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Lesson #3: Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate
When Klein first entered the fashion world after coming out of school in the mid-1960s, American fashion was something that could not be spoken of in serious terms. “American designers weren’t considered very important then,” recalls Klein. “We were considered inferior – copyists of the Europeans, lucky if we got a front-row seat at a French couture collection.” Klein was fed up with the formal, luxurious and pretentious nature of European clothes and did not want to devote his life to simply imitating others.
“I’ve never been one to see women in ruffles and all kind of fanciful apparel,” says Klein. “To me it’s just silly.” So, instead, he decided to innovate. From creating tight designer jeans to popularizing men’s underwear to generally making consumers more brand-conscious, Klein has been a fashion revolutionary. He saw a void in the industry and was not afraid to go after his dreams to try and fill that void.
Klein’s marketing techniques were also revolutionary. Aside from his provocative and controversial pictures, Klein was able to successfully harness the power of technology. To promote one of his later lines of products, Klein used a technique that had never been done previously. In 1998, before even setting up a Calvin Klein Ltd. website, Klein decided to ‘go digital’. In the marketing campaign for his new line of perfumes, Klein cleverly decided to include email addresses for the three models that were appearing in his print, television, radio and billboard ads. Peaking the curiosity of consumers, they would be able to email these models at, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses would then be sent from the company in the fictional voices of each model.
The three characters that were created mimicked Klein’s target audience: a sophisticated 13-year-old, a professional in her mid-20s, and a middle-aged urbanite. Emails would regularly be sent to customers, with each one revealing further details about the model’s life, making it seem as if a real relationship was developing between model and consumer. The one thing the campaign never did, however, was directly promote the fragrance.
This email strategy was Klein’s attempt to innovate and stay modern. “The next cKone generation has different values and communicates in a very modern way,” he said at the launch of the campaign. “When we take this campaign to email, it makes it very personal.” While the print and television ads lasted just a short time, the email campaign that accompanied them lasted more than three years with hundreds of thousands of followers, demonstrating its tremendous success.
By innovating and doing things that his competitors had not yet thought of, Klein managed to remain ahead of the game. In an industry where consumer loyalty is hard to maintain, creativity had a rewarding payoff for Klein.
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By: Evan Carmichael
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