Soaring in Style

Two weeks ago (meant to blog about this then), Virgin America announced their new uniforms designed by Banana Republic. My first reaction—pure genius. And then I felt guilty for getting excited about it since I work for Alaska Airlines. But all affiliations set aside, this airline-meets-fashion collaboration is such a smart and unique idea.

Complete with classic aviators and an apron emblazoned with a bright red airplane, this 37-piece collection is certainly, in the words of Virgin America, “a breath of fresh air.” Although I’m not a huge fan of red, I can’t help but crave the skinny belt and silk scarf. Oh and did I mention there’s a leather jacket? Sign me up for the next flight attendant position.

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Set to hit Virgin terminals and planes on August 8, just in time for the company’s fifth anniversary, Banana Republic is outfitting 2000+ employees including flight attendants, pilots, and gate agents. The collaboration with Banana Republic dates back to 2008. Perhaps the most notable partnership tactic, until now at least, was the in-flight fashion show featuring BR’s Mad Men Collection. My favorite, however, is this simple surprise-and-delight tactic from last Christmas.

No matter the approach, it’s safe to say that both brands are winning with this unusual partnership. Banana Republic definitely thought this move through, as the new designs aren’t just for the Virgin employees. You too can get a taste when BR launches its travel-inspired Fall Collection on August 8th. I’ll be shopping, will you?

(All images courtesy of Virgin America + Banana Republic)

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Book review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
– David Packard

Before reading Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, I wouldn’t have fully understood this quote. But 165 pages later, this statement takes on a whole new meaning.

Marketing was traditionally thought of in terms of the 4 Ps—price, place, product, and promotion. In fact, that’s what my high school teacher taught me in my Intro to Marketing/DECA course and what my current boss likes to refer to.

But the truth of the matter is, the four Ps are outdated. Long gone. In today’s post-consumerist world, where choices and technology abound, this way of thinking won’t do the trick.

Purple Cow explains in depth, with parts I’ll have to cover later, the concept of a fifth P, or the “Purple Cow.” This is the ingredient that makes your product remarkable. Godin writes in the beginning pages of his book:

Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service. Not slapping on marketing as a last-minute add-on, but understanding that if your offering itself isn’t remarkable, it’s invisible.

So, going back to Packard’s quote, marketing is MORE than the marketing department. The process begins straight from the drawing board, in the very beginnings of a product. All the way from invention to selling.

The best example I can think of is Apple (quite appropriate, considering Steve Jobs’ resignation announcement earlier today). Apple products are known for their innovative quality—top of the line technology, sleek design, a multitude of colors—the list goes on and on. They have succeeded, time and time again, in creating Purple Cow products. Products that do the talking themselves, products that people actively seek out, products worth talking about.

It is my belief, after reading this book, that if you create a truly remarkable product, there is no need for advertising. But combine some great advertising with a great product, as Apple also does so well (Exhibit A), and you’ve really hit it out of the ballpark.

Now I am left wondering, how many marketers in the world have adopted this philosophy since the release of Godin’s book in 2002? My high school sure didn’t, and neither did my boss. It will be interesting to see what approach my marketing professors at UO take. Until then, I plan to spread this idea to my peers in the American Marketing Association and get their feedback. What’s yours?

[Cross-posted to the UO AMA blog]

5 reasons why the Anniversary Sale is a marketing success

Today was not just the premiere of the last Harry Potter movie, but also the official start of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. The Anniversary Sale is held every July and “has become legendary among Nordstrom customers nationwide.” It is the only sale I know of that puts items on sale when they are brand new (before the season even starts!). Frequent Nordstrom shoppers who have either the store credit card or debit card receive early access to the sale a week prior.

As someone who has finally earned early access, you might think why would I attend the first official day of the sale if I’ve already shopped it? But my mom and I do, every year. There’s an aura about the Anniversary Sale that you just can’t miss out on it. Thousands of people (mainly women) trek to Nordy’s doors as early as 7am to get first dibs on sale items.

