Last fall Justin Cooke, Topshop’s energetic 31-year-old chief marketing officer, took the high street fashion chain’s social presence to a new level when he collaborated with Facebook on a "Customize The Catwalk" experience during London Fashion Week--over 2 million people watched that show online.
This season, Cooke and Topshop partnered with Google+ to build upon last fall’s success with a dynamic array of social experiences before, during, and after yesterday’s Topshop Unique show at London’s Tate Modern museum. Since the collaboration’s live video initiative began on Friday afternoon, it has garnered over 4 million views across a multitude of platforms.
The Topshop collaboration is by far Google+'s biggest partnership with a major brand to date, according to Marvin Chow, Google+'s global marketing director. Here’s how they made it happen:
During early brainstorm sessions between Google+ and Topshop, ideas were flying--more ideas than the teams could possibly take on in time for the February 17th show. Cristian Cussen, Google+'s European head of marketing, says his background working in the film industry helped the team edit ideas--and create a narrative.
"Two of the movies I worked on were James Bond movies," says Cussen. "So much of what we had to do in the Bond world was bringing things down to Earth. You had the special effects director or you have the director who wants to do 10 explosions sequences when you can actually do two. Even though we’re not blowing anything up in this partnership, a lot of it is 'how do you achieve the magical, but ground it?'"
"We looked around at what had been done in the past, and looked at our suite of tools, and sort of just threw everything on the table, literally just looked at all the potential elements, and then went through the process of first, taking things away, and then making sure that there was a very clear through line, that there was a clear story," Cussen says.
That story was released in a strategic narrative order, starting the Wednesday before the show--and all the content was curated on Topshop’s Google+ page, as well as the brand’s website and other social platforms.
Five days before the show, the Google+ team released a trailer that summarized the storyline that would unfold during the next few days of the project, leading up to Sunday’s big moment:
The team also used 3-D Google Map technology to give fans access to the upcoming show’s space in the Tate Modern.
Three days before the show, Google+ and Topshop installed a "Be The Model" photo booth in Topshop’s flagship Oxford Street store. Customers can try on Topshop outfits and pose for pictures in the booth, which creates animated GIFs users can share with others on their social networks.
The Friday before the show, Topshop also began to unroll behind-the-scenes videos of the models and creative team preparing for Sunday’s show on its YouTube channel, and invited bloggers and fans to join a Google Hangout with Topshop’s creative director Kate Phelan and the Topshop design team (see slide show).
Cussen calls Friday "the bridge of the story, Act 2, where things are gonna get really frenetic leading into Saturday."
On Sunday, Topshop unleashed its full portfolio of interactive tools. Leading up to the show, Topshop broadcast Google Hangouts between fashion bloggers, Topshop fans, and celebrities like Kate Bosworth and Pixie Geldof on their way into the Tate space--rather like an Oscars red-carpet pre-show.
The show itself was streamed live on Topshop’s website, as well as on Google+ and Twitter, in embedded media players on news organization websites and various fashion blogs, and on a giant screen in the window of Topshop’s Oxford Street store. Inspired by sports media (Cooke’s first love is football), runway models’ outfits and accessories were fitted with HD microcameras powered by SIS Live’s Hawkeye techonology. The tiny cameras broadcast model’s-eye video in the corner of the show livestream, giving audience members a glimpse of what it’s like to walk down a catwalk.
"Everybody wants to see what it’s like to be in the eyes of a model," says Cussen. "What’s it like staring down the runway at these very skeptical, overly trendy faces, about to fully judge you?"
Some elements of the live experience were carry-overs from Topshop’s unique Fall 2012 "Customize The Catwalk" initiative. Viewers of the live show, as well as the recorded version, could capture and post to social networks still images of the models as they strutted down the aisles using the "Shoot and Share" feature. Users could also customize items as they came down the runway using the "Customize The Catwalk" feature continued from last fall, and register to be alerted as soon as those items were available to purchase. Viewers could download the tracks from the show through an iTunes widget on the Topshop homepage and shop for the makeup used to create the models’ looks during the show, as well. In addition, Topshop held a "Tweet Off": fFans posted tweet-length reviews of the show on Twitter; and Topshop will choose one Tweet Off winner, who will receive VIP tickets to next season’s show.
Today, during what Cussen refers to as "the foggy aftermath of the show," comes the final element of the campaign: "Be The Buyer," a custom Google+ Hangout app.
"Basically, every clip from the runway will be swipable into a wish list," explains Cussen. "Topshop, on their homepage, will essentially display the things users most want Topshop to actually manufacture--the fashion show shows a bunch of things, but only a subset of those actually get made in six months’ time."
In fact, Topshop is using the data from the Google Hangout app to help its buyers decide what they are going to actually bring to retail. Through the Hangout app, Topshop fans "get to influence the buying decision. So when we say 'Be The Buyer’…it’s real," explains Cussen.
Other fashion empires have livestreamed their shows in the past, of course. Last fall, Diane Von Furstenberg dressed runway models in Google Glasses. Burberry, where Cooke worked as VP of Global PR, continues to build on its record of digital innovation.
In any case, Topshop’s efforts seem to have paid off: Since the Google+/Topshop live video initiative launched Friday, Cooke says the video stream has garnered 4,059,147 million views and counting across all platforms: Google+, YouTube, syndicated media players, Twitter, and the Topshop homepage. Perhaps more astoundingly: According to Cooke, during just the first five minutes of yesterday’s show, there were over 200,000 social media shares on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr using the "Shoot The Show" feature.
But Cooke isn’t satisfied. He envisions a future when fashion shows are even more dynamic--live entertainment spectacles featuring not just models strutting down the runways but concerts by pop artists. And before this season’s show, he unsuccessfully begged Google to let him use Google Cars to chauffeur guests to the show.
Maybe next season.
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