Is Fashion an Underestimated Marketing Channel?

Posted by admin on January 10

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Omnichannel is a big word in marketing. It refers to having a comprehensive strategy to ensure your messaging is effective across all channels, from mobile to desktop to social, TV and everything in between. Marketers are trained to recite channels and strategies like they’re going out of style. Which leads to an interesting question: Is ‘style’ itself the most underestimated marketing channel of them all?

How brands represent themselves from a fashion perspective with clients, at events, on video and even in their own facilities has a major non-verbal communication impact. After all, with up to 90% of communication being non-verbal, clothing and accessories can make an important statement.

More than one brand takes fashion very seriously. For example, Disney long ago pioneered the notion of employees being costumed ‘cast members’ and the workplace as being ‘on set.’ They clearly focus on themed wardrobe to convey messages, particularly to consumers. Disney is famously strict about its style guidelines, even going so far as to regulate how male cast members’ sideburns are groomed.[1] While firms like Apple and Google don’t take things quite this far, there is an unspoken uniform in the tech world – clothing can even denote tribe. In Silicon Valley, a VC is likely to wear a zippered v-neck sweater with a button-down underneath, while an engineer usually sports jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. A designer will probably have very nice shoes to convey some individual flair and good taste.[2]

Wall Street is no different. According to Business Insider, hierarchies are communicated every day via clothing and accessories. You can learn how senior a banker, for instance, is by noticing whether or not her wardrobe is bespoke. Those with only two to four years of experience rely on J Crew.[3]

With attire being so important, even communicating a certain level of authority or skill, what is your brand saying with fashion? Is fashion the one channel you’ve overlooked?

“Clothes represent propriety,” explained Ross McCammon, articles editor at GQ Magazine, in a piece for Entrepreneur. “When you present yourself, your clothes connote either thoughtfulness or thoughtlessness.”[4]

If you’re like many professionals, you often suit up with logo wear at industry events, trade shows and meetings: a polo or a button down, and mismatched everything. Match your colleagues and you look odd. Too much randomness and you look unorganized. Has anyone at your company consider whether the style of your people conveys the essence of your brand? Do your fashion choices scream innovation? Power? Efficiency? How do you stand out?

When you are ‘on set’ in business, personal style should advance the brand, not undermine it – or worse, compete with it.

Perhaps it is time to publish a fashion and personal style guide with information about what your people should wear when, without giving up their individuality. Fashion guides are certainly uncharted waters for most companies, especially in B2B. But with much of the ‘omnichannel’ spectrum being identified, fashion just might be the final frontier of marketing communication – and a competitive edge for your company. Think about it.

[1] http://cp.disneycareers.com/en/onboarding/fl/working-here/disney-look/male-cast-members/

[2] https://www.marketplace.org/2014/01/28/tech/silicon-valley-has-dress-code-you-better-believe-it

[3] http://www.businessinsider.com/wall-street-dressing-hierarchy-2015-7

[4] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220213

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