Brands in the fashion industry are built on their ability to innovate and create both beautiful and functional clothing and apparel. As a result, these brands have historically kept a tight grasp on their marketing messaging and brand creative. While other verticals gradually embraced the advent of the social web, and developed comprehensive strategies to engage digital consumers in two-way dialogue, many fashion brands have predictably taken longer to recognize the full value of this approach.

Today, however, there is enormous potential in involving consumers in brands’ marketing efforts. With more powerful cameras included on mobile devices, and the proliferation of visual platforms like Instagram, average consumers are creating an incredible amount of high-quality imagery and sharing it across their networks. In fact, there are now more than 500 million users on Instagram alone, sharing over 95 million photos per day.

Alongside this explosion of visual content exists a growing consumer demand for better, more personalized marketing experiences. Modern consumers expect brands to deliver messaging and offers that are in sync with their individual profiles. In the context of fashion, consumers no longer want to see how a jacket or handbag looks on a retouched image of a supermodel. Instead, they prefer to see these items on real people with similar body types, eye/hair colors, and skin tones as themselves.

Of course, discussing the need for more personalized marketing experiences and actually delivering on them are two separate realities entirely. Today’s fashion brands are desperately trying to create enough high-quality content to fill the new and emerging channels that seemingly pop up each and every day.

Fortunately, consumer-generated, or “earned,” content, has reached a maturity level to help with that effort. Here are three ways in which fashion brands can activate better marketing experiences using consumer imagery.

Improve Performance of Marketing Campaigns

Again, consumers are creating visual content at an unprecedented capacity, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. While this content is helpful in filling all of the relevant consumer touch points that fashion brands use to engage their audiences, its value extends beyond surface-level engagement. When used in paid efforts on email, display, and social advertising, earned content outperforms traditional brand-owned creative quite frequently. In fact, according to a study conducted by Worldwide Business Research in conjunction with Olapic, 90% of retail leaders using earned content are seeing measurably positive results from their campaigns.

Develop Authentic Relationships with Consumers

Fashion brands have increasingly come under fire for photoshopping models in their advertising. While the market continues to see examples of photoshop gone awry, other fashion brands have embraced real, authentic consumers in their marketing with great effect. For example, Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie sub-brand, notably eradicated the practice of touching up photos in its advertising two years ago. Using the campaign hashtag, #AerieReal, the brand has encouraged consumers to join in its self-love movement, and the effort has paid off. In the first fiscal quarter of 2016, the brand reported a staggering 32% increase in revenue. This is just one example of how a fashion brand can simultaneously encourage the creation and distribution of high-quality consumer content while building more authentic relationships with their segmented audiences. Essentially, earned content represents a win-win scenario for fashion brands hoping to sidestep the stigma of photoshop while still maintaining a stable of content that will perform in advertisements.

Connect Disparate Marketing Experiences

Another challenge that fashion brands face is how to connect each of the relevant touch points that they use to engage with their consumers. Even if they are able to create enough high-quality content on their own to fill each channel, creating personalized and integrated marketing experiences remains a considerable challenge. Using earned content, fashion brands are uncovering a wealth of authentic, transferable visual content that can be used on websites, social profiles, display advertising, and even offline in print, direct mail, or outdoor channels. Earned content is the connective tissue across all consumer touchpoints. Moreover, by soliciting this content creation, fashion brands will create new “long-tail” influencers, brand advocates that showcase products to their diverse networks.

Of course, these are just a few of the many strategies that fashion brands can employ to generate more impactful consumer relationships. A specific brand’s ideal mix will vary greatly based on the individual desires of its audience. More than anything, the most important step is to get started. Today, brands even in the fashion vertical can no longer afford to ignore the validity and power of consumer content. When deployed properly, earned content can transform brands in this space, and lead to deeper, more meaningful brand experiences. It’s time to loosen the reins on ownership of your fashion brand, and welcome the creative input of your most loyal digital customers.

And in this powerful era of user-generated content, it’s also time to ask yourself: How are YOU involving customers in your marketing efforts?


This post was contributed by Bill Connolly from Olapic, a company that enables brands to visually communicate in a new way, using real customer images and videos in every touchpoint. Learn more about Olapic here

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Ula Lachowicz

Written by Ula Lachowicz

Ula Lachowicz has been in the tech industry for a decade, taking care of marketing and communication for SaaS and B2B products. A strategic mind, she is a true visionary of our content commerce solution and is happy to see how it changes the way brands talk.