Dressbarn has a new look this season. With slick ads shot by the renowned fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier and starring supermodel Hilary Rhoda alongside a menagerie of farm animals, the retailer is taking a playful approach to its folksy name and trying to reshape its image with high fashion in mind.
“The name Dressbarn hasn’t always been associated with fashion and is often the target of a few jokes,” said Lori Wagner, chief marketing officer for Dressbarn, in a statement. Dressbarn is part of Ascena Retail Group
. “We decided to have some fun with our name, run at it, not away from it!”
A company’s name is perhaps its most important marketing piece, so changing it would be a massive, and massively risky, undertaking. This is particularly true for a brand with the longevity of Dressbarn, which is 53 years old.
A rebranding that casts the company in a different light is preferable, in many respects, but comes with its own set of hazards — backlash from consumers among them.
But companies willing to step out on a limb can open the door for business gains.
“They’re obviously trying to reposition themselves to be relevant to the fashion world,” said Sam Aldenton, associate digital director at fashion trend forecasting and analysis company WGSN, in reference to the Dressbarn situation. “Part of that is elevating their product and staying relatable while poking fun at their name.”
To Aldenton, the point is not the high-fashion names attached to the Dressbarn campaign but the buzz generated for the brand. The campaign comes replete with a hashtag, #labelmeconfident, that taps into a message of women’s empowerment. Aldenton said that has been successful for such brands as Under Armour
, with its “I Will What I Want” campaign starring ballerina Misty Copeland, and the “Like a Girl” campaign for Procter & Gamble Co.
Always feminine-hygiene products.
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So far, Dressbarn has succeeded in garnering media attention for the campaign, which is good because, as Wagner told Women’s Wear Daily, it has no intention of changing the brand name. Research found that the name wouldn’t stop customers from trying the brand, the marketing chief told the magazine.
Other brands, such as KFC
which sought to broaden its appeal by evolving away from the Kentucky Fried Chicken name, and Boston Market, which also shifted away from its poultry specificity, have made the opposite decision.
Aldenton said she believes Dressbarn’s choice can meet with success. “Whenever you’ve got a strong creative and you back that up with ad spend, you’re going to see results,” she said.
Fruit of the Loom is another company that wanted to refresh its image. The 160-year-old underwear brand known for “tighty whities” and its spokesfruit, earlier this year embarked on an elaborate campaign in which it created a fake fashion brand called Plastique that featured men’s clothing made of plastic. Because the garments were see-through, the Fruit of the Looms underneath were on display.
The Plastique campaign included a “documentary” and a billboard.
“If you just come out and say it’s a fashion brand, there would be a disconnect,” said Ralph Watson, chief creative officer at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the advertising agency that worked on the “Plastique” campaign. He said a campaign that “pokes fun at the fashion world” was viewed as a better approach for Fruit of the Loom.
Watson believes Dressbarn’s campaign is “a pretty bold move,” he said, expressing admiration for its having taken ownership of a brand name that has come in for derision in the past.
“Most people now are so aware that they’re being advertised to that they appreciate when brands talk to them,” said Watson. “[Dressbarn] invited customers in on their own joke.”
But the effort can’t stop with the campaign. There isn’t a lot of brand loyalty in apparel retail, so the first step is persuading potential customers to consider Dressbarn in the first place, Watson said. To draw those customers to its stores and sell more clothing, the brand has to back up the ads with appealing stores and product offerings.
“If they attract new people and they don’t have the merchandise or the store experience to support it, those consumers most likely will never go back,” said Watson. “You have to make the store live up to the promise.”
Shares of Ascena Retail Group — whose other brands include Lane Bryant and Ann Taylor — are down 3% over the past three months. The S&P 500 is down 1.7% for the same period.
When it reported its latest earnings on Sept. 16, the company said it was refining its merchandise along with introducing the fall marketing campaign to boost financial performance.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for that fourth fiscal quarter were down to $37 million from $52 million the previous year. The company attributed the decline to negative same-store sales and markdowns.
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/dressbarn-shoots-for-image-upgrade-with-fall-ad-campaign-starring-farm-animals-2015-10-24