Marketing Week (MW): Asos’ annual results reveal that marketing costs have increased 54% year on year to £14.3m. How has this affected what you have been able to achieve with the brand?
Clare Dobbie (CD): There is a real belief in the Asos brand. We don’t spend much of our budget on traditional media – we’ve never had a big ad model and that’s not something we are about to fundamentally change. We get good return on our investment and we invest in where most people will see it – we have embraced social media in an uparalleled way. The fact that it’s an innate part of what we do makes us behave as a marketing department that puts the customer first, and we can be fleet of foot about it.
We have also invested in bringing in talent to the marketing team, from both the online and fashion businesses. Our photographers, art directors and models have also improved over the past couple of years. Our production unit is now a high-performance machine.
MW: How will Asos’ international expansion see your role evolve?
CD: It makes my job more global, but global from an online perspective doesn’t mean visiting 15,000 shops. It’s interesting to be able to sit in [our London HQ in] Camden and listen to customer comment from around the world – it takes being customer centric to a different level. Not just by using hard data but through ongoing consumer listening.
MW: Your background includes roles at fashion brands Banana Republic, Gap and Nike. What has been the biggest transition from the world of physical retail to purely online?
CD: Not having stores to worry about is a real transition; it’s neither positive nor negative, just different. Having so many customer insights at your fingertips and being able to make the most of that quickly is the beauty of online. Our customers are as vocal when they like something as when they don’t.
We can wake up, see that something’s trending brilliantly on Twitter, change the home page before 11am and have updated sales lists by 2pm. The immediacy you have in pre-empting and mirroring people’s desires is incredibly exciting.
MW: What involvement do you have in Asos Magazine?
CD: The magazine sits within the marketing department, as does PR and digital marketing. We’re working on digitising it further and taking it to a much wider audience. It goes out to 456,000 people, which makes it the second biggest women’s interest lifestyle/fashion monthly magazine in the UK [after Glamour]. It’s part of our customer loyalty programme and the minute someone doesn’t get it, we hear about it.
MW: You sit on the company’s board, alongside Nick Robertson. What’s it like working with him?
CD: Nick is a relaxed person and a good leader who is all about the customer and brand, so he fosters that environment. He’s dynamic and expects lots from people. The success makes you more enthusiastic and there is a good culture here to have a go at things. There is nothing complacent about him and it’s a very motivational environment to work in.