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FN Virtual Summit: Digital Transformation — All in the Messaging

Marketing within footwear and fashion has never been easy. But the economic uncertainty created by the coronavirus, coupled with heightened discussions surrounding racial inequality, has made the task increasingly tougher in 2020.

Today, as part of FN’s Virtual Summit, women’s editor Nikara Johns spoke with a pair of industry leaders in marketing: Aliza Licht, founder and president of Leave Your Mark LLC; and Sandrine Charles, communications consultant and co-founder of Black in Fashion Council. Here, the panel discussed the do’s and don’ts of digital marketing and shared the important lessons learned during the lockdown.

Below are five takeaways from the virtual event on influencer culture, speaking to consumers at times of crisis and what events will look like moving forward.

How to Manage During Crisis

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AL: “My first instinct is to pause campaigns. If you’ve been through [crisis] situations before — even though no one in the world has seen it at this level [of the coronavirus] — it is best practice to stop what you’re doing and reassess. I think we saw a lot of brands [and influencers] not do that and come off as tone deaf.”

SC: “I think brands are more competent of the landscape that we’re in. We’re obviously not out of the clear by any means in the states, European countries are slowly getting back into the groove of things and the same with Asia. We still need to tread lightly on the communications, what we are messaging to the world and their stance and be supportive to not only their staff, but their consumers as well.”

The Importance of Taking a Stand

SC: “It’s essential at this point in time. You’re sending a message to not only your staff, but also your customers, or potential customers, on what your standpoint is at this moment and what it will be after this moment passes. It also has been heightened [recently] in determining what brands are doing way better over the past couple months. What has been a focal point was the support of Black consumers — are they going to support if you’re not being vocal about how you will support them as a whole and how your company internally is treating their employees? It definitely sets the tone at this point.”

What You Should and Should Not be Doing During Crisis

AL: “Putting your head-set as a consumer is really the way to market. Are we going to weddings that are black tie right now? No. So, unfortunately, evening wear brands are having a tough time. The best way for brands to handle this time is to really think about how they can evolve and how they can pivot their product selection or focus on things that are more useful right now. We’re doing a lot of Zoom weddings and Zoom events, and I always like to call it tabletop dressing, having to look from the waist up — that’s important right now. [And] be careful of the bandwagon. It’s going to be really interesting to see the brands that really stick to their words in the next six months because [the bandwagon] is really easy to jump on. I wrote an entire article recently for Forbes on the ‘Girlboss,’ and there was a lot of criticism on this whole idea that basically feminism is out and being anti-racial is in. Being anti-racial should always be in, but will brands stick to that journey in six months from now? I think right now [it’s about being] customer-centric, being true to your brand DNA — why do you exist in the first place? And how are you servicing the consumer? If you do all those things, you’re going to be able to stay alive, and I think that’s the goal right now.”

Influencer Culture Needs to Shift

AL: “I always believe in and being mindful to the audience and not everyone has the same luxuries as you might have. Boasting on social is never a good look. But we have to dream, we want to stay creative. You can see right now all the shows that are happening — the designers want to stay creative. We want people to still thrive and imagine the possibilities in the future. I think it’s really important to keep that alive.”

SC: “I think that a lot of influencers are doing it right because at their core they are real people who align with brands that really match their lifestyle, esthetic and values. Now, a lot of the influencers we target or we seed or we connect with on behalf of brands are also people that we’ve been partnering with or communicating with over the past year or two years, etc. I’m very surprised to see a lot of people step up somewhat. I’m very surprised to see a lot of people step up somewhat in a great way, like ‘I’m surprised and I’m happy to see this.’ And those that haven’t really understood and figured out they’re voice, that’s their journey to take. They might want to take a step back and take a look at what’s going on around them. You can’t be that naive to note that these things don’t affect you and your real life and your possible audience. But then again I do agree with dreaming. I have a lot of friends in Tulum right now. They left over the past two months and brought their laptops. They needed that balance in their mental health. I think everyone is just trying to do the best they can while being conscious of what’s going on.”

The Future of Events

AL: “I’ve had a lot of calls recently with experiential companies, and they’re excited about virtual events. We can have so many more meetings during the day because we’re not commuting anywhere, whether it’s in our pajamas or not. And these conferences, these events, you’re able to really tap into people around the world to attend certain things and just be able to turn things on a dime faster because it is virtual. It’s not that it’s bad. it’s just different. Of course, we all want to go back to IRL at some point, but right now the experiential companies are really trying to innovate within virtual. And certainly you’re seeing that with augmented reality, virtual reality and even at the store level of trying to implement virtual try ons. I think we have to lean into digital until things become more clear as things stand with a vaccine.”

SC: “We all would love to get back to events sooner than later, but safety is a priority. So if it’s not next year then the following year we’ll see as an industry how we execute it. There’s sanitary precautions that we haven’t [taken into consideration]. I mean, think about festivals, the bathrooms, food stands and all the things we never took into account will definitely be a priority moving forward.”

Sponsored by Klarna, the two-day summit is being held in partnership with FFANY, FDRA and Two Ten.

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