The Fitness Fashion Evolution

I’ve started to notice something lately – more and more sports brands are embracing the era of fitness fashion, especially for women. In fact, “active sports” is the quickest booming fitness category on the market.

The term “enclothed cognition” describes the idea that aspects of your clothing can actually have a psychological effect on you. Not only does throwing on a new workout outfit you recently purchased get you excited to hit the gym, but you also may actually perform better at the gym. So hey, I’ll do anything to increase my motivation to wake up at 5:30am and work out.

The other element to this is the gym-to-lifestyle trend. Four years ago, my friends teased me for not only spending so much money on workout clothes, but also for wearing my workout clothes out and about outside of the gym. Five years later, these same friends can be found rushing to the store to buy the trendiest pair of leggings, whether they work out or not. Workout clothes have become more stylish, but more importantly, more widely accepted and even desired as everyday wear.

An article on FASHIONISTA, a fashion news site, recently addressed this trend, “which we’ve seen as a fast growing theme on the runways for the past few seasons,” says Sheila Aimette, VP of North American Content at trend forecasting firm WGSN. “With more consumers adopting this trend, it’s natural for many labels to create product that speaks to what consumers want and are wearing.”

Lululemon used to be one of the only options for “fashionable fitness wear.” In the past couple years, other sports brands have picked up on the popularity of this trend, and have begun to market to it more effectively.

Many of these brands’ websites are featuring women’s clothing to address the “sport-as-style” look, and you can find more and more photos of people lounging, in addition to the high-impact photos. And it’s not just the usual players that are taking part (Nike, Under Armour, Reebok). The competition keeps coming (Well + Good’s 11 Hot New Fitness Brands, May 2013).

Social media certainly hasn’t hurt the evolution of this trend. Fitness-focused accounts have been the rising stars of the Instagram world.

@UnderArmourWomen may only have 103k followers, but Gisele Bundchen has 3 million, and she’s representing the company well.

Personally, I love this trend, and I’m happy more and more brands are embracing what Lululemon knew years ago. It’s also a lot more comfortable than wearing a crop top and heels.

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The Power of Partnership

Although companies and organizations in the same industry are usually considered competitors, it’s no secret that they are partnering with each other more than ever to accomplish a mutual goal. Business partnerships have been increasing dramatically over the last few decades. Whether the goal is to increase sales, to raise awareness of an organization or cause, or to make an impact in the community, companies and organizations are realizing the power of partnership. Because the truth is, we’re all in this together, right?

PetSmart Charities, Inc. is one of these organizations that discovered the power of partnership.

PetSmart Charities is a non-profit animal welfare organization founded in 1994. It is the largest funder of animal welfare efforts in North America providing more than $165 million in grants and programs benefiting animal welfare organizations and has saved the lives of more than 5 million pets through its in-store pet adoption partnership with PetSmart and local adoption partners. In Jacksonville, PetSmart’s local adoption partner is First Coast No More Homeless Pets, Inc.

This year in July, the two organizations came together as a team to accomplish their mutual goal – to save the lives of homeless pets.

The organizations hosted Jacksonville’s Mega Pet Adoption Event at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. In this tremendous collaboration effort, the partners helped shelters and rescue groups present pets from Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties. At the start of the three-day event, the massive 50,000 square foot exhibition hall was jam-packed with thousands of pets anxiously awaiting their forever home.

“A record-breaking 1,165 pets were adopted,” said Michael Faulk, general manager for the Gate Parkway PetSmart in Jacksonville. “And for the very first time,” he exclaimed, “every single dog was adopted!”

The power of partnership is real, y’all. And organizations like these realize the power they have to make a difference in the community when they work together. This is just one example of how partnerships can produce impressive results. What could your organization accomplish in your community through partnerships?

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Risky (Rebranding) Business

Ever experienced a mid-life crisis? Apparently, our favorite brands go through them, too.

Essentially, a brand is what people associate with a company. Not only is it about their name, logo, or tagline (though they are all important), it involves the company’s identity; its message, its goals, and its culture.

There are many significant reasons why a company would re-brand, and all of them involve risk. It’s often difficult to change the public’s opinion on a brand. But by using the right techniques, companies can completely reinvent themselves and emerge successfully on the other side of the process.

Because my time as an intern with Brunet-Garcia is coming to an end, here are some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about branding, both from the work done by the BG team and from what I’ve observed during large retail companies’ rebranding ventures.

