Clarks wants to reach fashionistas, but needs to be more content savvy

MaryLou Costa is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and her blog brings her unique Australian perspective to brands. She also oversees the Market Research Focus weekly bulletin.

High street stalwart Clarks is looking to reposition itself as a brand for fashionistas, through its new brand imaging, partnerships and most importantly, products that any fashion conscious person would be proud to have in their wardrobe.

Clarks is looking to gain some real fashion credibility through strategic alliances with big names such as retail guru Mary Portas and Liberty, as well as targeting music lovers with indie band tie ups.

It’s really obvious in the imaging on display at the press preview in London this week: big glossy posters of fresh faced young women ready to put on their new Clarks floral wedges and pastel coloured t-bar stilettos, and young men in skinny jeans and vintage hawaiian shirts.

The Mary Portas range is particularly impressive – I can see the snake skin wedges that were on display becoming a celebrity must have. The premium red packaging goes with the premium price point.

Clarks Mary Portas
Clarks TBar heels
Clarks men

The Mary seal of approval seems to be worth gold at the moment as this also follows her collaboration with House of Fraser. Clarks has been under the guidance of Mary’s retail marketing agency Yellow Door for some time now and it seems that she obviously felt this was a brand she needed to get personally involved with. I can see she’s been very pragmatic in terms of keeping the comfort element but adding fashion to it.

But Clarks website and store environment still lags behind in the fashion stakes. The aesthetic of both is not one of an obvious fashion brand. But to Clarks’ credit, it has adopted features such as free delivery and returns, something that some fashion retailers have been slow to adopt. As we are starting to see, this is becoming a real differentiator and a reason for people to shop with your brand online over a competitor.

However, content has become a key strategic element for fashion brands and this is something Clarks is lacking in. There is fashion content on the site but the home page does not make this obvious and you have to go looking for it. It doesn’t feel very original and there isn’t much of it. There is so much potential for Clarks – it could position itself as the real shoe expert for all the shoe-aholics out there.

When even Tesco is blogging about fashion, you know this is something you need to be doing if you are going to be a real player in this space.

Perhaps Clarks is reluctant to go into fashion all guns blazing at a risk of alienating its more conservative core audience. This is going to be a challenge, but some of the big lessons of branding would be not going into something half baked, and that you can’t be everything to all people.

This is a syndrome that I would say M&S is beginning to suffer from – wanting to be fashion forward but reluctant to let go of its practical persona.

There is clearly a lot of love for the Clarks brand. Everyone has a nostalgic connection to it, so it makes sense to revive this.

A fashion conscious youth audience is likely to be more profitable than Clarks’ traditional family audience. But catering them is going to take a lot more than strappy stilettos and attractive branding – Clarks needs to get moving with content.

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