Authenticity. It’s something all brands strive for and all consumers want to see. Brand authenticity proves you’re real, reliable, respectful, and in-tune with what your customers want, and it should permeate through every aspect of your brand: product, messaging, marketing, culture, innovations, strategies, storefronts, customer experience—the list goes on.
While it’s incredibly sought-after, authenticity is also incredibly hard for brands to achieve in today’s highly competitive, oversaturated market, where ingenuity can feel forced and fall flat pretty quickly. Through 1:1 personalization and quality content, marketers today are taking action to strengthen brand perception and prove to audiences they’re truly authentic.
I recently spoke with Lauren Messer, Senior Marketing Manager for Fossil Group, on the topic and how they plan to capture and resonate with their audiences this year and beyond. Here’s what she said about establishing brand essence, creating and maintaining customer loyalty, and teaming up with Amazon to meet consumers where they’re at.
What are your top marketing priorities for 2018?
At Fossil, we’re focused on: driving marketing innovation across smartwatches and traditional categories; delivering targeted marketing that meets shoppers where they are and in a way that is meaningful and resonates; achieving top-of-mind awareness across accessories categories; and reimagining watches through traditional, hybrid (smartwatches), and display smartwatches.
We’re a very creative spirit here, so we want to make sure that shines through our marketing. We have a couple of fun celebrity and influencer partnerships in the works, too. Our customers are really resonating with these partnerships, as long as we highlight people who embody our authenticity at Fossil. They very much appreciate our dedication to authenticity.
“Our customers are really resonating with these partnerships, as long as we highlight people who embody our authenticity at Fossil. They very much appreciate our dedication to authenticity.”
Speaking of authenticity, what does it mean to you as a brand?
For nearly 35 years, Fossil has provided quality, stylish product that's classic and evolves with our customers. Fossil prides itself on holding true to that promise over the decades, and it's at the foundation of what we do.
We were built on what we call the “Americana spirit.” The year 1954 is showcased proudly on our products, from our tins to our leathers. This is a year we really relate to, and even though we were truly born in the ‘80s, we resonate back to that time period of the true Americana spirit. It also partners well with the spirit that’s around the building and what we do every day. Our authenticity is very visible in the fact that we execute everything here from conception to design, all the way to manufacturing and selling to the end customer. We own that entire experience and we want that to come through to our customers.
I’ve actually felt that from interacting with Fossil in the past, and that leads me to another conversation I have often with brands like yourself: Amazon is a competitor to every retailer no matter what, whether that’s wallet share or direct competition. Our study also states 45% of consumers say they typically shop on Amazon first.
How has Amazon impacted you and how do you use your authenticity to compete?
Well 45% shop there first, but even as high as 55% search there first. We realize Amazon is not a one-stop shop for our portfolio brands, but really as a brand itself is important to our customers. It’s important for us to be where our customers are, so if that’s where they’re shopping or even researching and reading reviews first, then it’s imperative we adapt to their lifestyle and meet them where they’re at.
We’ve heard time and time again that customers fully trust Amazon because of their shopping experience, their one-click purchase, and how fast they get products to people. Customers not only trust Amazon with all of their data but with their everyday life. That’s why it’s so important for us to be there, because of that trust. And that’s half the battle.
We do have a direct relationship, so we tend to treat Amazon as a wholesale account more than most brands do. We always put our site, our stores, and our experience first and foremost—that’s where consumers see the Fossil brand come to life. But how do we get that relationship across and make customers comfortable on Amazon if that’s where they choose to buy our product? We try to get our DNA across there as much as we can, whether that be through enhanced content or selection.
“Customers not only trust Amazon with all of their data but with their everyday life. That’s why it’s so important for us to be there, because of that trust.”
Your take on Amazon is a great example of how you make it easy for customers to shop with Fossil. What other tactics do you use to make it easier on them to interact with you?
That really goes back to how we’re using data every day and how we are making sure to give customers a true omnichannel experience. We are located in Texas, so our customers shouldn’t have to wait long for their product. And as I mentioned earlier, doing everything here from concept through the end consumer hopefully also makes it easier. Anything we’re learning from the customer and what’s important to them ideally should speak to the market there.
