The Snapchat effect: Fashion designers are making ephemeral fab

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Two days before its New York Fashion Week show in February, Marc Jacobs announced it was launching a Snapchat account. Just a few months prior, Alexander Wang used the app as a means to invite followers to an exclusive event, and other competitor luxury brands were swiftly following suit, trying to lure consumers with the app’s fleeting images.

In fashion — and especially fashion marketing — everything needs to be just so. It comes as something of a surprise that fashion houses from Louis Vuitton to Burberry have been going deep on Snapchat, a photo-sharing app known for off-the-cuff spontaneity.

Marc Jacobs, but for kids
Marc Jacobs, but for kids

Yet use of the disappearing-message app is proliferating through the fashion industry, as designers and brands clamor to entice consumers with behind-the-scenes looks at the latest products. Though the fashion industry is notoriously a step behind in adopting the latest tech trends — take Vogue, which just launched its first app in early May — it is beginning to use the swelling numbers of users on the platform.

Daily video views on Snapchat have increased fourfold since May 2015, up to 8 billion. Snapchat has become the favored platform among teens, according to a recent Piper Jaffray study of 6,500 teens.

Despite the rapid growth of the medium, brand adoption has been slow to catch on. Claude de Jocas, director of L2’s Intelligence Group, said that while fashion is drawn to Instagram for its ability to replicate “highly polished print ads you would put in Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar,” Snapchat enables a unique form of engagement.

“While Snapchat isn’t a live-streaming video platform in the way Periscope or Meerkat is, it’s such a video-first platform,” she said. “It creates this real-time life experience, conducive to sharing a raw, unfiltered look at what the brand is doing.”

De Jocas said fashion brands that are “digitally native” have been most effective at using the platform, noting Rebecca Minkoff and Kate Spade as exemplary brands. Meanwhile, older, more traditional companies like Valentino have turned to Snapchat to rejuvenate tired marketing models.

Minkoff and mini-Minkoff
Minkoff and mini-Minkoff

The digitally native brand
For Rebecca Minkoff and Kate Spade, who founded their companies in 2001 and 1996, respectively, the internet has always been an integral part of their growth strategies. Particularly for 35-year-old Minkoff, social media has been an inherent part of her life, putting her ahead of more storied fashion houses like Burberry.

“The brands that have done a very effective job on Snapchat can be bucketed into two groups. The first is the fashion brands that have grown up around digital and have always had to do brand building in the digital world,” De Jocas said.

These younger brands are helping to pave the way for more established brands like Valentino, which began its foray in social media with Instagram.

“Valentino saw so much success [on Instagram] that they quickly and nimbly moved that programming over to Snapchat,” De Jocas added. “They’ve been able to drive authenticity and pull back the curtain on such a highly editorialized look.”

Legacy brands tap new audiences
Designers and brands that have shifted their focus to Snapchat are now trying to figure out ways to use it, whether it’s sharing exclusive product launches or promoting events. Burberry, which became the first luxury brand to host a Snapchat Discover channel, shared 24 hours of content around the theme “How to Be a Modern Man” for a new men’s fragrance.

“It may just be a little 45-second vignette of [employees] in the office showing the product, but it’s one of the most effective mechanisms of building excitement and buzz,” chief digital officer Thoryn Stephens said at the Retail & Consumer Packaged Goods Executive Summit in New York City in May.

Beauty brand Glossier announced three new lip balm products on its Snapchat account, while fashion brands like Alexander Wang used the platform to invite consumers to special functions.

“For us, it’s about engagement,” Sarah Hudson, public relations manager at Glossier, told Digiday in a previous article. “Thankfully our community is really active on a variety of different platforms. We really play around to see which ones perform the best, and that strategy changes from launch to launch.

Looking good, Gurung
Looking good, Gurung

A look at the designers behind the brands
Beyond pure promotion, Snapchat has become a way for exclusive brands to personalize themselves via candid glimpses into the lives of the designer, whether it’s a post of Prabal Gurung’s redeye flight to San Francisco or Rebecca Minkoff’s wine night.

Gurung and Minkoff join the ranks of Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton and Stella McCartney, all of whom joined Snapchat in recent months, some in tandem with Fashion Week in February.

For Prabal Gurung, Snapchat provides an inside look at the “young, charismatic, present designer at the helm,” said Lauren Cooper, public relations and marketing manager for the brand.

“We use Instagram to create a curated ‘world of PG,’ that is an extension of Prabal and tells a story about who the PG woman is,” Cooper said. “Snapchat really captures Prabal in real-life moments — from cooking breakfast on the weekend to attending a ballet gala with a muse. It truly solidifies the personal connection we have with our followers.”

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