Regardless of your industry or current business problem, you’ve probably asked yourself this question: “How can I improve customer experience and offer real value to those who interact with my brand?” Brands that challenge the status quo to find the answer will be rewarded in an economy where customer engagement, which Gallup defines as the level of emotional connection customers have with a brand, “is the definitive predictor of business growth.”
So, what is the answer to this question? Be consistently awesome.
When executed correctly, awesomeness lives unwaveringly within a brand, regardless of shifting industry trends. It’s that unfair advantage that can differentiate you from other brands in a competitive space. This means different things for different companies, but it’s typically a mix of effective brand strategy, customer service, storytelling, and content creation.
Finding your awesome requires answering three key questions:
Who are you (and who are the people who care about what you do)?
What are you really selling?
How do you make people’s lives better?
Below, we’ll take a look at one brand that has demonstrated such awesomeness, and examine the way in which this trait will help carry them through a challenging transition in business strategy.
Early this year, veteran retailer Kate Spade announced plans to close all 31 brick-and-mortar locations of its Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade brands. While this may seem like a surprising move, it’s part of the global retailer’s vision to become a $4 billion brand in an increasingly competitive and fragmented industry. Jack Spade will transition to e-commerce and luxury department store distribution, while elements of Kate Spade Saturday will be rolled in with the original Kate Spade New York brand.
If you’ve been keeping up on retail trends, then you might be wondering why the retail giant chose to close so many storefronts just as online-only retailers have started to open brick-and-mortar locations. To make sense of these strategy shifts, we must think critically about customer engagement, brand loyalty, and the driving forces behind them. For brands in retail, content marketing could be the answer to winning in an increasingly competitive space. For the purposes of this piece, I’ll be focusing on Jack Spade.
The decades-old menswear brand that helped catalyze the messenger-bag movement practices sprezzatura, or “studied nonchalance” (don’t roll your eyes just yet). The company values utility and style above all else, and it takes a no-fuss approach to making men’s clothing and accessories. From Jack’s own website, “Function alone is not enough. The city is a stage, too, and style and sophistication come from making things simple without making them any less useful.”
My experience with Jack Spade has mostly been in a tangible brick-and-mortar environment. I’ve spoken to the warm, scrappy, and engaging sales representatives. I’ve been gifted a bottle opener and a comb—and not as part of a promotional campaign, but “just because.” I’ve received the handwritten thank-you notes and been recognized upon returning to a store I’d only visited once before.
If you haven’t noticed, Jack Spade is keen on details. This characteristic is what initially drew me to the brand. My favorite aspects of the company’s clothing are things that few people other than me get to enjoy; for example, the bright orange hanging loop on the inside of an all-black jacket, or the blue-and-white grid pattern that adorns the back of each button.
Jack is effortlessly stylish, subtly expressive, and deeply thoughtful.
I love Jack Spade because the company consistently demonstrates that it understands who I am. The feeling is akin to the sense of comfort found in meeting someone you seem to mesh with effortlessly. Lifestyle brands are that person who understands where you’re coming from and celebrates you for who you are.
Take a look at your shirt. I’m willing to bet your decision to buy that particular piece of clothing was not based on reason or logic. If it were, lifestyle brands wouldn’t exist, and marketers would be out of work. We buy things because of how they make us feel, which is no less rational than choosing your friends based on how they treat you. Just as with friends, people build trust with brands over time as the company demonstrates a basic understanding of who they are and what they love, desire, hate, and fear. Jack Spade resonates with those who take their pursuits seriously, but not always themselves. Those who appreciate style but prefer utility.
Jack sells the feeling of being quietly confident in your own skin—of being wholly relaxed yet keenly aware.
Let’s be clear, Jack Spade already does this very well. My first introduction to the brand was in a store, and that experience made me come back and even order online. I never worried about getting the wrong size or having to make a return, because my in-store experience gave me the sense that Jack would have my back (because they know I hate logistics and nonsense). I never felt pressure to buy, and never made a purchase I later regretted, mostly because the sales representatives are honest and collegial—they don’t want you walking out in a shirt that doesn’t fit well any more than you do. In these moments, Jack Spade proved its awesomeness.
As the brand moves away from brick-and-mortar, how will Jack Spade keep me as an engaged customer? The online experience must live up to, and support, the brand just as the stores did. This can be achieved through omnipresence, or being relevant to and engaged with a consumer from the pre-purchase phase to the post-purchase phase and beyond.
I’m going to use the buying cycle to segment my content strategy suggestions, but only as a way of demonstrating that brands must think about how they can offer value to people, regardless of whether they’ve purchased, are planning to purchase, or not. So, what could a retail content strategy look like?
Jack Spade could approach this from a few different angles. Perhaps the company develops a community that celebrates the creative pursuits of the people who wear Jack Spade, a place for thinkers and makers to cross-pollinate in a relaxed setting. Maybe it distributes a digital publication with commissioned and curated writing, poetry, and art. The company might even develop an app that allows users to capture, collect, and share creative inspirations (for instance, a designer who comes across an interesting natural texture in the woods). People not even looking to purchase clothes might stumble upon these efforts, and those who do are likely to be aligned with the brand values.
Awesomeness is when a brand introduces you to a new artist.
For those looking to purchase clothing, Jack Spade could offer a consulting service where customers send pictures of themselves in some of their own outfits, and sales representatives put together a few Jack Spade outfits that might complement their styles. This would help to retain the thoughtful, honest guidance provided by their in-store staff. Jack Spade is a practical company, so they should create retail content that focuses on practical advice: “What are a few different examples of business casual?,” “How can you dress expressively without being flashy?,” or “Jackets for each season.” Maybe there’s an app for customers to quickly preview outfits in a beautiful, simple way.
Awesomeness is making the experience of buying clothes easy and delightful, and staying one step ahead of your customer’s needs.
For those who have previously purchased from Jack Spade, the company needs to work even harder to prove that they want you to stay a customer. Taking a page from Trunk Club’s book, perhaps the brand could send out a selection of new styles for VIP customers to try on in their home. Maybe they send you an exclusive T-shirt out of the blue, a piece from the new collection to try on before it’s available online, or a gift for your birthday (and I mean a real gift, not a coupon for 10 percent off that will end up in the trash).
Awesomeness is showing, rather than telling about, the appreciation of people who interact with your brand.
If you’re a marketer, you’re probably tired of being told that you need a solid content strategy. You might think “content” is just another empty buzzword in the marketer’s pseudo dictionary. So, you might be disappointed to hear you do need a solid content strategy. This isn’t a matter of keeping up with the Joneses, because if having content is a matter of checking a box, then your content will fail. Your brand doesn’t matter, and no one wants to be friends with a person who says they’re a friend but never acts like one (especially if they act like you should pay attention to them for no good reason). Truly great content is about bragging less, doing more, saying less, and making more awesome—all for the people who give your brand meaning, humanity, and purpose.
For more on how to keep your audience coming back for more, check out Skyword’s webinar on “New Digital Media Strategies for Increasing Audience Loyalty.”