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Xcel Brands Featured In Forbes – “Xcel Brands, Isaac Mizrahi and QVC: Partners For Success”

By: Paula Rosenblum

Xcel Brands is the parent company for the Isaac Mizrahi, Judith Ripka and Liz Claiborne New York brands. I had the opportunity to chat with Xcel Brands’ Chairman of the Board and CEO Robert D’Loren last week and learned a lot about the company and its partnership with QVC. We spent most of our time focusing specifically on the Isaac Mizrahi brand, which Xcel has owned for the past two years.

Most people I know think of Isaac Mizrahi as a clothing designer and judge on TV’s Project Runway All-stars. My own first memory of him was as one of the original “cheap chic” designers that helped drive Target TGT +0.83%’s glory days of fashion in the early 2000’s. Prior, he was a high-end fashion designer. Once he moved away from high end fashion, circumstance and fortune put him in the position to bring a design ethos to the masses.

Mr. D’Loren described Mr. Mizrahi’s legacy well: he is the designer that oversaw the democratization of style. Certainly with his role on Project Runway All-Stars and appearances on QVC he continues that legacy. Since selling his business to Xcel Brands, Mr. Mizrahi has been able to spend more time curating the product assortment and less time actually designing it himself. More and more he is the face and the ethos of the brand while Xcel manages both day-to-day operations and finding the right vendors to make the Mizrahi product.

Xcel Brands itself is a hidden dynamo. The company strongly positions itself as an “omni-channel” leader – meaning it reaches customers across any media they choose to interact with: TV, stores, online, social media…wherever the customer goes, Xcel Brands is ready to meet them. Certainly the data is compelling:

  • Isaac Mizrahi Live on QVC reaches 99 Million households in the US and 14 Million in Canada
  • Isaac recently launched an e-commerce site, announced it to the world on QVC, and within moments, over 1,000 new visitors came to the site
  • Since partnering with Xcel Brands, Isaac’s QVC score has gone from a 2.5 to a 4.5 out of 5

How has it moved so quickly and done so much? According to Mr. D’Loren, it’s much more about product than it is about math. The analytics support the art form, rather than driving the entire business. This is something I have generally been paying close attention to. While my background is solidly in technology, I’ve also seen what happens when a company forgets about the intangible art of designing and selecting the right product. It breaks an unspoken promise to the consumer: the Brand promise.

Mr. D’Loren has been a brand manager for a long time. He has owned thirty-two brands, of which seven were retailers. He has produced everything from home furnishings to couture. His President and Chief Operating Officer, Joe Falco is the “product guy” or as he would be called in the industry, the head merchant. They work in the same office, face-to-face doing complimentary work. Mr. D’Loren is responsible for the overall look. His philosophy is simple” “Shopping should be joyful.” And too often, it just isn’t.

With every brand it takes on, Xcel asks itself “What is the brand’s ideal? What is its highest purpose?” That’s how they came to recognize Mr. Mizrahi as the ‘style democratization’ guy. He was the first designer to say you could wear a $1,500 jacket with $50 pants. The key is apparently in matching up high and low end merchandise to their best effect.

The earliest public example of this mixed-metaphor ethos was Sharon Stone at the 1996 Oscars. She wore a Gap GPS +0.99% turtleneck over an Armani velvet coat and Valentino slacks. Designer dresses come and go, yet a quick search on “Sharon Stone gap turtleneck Oscars” will reveal many web sites citing the look as one of the top-ten of all time. She did it again in 1998, wearing her husband’s white shirt with a long skirt designed by Vera Wang. Mr. Mizrahi did not oversee those looks, but he certainly spotted the trend and popularized it.

Once the brand ideal is established, everything is built around it: from messaging and collateral to stores to web sites, to the clothes themselves. Mr. D’Loren believes it’s critical to embed honesty, transparency and into the corporate culture. The way messaging and collateral is delivered depends on the target customer base. As Mr. D’Loren explained, Millennials want to ‘get behind the ropes’. They’re not so much fans of traditional marketing. Rather, they prefer streaming media. This extends beyond just the QVC TV show itself, but to supporting messaging as well.