We have a million different focus groups and also very incredible, passionate employees in our stores, so we’re taking the feedback they’re gathering and learning how we can apply that to our product and our brand. All of this information is always very invaluable to us.
Can you tell us a bit more about how influencers have changed the game for Fossil and the way you engage consumers?
Influencers are a key part of Fossil's marketing strategy, since it allows the brand to connect with customers via ambassadors who have a platform. They allow our brand followers to have an immediate two-way discussion about the products and things that matter most to them. We’re still learning—we’ve gotten more strategic about these partnerships, such as our involvement with SXSW Create & Cultivate rather than random gifting—and we’re seeing immediate impacts. We'll continue to invest in an area that is evolving so much in the industry.
Native advertising is becoming increasingly important to customers, especially as we look at our partners as well. Amazon is kicking off an influencer program, and we’re testing some things now where we partner with influencers but drive them back to Amazon brand stores. Again, we’re driving customers back to the Fossil experience on Amazon where they might not have found us otherwise, because they’d be searching through Goldfish and toothpaste to try to find watches. It’s all about how we deliver the message there and bring them back to our brand with education and scope of product over on our websites.
“Influencers allow our brand followers to have an immediate two-way discussion about the products and things that matter most to them.”
Let’s switch gears a little bit to personalization. When it comes to your products, how important is it to your audience?
Personalization is key for us, and it really has been for a long time. When we first entered the space, we had tins for our sunglasses and our watches; that was something we thought would connect with the customer—they’re setting these tins on their dressers, using them for change, regifting them. It’s that personal touch that our customers have grown to expect from us.
From complimentary engraving and embossing to more strap options than ever, it's easy to "make it your own" with Fossil product. The brand is continuing to explore how to make personalization easy, fun, and meaningful for customers. We don’t want to sell something that’s stagnant, and we really want to make our product fit within our customers’ lifestyles.
How do you approach and leverage data-driven behavioral marketing?
I think compiling data always gets interesting—especially when you combine that with marketing mix modeling, multi-tool attribution, and behavioral data—but it’s really what do we do with that data and how we use it to better deliver to our customers that matters. For example, we don’t want to run a retargeting campaign for someone who already bought the same watch, and we don’t want to force our product down someone’s throat either. Our messaging needs to feel native, and with customer habit shifts, we must continue to adapt to meet their needs.
We have a lot of first-party data, whether that be through our own stores, our partners, or even via Amazon. We dive into that data to figure out who our customers are to make that experience better for them, ensure that we’re putting them into the correct funnel for conversion, and negatively targeting those who aren’t right for the brand or who’ve already purchased a particular product.
“Our messaging needs to feel native, and with customer habit shifts, we must continue to adapt to meet their needs.”
Do you feel the authenticity attitude, brick and mortar, and ways in which you treat customers give you an advantage over Amazon or other online competitors?
Yes, absolutely. We’re always trying to bring these qualities through to our wholesale partners to be present in their sites. We go through a pretty rigorous approval process for anyone that sells our product; we want them to have the same mindset and goals as us, and really walk with us through the process.
With Amazon selling our products, customers get that amazing Fossil experience online and in-store, but they also get to interact with the experience elsewhere. If it’s just a random watch they’re searching for on Amazon, we try to continue our story through our enhanced content and marketing on Amazon, in our keywords and SEO, in our A+ pages, in our AMS, AMG—the full gamut. We know our repeat customers want the Fossil experience, but also want the watch delivered in two hours via Amazon. We try to make it all come together.
You hear the necessary evil with Amazon a lot, but when it comes down to it, Amazon is the way
“You hear the necessary evil with Amazon a lot, but when it comes down to it, Amazon is the way the customer shops.”
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about Fossil, Lauren! It’s clear they view Amazon as a partner instead of the enemy, and use that relationship, and their authenticity, to their advantage in order to win over customers.
Looking for more tips on how marketers are leveraging behavioral messaging and multichannel data? Download “Marketers Are on a Mission: The State of B2C Marketing Report” for a pulse on what others are doing across industries and what today’s consumers truly want from brands.