With Back-to-School approaching, many apparel companies such as Kohls, Sears and J.C. Penney have kicked up the bucks to create virtual communities like stardoll.com and zwinky.com: Online environments where kids can purchase virtual dollars to buy clothing for their avatars, chat with others, and even build virtual homes. These sites have already received hundreds of thousands of logged visitors. Testing it out for myself, I agree they are really cool structures to play dress-up, socialize and shop all in one. Oh, and did I mention that these boutiques are just a click away from buying the real merchandise?
Needless to say, fashion labels have turned to branded entertainment in more ways than one to reach target consumers. Consider fashion mogul Tommy Hilfiger, who just launched TommyTV last spring. Tommy TV is a branded Website featuring music content, and exclusive backstage footage from the Hilfiger Sessions live concerts and events.
In August Levi Strauss & Co. also introduced its global “Live Unbuttoned” campaign promoting the legendary Levi’s 501 jean. The campaign creates an interactive brand experience by encouraging consumers to take part in the action. It features rising stars from music, entertainment and sports industries such as singer Estelle whose number one single “American Boy” features Kanye West. The concept is that “Everyone has something to reveal, they just need to be ‘unbuttoned’,” says Erica Archambault, a Public Relations spokesperson for Levi’s. This fun digital movement grants fans a premature look into each artist’s “revelations” through exclusive videos, film content, and downloadable music tracks.
The fashion industry’s digital movement doesn’t end there. While some apparel brands are producing their own Web shorts and email campaigns to lure consumers to their sites, others are taking it a step further by adopting virtual models for online shopping. This means that consumers can create a cyber model of themselves using their body measurements to get an idea of how the clothes will look and fit by virtually trying them on. For even better fit accuracy, retailers are resourcing full body scanners at some of their offline locations to capture a person’s silhouette –and over 35 different measurements– through a 10 second head-to-toe scan. Land’s End was the first to embrace this new idea of body scanning technology in 2001, and is still utilizing it to improve tailored fit, pattern development, and fit prediction. Though the technique has rubbed off on other retailers such as Levi Strauss and Brooks Brothers, the concept has not been fully accepted all over the industry. I’d like to see more innovative solutions such as these. It could make consumers more confident in shopping online, and save them from returning a ton of merchandise that doesn’t fit properly.
So why the new emerging media fashion frenzy? Well why not? Web advertising is less expensive and just as effective-if not more-than traditional commercial spots, since everybody’s online now. Thanks to sites like YouTube, fashion shows, commercials, short videos, and raw footage can be uploaded in a matter of seconds, and shared with millions across the globe. Because a lot of adults are less computer savvy than most kids, companies are focusing on teens and tweens in their marketing strategies. What better way than the Web?