Archive for the ‘Fashion & Home’ Category

ASOS Feels The Digital Love

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 by Julie Wilson

ASOS, Very and are the three most loved digital brands, a study by Tamar has revealed.

The BrandLove25 report explores the degree to which consumers demonstrate their support and enthusiasm for a digital brand through their social interaction, and ranks companies on a number of different metrics including numbers of Facebook fans, Twitter followers and revenue.

Joining the companies in the top ten are:;;;;; and

Whilst it is of no surprise to see ASOS and Very feature in the top spots, both companies having been amongst the first fashion retailers to adopt and embrace social media effectively into their marketing strategies, credit has to be given to for achieving such a respectable position.  In just five years since launch, the online fashion retailer has firmly established itself as one of the UK’s top online providers of women’s fashion, picking up a number of industry awards along the way and, as this report shows, positioning itself firmly at the heart of consumers.

What makes a brand engaging could be said to lie in the eye of the consumer but there are five key principles to which companies should adhere if looking to achieve the social medial top spot:

1. Know your customer and identify their wants and needs

2. Stay true to your brand and ensure your voice conveys your personality

3. Maintain consistent participation and invite consumers to be a part of the conversation

4. Address the balance – commercial message delivery versus general interest

5. Provide real added value

Speaking on the results of the report Tanya Goodin, CEO of Tamar said:  “In the current climate many ‘traditional’ bricks and mortar brands are struggling but pure-play digital brands are powering from strength to strength.  However, this second edition of our Best-Loved Digital Brands league table shows that, even within the digital sector, some brands are performing much better than others.  The size of social media communities give an immediate and very visible way of measuring the ‘love’ customers feel for brands and reported revenue gives us a clear indication of how that ‘love’ translates to sales.  The brands here have demonstrably capitalised on the seismic shift from ‘bought’ to ‘earned’ media and are seeing stellar financial performance as a result.  Digital brands who don’t make the Top 25 table need to look at the stars appearing and take note.”


Osborne’s GQ appearance is PR disaster

Friday, September 9th, 2011 by Mark Perry

Should politicians be allowed to tell jokes? The answer  judging by George Osborne’s ill-advised attempt at this week’s GQ awards is no.

Mr Osborne was picking up his award for being “Politician of the Year” when during his acceptance speech in which – it has to be presumed – he was trying to be funny he made a lewd comment about the readers of the magazine.

Modesty prevents me from repeating the joke which can be seen here . As can be heard in the clip it went down badly with the star-studded audience who jeered as he exited the stage.

If in accepting the award he was trying to gain some positive personal PR you do have to ask what his advisers were thinking allowing him to appear at a red carpet star-studded event, particularly as he calls for  us all to adopt austerity measures.

He also seems, in the clip, to be reading his acceptance speech from the teleprompters. This probably means that one of his advisers wrote the lines for him which turned out to be so blatantly wrong coming from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  If they had come from the likes of Jonathan Ross no-one would even have noticed.

Perhaps it was an bungled attempt to show him to be an ordinary ‘bloke’? After all, his age places him in the target readership. I am afraid, Mr Osborne, that this is a PR fail.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

When The Tills Stop Ringing

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 by Julie Wilson

Championed by media, starlets and fashion aficionados across the globe, the great British High Street has long been celebrated as one of the best in the world.

But following a turbulent week, which saw Habitat’s UK business and Jane Norman fall into administration, and furniture group Homeform and discount department store TJ Hughes expected to follow, what is the future for UK retailers?

The government has openly admitted it doesn’t have the answer and has appointed TV retail guru Mary Portas to carry out a review aimed at “halting the decline of the High Street” in England.

The review, which will explore the problem that is the rise in empty shops and look at how to prevent the growth of ‘clone towns’ dominated by chainstores, is well underway and will see Ms Portas, the ‘Queen of Shops’, present her findings in the Autumn.

