Contributor: The 4C’s of Digital Branding

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Pictured: Ana Andjelic

NEW YORK — For every GOOP, there are many failed online retail ventures in the celebrity brand space. Do you remember Blake Lively’s Preserve

When it comes to online retail, success is more unpredictable than ever. This is because much of today’s commerce currency is derived from social influence: the undeniable effects that individuals have on strangers’ purchasing decisions. We almost never make decisions independently of one another. Faced with the abundance of choice, we rely on others to influence what to buy, read, wear or even how we are entertained. We also conform to the tastes of others, less out of actual merit. More so out of allegiance to that individual’s opinions. 

Consumers adopt a business because other people are already there.

Glossier did not succeed because of product alone. It succeeded because women wanted to enjoy the benefits of sharing their choices, preferences, and looks with like-minded consumers. For digital retailers, more often than not – a product, brand, or technology is the substance but not the reason behind the success. Consumers adopt a business because other people are already there. Kylie Cosmetics does not win on the merits of eCommerce alone; there are better storefronts on the web. But technology hardly ever deters her fans.

More than ever, success is then a matter of cumulative advantage. Something becomes popular mostly because a lot of people like it, not just because it is superior. And because a lot of people like what they think others like, community doesn’t just reveal our preferences. They actively shape our preferences.

The quest for the next GOOP or Glossier will remain elusive as long we fail to look beyond technology and towards the social activity as the source of an online retailer’s value. This social activity is an amalgam of what I call the 4C’s: community, content, curation, and collaboration. They critically impact how a company launches and markets its products and creates, captures, and delivers value for its customers.

Community: A retailer needs to encourage social connections among its customers. These social connections will become its primary source of value and a key driver of competitive advantage. Social connections work best when created around an audience’s pre-existing passion, hobby, or interest. High-design ride wear brand Rapha positions itself as a “vibrant ecosystem for road riders around the world.” Its belief that cycling transforms lives translates into the series of local Rapha Cycling Clubs, where cycling enthusiasts can gather for events, rides, races and to bond with others. Rapha is at risk of losing its positional advantage by ending many of these programs.

Content: Content created by a retailer generates value even before a single product purchase or use of service. California-based fashion apparel brand Dôen creates social network around its proprietary content. The brand prides itself on selling “thoughtfully designed clothing by women, for women.” This community of women is Dôen’s value proposition, and it consistently delivers through its product design, events, and Journal. There, Dôen profiles the extraordinary stories of community members and becomes a source of continued conversation.

Curation: A retailer’s new customers can lower the value for its existing customers. To prevent reverse network effects and maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio, retailers need strong curation and personalization. In order to ensure that its products and services are relevant and valuable to its best customers. For example: Adidas introduced Creators Club, a membership program that gives customers access to exclusive events, products, and special offers.

Collaboration: Ask what else your customers are wearing, reading, listening, experiencing, and talking about. Relevance of a retailer for its target group is greater if it is culturally amplified. IKEA’s collaboration with a streetwear brand Off-White aims at designing the affordable furniture collection for millennials to help them create their first home. More importantly, it reflects a broader taste for the aesthetic of their joint audience.

No one knows who the new GOOP is going to be. Instead of projecting the next success story, we can create one by making our technology inherently social. To increase the odds of creating a cumulative advantage once the product or service is in the market, retailers must build 4Cs into their core. In the complex and unpredictable world of online retail, designing for social influence is a brand’s best bet.

Read the No. 291 curation here.

By Ana Andjelic| Edited by Web Smith.  About Ana: most recently the Chief Brand Officer of Rebecca Minkoff, Ana has earned her doctorate degree in sociology and worked at the world’s top advertising agencies. She’s also a frequently published author, public speaker and writer. She lives in New York City. 

No. 279: The Appeal of Independents

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While overall advertising revenues for print magazines continue to decrease, the real story is the increasing number of well-received independents. You know these magazines when you see them. They are wider and heavier than most, the paper is of higher quality, and the photography has a common theme throughout. In these publications, the magazines’ creative teams determines the artistic direction; it’s not the brands’ direction. This means a more natural feel with a greater connection to the reader.

These publications feel more like books than magazines and the price reflects that: they range between $10-25 per issue.

The savviest of these publishers are sidestepping the mistakes of previous era of print publishing. This new generation of print magazines aren’t merely media vehicles that are built to support a bloated advertising payroll. These magazines are brand statements and loyalty builders. But most importantly, they are the break from the digital economy that we all seem to be craving.

The Data

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Magazine advertising will continue dropping (2018-2020).
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Major media estimates for 2018: magazines ranked third from bottom.
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Magazine advertising revenue is set to fall over the next two years.

