Last Updated Dec 2018
At the ReferralCandy blog, we set aside quite a bit of time to analyze the marketing strategies of various successful companies.
Here are some from the fashion industry. These include luxury goods, sportswear brands and everything else.
1. Nike starts with story and emotion to conquer hearts and minds (and global sports apparel markets)
There have been competitors and imitators, but with 48% of the American athletic footwear market (and 96% of the basketball footwear markets) nobody even comes close to Nike.
Nike’s marketing strategy starts with emotional storytelling, and goes a lot further than advertising spend or influencers. From ‘Just do it’ to Colin Kaepernick, Nike keeps raising the bar with evocative, memorable campaigns that tug at your heartstrings and stay in your head.
Even if you don’t speak French, Nike’s message and branding comes through. Incroyable.
Nike builds it all brilliantly into word of mouth marketing: the ads, the stories, the emotions are so good you can’t help but talk about them. And every time somebody makes their own video about Nike, or makes their meme, Nike wins. Nike always wins.
2. Birchbox created a user-friendly referral system to help fans spread the word
Referral marketing is one of the most under-utilized marketing channels.
Customers who are fans of your products WANT to tell their friends about you.. but they don’t, because there is no effective way for them to do so.
By setting up a referral program, you can encourage customers to tell their friends all about you… easily.
Which was what Birchbox did.
By creating a simple, user-friendly referral program, Birchbox empowers their fans to spread the word. All they had to do was sign up, purchase a box and they’ll get reminded to tell their friends about it.
Plus, every advocate that successfully refers a friend gets 50 points per referral, which translate to 5 dollars of online credit, offering them huge savings on their next Birchbox purchase!
3. Rent the Runway created a multi-million dollar business by disrupting the designer fashion industry
The fashion industry is worth 2.4 trillion dollars, and had been fairly stable until Rent the Runway came along. Alongside Uber, AirBnB and SpaceX, Rent the Runway was named one of the most disruptive companies in the world.
Turning the concept of fast fashion on its head, Rent the Runway embraced the experience economy, with the revelation coming from a conversation cofounder Jennifer Hyman had with her sister:
I realized I was having a conversation with my sister about the experience of wearing an amazing dress – of walking into a party feeling self-confident and feeling beautiful, and that’s what she cared about. And she didn’t care about the actual ownership of the items in her closet.
That revelation helped opened doors with fashion luminaries Diane von Furstenberg and Jim Gold from Neiman Marcus, and the rest is a multimillion-dollar business story.
4. MATTER prints built a proud, loyal community connected by values
Instead of competing against fast fashion or haute couture, MATTER espouses a different set of values. To quote co-founder Renyung Ho:
Ultimately we want to change consumer culture and inspire the importance of provenance. We believe that where something is made, and why, matters.
With that focus in mind, MATTER integrates modern designs with traditional textile production made by artisans. The focus on making connections, both within the community and between customers and producers makes every piece a conversation starter and a piece of personal identity.
5. Converse understands that guts is needed to do great marketing
Converse understands that delighting their fans and customers isn’t just a show of words. It must be something that they are willing to prove, willing to show and willing to demonstrate.
And they do.
They spend time and money on things that are cool, but doesn’t immediately improve their sales. One example?
Converse set up a recording studio in Brooklyn, New York where artists can record for free.
Converse doesn’t take any profits nor own the songs. It doesn’t even ask them to advertise their shoes!
All they’re doing is finding a way to give back to the community that loves them.
6. H&M uses conscious, targeted and inclusive advertising
Understanding that inclusivity is both a social phenomenon and an important moral, human need, H&M creates and tailors advertising campaigns to be all-inclusive.
In their 2015 campaign “Close The Loop”, H&M featured Mariah Idrissi, a 23-year old Londoner, who donned a hijab for the video.
This video also features plus-sized models, an amputee and many other diverse individuals, leading to praise from TeenVogue.
7. Lululemon stores are a “fitness and conversation hub” that gives free fitness classes
In one of their stores in Burlingame, California, Lululemon hosts free yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
By doing so, Lululemon is able to position itself as a hub for fitness and conversation, elevating its branding from an apparel company (which is aplenty) to an organization that embodies the values of their customers and a community to find like-minded people.
(Pro-Tip: Supercharge your word-of-mouth with an automated referral program like ReferralCandy.)
8. Louis Vuitton products are exclusive
Louis Vuitton products are not easily available. In fact, they have an exclusive series that they only release on special occasions and through select sales channels.
For example, for the Louis Vuitton 2017 show, only a limited selection of bags from the collection was available to purchase online. If the customer doesn’t buy it right there and then, it will no longer be available… forever!
This exclusivity makes customers buy faster — as well as make their products more desirable and coveted.
Learn More: 4 Reasons Why Louis Vuitton Is So Successful
9. ModCloth’s blog is popular with the loyal fans of the brand
The ModCloth blog is a refreshing take on vintage fashion and finds, and is an easy way for fans and customers to learn more about the latest vintage trends.
