On May 10, in Seoul, Calvin Klein hosted a party that had fans lining up down the block for hours before the doors opened. They were there to see Jennie Kim, the style icon, singer and member of the internationally popular K-pop group Blackpink. Kim was there to celebrate the launch of a capsule collection she had designed with Calvin Klein.
Calvin Klein’s relationship with K-pop idols like Kim has been a major bright spot in the company’s recent history. An announcement in March that the Korean singer Jung Kook was becoming an official Calvin Klein ambassador marked the biggest campaign the company had ever done, in terms of social engagement, with more than 3 million likes.
Jonathan Bottomley, Calvin Klein’s CMO since May 2022, said that partnering with globally recognized ambassadors is a key part of the brand’s marketing strategy. Prior, Bottomley was CMO of Ralph Lauren.
“As a team, we have successfully reshaped the iconic DNA of the Calvin Klein brand for the culture of today, bringing together an incredible group of ambassadors, executing across channels in ways that have genuinely cut through and reigniting desire for the brand,” Bottomley said.
K-pop groups and artists tend to have rabid cult followings, especially in younger age groups. The average K-pop fan is 23 years old. Kim is particularly popular, with more than 83 million followers on Instagram. She’d worked with Calvin Klein before on smaller campaigns, but the collection released in early May marked her largest partnership with the brand.
It’s clear that the Calvin Klein consumer is responding well to the collaborations. Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger have both been bright spots for their parent company, PVH Corp. For its part, Calvin Klein’s revenue increased 8% on a constant currency basis in the quarter ending in March.
Bottomley said the most important thing for brand marketers, beyond flashy marketing technologies or new channels, is simply to understand your customer well enough to know what they’ll respond to.
“The ability to understand where your audience is going and to execute ideas in ways that impact culture, truly engaging that audience, [are the most important skills a marketer can have],” he said.
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