Since the beginning of trade, people have been looking for methods to make their success among their clientele even bigger, thus, spawning a range of advertising techniques. Although in the XXI century, a number of innovative advertising techniques have been created, the basics for attracting more customers remain the same. The technique of specifying a unique feature and trying to sell it for as much money as possible, however, seems to have worn out its welcome, and nowhere does it seem as clearly as in the fashion industry.
It is necessary to stress that the effects of non-traditional advertising strategies have already been explored before. For instance, Jurca (2009) has offered a very detailed theoretical fundament for the phenomenon of unconventional advertisement as a phenomenon. In his turn, Ganesan (2002) came up with a very thorough analysis of a case of unconventional advertisement practice, taking the Benetton Group as an example.
However, it should be mentioned that the phenomenon of non-traditional advertising and its effect on the audience has never been considered within the realm of the fashion world, which is quite a pity, seeing how the fashion industry is one of the most, if not the most influential one in the present-day world. Shaping people’s vision of their own selves, fashion creates the images that the customers are going to relate to, and advertising strategies are a major part of the given process.
The aim of the given research is, therefore, to prove that unconventional advertising has a huge potential and that it can and must be used as a tool for improving the sales rates in a company, despite the fact that unconventional advertising has not been actually tested and, in fact, does not even have a basic theory to rely on, therefore, being primarily dependent on the creative thinking process within a company.
Apart from the major goal specified above, the given research also has a number of objectives that are going to be reached in the course of the research. The first objective concerns defining the basic differences between the traditional and untraditional advertising strategies, as well as their effects on the sales and the company. The second objective is going to address the analysis of the specifics of advertisement in the fashion industry. Thirdly, it will be required to consider the existing types of non-traditional advertisement and check how these types are applied to the fashion industry. Eventually, the opportunities that unconventional advertisement opens for the leaders of the fashion industry will be evaluated.
Seeing how the goal of the given research is to explore the effects of unconventional advertising on customer behavior, the research question is going to concern the changes in the patterns of customers’ behavior inflicted by the use of unconventional advertising. In other words, the given research is going to define the effects of the unconventional advertising strategies on the customers’ behavior and the customers’ shopping patterns, as well as explore the benefits and the drawbacks of the use of unconventional advertisement strategies and compare them to the ones of the traditional advertisement practices in order to figure out which of the two fits the needs of a business organization.
With that being said, the research question for the given paper revolves around the effects that different advertising strategies have on the customers. To be more exact, the given research explores the additional options and the limitations of the unconventional methods of advertising, taking a case study conducted within the fashion industry as an example. It should be borne in mind, though, that the fashion industry is one of those fields that differ considerably from the rest of the types of business. While in other fields, the demand for a specific product is predetermined by a range of more or less stable factors, in the fashion industry, the demands of the audience depending on the changes in the fashion trends, which are rather hard to predict. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that unconventional methods of advertising still can be applied to the given field just as efficiently as they can be utilized in any other field.
Despite the fact that non-traditional advertising does not have a solid theoretical foil to rely on and has not been tested as a possible method of promoting a product, due to the novelty and unique manner of addressing the public, unconventional advertising can be viewed as an extremely powerful advertisement tool, which can attract the customers’ attention towards a specific product in a millisecond and keep the excitement high for a considerable amount of time; however, for unconventional advertising strategies to remain fresh, new and efficient, it is crucial that the non-traditional advertising methods should not be abused so that they would not turn into the mainstream advertising techniques, which will ultimately lead to them losing their effectiveness.
Since the given paper is going to explore the effects that the unconventional methods of advertising have on customers compared to the traditional ones and their effect on the consumer’s behavior, it can be assumed that the most reasonable method to choose for the research is the qualitative type. Since the data that is going to be represented in the paper will hardly provide any statistical data, conducting a major quantitative analysis will be hardly possible. In addition, in the given case, customers’ behavior and its changes are going to be analyzed, which are quite hard to measure in specific units. With that being said, qualitative research will be adopted as the basic research method.
It would be wrong to assume, however, that no statistical data is going to be represented in the paper. As it has been mentioned above, the key problem with the numerical information is its quantity; the available statistics will only suffice for a minor evaluation of a specific issue. Therefore, the elements of statistical analysis are also going to be represented in the paper.
Given the fact that the given research is going to be conducted according to the principles of qualitative research, yet some elements of quantitative analysis are going to be included, the chosen research method can be defined as mixed.