But are chainstores really to blame for the fall of the High Street?  I would argue not, or certainly not entirely.  Whilst independents have undoubtedly suffered at the hands of the big players and I feel strongly should have a place in town centres, some of the UK’s biggest institutions are themselves now feeling the strain, highlighting the extent of the problems faced by all British retailers.

The rise in e-commerce is most certainly one of them, with the country enjoying the biggest e-commerce market in the world when measured by the amount spent per capita.*  High rental costs and limited and quite frankly extortionate town centre parking fees are another.  Combine these factors with a drop in consumer spending and an increase in demand for fast, disposable and cheap goods and it’s not difficult to see the root of the problem.

What is difficult however is to know how to tackle it.

No stranger to the battle for High Street survival, independent retailers yesterday joined forces and celebrated Independents’ Day, a Skillsmart Retail and National Skills Academy for Retail initiative, which encouraged consumers to buy at least one item from a local independent retailer.

Chainstores are now joining the fight, backed by The British Retail Consortium, which has urged the Government’s review take into consideration the interests of all retailers, whatever their size.

With consumer spending expected to rise by only 2% a year up to 2020 and UK High Street spending not anticipated to return to pre-recession levels until 2013** one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a long and slow battle.

I’m looking forward to hearing the results of the review.


* Figures as reported by The Boston Consulting Group in a report for Google, October 2010

** Figures as documented in the Ernst & Young Item Club report, May 2011


Catalogues are back in fashion

Friday, October 1st, 2010 by Julie Wilson


Leading retailer, John Lewis, announced earlier this week it is to launch its first-ever dedicated fashion catalogue.

The catalogue, published by John Brown and to be distributed through stores and direct mail, is being introduced by the retailer in a drive to establish itself as a fashion destination.

Fronting the high-end, glossy publication, which will feature designer collections by Mulberry and Richard James, is the publisher’s editor-in-chief and former Marie Claire editor, Marie O’Riordan.

The launch marks a rising trend for brand-owned publications, which in recent years has seen New Look, ASOS and H&M all introduce customer magazines to their customer communications tools.

It’s an interesting turnaround for the humble catalogue, which just five years ago looked to become a thing of the past as homeshopping brands ditched the paper format in favour of e-commerce.

A report conducted by Retail Week at the time of the industry shift, highlighted the importance of the catalogue in the customer shopping experience and urged retailers to think twice before eradicating the seasonal brand directories from their communications strategies.

In February of this year, a poll commissioned by Royal Mail further championed the role of the catalogue in the consumer purchase process and revealed almost two-thirds of consumers now consult a catalogue before buying products or services – an increase of nine per cent on the previous year.

Speaking on the results of the Home Shopper Tracking study, Antony Miller, Head of Media Development at Royal Mail, said: “Despite the growth of online retail, the print catalogue still plays a key role for many home shoppers who use them to buy and browse as well as seeking inspiration for new ideas.

“It is also clear that multichannel shopping is becoming the preferred method for most home shoppers as they research the best deals and consider the convenience of buying remotely.”

He added: “Catalogues and the internet offer a powerful combination of information, showing the importance of using the two channels together in the marketing mix.”

With retailers continuing to invest heavily in the development of transactional websites and social media platforms, it is inevitable e-commerce will continue to be the main driving force behind the changing face of retail.

It is clear however, that when it comes to influencing the consumer purchase process, in with the new communications tool does not always mean out with the old.

If only for now, it’s nice to see that catalogues are back in fashion.

Follow me, teases Twitter

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 by Julie Wilson


Twitter ‘follow me’ hosiery; a way to attract followers (and stalkers), or a clever way to promote the Twitter brand to a wider, consumer audience?

If it’s the latter, the social networking site has been effective. The above image featured in this week’s Grazia (in the going down section of the title’s of ups and downs column I hasten to add), achieving reach to over 569,000 fashion-savvy readers.

Intrigued by the innovative brand building exercise, I couldn’t resist running a search to find out more about this word of mouth, or is that word of leg campaign. The results were disappointing. The creative line of hosiery was actually launched back in 2009 and has, until now, generated only a ripple of conversation online.

