Wednesday, August 8, 2012

J.Crew Connecting With Base Through Ads {thoughts?}

"Thanks!" to many of you, including Jessy & Kelly (in this post), as well as Priview & JM,who shared the following article from the New York Times (click here to read in its entirety) with us:
J.Crew Wants to Reconnect With Its Base
By Elizabeth Olson
August 7, 2012

J.CREW, the popular purveyor of clothing classics, is rolling out a broad new advertising campaign aimed at galvanizing its customers — some of whom call themselves “jcrewaholics” — and also making them smile.

The campaign ads use the line, “We know you are out there,” to appeal to its aficionados along with close-ups of fashion-forward artists, editors and others who, J.Crew says, wear its clothing not only in the ads but also in their daily lives.

We are speaking to people who appreciate our style, quality and design, and the ads do so in a quirky and clever way,” said Diego Scotti, the company’s chief marketing officer.

One ad, for example, says, “You speak softly and carry a loud bag,” with a crouching young woman carrying a bright persimmon-colored purse and wearing a vividly patterned J.Crew silk blouse and capri pants. Another ad says, “You notice the lapel before the label,” and shows a young man lounging against a wall. He is clad in J.Crew’s ready-made Ludlow suit and wearing its navy suede Alden shoes (no socks).

The campaign will span major print outlets as well as digital and social media, and will be the first time the company, officially known as the J.Crew Group Inc., has embarked on such a wide multimedia marketing initiative.

...“Young adults between ages 25 and 34 are in the career-building stage,” said Mr. Cohen. “They can’t go to work too casually dressed any more. So it’s become more about ‘dress for success,’ which we haven’t seen since the 1980s.”

Yet, like all retailers, J.Crew knows it only takes an economic dip, or a style slip, for sales to decline.

“We are in a moment when we need to tell our story louder,” explained Mr. Scotti. “We are on a mission to elevate our product and customer demand. We have not done much advertising in the past, other than niche magazines.”

The company’s stepped-up effort will expand its presence in publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Fast Company and the Sunday New York Times Magazine as well as in social media and online. There are no television commercials.

The company, which has 300 stores in North America, worked with the New York City creative firm, Partners & Spade, on the campaign concept. J.Crew’s in-house marketing team handled execution. The company does not use celebrities in its marketing, but it has basked in the fashion spotlight when its cardigans and other clothing have been worn by the first lady, Michelle Obama. There are also a number of blogs, including jcrewaficionada.com, where loyalists closely follow the company’s apparel and accessories.

The specialty retailer said its advertising budget doubled this year over 2011, but declined to provide a specific figure. Kantar Media, a unit of WPP, said that J. Crew’s outlay was $4.2 million for the three months ending April 28, a major uptick from $524,000 spent in the same period last year. Over all in 2011, according to Kantar figures, the company spent $6.7 million on advertising.

J.Crew still relies on the traditional staple, the paper catalog — now called the Style Guide — to reach customers. Last year, it sent out some 40 million copies.

Its catalogs, which began in 1983, showcased its popular classic clothing styles like the rollneck sweater, created by Emily Cinader Woods, a daughter of the company’s founder and the person most responsible for what became the J.Crew look. Six years later, the company opened its first retail store, at New York’s South Street Seaport. In 1996, it started its Web site and a year later the company was sold to the Texas Pacific Group.

J.Crew’s chief, Millard Drexler, took the company public again in 2006, introducing new lines like Crewcuts for children and the limited edition J. Crew Collection. Last year, the company was again acquired by TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners.

As its new campaign unfurls, J.Crew is continuing to expand its selection of handbags and shoes, emphasizing the quality and origin of the materials it uses. The Ludlow ad, for example, explains that the men’s suit is made from “worsted wool, woven in hand-selected yarn spun in Italy at the Lanificio di Tollegno Mill (est. 1862)” — details, Mr. Scotti said, that underscore the “authenticity and integrity” of J.Crew’s offerings.

