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What Fashion and CPG Marketers Can Learn From Each Other

By Published on .

People use smartphones and cameras to photograph the Herve Leger by Max Azria fashion show during a Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring at Lincoln Center in New York.
People use smartphones and cameras to photograph the Herve Leger by Max Azria fashion show during a Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring at Lincoln Center in New York. Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
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The worlds of fashion and CPG are at a crossroads right now. Within the fashion retail space, retailers are closing hundreds of stores, laying off staff and reporting losses; on the luxury side, legacy brands are challenged with adapting in a fast-paced digital marketplace. Meanwhile, on the big-box CPG side, brands are struggling with a loss of talent, as the most innovative in the business flee for opportunities with more potential for breakthrough marketing. It's clear that marketing leaders in both industries could stand to adopt a new approach to selling and marketing. What they don't yet realize is that the answer could lie in learning from each other.

With CPG's focus on product function, benefits and consumer feedback to drive sales, fashion could take lessons from the category, providing it with the substance and rigor needed for a strong business trajectory. At the same time, the fashion industry offers what many CPG brands are just beginning to wrap their heads around: the value of making a consumer enamored with your brand and your story.

Here are a few rules both can live by:

Instill emotion and inspiration through storytelling. This is something fashion marketers have done well since the dawn of fashion advertising, especially in the luxury and contemporary categories. The use of beautiful and avant-garde imagery, coupled with nuanced, layered messages, has inspired awe in generations of consumers, helping them associate fashion brands with living a certain kind of desired life. Today's consumers crave the same kind of feeling and association from CPG brands. They want to feel inspired by the product's story and understand not just its utility to their life, but how they'll feel emotionally enriched by it.

Build brand identity and loyalty. Instilling emotion leads directly to another thing fashion marketers do well: developing identity and brand loyalty. Great fashion marketers don't just create beautiful advertising. They know how to weave an intriguing story across touchpoints, and how to make it evolve and stick over a long period of time. A great example of this is Chanel, whose mystique and desirability have come through in its logo, its product and its marketing, consistently over decades.

Do your research, selectively. CPG brands are highly research-driven. Unilever alone spends more than a billion dollars a year on R&D. They are constantly testing new products and gathering feedback from consumers. Similarly, fashion brands could improve through selective research, making the physical producet -- or the experience of buying it -- better. In fact, R&D has become standard for performance-driven athletics brands like Lululemon. Struggling fashion brands could benefit massively by taking more time to understand their consumers by investing in CPG-style research and feedback.

Focus on accessibility through technology. CPG brands have mastered making their products feel accessible. Because it's in the nature of their business, they were early adopters of building their brands on social media. (Take Oreo, which famously coined the art of the branded tweet at the Super Bowl only four years ago.) Savvy fashion brands are following suit BY developing highly strategic social media content strategies to target the right, engaged audiences, maintain desirability and draw in potential new buyers at scale.

Glossier is a great example of a company using the internet to build a beauty brand for the millennial and Gen Z demographics. This digital-first skin care startup has had enormous success by cultivating real dialogue with their audience and involving them heavily in the product development process -- even using crowdsourcing to make key product decisions. For example, its Milky Gel Cleanser, launched last January 2016, was born out of response to a post that Glossier's founder, Emily Weiss, published on her blog, in which she asked readers to describe their fantasy face wash. Glossier also uses Snapchat to tease upcoming rollouts and encourage preorders, Facebook to stream live video of behind-the-scenes access to product launches and Twitter to feed user-generated content like testimonials.

The marketplace may seem to have it in for fashion and CPG brands, but if both groups start learning from one another, it's clear it doesn't have to be that way.