This got me to question, is this actually a Twitter campaign or in fact one of an innovative online hosiery retailer – one that identified and realised the opportunity of the rising social networking site and its own ‘nylon billboards’ ahead of the big retail players?

I suspect it’s the latter. Either way, given that I’ve not seen them parading down the high street or lining the front row of London Fashion Week, it’s unlikely these tights are going to enjoy a tweeting fashion moment.

If you’re brave enough and looking to boost your followers however, why not give them a whirl.  It’s a nice creative idea if nothing else.

Democratic Consumerism – The Retail Future?

Friday, October 30th, 2009 by Julie Wilson


The World Wide Web has radically shaped the way we do business, in particular that of the fashion retail sector.

Estimated to be worth over £4.1bn by the end of 2009*, the sector is booming, with no self respecting high street retailer now without a transactional website. 

The savvy aren’t, however, solely using the web as a sales platform.

Responding to the rise in popularity of social media, a new culture is emerging, labelled by industry leaders as “democratic consumerism”.

Pioneering the move towards the new culture is Asda Chief Executive, Andy Bond, who recently announced plans to open up the workings of the business to scrutiny from customers in a move to build greater trust and long-term loyalty amongst shoppers. 

Among the range of initiatives to be introduced by the retailer is Asda’s new blog,, which invites customers to participate in the buying process – voting on their favourite styles and colour ways.

Still in its infancy, the blog is already enjoying a positive response.  Speaking on it its launch Beth Somi, George Marketing and PR Manager, said: “ is a great way for our customers to understand more about what goes on behind the scenes at Asda and to know more about our colleagues who work here.

“I enjoy talking to people about my job, so this is a great opportunity to do it while I’m at work. There is so much to talk about, we have new ranges launching in store every week so there is always something going on. The tough decision is knowing what to blog about so that I don’t bore everyone!

“I love the fact that I can ask for feedback on my blog and that the readers respond in such a positive way. It’s a great way for us to get instant ideas on our new ranges. As I speak to the teams here at George House, they are excited about what we can ask for comments on in the future.”

An example of an entirely web-based retailer epitomising democratic fashion is  Possibly one of the most ingenious fashion websites to launch in recent years, puts the customer at the heart of the proposition, allowing the user to design a garment from scratch choosing fabric, colour style and trim.

The site goes against the typical nature of the fashion industry with trends that ‘trickle-down’ from the catwalk to the high street, asking the user to vote and design exactly what they want to wear.

It is also a fashion community with users rating and commenting on one another’s designs. Recent celebrity fans include Duffy and Holly Branson.

Not only good news for fashion addicts looking to create an individual look, is a pretty good business model.  The retailer only produces what its users order so there is never over-supply; good for the environment and for the businesses overheads.

Chief Executive Officer of, Iris Ben-David, comments: “StyleShake is all about empowering the user, providing them with the means to express themselves and celebrate their creativity. We are delighted to offer new ways of collaboration”.

The retailer’s vision is to become a leading online resource that revolutionises the way we consume fashion by making it much more personal and individual. 

A design obsessive from a tender age and regularly frustrated shopper, I personally, am delighted by what looks to be a customer-empowered future.  But what does democratic consumerism mean for the future of retail?

Its potential to impact on the overall business model is huge.  Armed with increased customer insight, the risk of costly, unpopular bulk buys will undoubtedly be lessened, reducing retailers’ need to discount and perhaps marking the beginning of the end of the January sale.  The retailer/supplier relationship will also inevitably see a change.   The potential for collections to be further tailored by store in response to regional demand an increasing reality.

Democratic consumerism, it’s an interesting one to watch, one I will certainly be following with a close eye.  

* Taken from Mintel’s Fashion Online report, August 2009

Because She’s Worth It…

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 by Jo Rosenberg

The nation’s sweetheart, Cheryl Cole, has landed a global advertising deal with L’Oreal Paris making her the first British woman to be signed by the company since Kate Moss in 1998.