Lesson 1: Outdated brands need to be updated for today’s audiences.

Companies going through a “mid-life crisis” need to turn a new leaf in order to be relatable to 21st century audiences, who are usually savvy with a love for the aesthetic but shorter attention spans.

A great example of this important lesson is the rebranding project that BG did for St. Johns River State College here in Jacksonville. Upon receiving greater prominence after becoming a state college, the college needed to appeal to today’s students looking for an affordable degree close to home but one that would also allow them to compete in the job market after college.

The BG team was able to emphasize the educational attributes that make St. Johns River State College unique with a new brand platform including a new logo, school mascot, positioning statement and more.

Lesson 2: Put new twists on what you’re already known for.

People appreciate reliability and respond well when something can be re-imagined.  Companies feeling exceptionally lucky will sometimes capitalize on past blunders or old misconceptions by putting a clever spin on them. This technique has been known to pay off with younger audiences and often resonates on social media avenues.

For example, Slim Jim recently incorporated an outdated but memorable tagline into a goofy new commercial. The spot targets the 18-25 age bracket and will launch on social media, but companion clips for TV will also be nostalgic for older audiences. It’s my guess that Slim Jim will continue to reuse the tagline in a similar fashion in the future.

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Selfish Giving?

I think we can all attest to the fact that people strive to make connections, especially in today’s fast-paced world. So when a company associates itself with an issue or cause that we care about, we are immediately drawn to its product.

Cause marketing, in a nutshell, is an initiative from a for-profit company to raise awareness, money, and consumer engagement for a particular cause. This kind of marketing is a growing trend: sponsorship by major corporations is predicted to reach $1.84 billion in 2014, according to IEG’s monthly sponsorship report.

Companies have the most success when they connect with causes that are relevant to their products. Here are some examples:

Proctor and Gamble has been a champion of cause marketing, having won the 2012 Forbes Cause Marketing Halo award. Of course, being a large corporation with multiple products makes things easier. For example: one pack of Pampers equals one vaccine; Tide Loads Hope sends a mobile laundromat to disaster areas; and Dawn Everyday Wildlife campaign donates products and funds to clean oil spill areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Mills’ Box Tops for Education campaign was a blowout, encouraging parents to buy its cereals and other products so kids can help raise money for their school. OfficeMax has also done its part for education, with its “Adopt a Classroom” initiative and multitude of student and teacher discounts.

Hanes donated socks to the homeless. Kellogg’s gives free breakfasts to hungry kids. TUMS fights for underfunded fire departments (which is ironic considering that TUMS – the product – fights against heartburn).

Campaigns like these are nearly endless; we could go on forever celebrating increased awareness and funding by generous corporations. With so much goodwill being spread, how could there be any critics of cause marketing? But of course, there’s always a critic.

Skeptics of seemingly caring corporations are seeing what they think is the real motive for the generosity: when a company benefits a cause, it is really just looking for more sales. If a consumer knows that that 10% of sales will be donated to cancer research, they will look at a product and say, “Sure, I’d be happy to buy that.” Yes, cancer research is being funded, but the company selling the product is making the real gains. Critics would claim that the paradox of “selfish giving” is actually true when applied to this situation.

It appears that the main targets of this skepticism are campaigns that promote social movements rather than specific organizations or causes. Materials endorsing these messages are becoming increasingly popular, mainly online. For example, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” winner of multiple awards and one of the most-viewed ad videos of all time, promotes self-confidence in women. Always’ “Like a Girl” video has also gone viral and conveys a similar message. These videos do not show products and barely even display the company logo, but rather, the ideals they claim to believe in.

Is this wrong? Of course not. But critics of cause marketing would agree that by striving to increase confidence in women, Dove, Always, and other companies supporting different movements (Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad, “America the Beautiful,” encouraging diversity and immigration comes to mind) care more about increasing sales than about supporting these so-called ideals.

In my opinion, these skeptics need to wake up and smell the bacon. We live in a society of capitalism, where businesses are in business to make a profit. If they can make money while supporting a deserving organization, both will benefit and that’s a good thing. If a company can associate its product(s) with a popular movement or meaningful idea, then kudos! Not everyone might see things this way, but in the advertising industry we do because we understand and appreciate the power of connections. It looks like cause marketing will continue to be a powerful player in campaigns across all industries.

We want to hear YOUR opinion on this issue. Comment below or tweet us @brunetgarcia

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