Theresa Palermo, Chief Marketing Officer, Vera Bradley, and Ann Jane Draper, Global Director, PR and Influencer Marketing, Fossil Group, discussed how a brand can extend its global reach without the risk of alienating its target audience during a Fireside Chat at the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum in Dallas on Dec. 8. During the chat, titled "Appealing to Expanded Demographics While Sustaining Existing Strong Customer Base," Palermo explained how Vera Bradley has generated new interest from Millennials recently and maintained a strong customer base of younger and older consumers over the past few years.
Vera Bradley today represents a leading provider of handbags and luggage for women worldwide. However, the company started small and built a loyal customer base over an extended period of time. Vera Bradley continues to explore ways to grow its customer base as well.
Today, finding ways to build relationships with Millennials is a key priority for Vera Bradley.
Palermo noted Vera Bradley has been successful in generating interest among older and younger consumers. Conversely, fostering trust and loyalty with Millennials remains an ongoing challenge for Vera Bradley and other businesses globally.
"The brand had a very high concentration in older consumers and a high concentration in very young consumers," Palermo said. "What we had started to lose was our middle crowd. … That's our influencer crowd."
To build relationships with Millennials, Vera Bradley has deployed an "authentic" approach, according to Palermo.
"What we do is connect women together and help women celebrate their own femininity."
By focusing on authenticity, Vera Bradley has stayed true to its roots in its day-to-day operations and marketing efforts. This approach has enabled Vera Bradley to develop a distinct voice – something that has helped the business expand globally and foster partnerships with Millennials and other consumer groups.
Furthermore, Vera Bradley emphasizes offering products that deliver a superior mix of fashion and function, which has helped the brand stand out from its rivals.
"What we do is connect women together and help women celebrate their own femininity," Palermo noted. "Why we did this better than anyone else was a concept we came up with called 'beautiful solutions,' which meant the product was beautiful … and it solved a problem."
For example, Vera Bradley recently launched handbags that feature charging capabilities, enabling consumers to recharge their smartphones on the go.
Palermo noted the handbags have been successful and highlight her company's ongoing commitment to innovation.
"Having a bag that has a charging capability is something we found to be incredibly important," Palermo said. "It's just keeping pace with [the consumer] and knowing that we need to continue to innovate to make her life easier."
Delivering a consistent customer experience (CX) across all consumer groups can be difficult. Meanwhile, failure to do so could cause a business to alienate consumers. And ultimately, it may force a company to lose customers to its rivals both now and in the future.
"When you look at what motivates a 25-year-old consumer versus what motivates a 55-year-old consumer, those are two very different consumers. If you're not disciplined, the default becomes to have an experience that looks very different."
Dedicating the necessary time and resources to learn about various consumer groups is crucial for all companies, regardless of size or industry. If a company understands its target audience, it can explore unique ways to connect with audience members and provide them with products and services to fulfill their requests.
"When you look at what motivates a 25-year-old consumer versus what motivates a 55-year-old consumer, those are two very different consumers," Palermo pointed out. "If you're not disciplined, the default becomes to have an experience that looks very different."
In addition, business leaders must understand that CX remains a work in progress. If business leaders make CX mistakes along the way, they should be ready to move past these errors immediately.
"You're not always going to get the [customer experience] right … but it's the ability to recognize what you need to evolve and continue to move," Palermo stated. "And if you fail, fail fast."
How a business connects with influencers may dictate its long-term success. If a company finds influencers to help promote its products and services, it may be able to generate substantial interest from consumers. Comparatively, a business that lacks influencers to help spread the word about its products and services may struggle to gain consumers' trust.
Business leaders are responsible for finding the right influencers to help a company promote its products and services. With authentic influencers at its disposal, a business may be able to gain consumers' trust and transform consumers into advocates.
"Finding the right types of influencers became really important," Palermo said. "We've partnered with a lot of influencers. … who are influencers within their communities that really help to navigate and show off the brand in a different way."
Theresa Palermo joined Vera Bradley as Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer in June 2015.
Palermo is an accomplished, decisive and creative omni-channel marketing professional with a proven track record of defining and executing marketing strategies that drive sales and build brands within rapidly changing retail landscapes.
Between 2013 and June 2015, Palermo served as Vice President, Global Marketing and Public Relations for Fossil Group, where she successfully created and executed innovative marketing strategies and campaigns for their extensive portfolio of luxury and fashion brands across North and Central America. Palermo joined Fossil in 2011 as Global Senior Director of Marketing. Prior to joining Fossil, she held key marketing roles of increasing responsibility with several well-known retailers including global footwear company Collective Brands (Senior Director Global Marketing, Stride Rite Children’s Group), The Timberland Company (North America Marketing Senior Director) and the J. Jill Group (Retail Marketing and PR Director).
Palermo received her Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University and earned her MBA, with an emphasis in Corporate Strategy and Marketing, from the Simmons College School of Management in Boston.
ABOUT ANN JANE:
Ann Jane Draper is global director at Fossil Group, where she leads PR and influencer marketing for both the corporate entity, Fossil Group, as well as its portfolio of 15 licensed brands, including Michael Kors, kate spade new york, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld and others.
Fossil Group, a global design, marketing, distribution and innovation company, sells 50 million watches and accessories annually in 150 countries. Specifically, Draper is responsible for developing the company’s communications strategy, most notably its “fashion meets tech” wearable PR strategy, as well as driving awareness of its licensed brands among editors and online influencers.
Prior to joining Fossil Group, Draper worked at global PR firms, Weber Shandwick and Publicis, where as vice president she led brand and product strategy, thought leadership and celebrity and influencer engagements for Samsung, Verizon and others.