Traditional marketing still plays a role, mostly with the brand’s older demographic groups. This appears to be a coming trend. In fact, my own company, RSR Research, has found in our research that while traditional mass marketing still dominates, retailers are starting to move away from it, towards more personalized approaches. This likely is a function of Baby Boomers moving out of their prime discretional spending years and Millennials rising up to become the next mammoth market.

Retailers and brand managers might take a strong lesson from the parting comments Mr. D’Loren made to me. When I asked him about branding he replied, “What does a brand really mean? It means Trust. Whatever your value proposition or promise is, you have to deliver.”

QVC has been a partner in fulfilling its own and Isaac Mizrahi’s brand promise. Their numbers speak for themselves. I received a long and impressive list from the company’s public relations firm, but the one that stuck with me was this one: of all QVC’s sales, 90% are from repeat customers. How many retailers can say the same?

As I look at a list of retailers who struggle today, I wish they could hang those words in the hallways of their home offices and back rooms of their stores. We’ve become very focused on branding in the retail industry. The explosion of information and selling channels allows a retailer to drive home a branding message daily. But stores, web sites and most importantly, product is where they are meant to fulfill that promise. Doing so is a prescription for success.

Not doing so…well, at best, it’s a bad idea. Over the long haul, it’s a prescription for failure.

Read Original Article on Forbes.com

Emerging Media – Top 10 PR Agencies for Mobile Apps

New Independent Research Site Launches with Comprehensive Agency Rankings

Top 10 PR Agencies

Emerging Media is ranked as one of the Top 10 PR Agencies for Mobile and Wireless applications! That was the surprise we received on Monday via an email notification from a new independent research site called Top PR Agencies. The newly newly launched TopPRAgencies.com (press release)  has done quite a bit of research to develop their rankings and have populated a very comprehensive database of Public Relations firms. In addition to the rankings, the site promises to provide a comprehensive directory of PR agencies, research tools, blogs, press releases and a knowledge center.

Emerging Media has been working with Mobile and Wireless space for several years now and is very proud of what we have achieved for our clients. Our clients have spanned mobile applications, mobile radio, advertising and even software infrastructure for the industry. Here are just a few:

StearClear, an app-based designated driver service that gets you and your car home safely
Echolocation, a new hyper-local, micro-blogging app that connects users to highly relevant content based upon their location
TargetSpot: the largest Internet and mobile radio advertising network
WebNMS: A leading provider of wireless and mobile infrastructure software

top 10 pr agencies“As technologies have changed, we’ve found creative ways to adapt our PR strategies with the times – from content creation to events to social media,” said Susan Lindner, President of Emerging Media. “We’re inspired by the businesses we work with, and how these technologies move all of us forward”

The Top PR Agencies site shows great promise. They have already put a ton of effort and work into creating a great database that will be a helpful resource to agencies and corporate PR departments alike. We will certainly keep an eye on the site and see if we can improve our rankings over time!

EMERGING MEDIA JOINS THE GLOBAL PR NETWORK

25 Top-tier Firms Form Global Alliance

Global PR NetworkEmerging Media has broadened its international reach by becoming a founding member of the Global PR Network. The organization is comprised of some of the leading full-service public relations agencies that deliver global, regional and multi-country PR campaigns for a wide range of technology companies. The network’s objective is to support business growth strategies across the globe by creating compelling content to build and execute integrated public relations campaigns and social media strategies. The Global PR Network is comprised of 25 full service PR, marketing, branding and social media firms across North America, EMEA, South America and Asia and can provide services through a single point of contact or on a country-by-country basis.

The Global PR Network offers the following services for B2B, consumer electronics and technology companies:

  • Corporate public relations
  • Digital marketing services
  • Article writing services
  • Communication management
  • Social media campaigns
  • Social media management
  • Media training
  • SEO services
  • Business communication
  • Public opinion shaping
  • White papers
  • Press release distribution
  • Integrated marketing communications

 

For more than 10 years, Emerging Media has specialized in working with international technology companies looking make a mark in the U.S. market. We have successfully worked with more than 25 international companies, ranging from start-ups to market leaders, helping them differentiate themselves and thrive in a highly competitive and crowded marketplace. We have partnered with many international agencies and have managed global campaigns for some of the largest companies in their industries.