The given research is going to be conducted according to the following outline:
- Exploring the existing theories concerning advertising strategies as the means to attract customers;
- Gathering data concerning the traditional advertising;
- Gathering data on the unconventional advertising;
- Comparison of the data acquired in the process of research in order to specify the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional advertising versus the unconventional one;
- Analysis of the case study concerning the two companies specializing in fashion industry, each company having a specific advertising strategy;
- Considering the case study in question from the perspective of conventional and unconventional advertising strategies;
- Defining the key factors in each strategy, which shape the customers’ behavioral patterns and influence their choices;
- Evaluating the potential of unconventional advertising strategy;
- Checking the efficacy of the unconventional advertising strategy on the customers’ behavior.
Data collection: sampling method
As it has been stressed above, a number of methods are going to be utilized in the course of the research. Since gathering statistical data was mentioned as one of the integral parts of the research, it is reasonable to adopt a sampling method for one of the research stages. When it comes to choosing the possible sources of the data, as well as the versatility of the statistical information, one must stress that the given part of the research will concern the particular case studies in question and a general overview of the world’s largest companies and the most popular advertising methods adopted by these firms. Thus, it will be possible to adopt a comparatively reasonable approach towards the evaluation process, making the latter as objective as possible. To collect the required information concerning the efficacy of conventional and unconventional advertising strategies, it will be necessary to consider two case studies, each featuring one of the methods in question. The case studies on such companies as Zara and Hollister seem the most reasonable choice.
However, the sampling method is not going to be the only research method adopted in the given paper. In addition to the sampling method, a method of comparative analysis of the two companies in question and their advertising techniques is going to be conducted. It is important to stress that, for the sake of acquiring more accurate results of the evaluation, the SWOT and PEST analyses are going to be adopted. By conducting the analyses that will help evaluate the effects of such outside factors as economical, political, and social ones, one will be able to define the efficiency of the specified unconventional advertising strategy and check its potential in not only the fashion industry, as the case studies in question offer, but also in the business world in general.
There are many ways to interpret the data that is going to be represented in the given research. Which is more important, there must be more than one way to evaluate the information offered in the research, as well as interpret the results, since these results and data are going to be both numerical and traditional. Since the research presupposes tackling the statistical information, it is natural to suggest that the paper will need a mathematical analysis to assess the statistics. However, the results of the PEST and SWAT analyses can only be interpreted by applying the corresponding skills of objective thinking and logical analysis. Therefore, it can be assumed that the data obtained in the course of the research will be both evaluated objectively and analyzed mathematically.
Data evaluation tools
As the evaluation is going to consist of several basic steps and involve several procedures, different data evaluation tools will be required. As has been specified above, such tools as PEST and SWAT tests are going to be utilized. With the help of the results acquired in the process, one will be able to draw a legitimate conclusion about the use of non-traditional advertising methods and their impact on the customers’ behavior.
While the field of advertisement and its impact on the customer’s buying behavior seems a relatively innocent issue in terms of ethical concerns, in fact, the issue might turn out more complicated than it appears to be. To start with, it is important to keep in mind that in the field of advertisement, certain restrictions concerning the content of the advertisements exist. To be one hundred percent honest, the current regulations concerning TV and online advertising provide enough wiggle room for the advertisement designers to shape the buyers’ behavior according to the company’s needs. As a result, numerous loopholes are mended every year, with minor additions to the existing principles. For instance, as the existing rules and regulations concerning advertisement in the U.S. claim, the that to sell the goods that are defined as closing-out-sale products, the products that have been damaged by water, fire, etc. or the goods that are sold as a part of a defunct business sale, one must obtain a license; otherwise, the selling will be considered illegal (Going out of business sale: Unlawful advertising, n. d.). The given law was established quite a while ago, and, therefore, is prone to today’s fast-changing world. The laws that concern the spheres of IT and communication are, unfortunately, considerably more flawed, since most of them have been passed quite recently and, therefore, are mostly half-baked. Naturally, there are also the laws that concern the relationships between the audience and the company in question, the use of controversial imagery or confusing ideas in advertising, and many more issues that have been discussed well enough.
Since the given paper is going to be based on a number of theories of advertising strategies and their impact on consumer behavior, it can be assumed that the validity of the given research is going to be rather high. Naturally, it is impossible to claim with one hundred percent certainty that the research results are going to be fully true. However, it can be assumed that, with a careful analysis of the existing data, more or less precise results are going to be obtained.
Speaking of the research hypothesis, with the methods chosen for the research, i.e., the combination of statistical analysis and qualitative research elements, one can suppose that the research results will be quite trustworthy. By using time-tested theories and applying them efficiently to the case studies that are going to be dealt with later on, one will be able to figure out if the research hypothesis is true or false.
Section I (advertising theories and models)
Throughout the history of advertising, theorists have developed models, which have become influential in explaining the role of advertising in marketing. Most of the models have been named depending on the authors who pioneered their development. Examples include but are not limited to the AIDA theory, the hierarchy of effects theory, message models, and DAGMAR. Oftentimes, it is believed that customers go through a series of cognitive, affective, and behavioral stages before making a purchasing decision.
