At this moment, it is one hour before the start of Apple's latest keynote address, the much anticipated announcement rumored to be for the mythical Apple Tablet, the iPad, or whatever else it's been called. Like the little Fangirl that I am, I've had Gizmodo's live blog coverage of the event up on one of my screens in order to follow along virtually. So far, all I've learned is that the early audience has a beard to baldness ratio of 1:3.
I know what you're thinking! Does an apparent lack of ‘recession beards‘ indicate that the recession is, in fact, receding?
I'm not sure about that, but this whole fiasco has got me thinking about Apple's phenomenal marketing, which is largely done through the ‘expert community‘… in this case, a bunch of nerds.
I wonder how many publications and blogs are currently reporting on the keynote speech that is yet to occur? So far, there has been no confirmation as to the topic of today's presentation, and yet the brand has already gotten tons of free publicity. Naturally, Apple is trending hotter than Obama's State of the Union right now in both Google and Twitter without so much as a validated hint from behind the doors of Apple.
Most companies will never get this level of buzz- either positive or negative. In fact, most companies don't need this level of frantic attention, but as we all know, in fashion and luxury, buzzworthy events make the brand. That's why companies spend millions every year on everything from fashion shows to parties and celebrity appearances. In most experience industries, marketers and press agents are hired specifically to generate press attention through these events.
But if you think about it, Apple's version of a fashion show is the notorious Steve Jobs keynote presentation… However, there is a big difference in the relative buzz generated by Steve Jobs and the buzz generated by say, John Galliano. That's because the audience is different. Steve Jobs caters to the experts who generate content: the fans, the journalists, the bloggers. He presents content in a way that excites people, and that excitement drives them to spread the message. Hell, people even talk about how he presents, not just what he presents.
I think the fashion and luxury sectors could learn something here. The fashion show is evolving. Online content is evolving. Customer expectations are evolving.
I would argue that it is no longer necessary to fill the seats of fashion shows with merchandisers and retailers. Just like Apple, fashion brands should also be catering to the content-generating experts, thrilling them, pumping them full of information, and not just allowing but encouraging them to spread the word.
One potential argument I foresee here is that the buyers need access to fashion week in order to understand the product. That is not necessarily untrue, but gone are the days when brands should invest as many resources into the entertainment of retailers versus the final customer. In fact, I don't think the retailers need to be entertained at all. The thrill can be passed directly to the final customer without catering to the middle-man. Besides, retailers get a better feel for the clothes in a presentation where they can get up close and touch the garments at their own pace. It's also more efficient today to analyze real-time quantitative data and qualitative customer reactions to a collection online than it is to use the typical Excel file of sales from seasons-past together with a little help from the crystal ball. Which would you choose?
The entire fashion industry is changing, with an increasing strategic importance in controlling the message. This makes sense to maintain a strong brand identity, but the implication should go beyond media. Not only do today's consumers expect a 2-way conversation with preferred brands, but they also expect excellent customer service and anticipatory actions, which can best be predicted by analyzing behavior online and off. Fashion and luxury, while maintaining an ahead-of-demand image, should take this opportunity to communicate directly with their final customers while learning from them. Start with the customer, and work your way backwards, as Jeff Bezos from Amazon would say.
Well, it's time for Steve Jobs now, so I'm going to get back to the liveblog, written by nerds for nerds, and without a penny from Apple.