How many brand accounts do you follow on social media?
Probably at least one.
But the majority of your feed is likely still friends, family, and a smattering of celebrities.
Social media users prioritize updates and messages from people they know and like.
Companies compete with each other to be among the branded accounts you’re willing to follow on your personal channels.
One brand working hard—and succeeding—in the last year to become one of those brands? Kate Spade.
Their new data-driven digital strategy, which CMO Mary Beech, Senior Director of Digital Brand Marketing Krista Neuhaus, and SVP of Brand Creative Kristen Naiman presented on during this year’s SXSW, provides an impressive roadmap for drafting a successful plan based on insights pulled from their data.
It’s no secret that in recent years, print media and advertising have struggled.
Digital ad spending is on the rise, with advertisers spending less money on print ads. According to an eMarketer study published in September of last year, print advertising is expected to decline five percent from 2016 to 2021, while digital ad spending will increase more than 10 percent over that same period of time. By 2021, digital is expected to account for more than half of all advertising spending.
About five years ago, Kate Spade was among the companies feeling this shift. Although high fashion brands historically relied on glossy magazines to showcase full-page advertisements of their products, companies could no longer ignore the prominence and effectiveness of digital advertising and communications.
Kate Spade had to consider how to develop a digital strategy to subsidize the decline of print advertising, as well as to engage with the massive audiences that gather on the internet, especially on social platforms.
According to Beech and Neuhaus, the company leveraged social media in the past by posting the same content to all platforms. This strategy fails to be effective for brands, as each platform showcases content differently and users respond more positively to content that caters to the audience and platform.
Additionally, Beecher explained that their social efforts generated lots of data, but they were failing to analyze it with purpose. Without thoughtful analysis, they lacked the insight they needed to learn about the content they published and plan for new content to be developed.
Crafting a digital-first strategy
During SXSW, the members of Kate Spade’s creative team explained that the company aimed to find a relationship between strategy, storytelling, and the platform on which the content would be published.
When Naiman joined the company four years ago, she focused on the opportunity to create engaging, fun videos. She observed shows on Netflix and HBO and was drawn to the idea of miniseries featuring narrative storytelling, especially those starring young female comedians.
After focusing on narrative storytelling, the company needed to make decisions about the platforms that were right for them. Any brand, regardless of size and resources, can’t and shouldn’t have a presence on every social platform. Instead, as Kate Spade did, companies should find the platforms that their target audiences use, as well as the channels that will fit the kind of storytelling the company aims to share.
For Kate Spade, Snapchat was not that platform. Although this channel is popular among young users, especially members of Gen Z, the quick, spontaneous content would not effectively showcase the brand’s products. Additionally, the fast feed of news on Twitter did not align with brand goals. The company maintained a presence of Twitter, but focused on YouTube and Instagram as fitting platforms for the brand. The curated, visual nature of these channels allowed the company to create polished content that highlighted their pretty products.
In late 2014, the company premiered their #missadventures series. The series, which starred Anna Kendrick in the first season, followed the quirky protagonist in approximately three-minute-long episodes. Each episode heavily featured Kate Spade products as the character navigated getting locked out of her apartment and running into a feminist icon at her favorite restaurant.
The videos, which averaged two million views per episode, entertained viewers and highlighted the company’s products. The digital, visual format allows the content to be easily shared across other platforms, racking up higher views and exposing the brand to new audiences.
What can communicators learn from this?
The process laid out by Kate Spade has useful takeaways for communicators, regardless of their brand.
According to Laura Petrolino during a recent webinar, this example seems unattainable to communicators who represent a brand with a significantly smaller budget or who work in a regulated or seemingly boring industry. But, she pointed out, it really isn’t out of reach—we all just need to be willing to dig into the data and think creatively, irrespective of industry.
As a massively successful brand, Kate Spade has the resources to employ popular celebrities and produce high quality, polished videos. They also have interesting, beautiful products that they can easily work into appealing visual and video content.
Even if you work in an industry with less widespread, commercial interest, such as finance or healthcare, you still can use the model laid out by Kate Spade to engage your audiences.
Specifically, start with the data you have. Review existing data from your digital platforms to determine successes and shortcomings. This analysis also provides a baseline to compare to once you launch a new campaign.
Find the platforms or tactics that work for your brand. Just as Kate Spade did by ruling out Snapchat as an ineffective channel to market their brand on, do some research on your target audience and demographics. Think about the platforms and tactics that will best showcase your brand’s service or products and where your audiences gather online.
Tailor your content to fit the platforms you’ve selected. If you prioritize Instagram, pick a theme for your content. Many brands with successful Instagram accounts use the same filter for every photo and post similar content on the same day each week to maintain a consistent feed.
Continue to review and adapt. Analyze the growth of your platforms, especially if it starts to become stagnant, and adjust your strategies. Kate Spade, for example, initially ruled out Snapchat because of the quick, disappearing stories, but they began using the very similar Instagram Stories when they rolled out on the platform.
The company’s brand managers found these stories, although similar to Snapchat, more polished, and used it to share their 365 Days of Joy campaign. Every day during 2017, the company shared a colorful post with an uplifting message or tip, such as “help carry someone’s groceries” and “give five great books you’ve finished reading to a women’s shelter,” to Instagram Stories.
As illustrated by Kate Spade, combining data, strategy, and storytelling leads to successful communications. Consider this process to help your brand craft successful, data-driven plans.
Photo credit: Phillip Pessar