Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Fashion and The Digital Immersion

Published in Sep-Oct 2019

Why fashion brands need to do more

Brand attitude is defined as a consistent evaluation of a brand by its consumers. This involves making consumers want to know more about the brand, visit their stores and try it out. The aim of a brand’s marketing communication is to create favourable attitudes because these attitudes will ultimately translate into behaviour.

The FCB Grid (Foote, Cone and Belding Model) is designed to help us understand where a product stands in the mind of a consumer, by estimating whether or not purchase requires a highly involved emotional decision or a highly involved intellectual decision. For example, a woman is likely to experience peak ‘feelings of self-belief’ when exposed to Nike’s communication ‘Dream Crazier’, when the brand’s name and logo appear on the screen, so that the next time she is exposed to Nike’s swoosh symbol, or uses a Nike product, she will experience those same feelings of ‘self-belief’, without even being aware of them, creating a favourable attitude towards Nike.

Successful fashion brands aim to create transformational brand attitudes (so termed because the communication transforms the consumers’ experience while being exposed to it). This experience psychologically envelops them in a state of having accomplished their higher order desires (being unique, confident, distinctive, audacious, individualistic, vibrant, exclusive, expressive, etc).

The distinction between the two types (emotional versus informational) of brand attitudes is important because it impacts the experience fashion brands try to create at most touchpoints.

The aim of creating transformational attitudes is to enable audiences to enjoy the experience of positive feelings (rather than communicate the benefits). The executional approach has to be of high quality in order to immerse consumers in the experience and thereby evoke the desired feelings. Digital’s most awesome contribution is the consumer experience that brands are able to create online, which makes digital an extremely appropriate channel for fashion brands.

The brand experience lives on multiple devices and across technological and content platforms. It is therefore of utmost importance that diverse pieces of communication (static posts, videos, display ads, banners, e-commerce sites, contextual ads) are integrated to deliver a unified experience. Usually, an experience idea helps serve as an integration tool. An experience idea can be the brand idea or the campaign idea but a good experience idea is always one that engages customers with the brand. Some brands integrate their activities online better than others. For example, in their online communication – Sapphire evoke feelings of exclusivity and trendiness mixed in with cultural signposts (one foot in the past and one forward; brands that are conscious of evolving cultures always stay relevant).

Asim Jofa captures the essence of emerging ‘soft individualism’ in their online brand communication by defining our changing lifestyles (balancing the individual preferences we feel we cannot live without with the sustained power of the collective from which we derive our sense of security). So we see confident women displaying their individuality with contemporary expressions of our traditional signposts. Nishat Linen with their #ForAllOfYou focus on their designs with a bland background without much depth to portray brand values.

Creating online brand experiences for fashion brands is complicated. So many dimensions need to be consistently maintained to achieve differentiation. Such dimensions include elitist versus democratic (Sana Safinaz’s projection of a glamorous, upper-class stylish brand is elitist; Generation with their happening yet comforting image is democratic although both compete in the high-end fashion segment); historical versus futuristic (Khaadi take the historical approach by emphasising the quality and craftsmanship of bygone days; Sapphire is futuristic, introducing cutting edge and bold designs while retaining the cultural aspect); understated versus glamorous (J.’s conservative yet evolving modern Muslim identity is understated and Nishat with their vibrant and contemporary characteristics portray glamour.)

Today’s consumers want to have a conversation with their brands. Brands have to make space for themselves in the consumers’ minds (the “I can’t wait to wear it and see how I look” syndrome). Virtual reality can play a role. Apps can be designed to show consumers how they will look wearing something from a particular brand.

As a result, brands need to adopt a three-pronged strategy. One: engage consumers through sensory or experiential cues; two: create brand interactions which resonate with consumers and create emotional experiences; and three: portray the brand as a means to fulfil a desire. When it comes to fashion brands, offline and online often work in tandem. Usually customers have already shortlisted their favourite outfit online before going to the physical store where they can see, touch and try the product before making the final selection. Some customers get to know about a brand or their latest collection offline and then go online to learn more. As the number of fashion brands with their own online retail stores increases, the role of brick and mortar stores will change and they will play a greater role in bringing to life a brand’s values and personality rather than making physical sales.

The biggest limitation to digital in Pakistan is the low penetration, especially among women. Every month on Facebook about five to six million active people are interested in retail, of which 73% are men and 27% women. However, there is an opportunity for high-end fashion retailers in prêt, where the core audience belongs to SEC A and are likely to have greater access to online media with their smart phones.

Online retail outlets have increased investment in resources and platforms. However, no single brand uses more than three to five digital channels for acquisition, retention, conversion and growth purposes. While an average e-commerce store in India has over seven integrated tools in DSP (Demand Side Platforms), SSP (Supply Side Platforms), marketing, analytics and advertising; in Pakistan, only very few have moved beyond Google Analytics, tested programmatic and omni-channel strategies, yet these untapped technologies offer a great many opportunities for Pakistan’s fashion brands.

Khalid Naseem is Head of Strategy, Firebolt63.