We are aiming at people who have the mind-set that values quality at a reasonable price,” he said.
Well this article is timely- as it ties in quite nicely with yesterday's "J.Crew's Worldwide Style {video time!}" post.

So many things to touch on so I will bullet list it:
  • Excited to see this new advertising campaign. I love to see more!
  • I cannot believe how little J.Crew spends on advertising (just $6.7 million last year). It's impressive how well they manage to get their brand name out there for little $$$.
  • It is clear their catalogs are an awesome marketing tool. 40 million copies is a lot to mail out!
  • I totally fit into the demographic laid out in the article! It's like they know me. ;)
  • I appreciate the shout out to this little ol' blog. Yey!
  • Lastly, I would l.o.v.e. it if J.Crew actually did directly recognize our J.Crew-obsessed community. But we will take what we can get! :)
What are your thoughts on the article? Do you think J.Crew is reaching out the J.Crew Aficionados and Aficionadas out here?

53 comments:

  1. Well...I don't fit in the demographic mentioned - so I guess I can't shop there anymore. :(

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    1. ExecutiveKnitter: In all honesty, the J.Crew stores in my area target 16-90. I have seen women (and men) from all age groups. The thing they have in common is a great sense of style! :)

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  2. Alexis, they should have featured you!

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  3. Thanks Hexicon and Dagmara! I am happy they mentioned the JCA blog. Yey for us! :)

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  4. Hmmm. If J. Crew acknowledges that they want to reach out to those in the career building stage who can no longer dress casually, MAYBE this means they will stop making dresses and skirts that end mid thigh on anyone taller than a garden gnome.

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    1. Lol!! Amen to longer hemlines or offering tall sizing!

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    2. YES! The new arrivals for fall have NO below-the-knee lengths so far. :(

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    3. Totally agree. Don't think the capri overload for women or tapered pant/sock-less look for men are especially business-appropriate looks either.

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  5. Alexis, Congratulations on the NYT mention!

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  6. Congrats on the NYTimes mention, Alexis!

    Hmm...I don't know if more print ads are the best way for J.Crew to "reconnect to its base". I think the base is already pretty established - I've been a loyal J.Crew shopper for 15+ years and it had nothing to do with print ads and everything to do with "valuing quality (and pretty colors) at a reasonable price". And if they are trying to court a younger shopping crowd, I think that they would get more bang for their buck by sending sample merchandise out to the more well-known fashion bloggers to feature in their OTD posts. Social media and online is where they'll get younger fans, not through print media. One thing I do know is that the increase in advertising $$$ seems to directly coincide with the recent decrease in quality. If full-page ads in Vogue and Vanity Fair mean thinner fabrics and tees that develop holes after 2 washings, then I think J.Crew might end up alienating their "base" instead of reconnecting with them.

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    1. Whitney, I second the motion.
      And yey Alexis!

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  7. 40 million catalogs, yet almost every other month I have to call them to see why mine hasn't shown up in the mailbox yet. Anyone else get spotty style guide delivery?

    On a less Debbie Downer note, I love print ads and can't wait to see these new Crew ones pop up in my magazines!

    Taylor

    ohwelltatslife.blogspot.com

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    1. Taylor, I am excited for the print ads too. I have a feeling I will have to try very hard to resist the urge to tear them out to hang up somewhere, like I used to hang up magazine pictures of NSYNC in my locker...

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    2. Taylor, mine always show up about a week after they're posted here.

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  8. Congrats on the mention, Alexis! This is great!

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  9. Very interesting and congratulations on the mention Alexis!
    I look forward to the ads. I do love those JCrew handbags I have to say!

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  10. ITA with Desert Flower and Whitney. If JC is going to focus on "career women", then their dresses need more length and less cleavage - unless of course, they're talking about a different kind of working girl.

    I hope that the ad campaign goes over better than Fall 2008's "If you only knew..." campaign. It's really annoying to see them crow about "quality" when we all know that couldn't be farther from the truth. Somebody there needs to take a close look at the "mistakes" languishing in the FS section for months and not repeat them - but rather, take a closer look at some of their best sellers from years past (double-serge skirts, midheels, tailored blazers, wool coats) and pay attention to the details that made them great.

