NEW YORK: This back-to-school season, apparel retail brands plan to face current economic woes head-on with integrated and interactive marketing campaigns that communicate value. JCPenney, Macy's, Cotton, and Sears are a just a few brands in the midst of an integrated approach that includes PR and digital marketing.
“We use social media for a few other campaigns, but it's never been as integrated for back-to-school,” said Quinton Crenshaw, brand communications manager at JCPenney. “It allows us to connect with new and young consumers.”
JCPenney's “Schooled in Style: Smart Looks for Less” campaign includes an interactive microsite with a digital runway; a "JCP Teen" Facebook page that features interactive games and updates from professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, the face of the RS By Sheckler JCPenney line; and a social media scavenger hunt for tickets to a JCPenney rock tour.
Crenshaw said the nature of the company's recent skate- and surf-oriented teen brand launches - RS By Sheckler, Rusty, and Third Rail a Zoo York Production - contributed to the new strategy.
“When you have such a great compelling assortment of brands, you have the confidence to launch such an integrated marketing campaign,” he said.
A message about value will permeate the company's marketing initiative for its August 31 Manhattan store launch, during which time it plans to push back-to-school merchandise, added Crenshaw. The company is working with M Booth & Associates on fashion and lifestyle and media relations.
Cotton is also leveraging its value proposition this fall in an interactive initiative around back-to-school. The company is seeding a Web video that offers parents tips on how to supplement a wardrobe for cold weather without buying an entire new wardrobe.
Working with Jack Morton Worldwide, the brand aims to reach its 18- to 34-year-old target this fall via 14 mall installations that will launch August 12. The installations showcase Cotton items at a variety of price points and house a studio where consumers can record a music video, and automatically enter a contest, based on the Cotton theme song.
“We just think experiential marketing is a really compelling way to reach our customer,” said Marissa Barlin, director of consumer marketing and strategic alliances at Cotton. “There's more impact, and it allows for longer interaction with the brand.”
Cotton is working with Saks which plans on engaging with consumers this season through an integrated approach beginning in early August. Saks partnered with the brand and Lucky to advertise fall denim items on the Lucky iPhone app and Lucky at Your Service Web site; promote items in window and in-store displays; and host an August 6 Lucky stylist event via the Saks Facebook page and blogger outreach.
“Denim is a very important category for Cotton,” said Barlin. “[The partnership] is a great way to promote [the brand] with our target consumer, especially now that iPhone apps are gaining popularity.”
Macy's, which launched its Facebook page at the end of June, plans on leveraging the network to promote its “Book a Brighter Future Campaign" – an in-store donation-discount effort in partnership with Reading is Fundamental. It also plans on engaging moms on Facebook and at targeted online destinations via checklists, back-to-school trend content, and a photo sharing effort.
The company is injecting a message of value in its effort to promote apparel and school supply deals. “It's a big message for our kids' business,” said Holly Thomas, VP of media relations and cause marketing at Macy's. “We know that people will be looking for value this back-to-school.”
Fall promotional efforts also include “Girls Night Out” events and partnerships with Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazine.
Facebook also plays a role in Sears' back-to-school campaign to target college students this August. The retailer recently launched http://www.facebook.com/campusready and www.sears.com/campus, which provides students with tips for spending and clickable dorm design options.
The company declined to comment on its strategy prior to a media briefing set to take place July 28.