“Our goal in founding the Global PR Network was to connect exceptional independent firms around the globe so that we can leverage our experience to further the goals of our clients,” said Susan Lindner, President of Emerging Media. “All the firms share the same dedication to excellence and customers service which makes us effective partners when working with a client.”

If you want to learn more or need an international team for your PR and marketing initiatives, check out the Global PR Network.

Instagram’s Insta-Scam: 5 Lessons to Learn

TOS Change Spurs Boycott of the Popular Service

On Monday, photo-sharing service and online hipster club, Instagram, released that it would be changing its terms of service within the next 30 days. Essentially, the announcement left the door open for Instagram to use photos shared by users for Instagram’s advertising and would allow other third-parties access to those photos (presumably at a premium). A lot of sites are having a difficult time trying to monetize their, often awesome, features and Instagram is a big player in the social space trying to do just that.

Loyal users took to (other) social media platforms immediately to share their uproar, spawning the quick proliferation of  #BoycottInstagram and sending the hashtag up the Twitter trending flagpole. In short, the idea of Instragram letting companies pay for user’s personal photos without their permission was too much for Instagramers to handle and, being social media inclined, they made sure to speak up.

In just over 24 hours after the terms of service had been released, and the ensuing backlash heard, Instragram co-founder Kevin Systrom posted a blog response aptly titled “Thank You and We’re Listening.” The blog post assured users that, “Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos” and that he really heard the message of their users.

There is a lot we can learn from Instagram’s response. Here is what they did right:

  1. React…Quickly: Instagram didn’t just respond to their customer’s complaints, they did it promptly. Because the complaints were made in a real time medium, they responded in the speed that is required of “real time.” These days, if you don’t respond to social media complaints within 24 hours, you are leaving your customers hanging. In many cases this will make them doubly angry, and an angry customer is a customer lost.
  2. Respond in the Same Medium: Too often companies that have an issue respond to complaints in ways that don’t quite seem congruous with the complaint. But if your house is flooding, you aren’t going to pull out the fire extinguisher. Similarly, if you get a letter of complaint, you should respond with a letter. In today’s online era, if you get a complaint online, you also need to reply in that way.
  3. Acknowledgment of the Specific Complaints: Unless you are getting thousands of letters every day (like the President) there is no reason you shouldn’t personalize your response. By acknowledging the specific issues that your customers (you know, the people that make you money) are having,  you are showing that you are really truly listening to you customers. In turn, they feel appreciated and confident that you are capable of solving the issue, simply because you understand it. With a simple, “we’ve heard loud and clear,” Instagram shows they have been listening… seriously.
  4. Show Appreciation: Although it may be negative feedback, it is still your customer talking. If your customers are taking the time to verbalize specific complaints, and not just drop your service, it means they want to know you heard them. Additionally, the feedback is an amazing resource because it allows you to hear directly from ACTUAL customers, which you can use (if you’re smart) to make your business better and appeal more to your clientele  In the future, I bet instagram will be a lot more sensitive to all issues around privacy.
  5. Share Resolutions or Timetable: Even if you don’t have the solution yet, in times of crisis it is more important than ever to be transparent. The trust between the business and the customer has been broken causing visible outrage and even users to drop your service. The first order of business, especially if your in the business of collecting peoples personal info and lives, is repairing that trust. The best way to do that is to fix the issue. Unfortunately, in the 24-hour news cycle of today you barely have time to breath before issues can explode. The next best thing then is sharing HOW exactly you plan to fix the issue.

BONUS: One thing Instagram SHOULD Have Done

  1. Say Sorry: So often companies in crisis will respond by only fixing the issue. In this case, Instagram acknowledged the complaint, but rather than apologizing for their actions that led to their customer’s issues they provided an excuse: “Legal documents are easy to misinterpret.” Acknowledging that you made a miss-step actually makes you more human and relatable  When people complain, especially in social media, they are doing it in part because they want to heard, not just because they are upset. If they were just angry they would stop using the service. Saying sorry tells your clients you hear them and value their opinions. One word, 5 letters can make all the difference.