In this regard, the main reason why these models have been developed is to offer specific guidelines on how customers respond once they are exposed to various ads. They further seek to explore the organization of the communication process, and how other factors create noise that hinders the effectiveness of the communication process (Hackley, 2010). Even though most of the models and theories have been in being for a long period of time, it has been hard to identify a particular approach in explaining real-life situations within a market setup. Since there are numerous theories, which explain the behavior of customers with regard to advertising, this segment of the research will focus on a few that are widely applied today.
The acronym AIDA stands for “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.” This model is considered to be one of the oldest, having developed in 1898 by Elmo Lewis. Nevertheless, this has not hindered its application in the understanding of the concept of understanding. It has been argued that this model is precise in explaining major elements of advertising as used by advertisers and copywriters. In this view, AIDA has remained to be a modern formula in advertising. Despite the emergence of other models, IDA has maintained its position as the most functional formula in advertising (Hackley 2010, p. 36).
AIDA was further developed by Strong in 1925, as he explained the effectiveness of an ad in affecting the behavior of the consumer (Janoschka 2004, p. 19). In his argument, Strong noted that the four components of the theory were its pillar in explaining the concept of advertising in the market. The model has been viewed by some experts as highly persuasive, capable of affecting our thinking unconsciously. It is important to note that the four stages defining the model have to be followed to enhance the effectiveness of advertising. In essence, it has to be designed in a manner that allows consumers to go through them since they carry the same impact in determining the behavioral impact of an advert before purchase decisions are made. Furthermore, AIDA suggests that an advertising process should be capable of injecting long-lasting and believable messages, which are likely to trigger the need for action in the mind of consumers.
Even though this model has been seen by many people as the most successful formula in advertising, it has been criticized by a section of advertising experts. Most critics of this model argue that the proposed linear and rational behavior of customers does not exist under normal circumstances in the market. In other words, their argument is based on the fact that mass media advertising lacks the potential of initiating actions or desires in customers. According to Janoschka (2004), AIDA does not put into consideration the role played by mediation, environment, and the context within which the ad is made in enhancing its effectiveness. Nevertheless, the current world of advertising has put more emphasis on awareness and interest rather than the four elements that make up the theory (Janoschka 2004, p. 20). It has therefore been noted that the four components might not be of the same weight in determining the behavioral phases, which a customer goes through after interacting with an advert.
While advertising involves all levels of customers, the AIDA model has been criticized for focusing on high-involvement purchases. In other words, it does not put into consideration the behavior change of low-involvement purchases, which equally plays a major role in understanding the impact of advertising. Even though AIDA outlines the four rational stages prior to buying, some customers argue that the purchases they make are usually spontaneous without allowing the mind to go through a series of linear stages (Hackley 2010, p. 36).
Like in any other business, setting objectives is essential in determining the success of advertising. Objectives that are well-defined are known to act as standards upon which the success of the process can be measured against. Besides measuring ad-effectiveness, it is equally important to note that these objectives play a major role in estimating the advertising budget in a company or organization (Trehan & Ranju 2008). In essence, DAGMAR entails the proper setting of advertising objectives in order to allow one to measure the effectiveness of the advertising process. The acronym DAGMAR stands for “Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results.” The model was proposed by Russel Collay in 1961, through a report he designed on behalf of the Association of National Advertisers (Trehan & Ranju 2008).
According to Trehan and Ranju (2008), DAGMAR begins with awareness, followed by comprehension, conviction, and then action. The model emphasizes on the need to communicate relevant information with a target audience for the purpose of initiating an action. It, therefore, follows that advertising fails or succeeds depending on whether the information was communicated to the right people, timely and at an affordable cost (Trehan & Ranju 2008, p. 80). Unlike the AIDA model, DAGMAR is not only concerned with the effectiveness of the advertising process but also with a formula that can allow the determination of results that have to realize with economical and realistic budget cost.
In the awareness stage of the advertising process, the consumer is made aware of the existence of a given brand in the market. This is crucial because it allows the other stages to be executed during the process. In any advertising process of any nature, a customer only makes a decision after becoming aware of the existence of a given brand or company within the market. It would be almost impossible for the company to make sales if the customers have no idea of the existence of such a company in the market. Besides this initial stage, it is important for customers to understand the attributes of the product with regards to its properties and uses (Tyagi & Kumar 2004). Understanding is essential for the purpose of forming the basis upon which the buying decision is made. Besides this, a customer has to be persuaded before a final decision to buy the product is made. Persuasion is done by focusing on the advantages of using a particular product, based on the quality and price of the products being offered to customers. Without conviction, it is hard for a buying decision to be made
Characteristics of Objectives in DAGMAR Approach
Advertising objectives in the DAGMAR model must have certain characteristics, which have to be considered for the advertising process to be effective and economical. For instance, the objectives have to be well-defined. In essence, effective objectives must possess clarity and conciseness before they are communicated to designers to craft the advertising message (Gittings & Brierley 2002, p. 193). These play a major role as they help the copywriter in drafting an appealing message to lure customers into purchasing a given product. Furthermore, concise objectives are used in determining other steps of the advertising process.
