The Impression speaks with our industries leading fashion creative agencies on how to think about budgeting today
BY KENNETH RICHARD
Money, money, money . . . at the end of the day every step we take has be toward the bottomline. As traditional business models are tested as retail consolidates in the real world while expands in the virtual one, budgets need to pivot to adjust to the times. And as those times are a-changing, The Impression wanted to hear from fashion’s leading creative agencies and their strategist including Doug Lloyd, Tony King, Riccardo Ruini, David Lipman, Patrick Yee, Stephen Niedzwiecki, Duncan Gowers, Andrew Egan, Erin Kleinberg, and Stacie Brockman on how they suggest brands and their budgeters maximize their dollars by asking: What should brands think about when budgeting today?
Global Head of Content, Wednesday
I think it’s common knowledge that spend around media is not what it used to be, and many brands, certainly within fashion, are attuned to this.
The firework spike of a traditional, big splash creative campaign still works, but it’s the burning bonfire of wider content, produced with the same integrity but without the high levels of fidelity and spend, that will sustain customer interest.
So fashion and luxury brands need to be cognizant of making their statement each season via campaigns, but they need an ongoing strategic approach, and budget, to ensure they can continue to be relevant and in the customer’s mind, cutting through the competitive noise that surrounds them. Budgeting smarts come into play when you think about the versatility of the content they create, how it can be reused and repackaged. And we’re seeing more brands toy with co-creation as a means of splitting budgets with partners. Or more interestingly, organising their teams internally to assign budget centrally, rather than silo between different departments.
Founder & Executive Creative Director, CoolGraySeven
Without a doubt one of the biggest challenges facing our clients today is the need for more and more content as budgets continue to contract. It’s a very common complaint but like so many things in life where there’s an obstacle, there’s also an opportunity to push boundaries and reinvent. Operating in this new reality, clients (with the help of their agency partners) are starting to think differently about how to make it work. The good news is that there’s still plenty of scope to find cost efficiencies without compromising the quality or efficacy of your brand’s communications.
This often involves asking clients to step outside their comfort zone…for example consider commissioning a fashion illustrator instead of doing the usual lifestyle shoot (if it’s appropriate for your brand). Or, if you do a shoot, how can you get the most out of the day? Is it shooting two seasons in one day? Getting 8-10 pictures as well as enough footage for a TV spot and multiple motion posts? If your brand has sufficient social currency, you may look to consumer-generated content as a solution for your content needs – CoolGraySeven has employed all of these strategies for clients at one time or another over the last 12 months.
Adopting an approach marked by flexibility and a willingness to be fluid with budgets between creative, PR, production etc. more often than not leads to stronger more effective campaigns.
CEO/Creative Director, King & Partners
Brands have to consider how often they want to get the brand in front of potential customers.
Instead of budgeting for the one big piece of content per season I would recommend several smaller pieces that can be released over a few weeks or months.
This of course lends itself very well to the approach of telling a story over a series of films or chapters. So taking the budget you have and splitting it into several projects and not one big production.
Founder & Creative Director, Lloyd&Co
To develop a strong marketing plan having a clear understanding of your budget is mandatory.
We now need to make sure that whatever we do influences PR, digital and the interaction with the product. The budgets need to reflect all of that together and not separately as it has been done in the past.
And, we all agree that we can do everything to drive the consumer to the product but we need to make sure that whatever we do the product must deliver on.
Founder & Creative Director, REM
In order to create an accurate plan for their budget covering, brands should think the whole year as an ensemble.
It was easier to separate your budget into seasons while there was only two of them, but now it gets more complicated.
Brands should keep a consistent money flow into communication during the whole year, as the same for contents to mantain the same tone of voice and level of quality.
If you have a content pillar strategy it’s easy to budget. With retail being so tough right now; monies are shifting out of marketing at a rapid pace.
It has always been the brands that keep their share of voice up during tough times come out of the down cycle much stronger than their competitive set.
I remember during the Great Recession of 2008, David Yurman, then CEO, questioned the need of a “campaign” while Sybil Yurman saw the intense value of communication at that moment. We were very cost efficient yet opened up the communications and when business turned positive, Yurman yet again distanced themselves from the field. Simply by staying the course of their brand values and principles in a dynamic way.
Chief Creative Officer, Yard
With so many channels to consider in today’s world, production budgets inevitably need to work harder.
More than ever, it’s about stretching a single production to capture a range of content across multiple types of stories, formats, and emotional tones, before testing it throughout a myriad of platforms.
To us, this means that great ideas are more important than ever. Concept-driven communication gives everyone — both the brand and its partners — that “North Star” to guide, filter and navigate the right opportunities at the right price. Questions that brands must consider are, for example, ‘Is it right for the brand concept?’ or ‘Is it in service of a great idea?’ If clients take a strategic approach to decision-making, they’re able to find a cost-effective solution to content creation — without sacrificing quality for quantity.
Erin Kleinberg & Stacie Brockman
CoFounders, Métier Creative
Brands underestimate what it takes to build a proper 360 strategy. You got to pay to play and, to be honest, it’s a crowded world online and it’s expensive. Gone are the days of blowing a $1M+ budget on a big name photographer with a household name model, glamorous location, catering, 100+ person, 3-day photoshoots, which only amounts to 3 images you have usage rights to and that may only be limited to just in-book or a billboard.
A 360 strategy includes: A brand bible, ongoing content production (large quarterly shoots and weekly on-the-fly shoots for Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, etc.), ongoing content calendars, influencer or seeding program (for each product launch), an ongoing ambassador program, affiliate and e-commerce tools, auditing and analytics software, paid media (because you’re nothing unless you’re putting dollars behind it!) and of course, a stacked team to oversee the day-to-day execution of all these moving parts.
Brands need to be smart about investing in a social-first brand bible — your brand identity fully realized as it translates to a social audience. This is really your communication strategy; it maps everything down to your voice and target audience: who she is, who is she following, what are her social habits like, what are her consumption habits like, etc.
Brands then need to also consider regular content creation. And, this extends to traditional photography. Brands need to consider the cost of everything from stills, GIFs and stop-motion animation, illustration, and most importantly, video. They need to understand while it looks easy to snap a photo of a flay-lay, it takes an army of people to do all the behind-the-scenes work like prop sourcing, prop styling, location scouting, retouching… it’s not about just clicking a button; it’s about bring it to life. They also need to inherently understand creating content that is specifically tailored to individual platforms – the cost of content for your Instagram is very different than the cost of an Instagram Stories or Live – especially when you consider using talent, usage rights and distribution, the length of the usage rights, production costs, and just the sheer hours it takes to properly art direct, storyboard and produce it.
The lines between creative and media budgets are blurring, and brands should think holistically and concurrently about these strategies versus sequentially.