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business Campaigns Editor's pick

ComplexCon: Tommy Hilfiger on aligning with the cultural conversation since the 1990s

Tommy Hlifiger and Gigi Hadid
Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid

Tommy Hilfiger has always had culture and music at the forefront of how it communicates with consumers, said its namesake designer at ComplexCon this weekend.

The designer was headlining a conversation at the consumer-facing event held in Long Beach, California, alongside Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton and 90s rapper Grand Puba. He used the opportunity to explain that incorporating artists and celebrities who are at the peak of the cultural conversation is core to the brand’s strategy, as seen by the highly popular collaboration with model Gigi Hadid, as well as racing driver Hamilton and Gen Z actress Zendaya (upcoming).

“Doing collabs is really part of the excitement I look forward to every day,” Hilfiger noted. But he believes that in order for them to remain authentic, the brand should only guide and execute their artist’s ideas. This is something he has always focused on.

Aaliyah for Tommy Hlfiger
Aaliyah for Tommy Hlfiger

Although the American brand is soon to be celebrating its 35th anniversary, it was the mid 90s and its popularity among hip hop artists that truly propelled it onto the world stage, Hilfiger explained. Pushing a contemporary aesthetic with an urban New York style of big logos and baggy clothes made the brand stand out among other American names that were expanding at the same time.

Grand Puba first referenced the then mid-sized brand in a 1992 single with Mary J Blige, titled “What’s the 411”. This soon caught Hilfiger’s attention, who started dressing more artists and eventually included singer Aaliyah in a 1995 campaign. From then, the brand featured hip hop and R&B performances on its runways, which Hilfiger cites as the beginning of its entertainment-based fashion shows.

The most recent iteration of this approach lies in the brand’s see-now-buy-now strategy, which has seen elaborate fashion shows taking place for the last several seasons in different locations – from Los Angeles to London, Milan and Shanghai, with the aforementioned current celebrities fronting each occasion.

“We believe consumers want immediate gratification and great experiences,” Hilfiger explained. “My idea is to disrupt and continue to break the rules.”

Earlier this year, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand officer, Avery Baker, joined us on the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent, to talk about how risk, authenticity and understanding your consumer are the keys to innovation.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Podcast

HBO on how Westworld engages with superfans

Liz Bacelar and HBO's Steven Cardwell
Liz Bacelar and HBO’s Steven Cardwell

At the core of the success of Westworld – HBO’s hit show that has had the most successful series debut in its history – is its engagement with fans, says Steven Cardwell, director of program marketing at the network.

By creating a series of immersive and interactive experiences to promote the show, HBO has found the secret sauce to engagement. “The fanbase are going to be your biggest evangelizers. They’re the people that you want to make sure you’re treating almost as partners in a way to help really amplify your messaging,” he says on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast. “Give them the keys to the car and let them drive it because they’re going to be able to speak organically to that fan community.”

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

Following this year’s SXSW festival, where Westworld arguably hosted the most buzzed about brand activation, Cardwell speaks to our founder Liz Bacelar on how important it is to keep the conversation going with fans in-between seasons, which in Westworld’s case, has been an 18 month-long wait. In a media space so cluttered with scripted and reality programming, it is important to find other avenues to engage with fans before and after the episode has aired, he notes.

That theory resonates heavily with the fashion and retail space, where a multitude of stores are fighting for relevance in tough market conditions. Focusing on superfans and driving experiences that engender engagement, is key to advocacy and loyalty, Cardwell says.

For those unfamiliar with Westworld, it takes place in a fictional Wild West-themed amusement park titled Sweetwater, where hosts are androids who allow paying guests to engage in whatever activity they want with no retaliation. The SXSW experience saw a recreation of said amusement park in deserted land outside Austin, Texas, where guests who managed to snag coveted tickets were fully immersed in the Westworld universe for three hours.

The experience was undeniably HBO’s moment in the spotlight at a festival that is slowly evolving as a platform that mirrors culture, rather than glorifies tech. It also taught many brands attending, including an unprecedented number of fashion and beauty players, that if you build an experience that satisfies the need for escapism, consumers will come – even if that means queuing with strangers for a bus to an unknown destination.