The benchmark and the degree of the desired change are equally important in determining the effectiveness of the process. Under this, one should be able to understand the target audience in various stages for the purpose of designing the best advertising goals. The degree of change can be determined by getting the difference between the current sizes of the target audience with the expected target. The change that is needed at all stages of the hierarchy should be established to enhance effectiveness. Besides having a well-defined set of advertising objectives, the objectives ought to have a well-defined target audience (Gittings & Brierley 2002, p. 193). In other words, the audience to whom the advertising message is conveyed must be clearly stated. Importantly, members of each stage have to be identified, together with their characteristics, for the purpose of designing appropriate objectives for the advertising process.
The last factor, which has to be considered when designing the objectives of an advertising process, is having a specified period of time. This refers to the time frame within which the set objectives have to be achieved. There is no fixed time, though its determination is based on the current situation and the degree of the desired change. For example, brand awareness may take a shorter time as compared to objectives, which relate to persuading customers.
Criticism of DAGMAR Model
Like other ad models, DAGMAR has been criticized based on a number of issues. For instance, some scholars believe sales objective is the best approach of determining the effectiveness of any advertising process. This is based on the fact that the primary role of any promotional strategy is to create more opportunities to sell products. Nevertheless, DAGMAR focuses on communication as the primary tool used to measure the success of this process. While this is the case, others argue that the advertising process could be creating brand awareness within a given target audience, but this does not give the guarantee that customers will make a decision by the product being advertised (Trehan & Ranju 2008, p. 82). This justifies the fact that sales are better placed in measuring the results of advertising.
On the other hand, critics of this model argue that it might not be possible to determine the size of the target audience at every stage of the formula. As a result, the theory might not work in a real-market situation. Another fault in the DAGMAR theory is that it is expensive and time-consuming (Trehan & Ranju 2008, p. 82). For an individual or organization to carry out surveys to establish the target audience at every level with respective characteristics, the process requires enough resources and time, and small organizations may fail to meet these costs. This can only be feasible in large companies, with a huge allocation for the advertising budget.
Communication hierarchy is also another problem associated with this advertising model. Under normal circumstances, it has been argued that consumers do not go through all these stages of the communication hierarchy before making a final decision to purchase a product (Trehan & Ranju 2008, p. 83). In other words, the process of decision-making largely depends on the prevailing conditions before one makes a purchase and not on such a rigid structure. As a result, a customer can decide to buy a product, which has been advertised without necessarily going through the four processes of communication hierarchy.
The model also assumes the role played by other factors in determining the success of each stage. For example, increased awareness, understanding, and persuasion may not depend on advertising but rather on other factors like unplanned publicity and informal communication among customers. Lastly, the model is oftentimes considered as a hindrance to creative ideas within an organization. By the fact that effectiveness is based on “brand-name-recall-test,” copywriters are compelled to design simple ads, which can be recalled by consumers long after the ad has been published, thus increasing future performance (Trehan & Ranju 2008, p. 83). In most cases, such an approach kills creativity in designing ads because of how their effectiveness is determined. Additionally, such simplicity does not promote brand equity, which is more important than creating simple adverts, which can be recalled forever by consumers. In cases where simplicity is advocated for, it would be easy for people to recall the brand name, without necessarily being brand loyal.
Lavidge & Steiners Hierarchy-of-effects model
This theory of advertising was published during the development of the DAGMAR model. In 1961, Lavidge and Steiners suggested the theory, which was mainly based on the fact that consumers respond to ads depending on the hierarchy of effects. The hierarchy of effects denotes a pattern of stages, which a buyer goes through before making the final decision of purchasing products from a given seller (OaShaughnessy 1995). These stages are summarized in figure 1 below
According to OaShaughnessy (1995), the stages are predetermined, and the consumer has to go through all of them before making a conclusion. According to the pioneers of this model, a buying process cannot be completed unless the buyer goes through all the stages in the chart above. The dynamic nature of the model ensures that the stages depend on each other (OaShaughnessy 1995, p. 421). What is so evident with this theory is the fact that consumers cannot move from being uninterested to making a buying decision; there is a sequence, which has to be followed to achieve this target. The advertiser, therefore, assumes that a consumer goes through the seven steps before reaching his or her final decision.
