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Donna Karan: No one else can tell your brand story

May 2, 2013


NEW YORK – A Donna Karan executive at the Luxury Roundtable: State of Luxury 2013 conference shared 10 commandments of social media marketing for brands that are guarded in their strategy.

During the “Brand Evangelism’s Role to Widen the Luxury Customer Base” session, the executive said that luxury marketers should not be afraid to reveal their brand story on social media. The idea of ruining the mystique that brands have created over time makes it seem as if they cannot be social, but they must start being interactive rather than stopping at one-way communication.

“Social media was called social media for a reason,” said Aliza Licht, senior vice president of global communications, Donna Karan International. “It wasn’t called push media, it wasn’t called message board media, it was called social media.

“It’s meant to be social,” she said.

The Luxury Roundtable: State of Luxury 2013 conference was organized by Luxury Daily.

Ms. Licht shared 10 commandments for Donna Karan’s social strategy that can be relevant to brands across all luxury categories:

1. Attraction, not promotion

Donna Karan looks to attract consumers to the brand without outright promoting the brand and its products .

For example, Ms. Licht is a fan of ABC network’s Scandal and it happens that one of the show’s actresses Kerry Washington wears Donna Karan apparel often on the red carpet.

When @DKNY tweets along with the show, Donna Karan is present in the show’s timemslot without a commercial. The brand also interacts with the show’s talent.

Ms. Licht 

2. Creating a community

Marketers can potentially spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on community management, but Donna Karan created its social community from scratch.

One way it started the conversation is through the global consumer’s relation to weather.

Every morning consumers around the world wake up and check the weather, so @DKNY asked Twitter users to “show me your weather.”

Users from across the globe in markets such as Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Singapore, Spain and Venezuela responded with screen shots of their smartphone weather app.

Though Donna Karan is a fashion brand, the conversation is not usually about fashion. Brands have to make associations with other topics that resonate with the audience.

“The best way to create a community is not around your brand,” Ms. Licht said.

3. Go where people are

Consumers do not wake up every day and go immediately to, but they do check their Facebook Timeline often throughout the day. Here, they get updates on what Ms. Licht’s online character “DKNY PR Girl” is doing.

The @DKNY feed does not consist of any scheduled tweets. Every post is off the cuff.

Twitter and other social channels cannot offer only one-way communication; the feeds must be social.

Donna Karan started on social media in 2009 as one of the first luxury fashion brands to be in the space.

The start was initiation by fire, per Ms. Licht.

“The one thing I knew, and what I felt in my gut, was constant engagement,” she said.

4. Fly on the wall

Brands, especially luxury brands, have rich DNA.

Consumers desire to be a fly on the wall and that is the story that brands can tell. No other brand can copy another’s story.

By letting consumers in, social media marketers establish brand evangelists to represent them when they are not there.

The openness of Donna Karan on social media allowed it this year to take its celebrity dressing efforts to the next level.

The brand is targeting fashion-minded fans via a new Facebook application that allows users to follow the creation of its dresses from start to finish.

Each dress can be traced from the moment of inspiration to its debut on the red carpet on a step-by-step basis (see story).

“Social media is the wild wild west,” Ms. Licht said. “Everyone is breaking rules and trying new things.”

5. Honorary #PR people

Because Ms. Licht tweets for @DKNY in real time, there are times when she is not available to respond to tweets as they happen.

Once when a Twitter used asked a product question, Ms. Licht returned to her computer to find 25 tweets from other users that answered the question for Donna Karan.

Those are brand evangelists, Ms. Licht said.

6. Crash the party

One part of Donna Karan’s strategy, which can be parlayed across any luxury category, is to become part of a live event via digital.

For last year’s MET Gala, an event to which most people do not have live access, Donna Karan made its own Twitter Ball to invite consumers to view the live stream with the brand. The online event tagline was “if you’re not invited, you’re invited.”

The event generated 408 user tweets mentioning @DKNY, @VogueMagazine and #METGala . Vogue also streamed @DKNY tweets on its Web site during the night.

“By crashing the party, insert your brand into a space where you might not be in,” Ms. Licht said.

7. Think outside the box

One of Donna Karan’s out-of-the-box digital campaigns was a partnership with luxury rental site Rent the Runway.

The brand created an exclusive capsule collection that got exposure to the 3 million subscribers of the site, most of which are age 18-24.

8. Shut up and listen

If brands are not listening closely to what consumers are saying on social media, their competitors will.

Donna Karan has found it effective to respond publicly to tweets that contain product complaints. One instance generated an extremely positive response from the user of the original complaint.

“You have to be hyper on top of what people are saying about your brand,” Ms. Licht said.


User tweets 

9. Cross pollinate

Donna Karan has partnered with other social-savvy brands to cross-promote the brand and DKNY PR Girl.

Bergdorf Goodman collaborated with Ms. Licht on various blog posts on its 5th/58th blog, which gave both brands content to promote via social media.

“Because Bergdorfs is very socially savvy, they understand the idea of cross pollinating,” Ms. Licht said.

10. Think tiny

Social media has a very young audience.

There members of the older generations who turn to social media for more information on brands, but the majority of the users are young and are likely discovering brands for the first time.

While print and mail marketing reach the customer that a brand has, social media is reaching the customers that they do not yet have.

Donna Karan offers a deodorant for $15 and promotes the product via its digital channels since it is an entry-level item.

Consumers who follow the brand on social media may grow into the rest of its collections as they grow older.

“When you talk about luxury, you can’t forget about the people who are on their way to be your customer,” Ms. Licht said.