Launching strong Instagram campaigns could be the key to keeping American malls and shopping districts alive. It’s worked for the Miami Design District.
This past weekend, the luxury shopping district again hosted the annual Watches & Wonders Miami event, a three-day, consumer-facing show featuring the latest timepieces and jewelry by 30 luxury brands. According to organizers, this year’s event saw 28,000 attendees, a 40 percent boost from its inaugural run in 2018. It also attracted 13 new brands including Tiffany & Co. and Dior.
The Miami Design District has thrived during Art Basel in December but otherwise experienced regular lulls and lost shoppers to more centrally located competitors like Bal Harbour Shops and Aventura Mall, said Stacie Brockman, co-founder of branding and advertising agency Métier Creative. Three years ago, developer Craig Robins hired Métier Creative to help establish more consistent traffic.
“We had to de-stigmatize that this is a neighborhood only for people with a high net worth who can afford Birkin and Cartier,” said Brockman. “There’s so much to do for everyone, at any age, at any income. [Robins] had curated the best of the best, and we wanted to make people realize this with this new mentality: Come for the gram at MDD, stay for the coffee at OTL, or a fitness class where LeBron [James] trains, or the public art at Institute of Contemporary Art.”
Brockman and business partner Erin Kleinberg set out to make the Miami Design District a social-first brand, fueled by Instagram. They started by producing, posting and tagging with #atMDD photos of the district’s most Instagrammable areas and artwork, working with brands to feature their hot merchandise of the moment. They showed Dior’s saddle bags one post, Fendi’s tights in another. Brands saw it as an opportunity for custom content creation and regularly reposted the images.
“If we could train our audience to capture the look, feel, aesthetic and brand cues that are in the ethos and DNA of the Design District, we would win,” said Brockman, who compared the Miami Design District to an unintentional Museum of Ice Cream–level Instagram playground.
Robins echoed the sentiment. “We don’t have to invent elaborate temporary moments that are visually interesting,” he said. “Our signature backdrops are permanent: Elastika by Zaha Hadid, Buckminster Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome, Netscape by Konstatin Grcic. The brands in the district have contributed [to the environment] with the design and architecture of their stores, and with yearly events like Art Basel Miami Beach and Watches & Wonders, new Instagrammable moments naturally occur with the temporary exhibitions.”
To promote the district on a local level, Métier encouraged the Miami Design District to borrow inspiration from the success of the #atMDD movement for its offline, out-of-home campaign. The campaign ran on interstate billboards, on bus-stop signage and in culture magazines. It featured Miami-based influencers, including a nightlife impresario and a popular fashion stylist, paired with personal soundbites like, “If lost, please return to the Fendi walkway #atMDD.”
In addition, it built a program of influencers called FOHs, or friends of the house, starting with 30 members. (It now has more than 50.) They ranged from niche influencers specializing in food or art to fashion macro-influencers like Danielle Bernstein and Olivia Culpo. Each posted from “Weekender #atMDD” trips and had opportunities to host pop-ups, sharing space with artists studying at the district’s schools.
Since the start of the campaign, the Miami Design District’s Instagram account (which is managed by Métier Creative) has reached 188,000 followers, up from 20,000. Brockman said she sees 1,000 to 2,000 high-quality user-generated posts each week, though Métier still fuels momentum with tagged posts stemming from four annual photo shoots.
“A lot of local bloggers have started using the district like a Paramount Studio,” she said. “They spend the day here. And they’re shooting and Instagramming it the same way they do with Away or Glossier. That’s not happening for Rodeo Drive or Soho.”
But she acknowledged that foot traffic is the ultimate goal. She said the campaign’s been successful at attracting hot tenants and events, which have in turn drawn great crowds. In addition to Watches & Wonders, she pointed to Supreme’s Louis Vuitton drop at MDD and the Social Studies pop-up by former Supreme brand director Angelo Baque. — Jill Manoff
What Coty can learn from its competitors
When Coty posted a 5 percent annual sales decrease, with a net loss of nearly $961 million, for the second quarter of 2019, the decline was credited to its flailing consumer products division. In fact, the consumer beauty business alone posted a 15 percent sales drop from the year prior.
Amid chaos, Coty CEO Pierre Labies, who was appointed to the company in November 2018 and charged with the strategic leadership direction of the consumer division in January, said, “Within Coty, there are clear opportunities to improve how we run our company in order to enhance the quality of our business model, thereby giving us the time that we need to address our more strategic issues. I must stress that while we are confident that we can return Coty to a path of sustainable growth, we are also realistic that it will take time to achieve this outcome. Our Luxury and Professional Beauty divisions are growing reasonably well, but they cannot compensate completely for the difficult trajectory of our Consumer Beauty division. In Consumer Beauty, we need to earn our right to grow.”
Analysts feelings seem to echo what Labies said — that the company has a long road ahead. Joe Lachky, Wells Fargo’s vice president of equity research, said in his report that although results were better than expected, “looking forward, execution remains a risk, and we think Coty’s fundamentals could continue to be choppy given the challenges in consumer beauty.”
Stephanie Wissink, Jefferies equity analyst, said, “Overall we appreciated new management’s vision, and the near-term focus is squarely on gross margins, not sales at any cost. Over the last few years, the beauty landscape has become more competitive and trend cycles have shortened; we believe brand distinctiveness and differentiation are key to compete and sustain share.”
Wissink is especially on point. Coty has faced increased competition since acquiring 41 of Procter & Gamble’s brands in 2016 (including Covergirl and Clairol) from social media-driven brands, especially when it comes to mass makeup, like Morphe and L’Oreal’s NYX.
In some ways, Coty could learn from one of its major competitors in the space to breathe new life into its brands. Though Maybelline and Coty’s Covergirl were traditionally seen as like-for-like in mass channels, Maybelline has increasingly relied on a limited-edition drop product model, experimental activations and out-of-the-box collaborations outside of the drug store for newness.
Though Covergirl has taken some steps — it opened its first brick-and-mortar retail store in Times Square on Black Friday that was replete with technology like augmented reality — the brand’s global chief marketing officer Ukonwa Ojo, who was responsible for the innovative store, left the company in January.
While Laubies is focused on managing revenue and costs and simplifying the Coty portfolio, a bit of experimentation could go a long way with Gen Z and millennial customers. — Priya Rao
Sustainability meets fast-fashion
Fast fashion and sustainability are seen by some as incompatible. The idea of producing and distributing vast quantities of apparel at a rapid pace is at odds with the more methodical approach required to be fully sustainable.
Speaking about the term “fast fashion,” H&M’s head of communications Emily Scarlett told me that part of how H&M is trying to balance its scale with sustainability is through repurposing existing infrastructure toward sustainable goals, rather than building new things. For example, the brand uses the same trucks to deliver products to stores and to pick up donated garments for recycling.
“We actually have a third party that we work with called I:Collect,” Scarlett said. “They do the majority of the legwork when it comes to [donations]. We collect the garments, and our trucks pick up the garments and bring them to our collection centers, and they take it from there.”
Sustainability goes beyond just recycling. While making a dress out of old tires or orange peels is a visible way to get people to care about sustainability, companies also need to ensure that all the invisible, behind-the-scenes stuff like shipping and distribution is on the same level.
“I definitely think today it’s all about access to materials that are more sustainable and making the whole supply chain sustainable,” said Scarlett. “We produce in very large volumes. We need to get as much sustainable materials as possible and move them as sustainably as possible. It’s not easy, but we’re working on it.” — Danny Parisi