The hierarchy-of-effects model differs from others modes, not only because of the additional number of steps that the customer passes through, but also the requirements of each step before moving to the next level. According to the two scholars, Lavidge and Steiners, the seven steps have to be followed in a linear way, without skipping any. However, a potential buyer can move across the levels simultaneously, thus taking a shorter period of time as compared to other types of consumers within the market.
At the initial stage of the model, the customer is close to the purchase point, even though he might be too far from the cash register. In other words, the people at this stage merely know about the existence of the product without any other information, which might be relevant in making a buying decision. After this stage, the customers have an idea of what the product that is being offered by the seller looks like, in terms of its physical appearance and common uses, which are likely to attract customers. Once, the product is known in terms of what it is offering to customers, prospective customers develop positive attitudes towards the products. In other words, other words, the product becomes likable by the consumers (Egan 2007, p. 13). After this attraction, customers give preference to these commodities over all other options present in the market environment. This preference generates the inner desire to acquire the products, having considered several factors in the previous stages. According to the model, the customer is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the decision to buy the product is wise and will not lead to any future regrets. This inner drive and development are eventually translated into the process of purchasing the advertised product (Egan 2007, p. 13).
In their survey, Lavidge and Steiners agree that there are cases of impulse buying within the market set-up. They, therefore, concur that these steps are crucial for higher economical goods. Another assumption, which has to be taken into consideration, is that advertising does not happen in a single day; it is a continuous process as long as the production of products is in progress (Schumann & Thorson 2007, p. 39). Based on this argument, an advert may not translate into an instant reaction that leads to the purchase of products. The series of steps have to be followed since one level leads to the next stage in the hierarchy of effects.
Criticism of the Hierarchy-of-effects model
As much as the hierarchy of effects model can be helpful in understanding the process of advertising and how consumers get influenced, many scholars agree that it is not conclusive. Firstly, the seven steps presented in this formula are logical but sometimes do not represent the reality in the market (Hackley 2005, p. 28). Obviously, some of the consumers do not go through the seven stages proposed above before making a buying decision. Like in the previous model, this may be a result of prevailing conditions. Additionally, critics have argued that the stages presented in the hierarchy of the effects model do not necessarily occur in a hierarchical sequence. Based on the prevailing conditions, a buyer may go through the levels without following the order presented by the pioneers of this model (Hackley 2005, p. 28). Lastly, the existence of impulse buying in the market contrasts the model since such consumers are not exposed to the sequence of seven steps discussed above. In other words, the decision to make a final decision of making a purchase does not rely on the model at all times.
The FCB Model of Advertising Strategy
This model was suggested by Richard Vaughn in 1980, during his study on the role of advertising. The Foote, Cone, Belding (FCB) strategy matrix suggests that the effectiveness of advertising depends on the type of product involved. On this basis, advertisers consider a given method of communication depending on the type of product and perceptions, which customers are likely to have towards the product (Verbeek & Slob 2006). This can be summarized by figure 2 below:
In the first quadrant of the figure above, consumers require a lot of information about the product based on its use. Under this, the customer expects to find information relating to the functions of the product, its availability in the market, and its price (Barker & Angelopulo 2005). This information is essential in order to establish attitudinal acceptance, which allows one to make a purchase without a divided mind.
In the second quadrant, the advertiser focuses on less specific information since an attitude towards the product is given more preference. When done successfully, consumers ought to “feel” the product before a decision is made. On the other hand, products, which fall in the third quadrant require little thought and may involve the development of certain buying habits based on one’s convenience. According to this model, stimulation of a reminder helps the customer to revisit the product before making a buying decision. In the last quadrant, there is minimal involvement even though the process of decision-making might be emotional. It is, therefore, necessary to capture the attention of the consumers, a trend, which has to be consistent by the use of the most appropriate and effective method of advertising.
Section II (advertising and its practical application)
According to the existing sources, there are two basic ways to advertise a specific product, namely, the traditional and the so-called unconventional methods. Though the conventional methods are traditionally preferred over the unconventional ones, it seems that the latter has a slightly more tangible effect on the patterns of consumers’ behavior (Miller & Lammas, 2011). By considering some of the existing theories on conventional and unconventional advertising, one can possibly figure out which method affects the patterns of customers’ behavior the most, and in what manner and to which degree these patterns can be changed (Stewart & Pavlou 2002).
Conventional advertising includes a set of strategies that may or may not be simple, yet they all have stood the test of time. As a result, these strategies are typically considered traditional (Niazi et al. 2011). James considers the traditional Taylor’s six-segment message strategy wheel (Taylor 2011), insisting that its efficacy has been proven by the number of its successful applications. In his turn, Wright et al. (2010) comment on the necessity to consider social media trends in the course of designing advertising strategy. In his turn, Shah raises an important question on whether the customer actually believes the messages sent by conventional advertisements (Shah 2011), which Shakeel (2011) and Fam, Waller & Erodgan (2006) provide convincing proof for.