The Girls Aloud singer and X Factor judge will appear in a major TV campaign this month following the launch of a new range, Elvive Full Restore 5, in the UK.

It’s reported that L’Oreal tested a number of UK celebrities and unsurprisingly, Cheryl was the clear favourite, held in great affection by the British public.

But what is it that makes this Geordie lass a national treasure? From humble beginnings on a Newcastle council estate to gracing the cover of UK Vogue, Cheryl Cole has well and truly been through the public mill (remember the incident with the toilet attendant?). But since winning public sympathy when husband Ashley Cole allegedly cheated on her, and replacing Sharon Osbourne as a judge on X Factor, she has been the crush of many girls, boys, men and women.

In fact, over the last couple of years there appears to be a distinct lack of criticism for Cheryl generally. The press love her, girls want to be her and we know what boys want to do…

In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, she talks candidly about her life in the media glare, often referencing her Geordie roots and admitting that she “doesn’t trust anyone except her mother and her dogs”.

The interview also reports how, on set of the L’Oreal TV ad, she humbly admits that she can’t quite believe she’s been given the opportunity to say those iconic words “because you’re worth it” and, in other recent press interviews, when asked how she feels about being involved in the campaign, she’s a PR dream: “I have always loved the brand, to be given this opportunity is amazing.”

Cheryl Cole has cleverly managed to position herself as a fashionista, a songstress and a TV favourite whilst retaining an air of openness, accessibility and honesty unseen in the likes of Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss.

Love or loath her (unlikely the latter) with a deal rumoured to be worth half a million pounds, L’Oreal clearly think she’s worth it….

Baby boom defies economic gloom

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by Julie Wilson


Historically signifying good times and economic stability, this year, during one of the worst ever recessions, a new type of Baby Boom is emerging.   

No I’m not talking about an increase in the number of babies being born (although it could be suggested we’re all burying ourselves under the covers), but the down-turn defying sales in the infant sector. 

Maternity retailers Mothercare and JoJo Maman Bebe have both reported particularly strong results this year, with JoJo Maman Bebe recording a positive 11 per cent hike in like-for-like sales.  Speaking to Retail Week, the founder and managing director of the successful retailer, Laura Tenison, said: “we have never suffered from the recession; our sales have been consistently good.” 

And it’s not just the babywear sector that’s happily gurgling through the bad times but the food sector too. Research commissioned by Mintel revealed that families are set to spend £491 million on baby food this year – 50 per cent more than the amount spent in 2004. 

The staggering figure is largely driven by the organic baby food sector, accounting for one fifth of all baby food sold. The reason behind the sector’s continuing success is, I’m told, “guilt purchasing”, the title given by parents to their physical inability to buy anything less than the best for their little ones, even when money is tight. One parent told me they’d rather live on jam sandwiches than deny their child his daily helpings of organic spinach, salmon and wild risotto dinners.

Speaking to the Scotsman, Susie Willis, a former chef and mother of three who launched Plum Baby in 2006 and now has 5% of the UK baby food market, supports the theory and said: “Mums may be tightening their purse strings for the rest of the household, but baby food remains number one when it comes to giving them the best food.”

So, when we’re all looking for a way out of the recession, maybe there are worse things we could do than to duck for the covers – nine months from now and we could be contributing to a booming and blooming economic climate.

Fashion PR and the Social Web

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Rob Brown


For 100 years marketing has been about business to business communications (B2B) and consumer targeting (B2C).  With the impact of the social web, consumer to consumer communications are edging out some of the traditional brand PR messaging.  Consumer opinions are more important than ever in influencing the dreams and desires of the consumer.  Fashion has always been influenced by independent opinion.  Now fellow consumers sit alongside magazine editors as a source of ideas and inspiration.    

