1. Introduction: French Connection U.K
French Connection UK, commonly know as FCUK as a result of its ground breaking advertising campaign in fall 1997, is amongst the leading apparel retailers for teenagers. French Connection completely redefined the ways a teen and twenties market could be targeted. The FCUK campaigns focused on distinctive competency of the brand being fashionable rather then a fashion victim. The brand was all about independence, unpredictability and humour. The campaign was a massive hit. Seven years later, fall of 2004, FCUK is still successfully using the initial concept but has bought about tremendous change in its communication mix. These innovative efforts have made it possible for FCUK to sustain its sales levels for almost a decade (Fernie & Moore 2003, p. 119). The fall 2004 campaign was launched without any logo or brand name anywhere. Building on existing hype regarding the brand, a ‘biker’ theme was used. Following is discussion on the implementation of fall 2004 – winter 2005 marketing campaign of FCUK with respect to creative marketing and integrating a successful communication mix.
2. Marketing Campaign Objectives
Instead of creating a clothing line, French Connection was aiming to establish a brand with distinctive competencies. It had positioned FCUK very successfully in future and wanted to capitalize onto the brand equity already created.
The purpose of the renewed campaign was not to re-position the brand but to re-frame the brand by adding the attitude factor into it. Marketing managers wanted the customers to perceive FCUK as synonymous to attitude. The brand already had a strong personality. The attitude in fall 2004 was going to be an addition to the existing attributes of that personality. As mentioned above that FCUK was building onto its existing brand equity. Attitude is one attribute that had the capability to sustain the brand in the new millennium for quite some while.
However, it was equally challenging for marketers to come up with a campaign in sync with past projects and campaigns. They aim was to make the campaign distinctive yet in tune with core values of the brand that have established in the consumer’s mind as a result of past campaigns. Also, it should compliment the ‘feel’ and ‘look’ of FCUK outlet, giving customer a complete experience rather then only core product (CIM fcuk, n.d.).
3. Modes of Marketing Communication
Marketing communication modes are the means by which firms attempt to inform, persuade and remind customer about their products and brands. These communication channels are equally advantageous for consumers because awareness regarding product offerings and there benefits is created (Kotler & Keller 2006, p. 536).
Television: Advertising is paid form of message delivery done through television, print media or radio (Kotler & Keller 2006, p. 536). Advertising for fcuk fall 2004 campaign was mainly done on television using a 60 second television commercial. Interestingly, nowhere in the advertisement or campaign the brand logo or a specific slogan was mention. Yet the message was simple and comprehendible to target audience when it said ‘something beginning with f’ and ‘buy our denim’ (fcuk advertising 2004).
Print Media: Print media is very effective in this age when magazines for young adults have strong power over creating perception and association in consumer’s mind. FCUK reached its market using extensive, glossy, one page advertisements in several magazines starting September (Urban Legend Reference Pages n.d.). The whole page advertisement also appeared in local newspapers. Print ads appeared throughout the campaign, i.e. till early spring frequently after small intervals (Dey 2005). Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, FHM and Maxim were used for monthly advertisements. These magazines helped targeting twenty-something audience (Moore 2003). For targeting younger population Seventeen and Teen People were used as a communication channel (Howard 2003).
ii. Sales Promotion
Sales promotion refers to short term incentives to customers to encourage trial or purchase (Kotler & Armstrong 2004, p. 486). FCUK had just launched its new fragrant “Scent to bed”. A promotional campaign was already underway for the product and was consolidated with the marketing campaign of fall 2004. At every purchase in FCUK stores, the customers got a free ‘Scent to bed’ t-shirts and ‘License to FCUK’ cards, which had a code imprinted over them. Customers were to enter that unique code to each card on to the website www.scenttobed.com for a chance on a trip for six to Club Med (Howard 2003).
iii. Events & Experiences
From time to time companies sponsor events, activities or programs to create brand related interactions (Kotler & Keller 2006, p. 536). FCUK is also actively working to innovate and increase customers’ brand experience. FCUK FM was launched in the summer of 2004 to enhance the customer-brand interactions. The radio station was a rock-based music station playing in FCUK outlets all over world, selective alliances and was live-cast on the website of FCUK FM. This was done to set the ground for and was in complete sync with the advertising campaign built around the ‘bike’ theme (fcuk FM 2007).
FCUK also launched a flavoured vodka drink in bars in UK for cross branding as well as grabbing attention of different media circles and consumers (Varley, 2006).
iv. Public Relations
Public Relations are non-paid messages that a third party conveys it to target consumers of a brand. It can be newspapers or experienced customer’s word of mouth (Kotler & Keller 2006, p.536). As mentioned above that ‘Scent to bed’ was recently launched, which was done in a launch part. The launch party was a major success and attracted several hundred distinctive personalities of UK. It also earned fcuk acknowledgement in PR-circles and media. The part was held in New York. The invitation cards were given away at stores in hotel doorknob hangers that read ‘FCUK in progress’ (Howard 2004).
v. Direct Marketing
Direct marketing is a new age communication tool using email, mobile or telephones for marketing the product. to the target consumers (Kotler & Keller 2006, p. 536). FCUK was perhaps amongst the first brands to introduce mobile marketing. This was done in the same year as launch of FCUK FM. The concept, in fact, initiated from the FCUK FM. The participants were to answer three music trivia questions via SMS to win a $250 FCUK gift certificate. They could also receive the FCUK FM programme schedule through SMS alerts and download FCUK mobile content such as wallpapers, ring tones etc. directly into their mobile phones. This enabled FCUK to collect customer information for direct marketing in future (MMA.com 2004).
FCUK also ensured its cyber presence with a website that contained its clothing line information and branding detail. The site also enabled consumers to play games online, it also offered giveaways to consumers having ‘license to fcuk’ such as sample of ‘FCUK Vanity’ makeup line products (brandchannel.com, 2004). While a specialized website for women FCUK clothing www.fcukbuymail.com was also launched (fcukbuymail.com 2007).
4. Evaluating Effectiveness
Ultimate objective of integrating marketing communication mix is to achieve a high impact campaign that creates awareness, knowledge, develop consumer preference and result in purchase (Kotler & Keller 2006, p. 583).
Communication-Effect: Concerning the effectiveness of communication as a awareness creating tool, the above campaign caused the traditional FCUK stir. It got consumers and non-consumers to talk about the brand, increasing its mind and heart share. Thus, its objective to reinforce the product was achieved efficiently.
Sales-Effect: However, the economic results for the autumn campaign were not what were expected. The profits were £32 million dropping £37 million. However, the French Connection chief operating officer defending the stance of brand said that it is not the advertising and branding that has failed the trends during the year were more cutting edge then our designs and we intend to focus on that as well in future (Tran 2004).
Despite integrating marketing communication being a crucial aspect of a marketing strategy, it is not sole driver of product purchase. Consumer behaviour is a complex and result of several economic, social and environmental factors. It is important for businesses to realize that when it is right for to pursue which branding objectives and strategy. Incase of FCUK the marketers did not experiment with a expiring concept for a long time. Finally in 2005, French Connection UK dropped the FCUK slogan from its advertising campaigns and once again became French Connection (CNN.com 2005).
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