While walking through the store today for my umpteenth Anniversary Sale, I found myself thinking about what a marketing success the Sale truly is. Here’s why:

1) Quality product – Nordstrom brings brand new, next season products to their stores purposely to mark them down. Who else does this, other than as an after-thought to compete with Nordstrom?

2) Close relationships with vendors – Particularly in the make-up department, the Sale offers dozens of brand name cosmetics packages at incredible prices. For instance, a Bare Escentuals gift box containing 9 items is on sale for $49, with a normal retail of $122. Nordstrom works specifically with their vendors to accomplish this, as Bare Escentuals doesn’t offer this gift box in their own stores.

3) Efficient operations – Nordy’s has done this sale for so many years that they have mastered customer management. Despite the fact the store is bombarded with people, the employees manage to keep the store spotless and there is always someone to assist you. They have an organized system for dressing rooms, employees are well-educated on the items that appear in the catalogue, and heck, even the Nordstrom Cafe employees are on top of their game.

4) Hype – Not only does Nordstrom draw in massive crowds to the sale, but they create an incredible hype about it as well. First, the Anniversary Catalogue. This is mailed out several weeks before and gets customers excited and talking. My Twitter feed has been abuzz with #NSale hashtags for the past two weeks or so. Second, the Early Access portion. Although some may deem it “snobby,” Early Access only encourages the pre-sale hype. And it definitely helps clear out crowds for the opening weekend (minus my mom and I).

5) “Spend to save” attitude – What better way to get customers to spend money than to convince them they are saving money? This is where foolproof marketing comes in. Granted, it doesn’t always work, but it’s pretty darn smart. Case in point – just the other day I was shopping at Michael’s for scrapbook materials. I was just about ready to leave when I realized that a certain brand of stickers were 40% off. “Forty-percent off?! That’s a BARGAIN,” I thought to myself. So naturally, I left the store spending more than I had intended to, but I was saving in the long run. Right? Nordstrom masters this saving mantra better than any other sale I know. A) The clothes are brand new season and will be marked UP in two weeks, therefore you buy now or miss out. B) Back-to-school is one of the most popular shopping times for clothes. Combine A+B, and you’ve got two great reasons to spend a ton now to save a ton later. Guilty as charged.

Style. Integrity. Devotion.

I had the most amazing opportunity to visit Nordstrom’s corporate offices last weekend with the UOAMA and let me tell you, it was breathtaking.

Never have I felt more certain of what I want in life. I have always dreamt of working for Nordstrom Corporate someday, but as soon as I stepped foot in their offices, my dream took on a whole new dimension.

As we walked down the main hallway to the board/meeting room, my eyes were greeted with dozens of dazzling lights and images, all fashion and people related. One of my favorites was the neon sign pictured at right: “Style, integrity, devotion.” There was also a quote from Coco Chanel, a mannequin dressed in a sassy sequin dress, pictures of all the employees nationwide who have done over $1 million sales in a year, and more. I couldn’t get enough of it!

As we entered the board room, a man in horn-rimmed glasses stood there shaking all of our hands and greeting us. Once we had all sat down, he introduced himself as Blake Nordstrom. My ears did a double-take – what!? I had just met one of the Nordstroms? Yes, I did, and he was wonderful.

Blake proceeded to tell us that one of the best things we can do for ourselves as college students is to focus on growing up as a person – study abroad, take an internship, meet new people. It’s not so much about the classes, but about the experiences, and I couldn’t have agreed more. (That is the reason I came to Oregon after all.) He also brought up a really good point: instead of asking ourselves what do we want to do with our lives, why not ask instead what don’t we want to do? It is much easier to narrow things down than to pinpoint that one exact thing. Especially because we are human – things change, we change, so we should expect our dreams and goals to change too.