Conventional publishing houses like Hearst and Conde Nast are increasing investments into digital properties as traditional print advertising falters. But independent publishers are taking a counter cultural approach to business. The Guardian just recently published a timely article on the independent publishing craze here:

Magazines espousing the counter-cultural idea of “slow journalism”, such as Ernest or Delayed Gratification (which was founded in 2011 to review news events “after the dust has settled”, has 5,000 subscribers and a print readership of 24,000), are funded by fairly expensive subscription charges. Ernest starts at £21.50 for two issues a year, while Delayed Gratification costs £36 for an annual subscription of four issues.

Whether they prioritise elegant looks or go for a samizdat-like underground style, they all share the appeal of the tactile experience of printed paper. “It is hard to say why people buy them. But the magazines are usually run and read by people who are enjoying the fact they have a voice and a place to go,” said Catterall. Read more.


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Issue No. 6: Gear Patrol.

Independent magazines have taken on a new role as home to more than a readership. These publications are cultivating consumer-driven communities away from the world wide web. Here are ten of the notables:

Monocle. $14. Winnipeg, Canada. The magazine launched on in 2007, By 2014, Tyler Brûlé sold a sizable minority stake in Monocle magazine to Nikkei Inc. It is reported that the company was valued at $115M at the time of the investment. Read more.

Darling. $20. Los Angeles, California. In 2009, the magazine’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief Sarah Dubbeldam and her husband Steve Dubbeldam created Darling. After starting off as a blog, the first print issue arrived in fall 2012. The magazine proudly embraces women of different ethnicities and body types. Read more.

Gear Patrol. $20. New York, New York. In 2014, founders Ben Bowers and Eric Yang launched the first magazine. GP is an award-winning digital, social and print publication that reaches nearly two million young, affluent men. The creative direction by Andrew Haynes has elevated the Gear Patrol brand to new levels. Read more.

Highsnobiety. $10. New York, New York. A publication covering forthcoming trends and news in fashion, art, music, and culture, all on one platform. Highsnobiety has steadily built a strong brand in the online fashion and lifestyle world. Today the blog and print magazine sit among the most visited global sources for inspiration in the areas of fashion, sneakers, music, art and lifestyle culture. Read more.

Uncrate. $15. Columbus, Ohio. A publisher for men, the bi-annual magazine features what to buy and how much it costs. Read more.

Cherry Bombe. $20. The magazine celebrates women and food through a biannual magazine. The book shares the stories of everyone from industry icons to notable newcomers, encouraging creativity in the kitchen. Read more.

Suitcase. $25. London, England. The magazine exists to change the way you travel: from where to go to how to pack. It’s for travel insiders, not tourists. Read more.

Raquet. $15. New York, New York. Racquet is a quarterly magazine that celebrates the art, ideas, style and culture that surround tennis. Read more.

Franchise. $20. New York, New York. A premium print publication dedicated to global basketball culture. The team consists of a group of players, artists and writers. The magazine documents the stories, characters and ideas that shape the game we love. Read more.

Here. $10. New York, New York. Away is a company on a mission and their latest project falls within this category. A well-produced, independent magazine that leans more on brand equity than advertising revenue. Steph Korey and Jen Rubio are the latest brand executives to turn their product into an escape for their readers. Read more.

Traditional publishing has been plagued by pay-for-play influence and an excessive approach to advertising sales and placements. Does anyone else ignore the first 20 pages of advertising? For brands that are looking to grow along with impassioned, independent audiences, this is the class of publishers that are truly making an impact for retailers.

Legacy magazine publishers focused on building a readership that advertisers would pay for. Independent publishers focus on building a product that consumers will pay for. Brand partnerships with independent publishers can reveal a smaller-yet-primed audience that can supplement performance marketing efforts. In the last two years, we’ve seen similar efforts launched by eCommerce brands: Airbnb, Hodinkee, and GOOP.

As traditional advertising and product placement continues to attract DNVB brands, you can expect to see more partnerships in this space. And more brand-funded magazines that mirror the quality of independent publishing.

Read more of the issue here.

By Web Smith | About 2PM 

Member Brief No. 17: The Conde Nast Report

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Conde Nast recently released a summary of a report on the media group’s power to influence purchases. The study was conducted in partnership with an organization called Tapestry. In it, the findings identified the significance of brand recognition and trust in top funnel purchasing decisions. Conducted throughout the spring of 2018 using Tapestry’s CDJ technique, Conde Nast measured the responses of 4,500 American consumers between the ages of 18 and 64.

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