~Julie Kaviar

~@jkaviar

Why Should You Engage on Facebook? Answer: 12%

Over the last decade, the number of people who have used the internet has more than tripled.  Here’s another doozy: the number of people on Facebook alone is the same as the number of total internet users a decade ago. Take a moment to think about that. That means that 12% of the world is on Facebook. That’s 1 billion people waiting and wanting to share, comment, like and engage. Think of it this way: that’s an opportunity for you, your company, and your brand to engage with 1 billion people. And we know that 53% of active social networkers follow a brand.

So the only question is: are you engaging enough?

image via briansolis.com

 

We’re here when you’re ready…

That was the subject line that arrived in my inbox Friday afternoon – the email that followed just made me smile. It was from the service of one of our clients, Plum Benefits, who typically sends me a weekly email containing vibrant images along with the best deals or seats to my favorite sporting events or Broadway shows. This “weekly” email, however, was void of their normal type of marketing and was instead full of words. Plum Benefits simply wanted to reach out and see how I was doing, how my coworkers and their families were doing, how the CEO of one of the biggest insurance agencies in Manhattan was doing. This company CARED.

For some companies, the loss of business during Hurricane Sandy caused many to get to a point where they will not be able to recover. Those able to survive through this part, however, are eager to come back strong and make up for any lost time. It’s how the company takes these next steps that determines their future as a business. Those who are smart will change their marketing efforts to reflect what is going on in the world around them.

Following an event such as Hurricane Sandy, there comes a point where life just has to push through and return to a certain level of normalcy. Even within the city limits, this return will be at different places for different people, with these people finding their own path to that return.

For a business to start exploiting losses with an advertising campaign for their furniture company featuring a couch floating in a lake (yes, I actually saw this), the insensitivity and distastefulness will not get them far at all. What those working hard to regain their lives need is a something more like the email I received last Friday. I, along with the masses who are pushing through the devastation, are going to be more open to a campaign that resonates deep within my thoughts and feelings in my current state. What I received from Plum Benefits helped get me through that day, forget about where I was in my return to normalcy. They did it right.

Now don’t get me wrong, I will remember the other marketing campaign I saw, but will I ever buy from that furniture store any time soon? Far from likely. I am looking for that company that wants to continue to build a relationship with me, to show me there are humans on the other end of the email, and although they may be trying to get back to business they are letting me know that they’re here when I’m ready.

~Stephanie Vaughan
@androidiano

Social Media: Now & Then

Social media has come a long way since the first blogs and online forums. Gone are the days when “the internets” was for the nerds who spent their time not having friends and wearing pocket protectors. Just 40 years after the invention, not being on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr AND Pinterest renders you basically invisible. This is even more true when you are a product or brand – if I can’t google you, you don’t exist. In this last decade we have sen that not only do you need to have online visibility, but you also need to have online likeability. It’s not enough to just have a website telling people what you do, but you need to have social outlets to share who you are.

Check out the succinct infographic below to see how far we’ve come.

~Julie Kaviar

@JKaviar

October Starts Out Right

We are thrilled to announce that Emerging Media has been selected as the Winner of the 2012 Golden Bridge Awards for the Consumer Launch Campaign of the Year.  The Emerging Media campaign called “Dirty, Sexy, Gadgets!” launched the tech accessories company, Toddy Gear. Emerging Media’s integrated communications efforts in branding, public relations, and social media catapulted Toddy Gear’s brand and product lines to sales success and media acclaim.

In addition to the international recognition of the Golden Bridge Award,Emerging Media was selected as a Finalist in the Digital PR Awards. The award is among the industry’s top honor in the PR/communications digital space, recognizing outstanding digital initiatives among organizations that took chances, and understand the power of digital communications in public relations.

Emerging Media has recently been chosen to participate in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program. The program is providing $500 million in investments to help small businesses create jobs and economic opportunity by providing them with greater access to business education, financial capital, and business support services.

We are so proud of our recent accomplishments for our clients, and these awards validate our work in the PR industry and ability to execute integrated public relations, social media and marketing programs that have an actual impact on our client’ businesses. After 10 years of business, we are continuing the commitment to our clients: deploying smart, creative teams worldwide using cutting edge communications strategies, to achieve our clients’ most critical business objectives.

 

We are proud to be recognized for our recent efforts and enthusiastic to maintain our expert-only approach in our upcoming ventures. We look forward to the next 10 years of providing high ROI expert-only public relations and marketing to our clients.