With the advent of the informational technology era, new conventional advertising strategies have been developed. Even though they presuppose the use of the latest technologies, they are still based on the standard principles that are generally accepted worldwide (Gröppel-Klein & Germelmann 2005).
According to the existing definition, unconventional strategies of advertisement can be defined as the strategies that have been created for the needs of a particular company based on the needs, key assets, strengths, and weaknesses of the company in question.
In his article, Michael S. Harris (2009) considers the possibility of industrial advertising in the course of TV games, therefore, making it clear that unconventional advertising presupposes first that non-traditional medium should be used for the advertisement campaign. Indeed, the setting matter considerably. By choosing the unusual setting for an advertisement to be placed in, a company is most likely to be noticed and, therefore, has greater chances of increasing its range of clients. In addition, Harris makes it obvious that not only different fields of business but also different aspects of human life can be mixed when developing an unconventional advertising campaign; in his case, it was placing the advertisement on sports into the educational setting (Priyanka 2012).
Unconventional advertising also presupposes that non-traditional imagery should be used in advertisements (Bian & Foxall 2013). Muniz & Schau (2007) make it clear that unconventional advertising must focus on communicational analysis, while Ruth & Simonin (2006) insist that consumer response to sponsorship must be considered. The patterns of customer behavior and its relation to advertising strategies have also been researched quite a bit.
It is quite peculiar that unconventional advertising strategies can be composed of the elements of conventional ones. According to Zain-Ul-Abideen and Saleem (Zain-Ul-Abideen & Saleem 2011), consumer buying behavior is shaped by the advertising strategy largely, since it incorporates the concepts of the traditional advertising techniques.
As the existing sources claim, the effects of unconventional strategies on the customers’ behavior vary. If applied reasonably, when the specifics of the company are taken into account, untraditional advertising strategies work brilliantly; they serve their purpose of attracting more customers and changing people’s attitudes towards the product that they advertise.
It is worth noting, however, that unconventional advertising presupposes that a company should take serious risks and take a course that is different from the standard advertising strategies. Since the company’s popularity and, therefore, revenues are often at stake, few firms choose the given method of advertising.
Zara and Hollister: A Case Study
A truly interesting journey into the world of advertising, the case of Zara offers a lot of food for thoughts in terms of how unconventional advertising methods affect a company’s popularity among the general public, as well as among the range of its clientele. Despite the fact that the case study in question primarily deals with marketing issues, the brilliant choice of the advertising campaign still shines through. By defining the latter and specifying its characteristics, one can possibly figure out if the leader of Zara has truly come up with a perfect concept of the advertising campaign. According to the details of the case study provided, Zara has “no advertising strategies” (Zara 2013), yet the company’s revenues seem to go through the roof.
Of course, it would be naïve to think that the company really never tries to introduce its defining feature into its advertising system. Quite on the contrary, the company clearly has a specific style of offering its goods and attracting its audience. Perhaps, what is meant in the company’s statement of vision is that Zara is trying not to be repetitive in the legends behind its merchandise and creates unique legends behind each product. If considering some of the goods produced by the company and taking a closer look at their descriptions, as well as the ways in which the company advertises its services, one will inevitably see the distinct style of Zara: “The company believes that its shop windows, the contents of which are also decided in La Corua are all the advertising it needs” (Zara 2013). The given statement allows lifting the veil of the company’s advertising strategy and seeing through its “anti-advertising-policy” disguise. To start with, it is clear that Zara puts the quality of its products in the limelight when talking about the latter. The fact that the company shifts the emphasis on quality becomes obvious as soon as one notices a small addition made to the description of Zara’s shop windows: “which are also decided in La Corua” (Zara, 2013). Widely known as a company specializing in high-quality digital design in Tucson, AZ, La Corua is a trademark that Zara clearly seems to be willing to show off. Therefore, by showing how much thought and care has gone into the details of the company’s structure and look, and, thus, by setting its standards of quality high enough, Zara assures its clientele on a subconscious level that the provided products are of just as high quality. The company does not shove its advertisement into the customers’ faces and, on the contrary, shifts it into the background, claiming to have none, and yet the chosen advertising technique works impeccably.
