Brands: Layering on the Exposure

Any publicity may be good publicity, but what publicity is best?

with contributions from Amy Wicks
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Any publicity may be good publicity, but what publicity is best?

For brands with little or no advertising budget (and even for those with sizable ones), that's a critical question that can shape how to focus marketing energy. Winning editorial credits, having your dress worn by a celebrity and — the mother of all placements — getting picked up by Oprah can put a product on the map overnight and create credibility.

The buzz machine of media can be a powerful force, observers agree. Juicy Couture, now owned by Liz Claiborne Inc., didn't advertise for its first decade, and many up-and-coming brands, including Tory Burch, Alice + Olivia and Lululemon, rely on placements on celebrities and magazine credits. But experts stress that, in the long run, such activities should only be part of an overall marketing program that includes advertising.

"For now, not advertising has been a business decision: We couldn't afford it as a start-up," said designer Tory Burch. "We haven't been able to advertise, so we had to be creative."

Part of that creativity has involved getting the brand on celebrities. The celebrity weekly magazines that chronicle the who, what and wear of "It" girls have become a valuable tool for brands.

"Celebrities are walking advertisements," said Burch, whose brand has been sported by everyone from Cameron Diaz to Sigourney Weaver to Blake Lively. "There's a direct correlation between what celebrities are wearing and what is selling."

Stacey Bendet, owner and designer of Alice + Olivia, said demand after a dress is shot on a celebrity in a magazine like Us Weekly can be measured through calls to its stores as well as a spike in wholesale demand from retailers. The brand has been photographed on everyone from Jenny McCarthy to Molly Sims.

"Editorial press in magazines has always been important, but in the past couple of years, the biggest effect on business has been from celebrities shot in clothing," said Bendet. "It creates a buzz around the brand and it helps to define the image of the brand."

Bendet added that "print is usually way more effective than television in terms of increasing demand and sales for a particular design."
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