How Pinteresting

I set up a Pinterest account several months ago but never really used it until I suggested the company I work for adopt the platform. The statistics I found in favour of the social networking site were glowing with Pinterest generating significant traffic to retail sites, and many referrals translating into purchases. Damage control is at a minimum too, with most users pinning inspiring content instead of the mouthy, opinionated blather that stews on Twitter.

But Pinterest is quite a lot of fun I’ve discovered (quelle surprise), and an easy way to siphon off 30-odd minutes before bed or on the bus. And because it’s an image-based platform it doesn’t feel intrusive or prying like Facebook, but rather like a fun, whimsy aside you can call upon at a later date.

Anyhow, seeing that I spend my days combing retail sites, it’s becoming clear that e-tailers are trying to tap into a social experience and build communities or hubs that orbit their brand, with users increasingly looking to brands for original content as much as quality products.

I’ve already mentioned my favourite store here, & Other Stories, whose e-commerce site is modelled on Pinterest with stylised images that can readily be explored online. But Sephora, the American make-up mecca, have taken the social experience further with their forum-style Beauty Board.

The idea’s simple but effective: users (ie real-life people) upload their beauty and hair images with a run-through of which products they used and how they created their look. Readers can instantly shop the products which appear in an automatic tab to the right, and have the opportunity to leave product reviews or comments under each image, creating a dialogue and giving would-be buyers insight into the product’s potential.

By harnessing the chatter created on Instagram and recognising the influence of forums, blogs and above all Pinterest, Sephora has positioned itself neatly amongst the dialogue, filling the cracks that naturally appear online. Where I’ve scanned Pinterest in the past and racked my brains as to the exact shade of coral, the site steps up and gives its users the tools to recreate a look, ensuring each look is readily shoppable, integrating the idea as a whole.

Of course, there’ll always be someone who takes the piss.
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The Timid Blogger

For someone interested in marketing, I’m appallingly bad at marketing myself. I ran into an old friend recently and was intrigued by his ability to inform me of his goings-on with CV-like precision. Meanwhile I was left stammering my usual self-deprecating nonsense before asking for more information about his fun life abroad.

My limited branding skills go further than one-on-one conversations though (in fact one-on-one is normally where I thrive). I’m incapable of marketing this blog through the usual social media channels with the majority of readers finding me the organic way: Google search.

It seems ridiculous that I can’t bask in the spoils of hard work seeing that I work pretty hard on each post. And unfortunately, the Internet is only getting smaller – while seeming infinitely larger – meaning timid bloggers like myself are  increasingly becoming marginalised on the web.

A recent Nielsen report highlighted last year’s mobile internet usage with some 89% of online browsing taking place through apps rather than the web.  Women – presumably my target audience – also spend more time logged into mobile apps than their male counterparts do. Essentially, apps are splintering  the web and preventing mobile-heavy users from finding non-Facebook highlighted stories; terrible news for a timorous writer like myself.

When blogging became mainstream five or six years ago, it was lauded as organic and unique. This view has since turned sour with street style blogs increasingly reflecting the mainstream media values they were thought to shun.

Increasingly, blogging has become more about self-branding than it has quality content. And in an age where Facebook reigns supreme, only the best brands will stand out and succeed against the company’s user data-driven model and targeted ads.

As they say, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Just not the Internet.

Blurred Lines

I spend a significant portion of my day scanning online clothing stores, digital consultancy sites and the Sunday Times Style mag, plucking headlines and copy ideas while trying to get my head around key styles for the season at hand.

I’ve become relatively intuitive to good marketing and wary of savvy product endorsements, but what irritates me is the increasingly obvious, frequently banal hard-sell across different platforms.

NET-A-PORTER and Mr. Porter offer the most cohesive Internet experience in my opinion, creating a clear-cut pathway between inspiration and transaction.

The Edit, NET-A-PORTER’S digital magazine, offers users an integrated experience by combining new and traditional media and creating a product that’s unique but inherently familiar. By comparison, GQ.com runs weekly Mr. Porter style edits with press shots and copy, which serves as quick and effective click-bait.

That a print magazine has lapsed into limited content marketing, where its source has moved into quality content production, is remarkable but perhaps not surprising.

Last week, NET-A-PORTER launched Porter, its new global publication featuring bespoke fashion and lifestyle features, which can be shopped via your phone. Porter’s effortless amalgam of content and commerce underlines a desire amongst retailers to utilise media in new and creative ways that promote the brand and give it a lifestyle dimension.

