Look Inside First

March 30, 2016
March 30, 2016 Amy Weber

“If you don’t bring a brand to life on the inside, it won’t survive on the outside.” – Libby Sartain

As the media marketplace has gotten more and more fragmented and consumers are harder to reach than ever, it’s easy for brands to focus entirely on their target consumer, while forgetting about other key constituents. What many forget is that often times, a key component of marketing a brand these days may be right under your nose. Following-up on our post looking at the importance of Wegmans employee actions, we are now looking at the importance of your internal team and how they can provide the key insight that you are looking for.

The impetus for this post came after I attended an Ad Club CMO Breakfast featuring the dressbarn Vice President of Marketing, Stephanie Garbarini. I was excited by the opportunity to take a morning away from the office and learn about fashion marketing, especially after their groundbreaking campaign last fall. Their out-of-home board in Downtown Crossing station literally stopped me in my tracks on my commute one evening. Not surprisingly, Stephanie did not disappoint.

Facing a retail landscape that was changing just as quickly as the marketing industry is, Stephanie spoke about how dressbarn wanted to return to their roots as a way to stand out from the new competition. Those roots led directly to their founder, Mrs. Jaffee, a woman who seems to possess equal parts innovation, tenacity, compassion and spitfire. Which, of course, made me wish that she was my Grandmother! What I also learned is that the team at dressbarn took a look back and discovered that she was onto something 51 years ago when she founded the organization. When auditing their internal audience, they had a strong company culture with many employees who had been with the organization for 30+ of those 51 years. There is a culture and personality among those who have dedicated their life to this company that needed to be harnessed to usher in the next generation of dressbarn consumers.

Armed with that perspective as a filter, dressbarn set out to change category perceptions among key influencers in the fashion space. Knowing they had to make a splash, they developed a campaign that was unapologetically proud. A characteristic that rang true across store clerks, managers and the leadership team. And because it was true to the internal brand, it made quite the splash with external constituents, leading to social influencers as noteworthy as Chrissy Teigen to feel inclined to start a discussion around dressbarn. As they move forward, dressbarn has already announced their next partnership with model and body activist, Ashley Graham and I, personally, am already on the lookout for their spring campaign.

So, what did I learn from my morning with dressbarn other than validating how well their marketing team is doing right now? While going through the effort of refreshing their brand, the best thing that dressbarn did was to start by looking internally. Yes, their work was unexpected and stood out for the category. But, no matter how edgy the work, if it hadn’t been genuine to their brand heritage and to their employees who live the company culture everyday, it wouldn’t sustain and ultimately drive their current and future business. So, when looking for the next big thing to help your brand standout, don’t forget to look inside, because the answer may be closer than you think.


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