Online Doesn’t Need to Mean Off-Brand

Oct 11, 2010

Elizabeth Canon

Why do some brands miss the mark when it comes to articulating their brand image on the web? For established companies, the brand persona is carefully crafted over time and with purpose. This is what leads to recognition, whether product-based (like a red sole on a high heel); in advertising campaigns or in-store, synergy and consistency help to build brands.

And while it can be interesting and successful to sometimes push the boundaries of the brand identity, generally marketers take precautions to make calculated decisions to keep things “on-brand” across all platforms.

Though the online platform as a robust marketing vehicle is still relatively new to the fashion/luxury industries, we’re seeing established brands being able to effectively use the web as a channel to articulate their brand identity and communicate with consumers.

However, in building a digital presence, much more is needed to be successful than good art direction. Design, usability, functionality and social elements are all critical in establishing a web presence that represents the brand and resonates with the target audience. This culmination of elements is often where incongruence exists. For example, sites are beautiful but not functional, or difficult to navigate.

It is certainly true that the online platform is evolving constantly and so there is also a learning curve, but as a customer, a marketer, and a digital strategist, it is clear some sites fully represent the brand while others seem to miss the mark. Customers, especially in the fashion and luxury category, look to brands to validate a purchase in the label and expect not only a synergy, but also a level of innovation when it comes to brand communications.

A recent launch is the Marc Jacobs website. As a brand with a wide array of customers, from those of Louis Vuitton to Marc by Marc Jacobs, I fail to see which segment the new site reaches. With cartoon illustrations, video animation and a navigation designed to guide the user through a pretend department store by riding the elevator, it seems the focus is not on the product or the brand itself, but rather on the childlike experience of being in this illustrated world. Customers interested in shopping or viewing the collection are forced to see items like an Ostrich Absinthe bag for $4,895 displayed next to sunglasses on an cartoon table before being able to actually view a larger sized version with multiple views.

As a personal fan and customer of Marc Jacobs, I appreciate the playful and witty inspiration behind the new site. However, having this be the main concept for the brand website doesn’t take into account the real reasons people value the brand, including high design, style and personal luxury.

See previous article, How To: Build a Digital Flagship

Photo Credits: Marc Jacobs website

Edited by: Gina Conforti