Social media provides consumers with front row access to all of the international shows and this enables them to see trends without the intervention of the mainstream fashion media.  They get the unedited vision of the designers and fashion houses.  In previous years the success of a new season launch was down entirely to the reviews the press gave it, if indeed they featured your product at all.  Now PRs can launch collections directly to the consumer.

Working with social media and social networks offers potential access to a broad spectrum of consumers. Traditional PR routes can encounter many obstacles. Regional newspapers for example won’t run features on items that aren’t available in their region or if the brand doesn’t have wide recognition.  Social media can overcome this, breakdown the boundaries and reach out to new audiences. 

There is a burgeoning portfolio of examples where old brand rules are being broken and rebuilt on the web.  American Apparel addressed their customer base directly by hooking up with Chictopia to invite real girls to become real models for the brand.  American Apparel has built part of its brand image by refusing to airbrush models in their advertisements.  By going a step further and engaging their customers and fans to appear in their ads was bang on brand and generated significant PR.

Victoria’s Secret Pink has a Facebook group with over a million fans.   It contains nearly a thousand images posted by fans plus catwalk videos and official images and hundreds of thousand of comment postings.  Swedish fashion brand H&M also uses Facebook to engage with its customers and also has over a million fans signed up on the site.

Fundamental to communications in the era of the social web is dialogue. This is not about brands talking to consumer; it involves consumers talking back to brands and consumers talking to each other.   In this environment the scope for inspiration through interaction is huge.  Filipino fashion fan and blogger Bryanboy wrote and posted on Youtube about his love of Marc Jacobs design.  In response Jacobs named an ostrich handbag “the BB” in his honour.  

Facebook, MySpace, blog posts and the social network du jour twitter are all contributing to a culture in which instant feedback is available with a mouse click, so brands can test ideas and source public opinion in an instant.  The discussions that happen on line will influence the market and provide the endorsement that drives fashion.   Being involved and sharing knowledge with consumers in the space where these conversations are taking place will become vital. Twitter is sure to emerge as a prime location for fashion brands and fashion fans.  What began as a niche network has emerged as a major sphere of communication with the twitter accounts passing the million follower mark for the first time this month (April 2009).  If you are not convinced in less than three months Women’s Wear Daily has gained over 300,000 followers on twitter.  

This article is an edited version of one that was published on the world’s leading fashion and style forecaster.  My colleague at Staniforth Julie Wilson provided much of the insight into the world of fashion.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

An Evening with Sir Richard Bradbury

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 by Vicki Wray


I spent an interesting evening last night at a Q&A event with River Island’s CEO Sir Richard Bradbury, organised by Manchester Fashion Network in association with Business Link. 

Having worked his way up from the shop floor of a small menswear retailer in Great Yarmouth to his current position as Chief Executive Officer at one of the UK’s leading fashion retailers, Sir Richard is certainly qualified to advise and educate on the retail industry.

Sir Richard talked very openly about his background at Burtons, his experience with the Chelsea Girl brand and his personal River Island story, before taking questions from the floor.

It was refreshing to hear, in the current climate, that it’s business as usual and the company is staying true to its customers and its own beliefs and strategy.  

While the recession is undoubtedly affecting businesses, River Island isn’t cutting back on investment, just wisely investing its money where it is likely to achieve a greater return.  

Cue less focus on traditional above-the-line advertising and more focus on attendance at events such as Graduate Fashion week; an event at which River Island has been the title sponsor for five consecutive years.  

Sir Richard understands that encouraging and investing in young talent can reap both commercial and creative rewards, and last night suggested that Britain is a nation of creatives, not ‘makers’. 

While strongly believing in nurturing Britain’s creative talent of tomorrow, online is also key for the future of River Island.

Its e-commerce site is a significant part of the business, with some of River Island’s best customers shopping online as well as in store, and the company is keen to evolve this with a new and improved site due to launch later this year.

I’ll be watching with interest to see how 2009 shapes up for River Island and despite the challenging market, expect them to continue serving up trends with the unique River Island style.