How designers and retailers are taking a page from high-end glossies, capturing consumers with gorgeous images and original, compelling content
Jewelry designer Jacquie Aiche’s Instagram page is a checkerboard of bronzed California skin draped in bold bohemian jewelry.
In one shot, layered gold and braided leather necklaces hang around the neck of a shirtless model wearing a Native American–style fringed vest. You can almost feel the heat of the sun’s rays bouncing off the candy-colored gemstones.
In another, a female hand outfitted in an intricate gold chain bracelet-with-rings is holding another model’s hand—their lower torsos clad in stylish, low-slung bikini bottoms.
It only takes a glance at Aiche’s social feed to register that the Los Angeles–based designer is all about the good life: SoCal sunshine and the luxurious earthiness of bold stones and precious metals. Or, as Aiche describes it, “love and freedom.”
The collection of photos—most staged, with some candid shots mixed in—communicates in a style similar to a magazine fashion spread. There is consistency and continuity bolstering the pretty pics. And, like a fashion editor, Aiche strives to give her users “a world to get lost in.”
A pic from an editorial photo shoot? Nope—just another one of Aiche’s Insta-pics.
To accomplish this, she makes sure every image posted to the feed is an authentic reflection of her business at that moment. “The Instagram account is really about…where the [Jacquie Aiche] tribe is at the moment,” she adds. “We want our fans to feel connected and to feel like they are part of the tribe.”
Aiche’s effortless-feeling visual storytelling perfectly illustrates where modern marketing is heading—namely, into the editorial trenches. Or, at the very least, toward an ideal in which brands borrow from the content creation model pioneered by blogs, websites, and magazines, all in an effort to create highly creative campaigns.
With so many ways to shop (literally) at their fingertips, contemporary consumers are smart and demanding. They’re quick to shut down or ignore anything that feels too sales-y, but are open to sharing or endorsing content that’s creative and current—whether it’s from a tony watch brand or a 7-year-old showing off his yodeling chops.
Brands creating fun, beautiful, quirky, joy-filled, moving, or thought-provoking content have an edge in today’s retail landscape.
Ready to add some editorial flair to your marketing strategy? Take a page (or two!) from brands already knee-deep in the content game:
Build a Content-Filled Site
As a retailer, you’re constantly telling stories about your product. Look at the idea of content creation through that lens—you simply need to share with your customers the things you like and find inspiring.
The website for Birmingham, Ala., estate jewelry shop Levy’s Fine Jewelry, for instance, is a revolving treasure trove of information on estate and vintage jewelry, detailing fascinating eras and design movements. The website’s original content “leads to lots of interesting conversations with customers,” says fourth-generation jeweler Joseph Denaburg, who creates the content. Consumers “want to know the story of the piece they’re buying,” he adds, “even if it’s an explanation about how a treaty between the U.S. and Japan in 1854 led to the heavily Japanese influence on French Victorian and Art Nouveau jewelry. ‘That’s why my earrings are dragons!’ they can say.”
According to estate jeweler/content creator Levy’s, this 18k gold bracelet likely dates to 1885ish–1901, when people were moving away from mid-Victorian mournfulness and starting to appreciate jewelry again.
Broken English, an independent jewelry store based in Brentwood, Calif., maintains one of the most stylish blogs in the industry, accessible through a “journal” link on its website. The blog imparts store news but also posts profiles of designers and brands from various industries—not just jewelry people. Recent posts include details from a visit to an L.A. factory that makes jeans out of vintage denim, and a hangout with jewelry designer Alix Brown that included “jamming out, listening to records, and playing with jewelry.” Even more striking are the huge original photographs of jewelry and people—a reminder that creating content doesn’t always mean writing stories.
Watch and leather goods brand Shinola promoted its ongoing made-in-America message (and, in the process, its Detroit facility) last year by partnering with iconic fashion photographer Bruce Weber on a series of striking images showing Detroit locals, young and old. The campaign felt so fresh and editorial that Vogue.com covered it breathlessly and even profiled a few of the subjects in the photo series.
Tiffany & Co. often weaves tales from its long and illustrious history into its marketing campaigns. But new design director Francesca Amfitheatrof and her team are also using classic magazine hallmarks to blaze the brand’s path forward. Tiffany’s spring campaign included a magazine-like site section entitled “Spring/Summer 2015,” which featured a photo anthology with supermodel Edie Campbell, among other impeccably styled models.
Create a Social World
Creating a compelling blog or website-based product is a terrific way to build community around your brand online. But if promoting a certain vibe (e.g., Cape Cod bride) or engaging consumers beyond your little corner of the world is a goal, building a visually rich universe on social sites—especially Pinterest and Instagram—is a must.
Pamela Love, after a piercing party at Broken English, “in love” with her new @venusby mariatash hoop
New York City–based designer Pamela Love’s Instagram page provides instant entrée into her unique aesthetics. “Dreamer of dreams, maker of jewels” is her tagline, and images on the feed range from party shots and animal skulls to louche-looking models, and lots and lots of jewelry shots. Together, they paint a picture of a gloriously hip, bohemian-urban brand of glamour.
“I try to have fun with Instagram,” Love says. “I make sure that there is a good mix of posts ranging from how something is made to editorial shots of jewelry to everyday life at home. I think it’s important for Instagram to tell a well-rounded story about my life and brand. I think about storytelling with everything I do.”
Educate and Inspire
If your business is one that regularly educates customers—and even the industry—on jewelry, gems, or horology, consider building content on your specific expertise. The Internet is the new encyclopedia—and helpful, informative content is particularly shareable.
An engaging Brian Gavin Diamonds–designed infographic
Clay Nettles, owner of Nettles Fine Jewelry in St. Augustine, Fla., has filmed a series of short videos for clients on topics like “How do I figure out my ring size?” and “Why are diamond salespeople so pushy?” The clips have given him a distinctive edge in his market.
Online jewelry retailer Brian Gavin Diamonds posts a steady stream of custom-created infographics and up-to-date diamond information to its site. Owner Brian Gavin says the ever-updated content is “about being consumercentric—about giving people the right knowledge and tools to make an educated and informed decision.”
Break the Mold
Nike’s award-winning “Find Your Greatness” campaign, which debuted in 2012, included a video of an endearingly overweight preteen jogging slowly up a hill toward the camera, sweat dripping from his every pore. Cue the voiceover: “Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for the chosen few…and the rest of us can only stand by watching. You can forget that. Greatness is not some rare DNA strand…we’re all capable of it. All of us.”
Yes, he’s wearing Nikes, but the ad isn’t about shoes. It was designed and created to evoke emotion. Increasingly, the most buzzed-about branded content makes us feel something—while the product moves to the background, or even out of the frame.
After their first kiss, she asked, “What’s your name again?” Cue laughter.
The formula can be a game-changer for small companies too. Los Angeles fashion brand Wren raised its profile astronomically when it released First Kiss, a video that showed 10 strangers (dressed in Wren clothing) kissing. As of December 2014, the video had been viewed 156.6 million times, making it the most viewed campaign of the year, overtaking World Cup ads from Nike and Samsung. It was made in a single day, for $1,500.
And it stands as a sweet reminder of just how far unbridled creativity can take a brand—no matter its size.
Top: a typically provocative Instagram image from designer Jacquie Aiche