A prevailing custom or style of dress, etiquette or socializing; manner; way; mode.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to about 150 students in the Fashion Fundamentals class at Kent State University's Fashion School, one of the nation's top-ranked programs. Anyone who knows me well might predict the topic. 5 words I tend to repeat over and over. 5 words it took me many years to truly grasp. 5 words I still seek to understand further: marketing is everything we do.
Of course, those words apply to every business we know. For example, I met Paul Matsen, Chief Marketing Officer for the Cleveland Clinic earlier this week. He explained how every employee is considered a caregiver and that every month the leadership team meets with different areas of the organization to make sure everyone understands the customer experience expected. In fact, this morning I read that nurses there this week helped a couple conduct a wedding ceremony in the hospital because the father of the bride had unexpected bipass surgery. I'll bet that's not in anyone's job description.
When I thought about how those 5 words apply to the world of fashion, I wondered if there's more opportunity out there. Obvious brands like Ralph Lauren have created strong brand images and expanded via licensing into many areas of the home. But what brands literally help form a buyer's personality or lifestyle? Maybe responsible brands like Tom's Shoes that donates a pair of shoes for every pair you buy? Other examples? What more could fashion brands do to provide a more complete customer experience, like Starbucks, Apple or the Cleveland Clinic?
The students I met at Kent State were a bright, motivated and engaged group. They'll soon be leaders in design houses, clothing labels and retailers around the world. I encouraged them to think beyond their individual roles and help move their future organizations toward more meaningful customer connections. How can they do it? By employing a few other words I tend to repeat: empathize. exercise. energize.
Exercise: this is the process of taking in the customer insight and developing products (and services) to engage, delight and surprise them. It also refers to the need for practice and repetition. Like Gladwell tells us, we might need more than 10,000 hours to become an all-star. Better get started now.
Energize: take what you've done and shout about to the world - or at least to the target market. Be proud to promote. Don't be ashamed to evangelize. You're not forcing anyone to buy anything - you're actually doing folks a favor by informing them about your offering.
When we internalize the "marketing is everything we do" philosophy, we can't lose. Believe me, considering our own brand identity, caring about customers and thinking about every detail of the experience...that's an approach that's never going out of style.
See you on the runway,