction cases and which is frequently winning arguments in court. The sentiment is one which few would realistically argue with; we all have a right to privacy, an essential aspect of a truly free society.

Key to the discussion around super injunctions is the interpretation of this right to privacy as the right to a protection of reputation.

Reputations are legally perceived to have a monetary value and, as dictated by legal precedent in the UK courts, everyone starts with a good reputation – unless proven otherwise. This idea sits at the heart of defamation rulings, the idea that the unfair tarnishing of someone’s reputation can have a negative effect on their potential income.

And yet all too often this idea is emphatically contradicted by the opening line in Article 10 of the same convention:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression”.

 

Essentially, everyone has the right to say what they want, when they want to – and if that is damaging to someone else’s reputation, so be it.

With two such contradictory statements at the heart of super injunctions and defamation rulings, it’s easy to see why cases can last for years following the original comments and/or story.

Nevertheless Article 8 has dominated proceedings in recent years, and a key reason for this is Mr. Justice Eady. If you don’t know Mr. Justice Eady, he is a UK judge frequently appointed to high profile defamation cases.

Numerous publishers have bones to pick with him and it’s rumored that champagne corks were being popped around Fleet Street (metaphorically speaking, at least) when he announced that he was standing down, and it looks as though his replacement might be somewhat more liberal towards freedom of expression, meaning we could see some change in precedence over the coming years.

The phrase “in the public interest” is frequently bandied about in defamation cases. This is the happy compromise between the two articles; you can only impact on someone’s reputation if it’s in the public interest.

So while it might not be in the public interest to know that Princess Caroline of Monaco goes out to dinner with her kids, (unsurprisingly, she received compensation over photographs published of just this), but that it might be good for the public to know about the less-than-wholesome life Tommy Sheridan (then an MSP) was leading; a case which only gets more extraordinary the more you hear about it.

Reeling out 17 witnesses, Sheridan initially won damages from the News of the World over claims that he was visiting an illicit club; five years on and he’s serving jail time for perjury, though one suspects we haven’t heard the last of it yet.

However, the “public interest” argument is also a pretty flimsy and arbitrary compromise which represents the only middle ground between the two. It’s frequently sullied by the press stretching the definition of public interest to, say, knowing that a premier league footballer had relations with someone they shouldn’t have.

It’s also quickly worth mentioning the increasingly prominent trend for “Libel Tourism”, wherein cases can be brought about in territories which have no bearing on the original comments or participants. This, as you may have guessed, is because the internet is ubiquitous and as such as long as you can prove that a comment made in America has been seen in the UK, then proceedings can be pressed in UK Courts – as seen with King vs. Lewis in 2004. Article 8 makes it easier to win damages in defamation cases (and to win super injunctions) in the UK than it does in the US, meaning that this is a trend which isn’t going anywhere.

This has interesting implications for PRs and the use of social media, as it’s increasingly becoming vital to ensure that social media policies are rigid and right, and to ensure that you watch what you say on social networks – either by yourself or on behalf of a client.

Article 8 is currently winning over Article 10 in the UK, so while you’re free to express yourself, you basically can’t express yourself too much. Or something like that. Even if only one person sees a defamatory comment it could be prosecuted.

It’s also worth remembering that Clients taking legal action in order to protect their reputation isn’t always A Great Thing. In fact, it’s pretty much very rare to see any real benefit. See McLibel, which ultimately had a damaging effect on McDonald’s brand. Looking at the reasons that McDonalds originally took action it could be argued that the head honchos at Google would be within their rights to consider similar action against Facebook and BM, yet I believe they are intelligent and perceptive enough not to.

The interpretation of these two articles sits at the heart of one of the key debates around the media at the moment; it’s important that as PR practitioners we fully understand what they stand for.

@tmbrntt

 

The soap opera goes all X Factor.I discovered today that the popular UK TV soap opera, EastEnders, will actually change one of its storylines in response to a barrage of complaints from viewers. The storyline in question referred to the cot death of a baby whose mother attempts to switch for a healthy one. The scenario caused outrage amongst parents, support groups and campaigners; over 10,000 complaints have been received to date.

I know all this from reading this morning´s Spanish press. El Pais relates who various scenes have had to be reshot to accommodate the replacement storyline, including footage which was actually diffused during the New Year edition.