On the podcast, Cardwell also talks about why shiny new technology wasn’t central to the experience, despite it being at the crux of the show’s concept, and why authenticity in building brand moments is key.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Retail technology

Westfield launches immersive and theatrical VR experience

"Alien Zoo" by Dreamscape and Westfield VR experience
The “Alien Zoo” VR experience by Dreamscape and Westfield

Westfield Century City in Los Angeles has partnered with Dreamscape Immersive Inc to launch a pop-up virtual reality (VR) experience that invites visitors to explore an imaginary world.

The 13-minute “Alien Zoo” experience invites guests to walk aboard a spacecraft, select their own avatars and interact with different creatures from across the universe.

The aim was to combine the thrill of an epic theme park attraction with the awe and wonder of a great film, according to the team. The “extraterrestrial journey”, as it’s referred to as, allows viewers to witness first-hand the galaxy’s most endangered species.

“Walk side by side massive beasts, play with adorable and exotic creatures, and not only fight for survival against the most deadly predator in all the cosmos, but prove that there is still hope for humanity in our exciting, yet unpredictable, universe,” the write-up explains.

“When you think of VR, you tend to be in the world of gamers and high-tech and we try to take the virtual out of virtual reality,” Walter Parkes, Dreamscape co-chairman, said. “So let’s make it as real as possible, make it tactile. All of the animals we’ve created have deep histories. We could actually write a book about what planets they come from. It’s a narrative-rich approach to VR and much more inclined toward our backgrounds. Texture’s everything.”

As malls in America continue to struggle with the advent of e-commerce, large brick-and-mortar retailers are expanding their remits to engage with experience-hungry consumers through new types of environments. Converging retail, entertainment and technology is a primary focus to drive footfall.

“We’re at a time when movies and malls are getting a lot of competition from digital distribution. So one way to counteract that is to offer irreplaceable, unique experiences and that idea was certainly embraced by our studio partners and our retail partners,” said Parkes. “That’s why the malls that are doing well are as much entertainment centers as they are retail centers.”

As he explains, you can’t get anything at a mall that you can’t get online, thus creating environments that offer more is key.

Following the Westfield pop-up, the company plans to take the concept to other markets, envisioning its final version as true VR multiplexes, where different rooms can offer different experiences, much like a cinema.

Dreamscape Immersive has a number of big names backing its vision of VR for entertainment – in December, it closed a $30 million Series B round that included investors from Nickelodeon and VR Sense Solutions Ltd, while companies such as Warner Bros, 21st Century Fox and Westfield Corp are among its initial investor pool. Executives on staff include Parkes, a film producer, and CEO Bruce Vaughn, a Walt Disney Co alumni.

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Comment e-commerce technology

Comment counts: To reignite retail, value has to come from a digital core

We’re entering a retail renaissance where value will come from personalised shopping experiences, innovative delivery services, and entertainment blended with commerce, says Lori Mitchell-Keller of SAP.

Digital is facilitating a retail renaissance, says SAP
Digital is facilitating a retail renaissance, says SAP

The retail industry has seen significant changes in 2017. Following traditional brick-and-mortar store closures across the spectrum – from sporting goods to fashion and general merchandise – some allege we’re on the brink of a retail apocalypse. However, in my opinion, the industry is undergoing an extraordinary period of change – one that is much more representative of a retail renaissance.

To stay competitive in the digital landscape, we’re seeing many retailers redefining their business models and putting technology at the heart of their strategies. To be successful and meet growing consumer expectations, retailers must focus on establishing a strong digital core and leverage the benefits it provides: creating personalised shopping experiences, offering innovative delivery services, and blending entertainment with commerce.


Personalised shopping experiences

With consumer demands continuously growing, it’s important that retailers are actively using technology to provide personalised offerings to make the shopping experience unique to each individual. In my experience, consumers expect retailers to have a comprehensive understanding of their likes and dislikes prior to purchase. After all, more than 61% of consumers value the ability to ask a sales associate for product recommendations.

