Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fashion and Marketing: Fashionable Marketer or Marketing Pro

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to see a job listing for marketer at one of the local fashion startups. As you might expect, they were asking for someone who has experience in fashion -- or rather, lives and breathes fashion -- along with their marketing chops.

As a professional marketer who is listed as a contributor on a fashion blog, you might expect that I would be a good fit for a job like this. Actually though, I'm not really someone you would label a fashionista -- I'm not metro, I can't really differentiate between designer brands, I'm more likely to select technical clothing like Patagonia, and I've probably spent more on bicycle shorts, jerseys and shoes than some people have spent on their entire wardrobe.

In the past, I've written posts about whether you need experience in a specific industry in order to be successful in marketing within that space. As surprising as it may sound, I believe that fashion is one of those markets where you need passion and experience to be successful. Don't get me wrong, as a potential market to work in, fashion has some amazingly compelling features:
  • Fashion consumers are interested and ready to buy.
    Even for a 'refrigerator sale' like a wedding dress, there are regular publications that feature them and consumers that flip through image after image and dream -- imagine if people looked through your product catalog with the same level of interest.
  • Fashion consumers look at ads
  • Fashion consumers click through. 
  • Fashion is social, modern, and word of mouth.
    All of those cutting edge social media marketing programs that you've dreamed about using but couldn't justify the ROI for in marketing your business analytics software -- they are viable in fashion marketing.
Of course, the downside of all of this is that, if you aren't passionate about fashion, you probably wear that lack of passion like a billboard. You might simply be trying to look nice -- or at least, not look like a mess -- and your lack of passion will show through to anyone who is. In case you missed it, it's that same look that other people give you when you start talking about battery technology, Intel's roll out of 3D Tri-Gate transistors, or Salesforce.com's Chatter functionality. But unlike all of these areas, you wear your fashion expertise every day.

Marketing Is All About Stories
Marketing is the story of your product -- what problem it solves, why it's different, where it's going, why it matters. To be a good story teller, you need to find the excitement, understand the audience, and bring that excitement and passion to them. I once worked with a woman at one technology company that told me, "all this high tech stuff, it just doesn't really get my juices flowing." She moved to a job in the wine industry, was much happier and probably much more effective. As someone who has worked in a number of different industries, there are exciting stories in every product and audiences just waiting to be wowed. And if you're having a hard time getting your juices flowing, it probably means that you're marketing like you're wearing an old t-shirt and sweat pants. Maybe you need a make-over.

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