High Fashion Relents To Web’s Pull

Before the recession, there was a sort of unwritten agreement between high fashion, department stores, and elite outlets not to use the Internet (considered, apparently, “low brow”) to reach out to wealthy customers.

When the recession hit and sales plummeted, however, all bets were off.

Department stores began slashing prices on high-priced inventory to get it off the shelves and luxury designers and outlets began to feel the crunch as fewer and fewer buyers were to be had. Now exclusive brands and high fashion designers and sellers are embracing the Web as a way to not only promote themselves, but to sell directly to consumers in Web-based showrooms.

Marc Jacobs, the flamboyant fashion designer with a $5 billion brand, has gone whole hog online. A year ago, admits his brand’s president and vice chairman, they were ready to stop delivering product to retailers who were deeply discounting them in order to make sales. Now, Jacobs has one of the most well-trafficked fashion websites on the Web with marketing and content to match its namesake’s offbeat style.

Other luxury brands, including Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, St. John, Kiehl’s and others, are beginning to embrace the World Wide Web as a new frontier as well. They’re all finding that they can often sell at nearly full price directly through the Web and may be finding buyers that they never would have seen in their retail outlets.

The added control over pricing and profits has also appealed to many brands, who’ve long established themselves as exclusive by offering not only one-of-a-kind designs, but also by pricing them to match their uniqueness.

The flashy, content-empty, picturesque sites that displayed information about the designer and little else are going out the door into Web history and being replaced with beautiful, but more functional online presence portals.

Few holdouts remain as fashion and elite brands embrace the Web as their markets falter.

Google Teams with Sony and Others to Move Into TV

In its attempt to merge television with the Web, Google has teamed with Sony to create Google TV.

With a hi-def TV or Blu-ray player from Sony, viewers will be able to watch regular television and movies or go online to surf services like Google’s YouTube for television content.

At its annual developer conference in June, Google cited the unfriendly menu systems of most cable and satellite television providers, explaining that Google TV will be able to give viewers the content they want when they want it.

Sony will have the player built into its high-definition televisions and Blu-ray players and gadget giant Logitech will also offer separate set-top players. Both will use Google’s Android operating system as their backdrop and devices are expected to hit stores this fall.

So far, the devices will be available only from Sony and Logitech and only at Best Buy stores. Google is working hard to convince other retailers, such as Walmart, to come on board as well. Given the price point and high cost of some components, such as the Intel Atom chips that power them, however, convincing discount retailers to carry Google TV may be a challenge.

Watch for the Sony Internet TV and Blu-ray players in Best Buy stores this fall.

Kylo Gives TV Another Problem to Worry About

Hillcrest Labs, a small company in Maryland, has potentially eliminated many of the downsides of hooking the Internet up to one’s TV – giving major networks another huge headache on top of the concerns they already have about online streaming video competing with their own offerings.

The company’s offering is a browser called Kylo that works particularly well on TV screens, with larger icons and an on-screen keyboard so that users needn’t have their laptop handy to manipulate what’s happening on the screen. It also comes with a remote control called a Loop that serves as a kind of combination mouse and remote. It can be waved in the air to move the cursor on the screen, and it has buttons that allow the cursor to click on icons and use the online keyboard to search.

These features are great for users who have struggled with the TV-computer hookup combination, but for the networks, it simply offers one less reason why users would want to pay money to watch shows on TV – or even look at the expensive advertisements and myriad of interesting infomercials.

Hulu.com recently banned Kylo users from their website, citing agreements with partners and investors that essentially agree that online video is designed to be kept online. As Kylo is especially designed for use with TV screens, Hulu.com raised a red flag.

Users are getting more innovative with their technology, however, and it seems it’s only a matter of time before the remaining disadvantages of watching TV online, such as smaller screen size, are eliminated for good.

Digital Media Isn’t Necessarily Smooth Sailing

Marketing across the board has been seeing budget cutbacks, but digital media has seemed like a bright spot in an otherwise bleak advertising environment.

Social media, search, video, and mobile were the most popular and cost-effective new advertising techniques that appears to actually be gathering strength in spite of the recession.

Unfortunately, that mindset may me a little hyped-up. eMarketer just cut its growth forecast for the medium to 4.5%, down from their previous optimistic number of 9%. Online advertising may not even increase from 2009 to 2010, seeing as 2009 failed to meet the predictions of continual growth.

It’s not all bad; 2010 will see more effort put into extended digital media campaigns. While many companies in 2009 were still catching up to the digital revolution and needing serious persuasion from their ad buyers to invest money into digital media, there’s a lot of evidence that shows 2010 won’t have those same setbacks. Companies are planning more extended campaigns with more research and planning put in, which may actually turn around the problems with digital media we saw in 2009.

Video advertising is another bright spot, especially with the rise of websites like YouTube and Hulu, where there are long-form advertising options in a medium that companies are well used to utilizing – video commercials. Mobile is another advertising medium that may see an uptick in 2010, with more companies looking into advertising on smartphones using apps tailored to their target demographic. Finally, display advertising is expected to increase slightly, from $4.6 billion to $4.8 billion.

Digital media may not be the sanctuary it’s been touted as, but it isn’t worth turning your back on it. It’s still one of the best ROIs in the business.

Big Pharma Jumps in the Social Media Marketing

Everybody these days is using social media as a marketing tool. So who cares if big pharma gets in on the action? It’s actually a much bigger deal than you may think.

Big pharma is late to the online game largely because it’s an industry prone to huge regulation mistakes. Misleading ads can result in huge lawsuits relating to customer’s health and wellbeing, and that means the pharmaceutical industry treads softly on uncertain ground.

That said, big pharmas doing well online. Johnson & Johnson has a widely-read blog, and many pharmaceutical companies are enjoying the opportunity to connect directly with the communities built around various diseases and ailments that their products treat. People are enjoying the opportunity to get the one-on-one transparency that social media affords from the pharmaceutical industry.

Social media marketing, and the online world in general, remain to play themselves out. There are few regulations over what you can and cannot say online, especially when it comes to such social media tools as Twitter or Facebook. Big pharma has been cautious for good reason, and their arrival on the scene may mean we’ll see internet regulations on online advertising much sooner than previous anticipated.