I´m not exactly sure how this historical revisionism will be undertaken in practice (will it all be a dream a la “Dallas”?)

ahhh. it was all a dream. clever.

or whether it represents the first stage of X Factor-style scripting where viewers elect their preferred plotlines.

What I find more alarming is the fact that people still consider soap operas to be somehow a genuine reflection or comment on real life. They are no such thing; nor they should not be. They are pure escapism. While the lives portrayed in Dallas or Dynasty were based on unlimited luxury and beauty, EastEnders seems to thrive on precisely the opposite: misery and squalor.

I must confess that my impression of the latter is defined purely by the two Christmas edition specials to which I´m subjected once a year when I visit my family in the UK (each producing a body count comparable to Zulu or Full Metal Jacket; I´m referring to the Christmas specials not my family, although Christmas can be tense!).

This “soap opera as a reflection of true life” perspective and the protests around EastEnders´ cot death storyline, suggest that people are actually using such programmes as a form of education, to inform themselves about current affairs and generate or influence a particular point of view.

Such as situation would be as alarming as it is absurd, bringing to mind one episode of the cartoon series the Simpsons. On receiving news that Bart has been caught shop lifting, Homer laments his son´s lack of respect for law and order; “Why do you think I took you to all those Police Academy movies? For fun? Well, I didn’t hear anybody laughing. Did you!?”.

@RogerDara

Independent consumer rights group Which? has launched its first online consumer rights community, that includes forums and topic areas for members to debate. One of these is whether toddlers should have social networking profiles, which opens up an interesting debate, considering a recent report shows that more than three quarters of children under the age of two have some kind of online presence.

AVG, which conducted the survey, [not a client] questioned over 2,000 mothers worldwide, and found some amusing / startling statistics…

81% of all children under the age of two have some kind of online presence, ranging from photos uploaded by parents, to a fully-fledged profile on a social networking site.

This is not hard to believe seeing as families and friends are so dispersed around the world nowadays. Putting photos on Facebook, FlickR and so on is arguably one of the quickest and most convenient ways for everyone to watch your baby grow up.

Thankfully,only 5% admitted that they had created Facebook profiles for their newborns. But nearly a quarter of parents upload prenatal sonograms to the web, something that seems rather personal to be shared so publicly.

So, are we living in a world that has gone a little mad, obsessed with posting every memory online? Is it even fair to create an ‘online footprint’ that your little one isn’t even aware of – or is it a harmless and effective way of sharing your fondest memories?

@natfut

Diesel isn't afraid to let its fans do the talking, and the influencing, with its Be Stupid campaign.

The t’interweb has changed the way we engage with brands and the things we buy by integrating our friends and networks into the decision process. I realise this isn’t anything new, heck I’ve even written about it before.

But it’s worth a revisit this week. The reason being that Gartner have released a report to quantify exactly how they think this process is taking place.

Drawing parallels with Edelman’s own thinking on the topology of influence, the report explains that 74% of people can be categorised as connectors, mavens or salesmen when it comes to recommending things to friends.

Whatever lexis we use to group people, the fact remains that now, more than ever, our group of friends are the advocates we listen to and trust to the highest level. This is obviously facilitated perfectly by the online world – explained here very well by Paul Adams of Google – leading Gartner to quite rightly/obviously claim that companies need to engage with people on social networks. I’d hope to be preaching to the converted in flagging that fact, but Gartner believe this is ‘a critical but underutilised aspect of the marketing process’.

Critical it definitely is, earlier in the year, we here at Edelman conducted a study which looked at social entertainment (the annual Edelman Trust in Entertainment survey). The research from across the UK and US showed how for the first time social networks have emerged as a source of entertainment in their own right. With more than 70% of 18-34 year olds putting social networks alongside the likes of TV and film as a tool to keep them entertained, the window of opportunity for purchase recommendations is greater than ever.

However, anyone who has the keys to a marketing budget will quite rightly want this ‘influence’ converted into some kind of ROI which makes the following stat from the research pretty interesting – 37% of those who view social networks as an entertainment source, spent more on entertainment this year than last year.

If any brands need further convincing of the importance of influence and engagement over reach, they should take a look at these results from the World Cup which sort of say it all.

Click here for more information on Edelman’s annual ‘Trust in Entertainment’ survey.

@AJGriffiths

A few weeks ago luxury fashion brand Chanel announced to the world the launch of its ecommerce platform, becoming the latest premium brand to embark on an online sales strategy.

