The RAW experience in a digital era

Jeffrey Duyvesteijn, omnichannel marketing director, and Sabine Mutsaerts, global media manager, are both seasoned marketing and communications professionals at jeans brand G-Star RAW.

The G-Star brand saw the light in 1989 and developed into an innovative global player in the fashion industry in more than twenty-five years. In their stylish industrial office designed by Rem Koolhaas, Jeffrey Duyvesteijn and Sabine Mutsaerts talk about how they tailor their global marketing and media strategy to continuously changing local market dynamics and consumer behaviour. 

Jeffrey Duyvesteijn explains that in the 90s, building relationships with retailers was key in building and growing the G-Star brand. “G-Star was very well represented in local retail stores big and small. These retail stores were the determining factor in the customer experience as they were the only point of contact between our brand and consumers. G-Star relied on autonomous growth through these distribution channels and did not yet roll out big advertising campaigns.”

But, Duyvesteijn adds, local shops lost that position due to the advent of the internet as a source of information for consumers, and as a sales and communications channel for brands. “This caused a shockwave in the market. G-Star became a retailer as well as wholesaler and started to use the internet to find ways for maintaining customer relationships and getting first-hand information about what consumers really want.”

Grassroots marketing

Although G-Star did not yet launch big advertising campaigns in the 90s, this does not mean they did not engage in marketing activities. Sabine Mutsaerts: “In the early years, we had to create brand awareness with a limited marketing budget. We did this, and still do, by being present as a brand at big fashion shows and events which were then picked up by fashion magazine editors all over the world. The internet also gave a boost to this type of marketing, since it can attract attention for these local events among a global audience. This grassroots marketing strategy is an important step towards building a global brand.”

Pharrell Williams

A few years ago, G-Star started working with Pharrell Williams’ company Bionic Yarn on several RAW for the Oceans collections. They took their partnership to the next level where Pharrell became co-owner of the G-Star RAW brand in 2016. The special Elwood Jeans collection Pharrell designed last spring was very successful and received a lot of media attention, both inside and outside the US.” Duyvesteijn: “When Pharrell talked about G-Star in the ABC talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC) tens of millions of people heard about our brand. Thanks to him we really made headway in the US market.”

The complete marketing spectrum

G-Star is active in the complete marketing spectrum, ranging from billboard advertising and attractive shop windows to online bannering, e-mail marketing, social media, TV commercials and influencer marketing, such as working with bloggers and vloggers. “Our brand challenges conventions with innovative collections and marketing campaigns. As a brand we want to be top of mind of the consumer”, says Mutsaerts. “The mix of marketing tools we use depends on the country in question. For instance, in the US we focus on public relations, influencers and cooperating with celebrities because TV commercials are very expensive there.”

Brands turning into publishers

Modern communication forces brands to stimulate consumers with interesting content all year round, 24/7, according to Mutsaerts. “Advertising is not limited to a billboard or an online banner. Consumers want constant updates and incentives. The large amount of content that brands have to produce to achieve consumer engagement almost turns them into publishers.” Duyvesteijn adds: “All the different story lines G-Star creates are distributed on many different channels and these need to fit in with each other.”

“The mix of marketing tools we use depends on the country in question.”

Above-the-line and below-the-line campaigns

Twice a year G-Star launches a so-called above-the-line campaign that is visible on all mass media channels. “These are big bang campaigns, both online and offline”, says Duyvesteijn. “TV commercials are a part of it, but although a significant part of our customer base still watches TV, it is an expensive medium for advertising, especially if you want to make a high-quality commercial. Throughout the year we want to be present on all below-the-line channels to make sure our brand stays top of mind. For instance by building relationships with our customers through social media and by making sure they sign up for our newsletter.”

Advertising irritation

“However, consumers do not always want to see ads online and immediately recognise sponsored content”, Duyvesteijn continues. “This shows in the popularity of ad-blockers. On the other hand, curated ad content that is delivered in an organised fashion often provokes less aversion among consumers.” Mutsaerts: “Besides, in today’s digital ecosystem good quality ad campaigns will spread organically as they will be talked about and shared on social media.”

Duyvesteijn: “And consumers also search for our brand online, as most consumers use the internet in the shopping orientation phase. Consumers look for our products on Google or on multi-brand websites. They go to these multi-brand websites just as they went to multi-brand stores before the rise of the internet.”

Targeting can remove irritation factor

Advertising campaigns that are correctly targeted can remove the irritation factor according to Mutsaerts. “I’m fascinated by all the possibilities of targeting specific focus groups. Consumers who receive our newsletter already know our brand and are ready for a more detailed storyline. A sponsored post on Facebook, for instance, is more focused on consumers that are not yet connected with our brand and this requires a different type of communication.” Mutsaerts adds that social media, such as Instagram, also offers the possibility to target consumers with specific interests. “We showed our RAW Research collection at a fashion show in Paris and built an Instagram campaign around it that focused on trendsetters in fashion.” But she also asks herself how specific advertising content should be. “All these different storylines make an ad campaign very complex and you also have to think of the scalability aspect.”

Collecting data and measure effect

G-Star’s marketing intelligence department measures the effects of advertising on different channels. “This way we learn how a campaign works and, if necessary, how to improve it”, says Mutsaerts. “Because of the internet there is a lot of focus on the number of clicks and direct action, but when we look at brand surveys we also see that ad campaigns often have a delayed effect in our stores. Two or three weeks after an ad campaign there can still be an in-store sales uplift.”

Duyvesteijn: “However, it is still difficult to measure the exact purchasing behaviour of specific customers in the so-called brick and mortar stores. Loyalty programmes connected with a product or a transaction are ways to solve this. A large proportion of our sales are still generated in our stores, but we also sell a lot of our products through multi-brand stores. This poses a challenge to data collection.”

Multi-brand sales channels

Mutsaerts emphasises that multi-brand sales channels, both online and in stores, can give useful insights about other brands G-Star buyers purchase. “Additional information about the purchasing behaviour of our customers gives us a better picture of them.” Duyvesteijn says it is not G-Star’s aim to sell all products through G-Star sales channels. “It is nice to have a loyal clientele, but customers who shop in multi-brand stores and wear other brands are also important to us. But of course we would like to have customer data to create that brand loyalty in the long run.”

General Data Protection Regulation

When asked about the European General Data Protection Regulation, Duyvesteijn says that G-Star will not have to make a lot of changes when GDPR will come into effect in May 2018. “As a global brand we have to comply with the rules and regulations of many jurisdictions. As we cannot afford to make any mistakes we always make sure that we are compliant with the jurisdiction that has the strictest rules. But of course we develop as a business and this may require us to test our activities against new rules and regulations. Right now there are a lot of rules that for instance prescribe what is and what is not allowed in e-mail marketing or when it is allowed to share data with third parties, such as an online marketing agency. GDPR unifies data protection regulations within the EU, which is more than welcome.”  

Contact us

Ennèl van Eeden

Global Entertainment & Media Industry Leader

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 45 40

Casper Scheffer

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 65 20

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