    Also if they're looking to connect with their base, JC should just look to the Mothership and the satellite blogs - there is a ton of information there. The cynic in me doesn't think that they want to reconnect with their base at all, but rather crank out disposable clothes at high prices as fast as possible. That's why I believe we've seen no real quality improvement in many seasons - if new arrivals are coming out all the time, you're so focused on acquiring the new that you don't even realize that 2 week old skirt is split at the seams.

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    1. Amen! I really feel like this new campaign is like, "it's quality! trust us!" despite pilling sweaters, self-destructing pencil skirts, and hole-ridden tees.
      And you bring up something I've been wondering a lot lately: why doesn't J Crew do more mid-heels? I can't wear 3.5-4" heels-- I actually literally cannot walk in heels over 3" tall without getting all Bambi legs. Plus I'm already 5'8" and I don't really like towering over all the men on the subway anyway.

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    2. Agreed! I am also 5'8" and single. I don't care if I tower over a guy, but they usually do. Always flats or low heels. Always.

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  11. I'd love to see them try a bit harder to appeal to the "people who have the mind-set that values quality at a reasonable price" by getting some quality control in place for sizing and manufacturing more of their clothes in the U.S. I appreciate that they take the time to describe their "fine italian milled" whatever fabric, but while the designs are beautiful, the construction of many pieces is not great. I'm with @silver_lining and others: they say one thing and do the other; what they are doing is cranking out a disposable, high turnover wardrobe at a high price point (high is relative, of course, but I consider their prices high considering where/how they are made).

    I think listening to their online fanbase via sites like this or asking bloggers to collaborate or co-create a social media campaign would pay off a lot more.

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    1. Christi- I totally agree that they should be listening to their customers on this and other blogs.

      Whatever happened to the old adage "the customer is always right"???

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  12. Oh man, I want to see JCrew continue to do well, but at the same time, I hate when so much attention is drawn to them. I like that JCrew is my store, and for the most part, no one recognizes my clothing, etc. as JCrew. Shelve the ad campaign, add more styling idea photos and cute quips in the Style Guide.

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  13. This is very interesting. I fall right in their target demographic as described in the article. I've actually been transitioning my wardrobe to quality, from quantity buying, and I've bought nothing to replace all the jcrew Ive donated, consigned or tossed from j crew!!

    Ive been shopping DVF, net-a-porter, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Shopbop and Tory burch. The common denominators: quality clothes, free shipping, hassle free returns (no final sale!!), and customer- friendly, consistent service. J crew can act like they want to compete with these retailers but they aren't even close, except in price! Young working women are smart and j crew is foolish to think they can keep raising prices, sacrifice quality and continue to make sales. There is too much competition in this space.

    I've been a jcrew addict since high school but hate where the brand has been going the past couple years. I can't count the number of split seams, holey tshirts, lost buttons and pilly sweaters I've experienced as of late. I'm tired of wasting money on what are essentially overpriced fast fashion items.

    Of course I will continue to buy the occasional piece, but for the most part, I am avoiding the crewlade until they can get the quality back or start pricing their items right. Sorry for the long rant :)

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    1. Exactly! I do find that I'm talking myself out of most JC purchases lately and trying things from ShopBop and Nordstrom. JC is way behind when it comes to shipping/return policy (though they've taken a small step with the swimwear). Not targeted to the savvy working woman who shops online - as many on this forum have pointed out before.

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  14. Congrats on the Mention Alexis! If J Crew wants to rally the base they will need to bring back the dependable quality that put them on the map in the first place. A pretty campaign will only go so far without substance. A few more tall sizes in dresses wouldn't hurt either!

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  15. Alexis, you do such a great job, how fab to be recognized. I'm in the target demo and maybe jcrew doesn't realize it but we're in a recession and their prices are outrageous for what it is. I'm building my wardrobe but not with skirts that will split at the seams.