In the past, such brands have maintained a niche business model built around ‘exclusivity’ and an ‘aspirational lifestyle’ that was intended to be unattainable by the masses. Like season sales, online shopping was, and is still, very much perceived to have the ability to devalue brands. In an industry where exclusivity means everything, broadening accessibility is usually something to be avoided. We only have to look at Burberry in the early noughties when it was garishly worn by ‘chavs’ all over England which had serious consequences on the brand in the years to follow.

But at a time when economic conditions continue to remain uncertain and as many fashion labels have suffered a sharp decline in sales, brands like Chanel have reconsidered their sales and digital marketing strategies, turning their interests towards the internet and social media platforms which present strong growth opportunities. These alternatives are also viewed favourably as the effectiveness of traditional glossy print advertising is questioned and the resonance it was once considered to have on consumers continues to flail.

Chanel is not the first luxury brand to yield to such pressures, (Louis Vuitton and Hermes have already led the way), nor will it be the last, but the decision for what is arguably the most sophisticated fashion house in the world to open an online sales platform may represent a new era for luxury brands.

Elite brands have always rationalised exclusivity through a customer’s sensory experience. It’s not just the quality and design of a product that is symbolic of a brand’s heritage; seeing and touching, as well as customisation, store atmosphere and personal service all translate into a premium experience. With such strong values to consider, recreating a brand’s presence online is more than a small task.

Burberry has done this with remarkable success. By engaging consumers with its Twitter account, Facebook page, and its most recent campaign – theArt of the Trench’ – the brand continued to reach even greater heights by experimenting with technology in an effort to captivate young, affluent ‘Millennials’.

Earlier this year Burberry gave the fashion world what’s been described as a ‘technological makeover’ as it streamed its London Fashion Week show in 3D to five cities around the world which could be viewed live online by fashionistas everywhere. The effect it had on the colours, fabrics and textures of the clothes invited the audience to become part of the experience. Such digital initiatives contributed to the brand’s sales increase and it is now reported that the online channel has now surpassed sales in many flagship stores.

I think that opening an online platform is a good move for Chanel. Starting off by selling its fragrances online and potentially including its fashion accessories range later in the year, the platform helps keep the brand in-line with the competition. However, I doubt that it will go as far as making its handbags available as they continue to remain key to the brand and could damage Chanel’s brand equity and image of exclusivity if they were made widely available.

@lucydesadavies

With all the talk around the importance of trust and credibility, especially in relation to brands and celebrities, why is it that the advertisers responsible for creating campaigns for leading cosmetic brands choose to ignore these lessons and continue to use post-production techniques to enhance products, giving the illusion of unachievable results?

The main culprit usually getting into hot water with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as well as regularly receiving public condemnation is L’Oréal. Opting to use disclaimers that are vaguely legible on most of its promotional materials, lines such as “enhanced during post production” or “styled with natural inserts” are all too familiar to the cosmetics giant. This is now standard practise in product advertising for many cosmetic brands and L’Oréal is by no means an exception.

A couple of the most recent cases include the L’Oréal Elvive Full Restore 5 advert which features Cheryl Cole, along with her false hair extensions. During the advert, a message flashes on screen for fewer than two seconds out of the 30 second advert to alert viewers that Cheryl’s hair is ‘styled with some natural extensions’. The ASA rejected viewer complaints about the inability of achieving the same results as the disclaimer was apparently clear and legible, and did not break any rules. Procter & Gamble brand, Olay, also recently received viewer complaints for airbrushing Twiggy in the Olay Definity Eye Illuminator advert. As the product claimed it could help women achieve ‘younger looking eyes’, the ASA ruled that it could be deemed as misleading.

So what effect does what can arguably be described as misleading advertising have on consumer perceptions of such brands? Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer suggested that in the UK especially ‘a company I can trust’ (72 per cent) is the top driver for corporate reputation in the UK, followed also by ‘high quality products and services’ (62 per cent). This being the case, one would assume that public opinion and trust in cosmetics brands would have diminished – but surprisingly not according to sales figures. L’Oréal in particular reported that its profits beat market predictions in H1 FY09, and global demand for products continues to increase. It seems consumers are not ready to stand-up to these brands and continue to strive for perfection, no matter how deceptive adverts continue to be. 