One retailer that understands this and is employing a dynamic platform to collect data and build a comprehensive consumer history is ULTA Beauty. Through ULTA Beauty’s clientelling app, store associates have access to consumer’s shopping histories and preferences. This allows employees to assist with the selection process and ensure consumers, such as myself, are not overwhelmed while browsing the more than 20,000 products ULTA Beauty carries. Employees can review items specific to each consumer and provide targeted product recommendations – making our shopping experiences both enjoyable and more convenient.


Innovative delivery services

Another way retailers are using technology to invigorate their business processes is by providing enhanced delivery services. In this era of unprecedented innovation, consumers are starting to expect near real-time delivery. Therefore, it’s crucial that retailers expand consumer delivery options – an investment that has even greater ROI.

For example, sunglass manufacturer Maui Jim invested in UberRUSH to make purchasing items more convenient, affordable, and reliable. Through the partnership, the company can now ensure door-to-door delivery in one hour or less, elevating consumer satisfaction. Another service that many companies are implementing is click and collect, including curbside delivery. Retailers such as Walmart are focusing on incorporating the benefits of both traditional shopping and e-commerce by offering online purchasing and one-hour curbside delivery at local franchises – drastically improving the entire shopping experience.


Blending entertainment with commerce

Today, it’s clear that shoppers expect curated offerings unique to their specific styles and preferences. Many retailers are finding success by focusing on delivering personalised shopping experiences for consumers, instead of merely trying to sell their products. Amazon’s upcoming launch of a home makeover show, Overhaul, is designed to sell products by merging entertainment and commerce, for instance. It will feature many of Amazon’s home furnishings, and allow viewers to click on and purchase the items directly through the site.

Another example of a retailer that has merged entertainment with commerce to deliver a heightened shopping experience and increased sales is Nike. The company recently invested in the development of a new physical store location in New York City that features a mini indoor basketball court and a soccer field. By providing an entertaining environment, the retailer can attract consumers while expanding the shopping experience beyond just purchasing products.


The future of retail

The retail industry is rapidly changing to meet the dynamic demands of consumers and incorporate elements of personalisation, innovation and entertainment into their overall business strategies. Evident by new store openings from retailers like Bonobos, Warby Parker and Zara, it’s clear that traditional brick-and-mortar locations are not a thing of the past, but a living canvas of innovation and opportunity.

The retailers that understand that consumers are willing to pay more for a better shopping experience and incorporate technology into every aspect of their value chain will find great success – and, as participant and advisor, I’m excited to see how the industry continues to evolve during this time of extreme transformation.

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the global general manager of consumer industries at SAP. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com.

Categories
technology

Westfield seeks to grow mall traffic with new large format multi-player gaming theatre

The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield
The ESC Gaming Theater in action at Westfield

At the peak of holiday season 2016, one of the United States’ largest shopping malls opted for a new kind of tourist attraction. Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, replaced the traditional lone-standing arcade game or low thrill ride with a one of a kind gaming centre.

Known as the ESC Gaming Theater, the 750ft room includes a roof-high cinema screen, a live emcee, concert grade surround sound, pulsing lights and 30 touch screens for an immersive multi-player gaming experience.

Designed to bring together friends and strangers alike, this ESC Game Theater offers solo or team play games for up to 30 players at a time. A series of about a dozen games on offer span approximately five to seven minutes and can be either collaborative or competitive, depending on the crowd. With the emcee providing an energetic string of live tips and running commentaries, the entire activity becomes somewhat of a sporting event. Live tournaments are even held periodically for prizes.

The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield
The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield

The fun is all laced into a strategy to reimagine the future of shopping malls as technology continues to rapidly expand. At a time where shoppers are not only increasingly moving online and to mobile to carry out both research and purchase, but seeking experiences over merely material items, brick and mortar venues need to reinvent the wheel to encourage consumers in and maintain them for as long as possible. Gaming and entertainment is a big driver.