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  16. Congratulations, Alexis!

    I agree w/many sentiments shared here.

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  17. Alexis-- Thanks for all the work you do here; you deserve to be noticed! I was not aware of fashion blogs until I read about this one in the NYT's a few yrs ago.

    I still have my rollneck green sweater, now for gardening. I actually knit myself another one. Ah, the eighties.

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  18. I wonder about the comment on the target demographic age of 25 - 34. Do they not see that this is alienating for anyone outside that range? I see J.Crew clothes as ageless (depending on how they're styled), but I am 41 and have no interest in shopping at stores targeted at kids. Doesn't J.Crew want my business too?

    Well I guess regardless of who they say they want as their customers, I will still shop there - damn you J.Crew...the love/hate relationship continues.

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  19. Interesting article. I had no idea that the South Street Seaport location was the first J.Crew store. It's a small store, but it's been a long time favorite of mine.

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  20. Totally agree with many comments here. I have found that I'm moving away for the Crewlade and shopping more selectively and for more quality. Ads are ok, but only if they aren't false advertising. If the quality backs up all the talk, fine. We'll see if that happens. If they want to attract more customers with a need for professional clothing than lose the teenage models with messy hair, goofy glasses and dumb poses. I'm following a blog of a beautiful professional women. I admire her strong personal style which isn't swayed by every new "flavor of the month". Not a Celine bag or pair of Karen Walker sunglasses anywhere. How refreshing! That's where I want to get....a closet full of items that say me for a life time. Not for a minute. I'm sure JC will still have a few items I like....the Sterling skirt is coming back in more colors this fall. I'm excited about that. JC needs to do more items like the Sterling Skirt. Classic and timeless.

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  21. Well done Alexis, congratulations on the mention!

    As part of the target demographic I will say that the ad photo above looks like the model is wearing mismatched pajamas. No way would I ever wear something like that. I've been buying less J.Crew recently because a lot of the styling is ridiculous IMO. They need to either back away from the bong or discontinue "come to work drunk Wednesdays". It's downright laughable.

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  22. Agreed on the demographic question. When I shop in stores, I see a lot of women my age (mid-40's). And I spend a boatload of $ at JC on my daughters. I'd bet that (in general) the 40-somethings have more money to spend than the 20-somethings...

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  23. Congrats, Alexis, this blog is a mine of information and thanks to you and the JCAs I know what is going on way before J Crew lets me know. I am certainly not the demographic that J Crew is targeting (a month away from 57) but I do love some of their clothes and most new items come from there. That being said, I am much more about quality than quantity and at my age don't want/need to be on the bleeding edge of fashion. I have some wonderful items from many years ago that I blend in and will continue to do that. Like others, I can't imagine many women wanting to try and climb the career ladder in high heels, plunging necklines and thigh high hemlines. Just my 2 cents.

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  24. Alexis,
    I don't think J Crew will ever address us (this group). Why should they? We're literally announcing to the world that we are J Crew addicts. Example: Today there is a $300.00 jewelry give away on the "Cup of Jo" blog, sponsored by J Crew. Notice it's not one of our popular bloggers on here - because they are looking to get new 'addicts'.

    They may be targeting the 25-34 age group in this advertising campaign, but we all know that there are many of us on here much above that 34 age group. Someone else said it in the comments above, but we are buying for our families as well. I taught my daughters how to buy quality, and what to look for, and even they are noticing the decline along with higher prices. So it bothers me to think that this advertising is, what? - looking to pull in some more younger folks, let them give it a try, get their cash for a while until THEY notice the quality issues?
    It's actually interesting that they acknowledge and publish the name of this blog, where many can now join in our repetitive rants on the quality issues along with higher price points.

    I think that I am not alone in totally banning "dream" sweater blends and tissue tees that need cami underneath, not just due to sheerness, but because of the tendency to develop holes. Last year, we all saw the itchy blend sweaters, stretching and pilling away on the sale racks.