One of the proofs to the fact that Zara does advertise its products, and does so regularly, can be traced in the way in which Zara introduces itself to the general audience. For example, one of the posters that are supposed to announce the opening of a new Zara shop, says a lot about Zara’s advertising principle. The picture offers little to no details about the company; there is only a picture of a woman in beautiful clothes, the company’s name in the caption, a note “opening soon” and an online address of the company. The given poster is, in fact, a straight-up advertisement; however, according to the company’s policy, it does not say a single word either about the company, or its products. Instead, it creates an atmosphere of mystery, making the audience guess all the way through, what actually Zara is. The given poster is a specimen of a truly brilliant advertisement.
The given example of advertising strategy is not used as widely as one might have thought, even though Zara has proven its efficiency in a rather graphic manner. Zara has made a big stake in its advertisement-free policy and is clearly enjoying the benefits of being called a one-of-a-kind company. However, the officials at Zara are smart enough to create a system that allows for relatively subtle advertisements and slipping important messages about the company’s mission, vision, and product quality into these advertisements so that people could consider the company trustworthy enough.
The data offered in the case study show clearly that the company has spent much on its advertising campaign. Moreover, it took Zara quite a while to introduce itself and its products into the market even after the firm teamed up with Advertising Agency Tiempo BBDO: “An intensive advertising campaign was planned throughout national and international media, with presence in the written press of general information and economic journals” (Soloaga & Monjo 2010, 16). The case study also needs some statistical data, which can be found in the databases featuring the most successful companies, their revenues, peak positions, etc.
|Largest European store||3,000 sq. m|
|Current rank in Inditex SA||1|
|Number of countries introduced to||45|
|Stores located in key districts||531|
|Number of cities introduced to||≥ 400 (North and South Americas, Europe and Asia)|
|Inditex’s (parent company) net margin on Zara||11.02%|
As the given data shows, even without an explicit advertising campaign, Zara happens to hit the top position at the Inditex rank, which is rather impressive. Therefore, it can be concluded that deliberately drawing the customers’ attention away from the issues that are traditionally highlighted in the advertisements of any other company works to Zara’s advantage. Despite the fact that technically, Zara does use an efficient advertising technique, the absence of anything commonly related to as an advertising campaign seems to be the defining feature of the company, which, miraculously enough, makes Zara even more successful.
Unlike most fashion firms, which heavily depend on promotions, Zara puts a lot of emphasis on products, pricing, and price. Besides promotions, it is equally important to note that Zara does not include its brand or logo on all its products. This begs the question of how the company outshines most of its competitors in winning customers and influencing their buying decisions. This means that the company’s sales associates are not interested in personal selling as compared to how some local retailers carry out their businesses.
Moreover, it has been argued that Zara’s customer services, especially within its stores are not up-to-date. This, therefore, narrows down to innovative products, which make it stand out amongst several players in the market (Zara: Brand Story, 2012). Additionally, the company’s affordable prices influence customers and give it an appealing image to the public. Above all, its products are considered to be adverts on their own, thus making Zara brands popular and common among potential customers.
Another famous company, Hollister offers a completely different perspective on what advertising strategies must be modeled like. Unlike the Zara Company, Hollister seems to have arranged its advertising priorities in line, seeing how in every single step that the company makes to introduce its product, a calculated approach aimed at defining the target audience, creating a sophisticated legend behind every single brand and a well-thought-out design of the shops exterior and interior, as well as coming up with an original design of billboards and a creative choice of models.
Unlike Zara, Hollister makes it clear from the very start that it aims at a specific kind of audience. To start with, the company is clearly focused on the people who can appreciate the chic of the vintage style. Even though Hollister Co. is clearly willing to provide the products that will be appreciated and easily recognized in the present-day world, the company’s homage to the vintage style is obvious, and the references to the mid-XX century stylistics often shine through. For instance, it is remarkable that the Hollister Company uses traditional color cast close to never in its commercials, preferring the sepia-toned style of the first two decades of the XX century.
Quite unlike Zara, Hollister restricted the range of its potential customers from the very start, which had both positive and negative outcomes. Since the company had a signature style from the very start, it was extremely hard to recruit new followers who were not interested enough in the retro air that Hollister was shot through. The fact that owing to Hollister’s defining style, its clientele has been very loyal from the very start, on the other hand, shows that narrowing the range of potential customers down to a specific crowd might have some benefits. According to the case study, Hollister was initially aiming at the young adults who have enough money or whose parents have enough money to buy trendy clothes (Czerny, 2007). Hollister can also be characterized by exploiting the concept of sex appeal in its advertising strategy, therefore, attracting the target audience in an even more efficient way. In fact, many companies use sex appeal to attract consumers into buying their clothes, and Hollister, the affiliate of the famous Abercrombie & Fitch, is the company that does this very well. Selling clothes through sex appeal has proved very successful for this company because most of the consumers are young adults and teenagers. The company uses sex appeal in its adverts as well as through its workforce. The employees in Abercrombie stores are said to be athletic and reflect the company adverts (Driessen 2005).
