KR MediaCom on how luxury fashion brands are tackling digital marketing

Mobile-first advertising company TabMo works with some of the worlds biggest brands to help them engage their audiences across mobile devices. Its DSP, Hawk, automates the process of buying mobile inventory and provides access to mobile data sources, geo-targeting technology and advanced mobile tracking solutions. TabMo provides creative support to ensure brands are communicating with their customers as effectively as possible. Through Hawk, advertisers can also activate digital out of home, connected TV and audio campaigns to further enhance their mobile advertising activity. 

As part of our Mobile Spotlight series, we talk to Jessica Chapplow, head of digital transformation at KR MediaCom about the luxury fashion industry, and how brands are adopting digital marketing.  Selected as one of MediaWeek’s 30 Under 30 2018 and nominated for Women in IT’s Young Leader of the Year award (2019), Jessica specialises in digital transformation, focusing on the role that cutting-edge technologies ranging from artificial intelligence, blockchain to augmented reality. She advises KR MediaCom’s clients across the luxury industry on embracing emerging technology, and consulting on the implementation of best practices for innovation.

For those who aren’t familiar, shall we start by defining who KR MediaCom are? The agency’s position within the group? And, also, your role?

KR and MediaCom united in 2009 to combine specialist luxury sector knowledge with hands on account management and the benefits of being part of the UK’s largest media agency. Today KR MediaCom sits within the main agency, offering the highest level of service, high net worth (HNW) knowledge and expertise to a portfolio of industry leading brands and clients.

The speed of change is only going to increase, not just for digital but in terms of the cultural trends playing out in society. My role focuses on future proofing KR MediaCom’s clients to be (and stay!) ahead of the curve and to activate and innovate across media, technology and insights.

How do you think luxury fashion differs from other fashion sectors and what opportunities and challenges does this pose from a media perspective?

Technology has increasingly become part of the conversation for fashion brands and it affects all aspects of the ecosystem. Finding the balance between exclusivity and accessibility is the tightrope that luxury marketers continue to walk. This is the challenge that keeps us coming back into the office here at KR too.  It’s easy for brands to mistake communication for connection when it comes to digital marketing. However, the unique DNA of luxury brands is rooted in a deep sense of authenticity, heritage and savoir-faire. The platform might be new, but the timeless nature of the strategy opens a wealth of opportunities for luxury brands to leverage their core values to create intimate experiences with intelligent context.

  • Relevancy is the new legacy: In the current complex digital landscape, authenticity loses meaning without context. According to McKinsey, today’s luxury consumer has up to 15 different touchpoints with a brand. Whilst this is significantly less than other industries (airlines can have 500-plus touchpoints), the challenge for luxury brands is to craft compelling stories that are highly relevant across an increasingly fragmented digital landscape. To ensure a successful strategy, marketers need to prioritise platforms; determining where to be (and even where not to be) is the first step to ensure that the core audience is reached in the correct environment. Content is context-dependent (a mobile user has different needs to a desktop user, similarly, an Instagram user will have different expectations to someone using Facebook) and therefore needs to be designed for the selected platform(s).

How do you feel that working with TabMo helps you to overcome these challenges?

Creating synergies between paid, owned and earned media is a task that is easier said than done. However, Tabmo’s diverse capabilities allow us to connect multiple channels (display, audio and digital out-of-home) with retail locations which create powerful insights so we can look past traditional display metrics to quantify ‘real life’ behaviours. TabMo’s Hawk platform allows us to access a wealth of data sources and by fusing together location, socio-demographic, income, interest, app usage and purchase data, we can build a highly qualified audience. Combining this with TabMo’s high quality premium inventory sources, we can run relevant, brand safe and carefully targeted campaigns that put luxury brands at ease with using digital advertising.  Connecting the O2O (online to offline) properties is also of paramount importance as luxury retail brands invest significantly on the in-store experience; Hawk provides real-time footfall measurement so we can optimise a campaign whilst it is live to drive the most efficient performance.

What are the trends you are currently seeing within the luxury fashion sector, and how is this reflected in marketing / advertising activity?

Traceability, data privacy and gaming are just three forces that are impacting the fashion and retail industries. As always, clients want to know at what point they need to venture into this space themselves.