    All in all, I find it quite interesting to watch what will develop here. Despite fearless leader's disdain for sales, they must still make quite a profit to be repeating the same things over and over again, with no full-price promos to speak of in almost a year???

    Let me thank you again, Alexis, for providing this forum where we all help each other navigate the issues, help each other find those great items we do love, and share our love of the Crewlade. Obviously, we're hanging in there! Hope some of our concerns get addressed - (Yes, short waisted dresses, too short hemlines, I'm referring to you!). Thanks Alexis!!!

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    1. Hi Suzy, at one point J.Crew offered a discount code for JCAs, it was 15% or something like that and Alexis had a post on it. Long time ago though, surprised I remember, it just popped into my mind reading your comment. Ah, the good old days.

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    2. I just came across it the other day. It was 15% off to celebrate JCA turning 2. Post is here.

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    3. Suzy- I actually agree with you- no need to go after us since they already have us! ;)

      I also came to the same conclusion after seeing A Cup of Jo get a give-away from J.Crew (J.Crew who rarely works with blogs- but more with other companies like Lucky). They won't work this blog or the blogs on the JCA blog list, maybe because we are too small for them or more likely because they already won us over. So why waste the effort.

      I do remember the BIRTHDAY code J.Crew offered the blog one year. I was very excited and still am. However, that was the *last* time I ever heard from them. They really have (and want to have) nothing to do with this blog. I understand. But it doesn't mean I can't hope they will one day change their mind. :)

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  25. JRSConifer.....Hi! The blog is "A Key to the Armoire". Here's the link:

    http://www.akeytothearmoire.com/tagged/Latest_Outfits

    I've been really enjoying going through the gallery and seeing her outfits and reading. What I like about Susana is that she embraces and honors her own personal style. Looking at her pictures I can see that she loves how she looks and she's not just pimping for some new jewelry website or something. No offensive meant, but she doesn't care what's new today...she has a gorgeous collection that is her and it shows when you look at her. I love classic vintage inspired looks so she's my new style icon. I went shopping today and I kept in mind her philosophy and it really helped me to stay clear of buying things just because they were on sale or trendy. I hope you enjoy her site....let me know what you think after you've spend some time there.

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  26. Hey Jool Addicts.....I stopped in the Mothership today and saw two new necklaces. The red and blue Phoenix necklace and a new elephant necklace. Here's my thoughts:

    Ok...Remember I collect jewelry so I'm a hard sell. I love the color combo of the Phoenix necklace, but the beads are very light weight...felt like plastic and the Phoenix was, well, underwhelming. This thing should be over the top gorgeous with rhinestones and enameling and it really lacked it for me. Blah. At $175.00 I'm passing.

    The Elephant necklace is a double strand of the same plastic tortoise shell links in the Frog Clasp bracelet. On the side is a gold elephant with a enameled blanket with I think a jool in it. There are some rhinestones on the closure part. IMO the elephant looks cartoonish (my complaint with the elephant bracelet too) not fully developed and really lacking for me. Underwhelmed. $150.00....I'll be passing. I collect vintage jewelry as well as new and I have standards that may be more than other people, these are pretty, but they look cheap to me. Gosh...I'm sounding like a broken record. How many times have I said "cheap" lately in reference to JC? Too many I fear.

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    1. Rynetta posted the elephant necklace & peacock necklace in this post.

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  27. I see another resident Jool Addict was underwhelmed by the two new necklaces. I totally agree with Rynetta. Just not the right color combos on each of them. That peacock/Phoenix necklace could have been amazing....such a shame.

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  28. I wish they would offer at least some styles of suiting pants with lining! For the prices they charge, I expect lining!

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  29. Congratulations on the mention, Alexis! It is well-deserved! :)

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Dear J.Crew Aficionadas & Aficionados: Please feel free (and encouraged) to share your thoughts and opinions. :) However, please note that this is still a personal blog. So comments that are considered inappropriate (e.g. obscene, racist, homophobic, personal attacks, rude, and just plain mean) will be removed.

And now back to J.Crew! :)