This is something that H&M and its subsidiary brands do this with aplomb (how cool and gimmicky is t-commerce?) Earlier this month, the company teamed up with Bauer Media to launch a new website for 20-something women called The Debrief. Using tailor-made native advertising (read: undercover adverts dressed up as genuine editorial content), the company encourages readers to click through to the online store and shop the looks that inspire them.

Meanwhile, H&M’s sibling brand Cos launched its fourteenth bi-annual magazine last week. Free in-store, it pursues the brand’s minimalist aesthetic through typography and design, with articles featuring well-known figures in Cos clothes. It’s not quite as understated as Porter but it’s the same idea at heart.

These endeavors, all funded through Internet shopping, show an ability amongst retailers to adapt to the digital sphere, transcend our expectations, and create brand identities which readers can instantly explore online. What this means for journalism is intimidating, but what it signifies for retailers seems pretty exciting.

Cool Story, Bro

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Fashion after college was a slight whirlwind. I started working in an art gallery shortly after, then moved into an e-commerce business where I was asked to waive my rights to blue jeans and unusual hair colours. I started my first month with a remarkable collection of black clothing collected over several years and built on these with new structured separates from Cos.

Through my new job I became interested in online retail and began to study my favourite brands (all Swedish), observing their social media platforms and checkout processes while carefully honing in on their online image and its role in creating a strong brand identity.

The process began with Cos, moving through H&M’s remarkable catalogue of celeb collaborations, with a stop-off at Acne, before landing on H&M’s new sub-brand & Other Stories.

& Other Stories’ website is remarkable: playing on the concept of Pinterest, it is a high concept brand that combines the austerity of Cos with the brand’s vibrant, mischievous aesthetic. The result, like Pinterest, is addictive, and the site’s assertive merchandising strategy constantly pulls you in with more shoes, more jewellery and more make-up.

I visited & Other Stories in Stockholm last week where their store was adorned with mood boards, tables of leather, wool and cashmere accessories, a make-up area with light wood counters and a second floor dedicated to shoes.

Naturally I more-or-less bankrupted myself in that little space on Biblioteksgatan, but my heart also skipped a beat when I read this morning that & Other Stories will finally ship to Ireland.

Until then however, I think I’ll stop off at their Regent Street Store when I visit London in March. If only to cash in on this Simone Rocha-esque workwear line.

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Digital Mailing Lists and Online Look-Books

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Gosh, which one am I?

God knows why but every so often I suddenly think that inking my digital signature into an online clothing store’s mailing list is a good idea. And nine time out of ten I’m wrong. What’s more, getting my name crossed off that list usually winds up being infuriatingly tedious and kind of like the online equivalent of a Chinese finger trap.

So wait. You said nine time out of ten. Does that mean you’ve made an exception somewhere online?

Yes, there was an exception, and the exception was Topshop. But Topshop’s the only one! I spend a lot of time pissing about on the website, so I suppose it’s only natural that I’d enjoy scrutinising weekly look-books featuring the same washed out ankle grazers I almost bought, paired with a jumper I wouldn’t have considered, and all browsed from the comfort of my phone.

So what’s your point?

Well, one of the kickers that come with shopping looks is that looks never have to deal with the real world. I mean, Office, meet my Galactica sequined playsuit. Playsuit, meet my gawping colleague.

If magazine features were people, then this would be where one would sidle over and cock its hip and say in a reminding voice, “But with the right accessories, you can turn that sensible day-time look into a night-time one that’s kickin’!

And what would you say?

Well I’d say thanks Ms. Magazine Feature but there are several problems at hand that lead me to believe you’ve never tried and tested your own advice. Firstly, is one expected to lug a suitcase from home to work to the club?

And if not, if we perhaps “layer” the different looks as you advise, then what’s the call of duty if the heater in work’s been turned up and you find yourself forced to expose some sequin?

Trying to comfortably incorporate multiple looks into one day is difficult, even in college. Truthfully, I have no real advice. In College I found that adding a white fur headband and red lipstick garnered both side-glances and pettings from strangers.

So that’s it, that’s all you’ve got?

Well, if you’re interested in sage advice, then mine would be thus: wear black. Black works. Black dresses and boots work. So do black dresses and boots and modest black cardigans for the office.

Black mascara is also good. At the moment I’d recommend Benefit’s “They’re Real”, which really is flake-free.

Obv no one will ever look as good on the job or in the club as The Good Wife’s Kalinda Sharma but a good mascara, some black clothes, good shoes and maybe a piece of statement jewellery will at least help you maintain that you did rock it from AM to PM.

Or at least from 8am to 11pm.