  • Traceability and transparency: If transparency hinges on trust, then traceability is about accountability. As the relationship between trust and truth comes under ever-more scrutiny, platforms such as Everledger use a combination of blockchain, AI, and intelligent labelling technologies to introduce transparency to the supply chain of luxury goods. Emerging technology used in the right way can reinforce a brand’s purpose and tackle culturally relevant issues. The key is to begin with a solution in mind that improves outcomes and the consumer experience.
  • Gamification as a way of re-humanising luxury brands: The mounting momentum in digital and mixed reality fashion has been largely driven by significant technology improvements. Gamification offers luxury brands an interactive way to immerse a consumer in the brand’s universe, making them a participant in the product development (customisation), or giving them a sense of belonging (matching a product to a personality). Whether customers go on a treasure hunt with Dior or toss horseshoes with Hermès, they need to form social connections and get more than just a product from their experience with the brand.
  • Desire-driven data collection: No industry will remain untouched by customers’ increasing sensitivity towards privacy. However, in a post-GDPR world, luxury brands are poised to offer more personalised products and services to their customer base, although this makes it crucial to incentivise consumers to share their data. Personalised service, recommendations, private appointments, and so on, are intrinsic to the exclusivity of luxury brands. These components are difficult for mid-market retailers to replicate, which provides luxury brands with a clear advantage in the race to understand consumers better.

What are your digital predictions for 2020 and beyond?

When it comes to shopping and consuming, the influences on purchasing decisions are becoming ever more decentralised, personal and visual thanks to the increasing sophistication of technology. As mentioned earlier, we are now experiencing a shift in the way consumers interact and transact with brands. This will continue to be fuelled by two key developments across the emerging tech space.

  • Transcending the emotional intelligence ‘tech-lash’: Having grown up online in the era of misinformation, Gen Z are very sensitive to authenticity and demand a greater connection with brands. According to the Marketo Engagement Gap Report, 56 per cent of consumers believe businesses need to have a deeper understanding of their needs. Emotional intelligence and connections – both real and digital – will be cornerstones of digital innovation beyond 2020. In short, as humans become more digital, technology will become more human.
  • Visual recognition collapses the purchase journey: AI is already powering image recognition to make product selection easier. Pinterest, Google Lens and Snapshop (backed by Kim Kardashian) allow users to simply take a photo or screenshot of a product they like to find similar options at any price – accelerating the purchase journey by shrinking the steps between desire, discovery and shopability. Amidst all the benefits of visual recognition in the context of ecommerce there are some obvious concerns around safety, privacy and legislation when using facial recognition software in particular. Could we soon experience – or are we already faced with – a situation whereby our face is the next computer cookie?

What challenges and opportunities do you think the recent news around third party cookie data will present?

We all know that there are flaws in the cookie-based system that make it appear clunky and outdated.  Is historical data based on behaviour indicative of audience relevance? Should this single factor influence who we target? The increasing sophistication of machine-learning techniques have created a wealth of opportunities for intelligent targeting that doesn’t require user-profiling – without compromising user privacy. Data collection and targeting are key ingredients to a successful campaign and are the source of both challenges and opportunities as we move to a cookie-less world.

For example, contextual targeting will be reimagined to give advertisers the opportunity to see and react in real-time to insights from audiences’ live content consumption. These dynamic datasets can be used to target and scale campaigns as effectively as cookie-based targeting. This is the same user journey that is constantly discussed; however, by analysing consumption patterns of particular content at the point of when the ad is served, the need to profile a user based on their browsing history is eliminated.

What is your advice for any young marketing professionals with an interest in pursuing the luxe fashion route?

  • Read and then read some more! Diversity of thought is key in any industry but for luxury marketing in particular it’s important to stay on top of the rapidly changing environment and form an opinion on how these forces will impact your clients’ businesses in both the short and long-term.
  • Always trust your gut! Good intuition is the GPS system for life and a great asset whether you’re just starting your career or are a seasoned professional. Luxury and digital are both impacted by a constantly evolving set of trends and external forces – some more transient than others; trusting your instincts to know what to dismiss or what to double down on is crucial to succeeding.
  • Don’t be content with the conventional. ‘The challenge is not the learning curve. The challenge is the un-learning curve’ is a good life lesson in general. The ability to challenge conventions and think outside of the box is rarer than you think in this industry, especially at the beginning of your career, but it’s a key ingredient to succeeding.

Thanks Jessica, for great insight into the workings of the luxury fashion market.  It’s particularly interesting – and gratifying – to see a sector that has traditionally been synonymous with glossy print magazines start to embrace the opportunities that digital marketing offers.  It’s also a useful reminder about how critical it is to deliver advertising that accurately reflects a luxury brand’s quality and heritage.