Charley Delana, Westfield’s EVP of global brand ventures, said: “Westfield is committed to redefining the shopping experience by leveraging the latest in technology and digital entertainment innovation. We are thrilled to welcome ESC Games to Westfield Garden State Plaza and we are looking forward to giving shoppers the chance to be among the first in the world to experience the future of gaming and entertainment.”

Capitalising on a projected 18% annual growth in the video game industry in the year to come, ESC Games CEO Todd Swidler has thought about massive expansions both in the US and internationally. “The video game industry is experiencing explosive growth, and we see major opportunities for ESC Games to pioneer a new category that taps into that demand through our unique game experience and competitive tournaments. The possibilities are vast.”

The concept for this mall initiative was incubated by ESI Design. Founder Edwin Schlossberg is an innovator of all things game-design; he entered the scene back in the 1970s when his best-selling book series taught consumers how to play games on their run of the mill pocket calculators. Once again, he gives a technology facelift to a quasi-antiquated model.


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Editor's pick social media

Alexander Wang launches Apple Music’s new fashion channel

alexander-wang-apple-music-fashion
Alexander Wang for Apple Music

Alexander Wang is the latest fashion brand to collaborate with Apple, this time to launch the Apple Music Fashion channel.

The designer has curated three different playlists for the live streaming service accessible via iTunes; each designed to fit with fashion and music lovers’ daily lives.

For unwinding, he presents a Chill playlist including The Weekend, Drake, and Juicy J. A Hype playlist includes Diplo, Skrillex, and M.I.A., and is set to “kick up the energy” on route to a festival or party. And for the in-between moments, Wang’s Vibe playlist rides the highs and lows with music by A$AP Rocky, Chris Brown and Kendrick Lamar.

“I love musicians because they personify their work. It’s always exciting to see a new, up-and-coming musician evolve and watch how their physical appearance evolves as their music evolves because of who they’re collaborating with or what designers they start working with,” Wang told Vogue. “That’s the thing about musicians that I’m attracted to, that their physical appearance and their style play such a big role in how they connect to people. In fashion, the biggest movements that I feel connected to have always been from music, whether it’s grunge, punk, glam rock, hip-hop.”

Alexander-Wang-Apple-Music-fashion-playlists

To introduce the collaboration, a short video was released titled When Fashion Gets Turned Up. The comical spot features Wang prepping for a house party to A$AP Ferg’s “Work”, before ultimately falling asleep prior to the guest arrivals.

Throughout the year, Wang will be adding to the playlists in order to keep fans and listeners up to date with his music preferences. Other channels on Apple Music Fashion come from Burberry, Vogue and Dazed.

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e-commerce Editor's pick film

Burberry show on Apple TV will celebrate united collection and shoppable plans

Burberry Womenswear February 2016 Show - Pre Show Imagery_001

Ahead of its move to an in-season show in order to meet consumer demand this September, Burberry is turning to Apple TV for an increasing focus on entertainment and conversions during London Fashion Week on Monday.

The British heritage brand will live stream its show on its Apple TV channel – as it did with its menswear show in January. This time however, it will also enable viewers to revisit and explore the collection using the Apple Remote thereafter, and use it to request a call from a dedicated customer service rep so as to pre-order select pieces.

Burberry_apple

The show will also mark the first time that Burberry presents its womenswear collection under its united “Burberry” label, following the announcement that its Prorsum, London and Brit lines would be merged in November 2015.

The intention is to simplify the presentation of Burberry’s full product range, though it also suggests wider price points, and thus more accessible pieces will be shown in order to appeal to the digital audience it is reaching.

Burberry Acoustic presents Jake Bugg Live at 121 Regent Street, London_001

Adding to the entertainment piece is British musician Jake Bugg, who will perform live during the show. The Burberry app for Apple TV also offers access to a back catalogue of Burberry Acoustic films from other British music talent, as well as highlights from previous runway shows and beauty tutorials with Burberry make-up consultant Wendy Rowe.

The new collection will then be on display in the brand’s Regent Street flagship store for a week following the show, before moving to the brand’s Faubourg Saint-Honoré store in Paris. Check out the trailer for the show, below: