Marketer of the Year: Rebecca Minkoff

Ever wonder which shoes Rebecca Minkoff wears to work or what music inspires her?

With a marketing strategy focused heavily on digital and social media, the brand has given consumers the answers by putting Minkoff front and center in her own story. And what the label has found is equally valuable: Personal sharing leads to a pop in profits.

“The customer appreciates being listened to and seeing there is a real person behind the brand,” Minkoff, co-founder and creative director of her eponymous brand, told Footwear News. “It’s a reciprocal relationship where she can have constant dialogue with me and feel like part of the brand.”

To that end, in January, Rebecca Minkoff LLC founded Shoetography, a daily post on Instagram that shows what shoes the designer has on. Additionally, the company hosted consumer scavenger hunts driven by social media, launched a print ad campaign with photos submitted by Instagram users and is a regular presence on Pinterest.

So far, the outreach has paid off. According to brother Uri Minkoff, co-founder and CEO of the company, Rebecca Minkoff’s sell-through rate at retail rose twofold this year.

“Instagram is a key driver in helping to double growth,” he said. “It became the No. 1 growth platform for us this year.”

The brand’s added marketing oomph has been noticed industry-wide.

“Rebecca is her brand, which is so unique,” said model Hilary Rhoda. “People want what she’s wearing. They want to emulate her style, and they can get that through buying her products. I love seeing her pictures [that show her] grabbing an afternoon snack, what shoes she’s wearing and who styles their Morning After Clutch bag what way. It gives you a peek into her life.”

YouTube also worked for the brand this year. Rebecca Minkoff created her own rendition of “Call Me Maybe” while prepping for the CFDAs. The video, which also featured Rhoda, “The Man Repeller” blogger Leandra Medine and Minkoff’s husband, Gavin Bellour, and son, Luca, attracted 185,000 views online. The group created a similar video while readying for New York Fashion Week.

“There is a whimsicalness to our brand,” said Rebecca Minkoff. “There is a fun element to it, and other brands were talking about it, so we created this buzz and another facet [to marketing].”

For her part, Medine was a fan of the brand before she and the designer became friends.

“When I started ‘The Man Repeller,’ Rebecca Minkoff was one of the first brands that I noticed taking to social media so rigorously. It was brilliant for Rebecca to allow herself to become the face of her brand,” Medine said. “From a consumer point of view, conjuring digital friendships with a designer is going to make you far more likely to invest in their clothes and shoes.”

The Minkoffs also have built buzz through the designer’s blog, Minkette. There, Rebecca Minkoff reveals tidbits about product and her inspirations, as well as her monthly playlist on Spotify.

With so much digital movement, experts said the company is setting the social media bar high for others.

Marc Beckman, CEO and founder of Designers Management Agency, a talent and brand manager, said he is impressed with the firm’s tactics to engage consumers. “Everybody wants to be part of the Rebecca Minkoff community and culture. The Minkoff tribe is well established now. She can create product that they buy into. She’s her own retailer,” said Beckman. “There isn’t really a woman who has made herself aspirational, yet still feels like the girl next door. Rebecca and Uri have done a masterful job giving their broad young consumer base something personal.”

While social media is one thing, the power of the personal touch is another. Rebecca Minkoff has started doing more public appearances, such as a recent event at Saks Fifth Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. To hype up the event, she tweeted about it ahead of time. The result: The retailer sold three times more product than on a normal sales day.

Moving forward, the company is shooting its second print campaign, for spring ’13. It also will open its first branded shop, slated to debut next August in New York’s Soho neighborhood. What’s more, the first men’s line is in the works for 2013, under the name Ben Minkoff (after their grandfather).

And these launches present more marketing opportunities to talk to the customer, explained Uri Minkoff. “[Our strategy] is giving the end customer an experience, providing an exclusive relationship with Rebecca and the brand,” he said. “Our marketing is tailored toward addressing and engaging the consumer.”

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