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UAL Research Online

Sustainable marketing strategies prompting closer relationships between brands & consumers

Radclyffe-Thomas, Natascha and Roncha, Ana (2014) Sustainable marketing strategies prompting closer relationships between brands & consumers. In: 2nd International Colloquium on Design, Branding & Marketing, 9-10 December 2014, Nottingham Trent University.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Radclyffe-Thomas, Natascha and Roncha, Ana
Description:

The cultural and social changes in the fashion industry have brought multiple challenges for brands. Demands about how fashion is produced and its implications to society are more frequent and have led the shift in the industry.

The focus on ethical values has become a key strategic challenge for companies’ business and through the adoption of socially responsible practices, brands seek to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions and encourage them to engage with the value co-creation process.

This shift is due to the fact that consumers are increasingly interested in brand stories and in being part of a dynamic relationship and full immersion with the brands they relate to.
This dynamic relationship between brands and consumers is of growing importance to fashion and allows for co-creation to happen in the brand identity process and for the emergence of brand communities (Muñiz and O'Guinn, 2001), formed out of a shared interest with the brand.

Due to the fact that consuming fashion products is considerably different from other commodities and encourage personal identity as well as a sense of worth, the social elements of fashion that lead to sustainable consumption need to be taken into consideration. When creating a positive image of ethical and sustainable fashion brands, marketing strategies play a pivotal role in terms of achieving clarity of messages and credibility in reaching consumers. In fact, they play an increasingly important role in this ethical approach and empowering them to make the right choice is a key element to this societal shift.
Through integrating sustainable practices into aspects of design, production and promotion, a brand is able to engage more efficiently with consumers that feel emotionally attached to the values they advocate (Kawamura, 2005) and thus leads to the promotion of a “connection to a specific product attribute or story of the leader or company that created it” (Silverstein and Fiske 2003, p. 64).

According to Porter and Kramer (2006) and their theory of “Shared Value”, a sustainable business is not of one merely concerned with the environmental impact and changes but one that also complies with rebooting the economy and increasing local production. The authors believe that brands can create “shared value” by re-conceiving products and markets, redesigning productivity in the value chain and building supportive industry clusters at the company’s locations and by doing that, would be serving new needs, gaining efficiency, creating differentiation and expanding markets.

By establishing a parallel between this theory and the current fashion landscape, we can witness that consumers increasingly expect retailers to behave in a socially responsible manner by undertaking societally beneficial activities and acting above and beyond their legal obligations (Varley & Rafiz, 2014).
When brands are able to respond accordingly, they engage in a value co-creation process, improve their image among consumers and partners and ultimately influence consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Due to the increasingly awareness in ethical and environmental impact, fashion has had to adapt to new business models that promote a sense of community building. Seemingly, it also invites them to support social entrepreneurship as well as address the power of business to influence social and environmental changes (SEUK, 2012).

The chosen brand for this case study was the brand TOMS One-for-One®. The brand was founded in 2006 and relies on charitable collaborations as a fundamental aspect of its business model. The brand does not produce high profile advertising campaigns but relies on its growing brand community, storytelling and engaging with its consumers directly to spread the message and its mission.

Through the One-for-One® giving model, that donates one pair of shoes for each pair bought, the brand has aimed to disrupt the established commercial systems in order to enhance the TOMS’ business model of social entrepreneurship. After footwear, other product categories have followed such as eyewear.
The full immersion of the brand with its charity work has provided TOMS with dedicated evangelical consumers that most brands strive to attain and cultivate (Binkley, 2010). TOMS’ customers are attracted by the values and meanings and by the story behind the brand, more than by any other tangible attributes.

TOMS’s brand community engages actively with the brand through social media and creative collaborations. This has proven to be TOMS’ competitive advantage - a business model built on philanthropy and that spans across all stakeholders and its conscious consumers whose commitment to social entrepreneurship ultimately drives sales.

The brand derives brand value through its ethical and sustainable practices, collaboration with a larger community of fans united by unique storytelling and advocacy through digital channels.
It was clear in the research conducted that by incorporating ethical concerns into the overall business strategy, benefits can be reflected in consumer loyalty (Mandacharita & Poolthong, 2011) as well as on brand image (Worcester, 2009), leading to feelings of reliability and transparency amongst consumers that prompt an active relationship building.

Purpose:
The aim of this study is to identify the marketing strategies used by the brand TOMS to prompt a closer relationship between the brand and its consumers. The authors attempt to clarify how the building of brand communities can be underpinned by sustainable practices leading to brand advocacy as well as higher levels of brand engagement.

Methodology:
A case studies approach was chosen as it allows for a deeper understanding of the brand and its strategy. A series of qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with professionals from the TOMS brand as well as content analysis of the brand’s website and their social media networks.
Triangulation was used for the multiple sources of evidence in order to build the study and to establish the data results convergence, to diminish bias and to increase accuracy of the research data (Saunders et al., 2009)

Findings:
Through a detailed overview of the marketing strategies used by TOMS, this paper explores the growing relationship between brands and consumers and intends to demonstrate how TOMS applies such strategies of sustainability, social entrepreneurship and collaboration to foster the formation of consumer-brand-relationships as well as map out the advantages of incorporating ethical aspects into the marketing strategies of fashion brands in order to create feelings of reliability amongst consumers.

Originality:
Current reports on ethical consumption demonstrate that consumers are looking for ethical and environmentally friendly products (Phau & Ong, 2007) however little research has been conducted about the levels of commitment that fashion brands take to sustainability and/or ethical aspects of their business. With this in mind, the findings provide valuable strategic insights for fashion brands and demonstrate the impact that such sustainable marketing strategies play with regards to the consumer-brand relationship.

References
Binkley, C. (2010). Charity Gives Shoe Brand Extra Shine. The Wall Street Journal 1st April. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304252704575155903198032336
Kawamura, Y. (2005) Fashion-ology and introduction to fashion studies. New York: Berg.
Mandhachitara, R. and Poolthong, Y. (2011). A model of customer loyalty and corporate social responsibility. Journal of Services Marketing, 25 (2), 122-133.
Muniz, A. and O’Guinn, T. (2001). Brand community. Journal of Consumer Research, 27 (4), 412-432.
Phau, I. & Ong, D. (2007). An investigation of the effects of environmental claims in promotional messages for clothing brands. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 25(7), 772-88
Porter, M.E. and Kramer, M.R. (2006). Strategy and society: the link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 12, 78-92.
Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2009) Research methods for business students. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
Silverstein, M.J., Fiske, N., Butman, J. (2003). Trading up: The new American luxury. Harvard Business Review, 81 (4), 48-57.
Varley, R. and Rafiq, M (2014) Principles of Retailing, Basingstoke: Palgrave
Worcester, R. (2009). Reflections on corporate reputations. Management Decision, 47, 573-89.

Official Website: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/nbs/news_events/icdbm_2014/index.html
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: brand communications, sustainability, social entrepreneurship, TOMS
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: 9 December 2014
Event Location: Nottingham Trent University
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2015 14:17
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2015 14:17
Item ID: 8265
URI: http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/8265

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