Their blog posts cover everything from interview features with trendy individuals, gift guides, travel tips and even delicious recipes.
And where relevant, ModCloth simply links to the products mentioned on their website.
A win-win for both ModCloth and their fans!
Fans get their content fix for vintage clothing, and ModCloth gets new customers when they decide to purchase from the website.
10. Tiffany & Co took their social media presence to the next level
Unlike other brands, social media isn’t just another channel for Tiffany & Co. to blast their marketing messages.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Tiffany & Co. is ranked highest in terms of responsiveness and engagement within the social media sphere.
Not only that, in 2015, Tiffany & Co. launched their engagement ring finder app in 2015. Users can use the app to choose ring style and carat weights. They could even take a hand-selfie to virtually try Tiffany rings to see how it looks on their hands.
A 20% increase in sales!
11. THINX is dedicated to a cause, in the process winning over influencers and the media
Founded by Antonia Dunbar, Miki Agrawal and Radha Agrawal, THINX is a company that designs period-proof underwear. It came about originally when Miki Agrawal discovered that millions of girls around the world did not have the means to manage their periods.
THINX isn’t just a company — it’s a cause. Its mantra is “For People With Periods.” From partnering with AFRIpads to help women in Uganda to a TedXBethesdaWomen talk, Miki Agrawal has continually expressed her efforts to combat the stigma associated with menstruation.
The dedication to this cause has turned her into a media darling, generating glowing reviews from YouTubers and support from popular media websites like BuzzFeed and Elle.
12. Threadless organized competitions that turned T-shirt designing into an engaging sport
Threadless is famous for their themed challenges, which challenges designers to be as creative as possible in order to win some Threadless gifts. These challenges help spread the awareness for both Threadless and the designers, setting up a win-win situation for both of them.
Here are some of the challenges held by Threadless:
A. Threadcakes — Transforming Threadless designs into edible works of art
B. Win20k Challenge — $20,000 to whoever creates the most awesome T-shirt design
C. Minimalism Challenge — A challenge to communicate an idea with as little as possible
D. Threadwars — A one-on-one themed design competition to see who’s the best
13. TOMS built an entire company by giving away 45 million pairs of shoes to charity
TOMS is a unique company. Instead of merely selling shoes, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to charity for every pair of shoes bought.
It was first created when TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie travelled to Argentina and witnessed firsthand the struggles faced by children without shoes.
And the positioning worked.
TOMS today is worth hundreds of millions.
Why did it work for so well?
As Blake Mycoskie himself puts it succinctly:
“People connect with us because buying Toms is like a badge that says, “I did something for someone.”
14. Under Armour gave away free shirts to individual football players, and ended up with 2 sales from 2 NFL teams
CEO of Under Armour, Kevin Plank used to give his professional football players friends shirts so that they could test out his products and see if they liked it.
He always made sure that he gave his friends an extra shirt so that they could pass it to his teammate if they liked it.
He knew that once a few players liked it and started wearing it, the team would feel obliged to buy them for everyone.
And lo and behold did it work!
The Georgia State football team soon approached Under Armour to outfit their players, followed by Atlanta Falcons, the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins.
Selling to Miami Dolphins was a great move, as their match was televised on national TV, which helped to bring out the Under Armour name.
15. The Undress focused solely on a specific niche and targeted specific influencers to reach them
The marketing wisdom goes, “If you target everyone, you target no one.”
And The Undress took that wisdom to heart.
Even though The Undress could be used by anybody… They didn’t target the entire world. Instead, the focused their marketing on triathletes and yoga practitioners — people who would benefit the most from the product.
They got featured on many running blogs, extending their reach to their target audience.
16. Uniqlo sponsored prominent athletes to help break into new markets
As part of its Global Ambassador Programme, Uniqlo sponsors world-class athletes to help build its reach in newer markets.
In 2012, Uniqlo began sponsoring Novak Djokovic, the world’s #1 professional tennis player. This sponsorship was strategic: Uniqlo knew that a partnership with Djokovic would help raise enough hype about the brand to pave its expansion into Europe.
Djokovic signed a 5-year sponsorship with the brand, and debuted his first Uniqlo outfit at the second Glam Slam of the season, with thousands watching all over the globe.
17. Vans understands the importance of the human touch
The Warped Tour is North America’s longest-running music festival, and it has launched the careers of famous singers and rappers like Eminem, Fall Out Boy, Paramore and My Chemical Romance.
Yet it is little-known that it is a concert launched by Vans.
Despite its name, The Warped Tour is a wholesome concert that allows parents to attend the shows for free when accompanied by their kids.
These events help Vans connect with younger audiences and ensure that future generations will also hear about the Vans brand.
18. Victoria’s Secret’s in-store experience causes 67% of their customers to purchase after using their fitting room
Victoria’s Secret knows that the secret (no pun intended) behind making customers buy is an unparalleled in-store experience.
