I am delighted to congratulate one of our most successful clients, Kate Spade, on receiving two nominations in the Fashion 2.0 Awards. The awards honor the most innovative fashion brands for their leadership in developing online communities. It only takes one quick glance at Kate Spade’s Pinterest, Facebook, blog or Tumblr to see that this is a brand that truly loves sharing and receiving inspiration from their customers. I sat down with Johanna Murphy, VP eCommerce, and Marissa Kraxberger, Web Art Director, to learn more about Kate Spade’s social marketing strategy, which lead to their award nominations in the “Best Blog by a Fashion Brand” and “Top Innovator” categories.
Looking at the Kate Spade tumblr, I noticed a lot of content that extends beyond the things your brand actually makes, like this photo of a book cover, and this deco swimming pool. Why did you expand the scope?
Marissa Kraxberger: Well, because I think Tumblr is a different medium. I think Tumblr is a space where it’s about not just what our brand makes; it’s about our brand personality and our brand voice. It further tells the story of who we are and what our Kate Spade New York story is. You know, so, it’s not just about what’s happening inside the company, but what inspires what we do at the company and who inspires, and what artists, what books we’re reading. I see that you pointed out that book, and a lot of times we’re inspired by graphic design. We are such a graphic design focused company, and we’re inspired by old book covers, vintage magazines, and movies. We use Tumblr as a way to further communicate that this is how we function as a brand, by drawing on inspiration from all these sources.
Johanna Murphy: I think the thing that’s so great about our marketing team that really owns our social media is they really do understand the medium that they’re participating in. If you look across all of our social channels, that’s true. We don’t use social media just to push product. It’s really an extension of our brand personality. If you look at Facebook, if you look at Pinterest, the inspiration is such a part of our core DNA as a brand. If you walk into our stores, we have some rare art books sitting on the shelves, and if you walk into our 5th Avenue store right now, we have the The Apartment playing on a reel in our store. It’s just a part of who we are; it’s a part of our brand. And I think a lot of brands still make the mistake of just using social media to push a product and push brand messages. People don’t engage in social media that way.
Marissa: Yeah, I think it’s really important to know the difference between the spaces you’re in. Like, Tumblr, if we were to push product here, I think it would bode poorly for us. It wouldn’t be the kind of conversation people are having via imagery in the Tumblr community.
Do you have any sense of how much of your readership is aspirational, versus how much is either prospective owners of your products or actual owners?
Johanna: Well, it’s kind of hard to track on social media, but we look at it this way: we’re okay with both. We are an aspirational brand, and we kind of look at social media as kind of the tinder, if you will, to start the fire to become a brand enthusiast. We’re okay if you’re not a customer and are engaged with us on social media. We’re hoping that you’ll love the brand, aspire to be part of the brand, and one day hop over to our ecom site or our stores and become a customer.
Marissa: We have weekly log meetings that really cover all of our social media plans and communication. We do know that a good percentage of them shop. We don’t know exactly if it’s “repeat offenders” all the time that are shopping, but we do know where traffic is coming from. When we post things, we especially track it from our blog, and a lot of what we post on our blog ends up on Tumblr and our other channels. They are shopping. We don’t know what the percentage is, but they are shopping.
Johanna: If you look at our Facebook, you’ll see that there’s a really nice blend of brand content. We do use Facebook, for example, to announce our one-day private sales, and we’ll often release that to Facebook for our fans before we open it to the general public. Obviously we can track the results through that, and the amount of sales we get when we open those up early are actually staggering. And that’s actually the most commercial use we have for Facebook right now.
So what kind of people read Behind the Curtain, and how has readership changed over time?
Marissa: Kate Spade enthusiasts are the ones that are most likely reading Behind the Curtain. It’s funny, because we recently did some deep digging on this, because the Behind the Curtain blog is a labor of love for our team. It’s one of those things where we are fortunate to have a lot of compelling content at this company, and it’s not hard to take tidbits of what happens here and expand them into bigger stories. So we get pretty excited about the Behind the Curtain content. Our joke is that no one reads it but us, but that’s not true. A lot of people are reading it, and it has driven a lot of sales and traffic. So that makes me think that it’s a lot of our true and loyal followers.
Johanna: If you look at some of the things, it’s interesting. Some of the most read articles and some of the most commented-on stories are things that happened here in the office. So, you know, we had a Halloween party and everybody dressed up. Tons of feedback and comments on that. We did a hot chocolate crawl with our staff around holiday, and did a three-part series where we went to some of the yummiest hot chocolate places in the city with our staffers and basically gave you the inside scoop on where to go. Tons of feedback from people who aren’t in New York commented on it. So they really do love that Behind the Curtain peek of what it’s like to work at Kate Spade, and an inside look in the fashion industry. We get as many comments on that as we do products.
Marissa: We have such a loyal following of people who just love the brand, and I think those are the people reading the blog. They’re getting a deeper insight into the brand, and it’s also a huge source of inspiration. I mean, it’s not like we’re giving away secrets on there, but we are inspired by a lot of things and sharing that with a lot of people.
Johanna: One of our big brand tag lines is, “live colorfully,” and it’s part of our brand DNA: we’re women who aspire to live interesting lives. And we try to project that on all of our social media—the interesting things that Deborah Lloyd does, the interesting things we do in the office. We just blogged the other day about a visit to the Damien Hirst exhibit. I think there are a lot of women that aspire to live interesting lives, and they can experience that in a very authentic way through our blog.
I think the cool thing about Kate Spade is that we do walk the walk, and we do talk the talk. We live the brand. The women in this company, the men in this company, are pretty interesting people, and I think that shows through all of our customer touch points.
You feature content from Kate Spade fans pretty regularly—like these tweets about the hedgehog coin purse. What value do you see in doing this?
Marissa: We kind of have recently started doing that. I think that social media is really important to communicate with and have conversations with your fans and followers. I don’t think it’s smart to just pump out content and not engage the consumers with conversation. So we thought, in that case, we’re always talking about things like resolutions. Why don’t we just put that out there to our followers? Like, what do you resolve to do? And highlight the ones that we felt most connected with the brand. It’s just about constantly communicating and engaging versus just putting out content.
Johanna: It used to be that brands could control everything. It was a one-way conversation. It was a print ad in a book, you know, it was a media buy on TV. It was a one-way push. But the advent of social media today is connected, and people talk to each other. If you’re going to participate in that forum, that’s the context. They expect you to talk to them and they expect you to listen them, too. So it’s like brands no longer really control the agenda, customers really do. And you just need to provide the appropriate forum for them to do that.
All of our fans and followers are potential ambassadors for our brand. And I think people like being recognized for having communication with us.