J. Crew's relaunch campaign tries to win back lapsed customers

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J. Crew is beginning a digital marketing campaign to promote its new fall looks and a broader brand relaunch, which includes a host of new products, sizes and pricing designed to lure back customers who have drifted away.

J. Crew has seen years of sales declines as shoppers grew weary of its increasingly high prices, inconsistent styles and widening distance from heritage looks that brought the label to prominence decades ago. But under new CEO Jim Brett, who joined the brand from West Elm last year, the retailer is in relaunch mode. Earlier this year, the company debuted a plus-size apparel collection. It introduced its Mercantile value-oriented label on Amazon last week.

The new campaign, which uses the theme "New Crew," features organizations such as Save the Waves, which protects coastline ecosystems; Creative Mornings, a lecture series; and Girls Inc., a girl-empowering nonprofit.

"The point of the campaign was to show that J. Crew truly is for everyone—for every body, for every kind of person," says Vanessa Holden, chief marketing officer of New York-based J. Crew. She says she wants to make "wearing J. Crew a badge of honor again" by putting customers at the front the campaign, which, like previous recent work, includes real people rather than models.

The new push also includes a 76-page catalog, a reversal for J. Crew after it abandoned the format last year to focus more on digital efforts. An updated J. Crew website debuts Monday as well.

Holden says the point of the campaign is to engage with consumers—something she says a broadcast spot cannot accomplish. "It's an amplification of an existing conversation and the beginning of even more of that," she says. "We're not a sit-back brand."

The work was created internally; the company's in-house creative team numbers roughly 50 staffers.

Recent efforts are beginning to pay off for the retailer. Same-store sales in the second quarter edged up 1 percent over the quarter a year earlier, an improvement over the 8 percent decline in the second quarter of 2017. The company's total revenue for the quarter rose 3 percent, though the growth was led by its Madewell brand.

Last year, J. Crew spent $8.7 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

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