Fun Friday! Learn What Cardinal PR Rule Fox News Broke!

Fox News broke a cardinal PR rule this week when they let Max Rice go live with Gretchen Carlson on Fox and Friends. They didn’t properly vet their source.

Rice, an aspiring comedian from Austin, Texas, tells Raw Story how he went on, after lying constantly throughout the vetting process, with the intention of showing up the news organization.

Summary from Gawker:

Starting off by sup’ping Gretchen Carlson before greeting her with “Hello Miss USA” (Carlson was crowned Miss America in 1989), Rice — who may or may not be this guy — goes on to explain that a bet on a basketball game made him switch affiliations.

And the interview rolls steadily downhill from there.

Check out the full video below:

Whether you’re on the PR side, and you are prepping a client for an interview, or a reporter researching sources for your next piece, vetting your spokespeople is top priority. As a PR professional, you want your spokespeople to share the company, cause or case in the best possible light. Reporters should reasonably be sure that the source will be able to answer the questions being asked.

So remember: always ask the right questions, and always double check the answers.

By Julie Kaviar

~@JKaviar

 

6 Lessons PR Pros can Chew Off from Shark Week

Shark Week, a full week during the year that has been described as “The Discovery Channel’s most tantalizing hours of television,” is back underwater for another 357 days. But there is much we can keep afloat from the incredible buzz and excitement that surrounded the 25th anniversary of TV’s most shark infested week of the year that featured YouTube celebrity Philip DeFranco as host.

The Discovery Channel has found a way to attract the masses over the years, whether they are those fascinated by each intricate detail of a shark’s daily life, or, like many Superbowl watchers, tune in for fear they will miss something worth discussing with friends. With over 550,000 likes on Facebook and over 750,000 tweets from celebrities and Shark Week fans, it is no wonder that the creators and PR specialists of Shark Week have something to teach us.

And so, with nothing left to watch on TV, we can now swim away with these 6 marketing lessons brought to us by Shark Week:

1.)   Catch every fish in the sea: Sharks. Five year olds love them, 50 year olds love them. Even with terrifying stories of shark attacks, the general population will become more intrigued rather than less. The Discovery Channel has hit the jackpot in finding a topic that appeals to the masses.

2.)   Surf on the wake of something HUGE: For those who had been glued to their television for 17 straight days watching amazing feats of human strength and physical ability, there was angst as to what to do next. Shark Week’s 25th Anniversary, most likely through no coincidence, started the night of the 2012 Olympics closing ceremonies instead of the week it typically runs, two weeks prior. By rescheduling, The Discovery Channel could ride the Olympic wave as the next big event. The move helped this year’s premier gobble 21.4 million viewers compared to the 18.63 million in 2011, for in all key demos.

3.)   Go with your gut instinct: No matter when a great idea comes along, make a move if your gut tells you to. Shark Week was allegedly created on a cocktail napkin while three Discovery Channel execs were sitting at a bar. 25 years later, Shark Week draws more than 25 million viewers.

4.)   Use the right bait: Everywhere you turned in 2012 there were glimpses of Shark Week, due in large part to The Discovery Channel’s use of social media and products developed around the series. This prompted others to latch onto the idea, creating increasingly popular memes & animated gifs to share on twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, Shark Week related games, and my personal favorite, the shark cat costume.

5.)   Never let the idea swim into the deep blue sea: To keep Shark Week, or your promotion, in people’s minds, it is necessary to keep the idea fresh after it is over. For example, the simple Shark Week Countdown is available for those die-hards who are already looking forward to next year. Create enough buzz in the off-season, and you might get big names like Steven Colbert, who claimed Shark Week a the biggest holiday next to Christmas in December of 2010, to keep that buzz going.

6.)   Show off your growth rings: Whether it’s your 5th, 20th, or 100th anniversary, let it be known. Anniversaries prove that the company, product, or event has staying power and it must be worth paying attention to. Shark Week just celebrated its 25th year, and did not let it go unknown. They furthered media presence by issuing press releases, selling limited edition mugs, and even having a 25th Anniversary bash sponsored by Volkswagen.

What other blood can be drawn from this phenomenal display of television programming?

 

 

~Stephanie Vaughan
@androidiano