The ASA published a health and beauty survey towards the end of last year which reported that 95 per cent of cosmetics adverts comply with regulations. Ironically the five per cent of adverts that breached the code were identified to contain a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to back up claims, exaggerated claims about the efficacy of products, or contained misleading claims. Surely more than five per cent of adverts could be included in these categories? 

These brands should take more responsibility for the messages they develop and align them correctly with product capabilities instead of making unachievable claims. Or is it up to the ASA to tighten regulations and critique adverts before they go on air? Or maybe it’s up to consumers to stop buying in on ridiculous claims?

@LucyDesaDavies

Last week, an all too familiar story: Marisa, from the Barcelona office, had her husband come home from work with lousy news.  Due to an out of town workshop (on a Saturday!!) she would have to reschedule a well-planned dinner at St. Pau located seaside near Barcelona.  Normally Marisa is pretty flexible with these things but this was special – in 2008 St. Pau was awarded three Michelin Stars!

So, as Valentine´s Day approaches we wondered how many people are facing similar situations and how they plan to compensate their loved ones for their absence, especially those attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from the 14-18 of February. Over 50,000 delegates and visitors are anticipated to attend this year’s conference and exhibition, which means many postponed celebrations and cancelled dinners – although hopefully not at three Michelin Star restaurants.

To keep with the technology themed Mobile World Congress we sent out a survey to find out just how people would use technology to compensate their loved ones in the event of their absence on Valentine´s Day. 

It turns out that women more often turn to one-to-one communications and men prefer to ‘broadcast’ their affections.  According to the survey, 59% more women than men would use Skype with video service or equivalent to call their partner and  67% more women than men would send a personal video message via email while out of town.  Male respondents to the survey invariably preferred the one-to-many approach with 70% more men than women proposing to dedicate a Twitter post to their other half.

The survey also produced some interesting country differences, with Spanish respondents demonstrating the highest levels of ingenuity with the use of newer technology; 50% of Spanish respondents would probably or certainly use Skype with video or equivalent to communicate their sentiments if absent on Saint Valentine’s Day compared to a global average of 29%, while over a third of Spaniards would send a personalised video from their mobile phone (compared to a global average of just 13%). 

The least romantic nation in technology terms is Ireland!  According to the survey, 67% of Irish respondents wouldn’t even send a text message to their partner if absent during Saint Valentine’s Day, against a global average of 42%.

It is clear that technology is embedded in our lives and according to our survey can play a key role in keeping your significant other satisfied in the event of an absence.  So, do you think that texting isn’t very romantic, but it is the thought that counts?  Have you or your significant other ever used technology in a creative way to show how much you care?  How would you use technology to communicate your absence on Valentine’s Day?

There’s been substantial interest in the news this week about the Stateside launch of Vevo – an online music player that is being dubbed MTV for the 2.0 generation, and perhaps rightly so. Firstly, the service has the buy-in of three of the major labels (at present, EMI, Universal and Sony), and has done so by novel means; EMI has gone down the tried and tested licensing routes, but interestingly the latter majors have gone for equity in the business. This equity approach shows a robust confidence of the service and perhaps also suggests the licensing route is perhaps going to wane in entertainment industries if major labels can instead get a share of the profits outright.
 
Secondly, what Vevo looks to have solved was the perhaps fundamental flaw in
Google’s high value acquisition of YouTube, with many analysts and industry commentators at a loss as to where the return on investment was really coming from, given the vast majority of content on YouTube is poor quality, grainy and often filmed from another medium in the first place, such as a TV or is a skateboarding cat. Would record labels want to have their brand next to a poor quality music video – pretty much no, and YouTube continues to flatter to deceive with regards giving Google back the billions spent to acquire it. That YouTube is powering Vevo however could resolve this; Vevo will be a branded, dedicated player with high quality content that will interest advertisers much more than current video quality – its CEO has suggested phenomenally strong rates as high as $25 – $40 per 1,000 views, an incredible jump from today’s norm of $3 – $8.
 
What’s more, if this content really is as high quality – and in the long term potentially exclusive or streamed live – this will encourage more people to share it and thus drive traffic even further; a solution to monetising peer-to-peer sharing (in the friends sense, not the technological sense). So is Vevo the saviour of the entertainment industry? Initial reaction has been very positive and it will be interesting to see how it rolls out in the States before hitting the UK sometime next year. Fingers crossed.

@wonky_donky

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