And that is where they place their marketing emphasis.
Shopping in a VS store is a luxurious experience. The stores are furnished in a welcoming and plush Victorian style, with lots of pink and black. Staff are friendly, helpful and apporoachable — and are always willing to give you fitting advice.
Fitting rooms are luxurious and inviting, providing you with the utmost comfort while you try on lingerie.
The end result — 67% of customers make a purchase after using the fitting room.
19. Warby Parker does high-level PR stunts to get press to talk about them
Warby Parker knows that PR is a valuable marketing channel, especially for a fledging ecommerce startup.
But, the problem with PR is that it is either too expensive, or limited to the people at the top.
That, however, didn’t stop Warby Parker from being inventive.
Deciding that they wanted to be a part of the New York Fashion Week in 2011, but couldn’t get involved the traditional way, they invited 40+ editors to a ‘secret event’ at the NY Public Library. They earned buzz (without paying for it!) by creating a remarkable experience.
They even created Warby Barker, glasses for dogs as an April Fool’s joke. They set up a beautiful website and had photoshoots with professional dog models — which ended up driving 2.5x the traffic than that of Warby Parker.
20. Yeezy targeted celebrities for product endorsement
Yeezy Boost, the collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West is a super-popular shoe that sells out within minutes of launching.
The reason? It’s exclusive.
And it’s exclusive even for the A-listed celebrities.
To build the exclusivity for the brand, Kanye West sent Yeezy Boosts only to a select few of his A-list celebrity friends, including Calvin Harris, Justin Bieber and entire Kardashian-Jenner clan.
Knowing that they are now exclusive and special, these celebrities quickly took to Instagram to let their massive fan bases know that they were on Team Yeezy.
Boom! Now every fashion-conscious millennials are coveting the sneakers.
21. Zara’s motto — be fast, not first
Zara is a fashion copycat.
Instead of trying to be fashion innovators and trying to capture early adopters, Zara approaches fashion with a different approach.
That approach: fast.
Rather than setting trends, Zara rides what is currently hot and established to provide affordable copycat versions of high-end brands.
And to appease its teen and 20something demographic, the store prides itself on getting new designs in stores within 2 weeks.
The strategy works — Zara has grown their overall sales by 50% in 5 years, reaching $17.5 billion in sales.
22. Zappos’s customer service is top-notch
Zappos considers themselves a “service company that happens to sell shoes.” Their aim is to provide 110% service, and to go above-and-beyond what is expected of them.
Here are a few examples of how Zappos demonstrates above-and-beyond:
- Upon learning that a customer’s feet were damaged after harsh medical treatment, Zappos sent a bouquet of lilies and roses to her and upgraded her to VIP status.
- When a tourist wanted a pair of shoes that were out of stock, a Zappos employee bought the shoes from a physical store nearby, and hand-delivered them to her hotel, for no extra charge.
- When UPS messed up and threatened to leave a best man shoeless at the wedding he was attending, Zappos shipped another pair of shoes overnight so that he’d have them in time, and refunded his money.
23. ASOS utilizes an untapped channel by most online retailers — a physical magazine
With the proliferation of the Internet, it’s easy to assume that offline strategies no longer work.
According to ASOS, that’s simply not true.
In fact, the ASOS Brand Magazine has 486,000 readers and 820,000 online subscribers! All of them check the magazine out regularly to read about celebrity style, shopping tips and outfit ideas.
By using the Brand Magazine, ASOS makes it easy for readers to consume product information and advertisements — turning readers into ASOS customers.
24. Chanel challenged the status quo by designing products defying social norms
While Chanel is now known as luxury brand with premium prices, when it first started, it began by creating talking points and grabbed consumer attention through defying social norms.
In the 1920s, the simple-line designs of Chanel couture made popular the “flat-chested” fashions that were the opposite of the hourglass-figure achieved by 19th-century fashion.
They also sought to empower women by incorporating trousers and blazers and using masculine colours like grey and navy blue.
These “brave moves” helped Chanel establish itself as a label to look out for… and revolutionized fashion.
25. Charles & Keith positioned itself in the “affordable luxury” market
Whilst many people yearn to own shoes produced by the luxury brands like Prada and Vera Wang, not many are able to afford them.
Enter Charles & Keith.
Charles & Keith, a Singaporean-brand, positions itself nicely in the middle between “affordable” and “luxury”, creating an “affordable luxury” market. Known for producing high-quality footwear inspired by runway styles but made affordable for the masses, Charles & Keith attracts many trend-conscious, medium-high income customers who fork out cash over hand to buy the products they like.
Applying Them To Your Business?
Don’t blindly apply these tactics to your business.
Instead, focus on understanding the principles behind why these strategies worked.
They are mainly:
- Great storytelling
- Providing a human touch
To ensure that you build a brand that stands out and lasts, you have to tell a great story, and build in into your company a channel for customers to reach and talk to you.
(RELATED: Check out how these different fashion businesses set up profitable referral programs.)