Anne, the CMO of Nordstrom, then introduced herself to us and gave a very valuable presentation on Nordstrom’s marketing efforts. But more importantly, she stressed one important thing to us that she has learned, and that is to go for your passion in life. Seems obvious, but how often do people get stuck doing what they don’t love? Too often, in my opinion. Anne told us how important it is to do what you love, because that is when you’ll work the hardest, earning the best results.

Anyway, as I sat there listening to Blake and Anne, I fell more in love with the Nordstrom company. It wasn’t just the fashion or the customer service anymore, I realized. It was the entire company philosophy and what they stand for. Blake and Anne were so real with us and their values paralleled mine exactly. I felt like I fit right in and I could picture myself there so easily. Not even that – I felt like I belonged, like it was my calling. My heart truly spoke to me that day.

I know some of my peers would hear that and laugh, but I can’t explain it any other way. It was just so right. One of my goals in life is to work at a place that truly cares for its people and its customers, and I think Nordstrom is the perfect place to begin my journey.

Style. Integrity. Devotion. The more I think about it, the more I realize I can apply these not only to fashion but to life. One must have style everywhere she goes, not only in looks, but in personality. Keep it classy and be the stylish, wonderful woman you are. Have integrity and be the better person. Stand up for your morals and fight for what you believe in. Finally, devote yourself to who and what you love. Love your family, love your friends, love yourself. And once you find that little thing in life that makes your heart skip a beat or your breath quicken, grasp it with both hands and devote your life to it. In the wise words of my father, follow your heart and things will fall into place as they were meant to.

The company that started it all: legendary customer service and my infatuation with fashion

As a little girl, I remember accompanying my mom on shopping trips to Nordstrom and trying on every shoe I could get my hands on (yes, I was lucky enough that the shoes on the floor matched my size). I’d sit there inching my foot into a beautiful high heel, dreaming of the days when I’d be old enough to wear them.

My mom would whisk me through the different departments, making her purchases and returns (usually more of the latter), and the salespeople were always very friendly and treated us with respect. So much so that one day my eight-year-old self decided to fill out a comment card while my mom paid. It went something like this: “Dear Nordstrom – you have great customer service. I love your store. Sincerely, Morganne.” Mother’s reaction? A bit embarrassed but I know it still makes her chuckle to this day.

Ever since those fantasy days, I have had a serious love affair with the Nordstrom company. (And that’s Nordstrom, not Nordstrom’s, dang it. Huge pet peeve of mine.) I love their merchandise, their selection, their Anniversary Sale, their café, their customer service, everything. So it’s no doubt that I would die to work there.

I finally got the chance last summer, when I interviewed for a salesperson position in the tbd department. I showed up clad in my Current Elliott boyfriend jeans and Ella Moss top and gave what I thought was a great interview, only to be incredibly disappointed when the manager informed me the last weekend of training would occur when I was out of town. Are. You. Kidding. Me. It felt like all my dreams were flying out the window and the manager simply said, “Well, that’s too bad. Bye.”

Ugh, I was disgusted. No Nordstrom employee had ever treated me like that before and suddenly I was questioning everything the company stood for. Customer service? Okay sure. What about (potential) employee service? That’s important too!

Nevertheless, I forgot about it and my love for Nordstrom stayed in tact (although a bit dampened).

Since returning home for Christmas break, I’ve had the chance to read Delivering Happiness, an incredibly inspirational book written by the CEO of Zappos. I could write a whole other post on that, but the main point here is Tony’s philosophy on customer service. He strives to make it a focus of the entire company, not just a department. He also strives to nurture employee and vendor relationships as well.

Upon finishing the book, I unintentionally compared Zappos to Nordstrom and realized, “Hey, Nordstrom is one of those few companies that is genuinely about customer service.” They have always used customer service as the foundation of their company and I see it all the time – free shipping, shipping items from other stores, taking year-old returns, etc. And they consistently earn a spot in Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Bottom line? Their overall reputation is so ingrained in me that it would take 50 times that one bad experience to equal a truly negative view of the company. Now that, my friends, is incredible brand loyalty.

{ image from here }