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Fashion brands should target social campaigns for profit

While fashion brands have embraced Instagram in a big way this year by targeting millennials to spark conversation and maintain brand awareness and loyalty, many of these efforts could go to the next level utilizing a multichannel, personalized approach.

From Kate Spade to Coach, brands are relentlessly turning to Instagram to promote some type of product, cause or occasion and in turn offering coupons, prizes or recognition from the brand. Revamping these campaigns with a few techniques can likely better the overall consumer experience and furthermore drive sales.

?Users are turned off when a brand?s campaign comes across as inauthentic,? said Vanessa Horwell, chief visibility officer at ThinkInk, Miami. ?Social media users want to feel enriched by their experience, not as if the brand is using the channel solely to repurpose its marketing collateral."

In order to turn users on to the idea of a promotional campaign, it has to provide some fundamental benefit to them as well.  This style of campaigning requires brands to flip their thinking about what they can offer their customers.

Becoming more socialized
The success of these initiatives often varies depending on the duration of the submission period and the desirability of the reward being offered.

?Typically when consumers choose to follow or like a brand?s social media profile, they are communicating a level of affinity to or curiosity about that brand,? Ms. Horwell said. ?That level of interest makes the audience much more likely to be receptive to promotions. 

?The most important components for Instagram or other social media campaigns are that they are simple to understand and participate in, are entertaining and relevant. A good example of this is one of my colleague?s participation in Guinness? travel blog contest, as it appealed to his love of writing as well as travel, and a trip to Ireland didn?t hurt either!

?However, when brands make consumers jump through too many hoops or the reward for their campaign participation feels unattainable, it can have the opposite effect,? she said. ?Any campaign that feels like work rather than full will ultimately fail.?

Fashion design house Kate Spade?s Instagram campaign was launched to jumpstart the start of summer during Memorial Day weekend, encouraging contestants to share their vacation photos to become eligible to win a gift card of $250. The contest goes through Aug. 28, lending plenty of time for word to spread and for consumers to be able to submit multiple photos for entry.

Kate Spade?s audience is undoubtedly tech-savvy and knowledgeable of social media sites, making this campaign accessible to and worthwhile for followers.

?We no longer have to educate users about implications of using a hashtag to sign up for a campaign,? said Deborah Hanamura, director of marketing at Metia, Seattle. ?It?s just important for brands to make sure that the payoff of their contests matches the level of effort that they require from their contestants. 

?Doritos asked customers to make their own commercials, which is a lot of work,? she said. ?The payoff was that they got 15 minutes of fame when their ad was shown during the Super Bowl. If a campaign can?t promise that kind of recognition and reward, then the ask needs to be right sized.?

Kate Spade?s campaign shows an attempt to create a long-lasting community among its followers. 

?By now, brands should have learned not to segregate their social media content from other marketing initiatives,? Ms. Hanamura said. ?Brands can take their efforts to the next level by having a plan for how to turn those customers into advocates with a long-term marketing strategy.?

Leather goods maker Coach partnered with retail brand Poloraid Fotobar to promote an Instameet in New York in June, where professional and amateur photographers could share their Coach New York stories. 

Coach selected top Instagram photographers to participate in the making of a collaborative image story and printed the photos taken through Polaroid Fotobar's mobile print shop. Coach encouraged its Instagram followers to contribute and be a part of the story making.

Considering Coach?s audience, the brand?s idea to market for itself and Polaroid Fotobar not only engaged its audience but also was able to bring people outdoors and physically participate.

?Consumers that self-identify as highly engaged are ideal to market to,? Ms. Hanamura said. ?Brands that make the most of this opportunity will do more than just to announce a winner; they?ll harness enthusiasm of their customers and roll them into the overall marketing matrix.?

Increasing profitability
There have been numerous predictions around the potential of social presence among brands to drive commerce sales, but with a growing number of merchants adding transactional capabilities to their social media content, this could be the year that potential is finally realized.

Social is certainly an increasingly important way that merchants drive interest around their products and brand as well as traffic to their ecommerce sites but, so far, driving actual transactions from social media has been limited, with some early attempts even abandoned by merchants. However, more recent strategies such as social shopping carts point to the ongoing attempts to make social commerce a reality (see story).

?The best thing a brand can do is to increase the loyalty of an existing customer and motivate a buying decision based on the interaction,? Ms. Hanamura said. ?Short-term gains from new customers are important too, but the strongest businesses have customers who make purchases more than once. Businesses need to be prepared to invest in their content, which includes user-generated content. 

?Further, brands need to do more than rely on their customers to make a hashtag successful. There?s a theory in advertising that an ad needs to be seen 20 times before someone makes a purchasing decision. The same theory can be applied to social marketing campaigns.

?What we?d like to see is more brands looking for strong engagement first, and profitability second. At the end of the day, we want everyone to make money, but the social relationship between brands and their customers should always come from a place of earnest curiosity, affection, and support. Profitability will follow.?

The right audience
With millennials active on their mobile phones throughout the day, loyalty marketers need to adjust their programs not just in terms of how they enable these consumers to engage but also with regard to what behaviors are rewarded and the types of content.

Millennials use their mobile devices throughout their brand experiences, with 58 percent checking user reviews, 57 percent comparing prices and 24 percent seeking opinions from their social networks from their mobile devices, according to a recent study from Punchtab. These consumers are also looking for incentives to join loyalty programs and show a preference for multi-brand retail programs (see story).

Brands can target millennials and Generation Z-ers easily through social campaigns, but not all brands have the same audience. Getting to know one?s customer on a personal level will show the brand the type of business needed to make a sale.

?It all depends on the brand?s target market, whether they?re tech savvy, and the appeal of the promotion,? Ms. Hanamura said. ?There are certain instances where it is the right choice and will generate quality responses. And there are instances where it won?t. You have to know your customer.

All things considered, social campaigns have served their communal purpose, but experts believe an average Instagram contest can garner much more valuable information than just likes, comments and user-generated content.

?Brands should be thinking about their campaign goals beyond simple, passive Instagram engagement, such as mere likes and comments,? Ms. Horwell said. ?Instagram campaigns are but one layer to a mobile experience, and if the goal of the campaign is exclusive to a single platform, its results will be too.  

?Instead brands should look to drive specific outcomes and behaviors that are not limited to one channel, for example, using an Instagram campaign to drive brick-and-mortar traffic, or direct online sales. The second component that brands should look to glean from Instagram is better insights about their customers and followers. 

?Do you know when your top followers make a purchase with your brand or what their preferences are? Instagram users are extremely social, so brands have nothing but opportunity when it comes to building better customer profiles.?

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon, editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York