Therefore, in contrast to the Zara Company, Hollister has a developed and well-thought-out advertising strategy. One might have thought that the given fact serves as the defining indicator of Hollander’s superiority over the Zara Company; however, such a supposition does not come any closer to the truth. In fact, the Zara Company can be considered as a company of the same, if not even better, quality of performance.
Needless to say, Hollister’s advertising strategy also has its problems. As has been mentioned above, it is targeted at a very small group of potential clients. One could argue that Zara does not aim at attracting the entire population of the state, either. However, with the approach adopted by Zara, i.e., the policy of saying less, people get quickly interested in the company; and, once they get to know about the company’s propositions, they are able to find there something that they could be interested in, i.e., a specific kind of accessories, etc. With Hollister Co., however, it is a bit more complicated. With the offers that have already been shoved in the undertones of the early XX century, the company is likely to miss on a number of opportunities, since the messages conveyed by the advertising strategy chosen by the company do not appeal to the XXI-century youth.
It is clear that Hollister is trying to apply the traditional methods of advertising in order to play safe; judging by the current state of financial affairs in the company, it does not need any more risks while it is trying to restore its reputation and to take its leading position among its competitors back. However, the strategy chosen for Hollister seems to be working rather slowly. The given phenomenon is rather peculiar; even though Hollister is clearly trying to tailor its advertisement strategy towards the current trends and the attitudes among the customers, it clearly tries very hard to succeed, in contrast to Zara, whose staff clearly focuses on providing the goods instead of creating new ways to introduce them to the public. According to the recent research on Hollister Company, the firm has the following data to offer as proof of the fact that its performance is gradually improving:
Table 2. Hollister Valuation Measures. (Key statistics, 2013).
Comparing the customer behavior shaped by the strategies that each of the companies in question chose, one must mention that the given case is a perfect example of how two polar approaches to the advertisement can lead to equally impressive results. Despite the fact that each of the companies has chosen a different strategy of communicating with its customers via advertisement, it is obvious that both Zara and Hollister have made quite an achievement in advertizing their goods.
Taking a closer look at the key assets and weaknesses of the Zara Company, one must admit that the company is especially good at adopting an innovative approach towards advertizing. While the means that Zara has chosen to promote its products can hardly be considered one hundred percent honest towards its clients – in fact, Zara’s statement about having no policy of advertisement whatsoever is a straight-up lie – the company clearly knows what it risks and how exactly it should approach its customers. Actually, even though the customers hardly realize it, they do understand that the company exaggerates when stating its non-advertisement policy. Feeling that the company gives them enough credit by allowing them to judge Zara by its products, not by its advertisements, the company tricks people into paying attention to it and eventually become its clients. Hollister, on the contrary, has a definitive style that sets it apart from the rest of the companies, yet restricts its range of clients. The PEST and SWOT tests will help summarize the advertising strategies used by each of the companies in a nutshell.
Table 3. Zara and Hollister Comparative PEST Analysis of Advertisement Strategy and Its Effect on Consumers.
|Political||Zara’s advertisements hardly convey any political ideas. In fact, the posters on billboards look rather cosmopolitan.||Likewise, Hollister prefers to avoid political context in its advertising campaigns.|
|Economical||Zara’s advertising strategy also shaped the customers’ behavior from an economical perspective. As the existing records show, Zara has always put the emphasis on the practical aspects of its products. While the company tends to never show the goods explicitly in their advertisements, Zara clearly advertises quality. Even though the prices can be seen as rather high, Zara promises that the quality of the goods will necessarily make up for the high price. |
Therefore, Zara shapes its customers’ behavior in that it makes people more careful about their choices.
|Hollister with its original strategy also affects the customers’ behavior on the economical level. By appealing to their social needs, i.e., the need to be accepted among the wealthiest and, therefore, the most influential layers of society. Indeed, when considering the way in which Hollister advertises its products, one will see the distinct air of chic, which is partially borrowed from the already mentioned “old school” style and is partially seen in the glamorous elements of the advertisements, e.g., the palms on the beach, which symbolize a resort for the rich, etc. Therefore, paradoxically enough, Hollister appeals to people’s desire to spend money in order to buy comfort and chic rather than to people’s need to save money.|
|Social||Much like Hollister, Zara changes people’s idea of what fashion can be by exploiting various elements of social aspects of buyers’ behavior. Addressing predictability, which society needs immensely, challenges the audience by clearly neglecting it. Indeed, in most cases, people have to know what they are being offered. Zara, quite, on the contrary, creates an environment in which the audience has no idea what the company has to offer; the audience sees clearly, however, that Zara is going to provide them with quality and exquisiteness, as the elements of the advertisements show. Therefore, Zara appeals to such social aspects as being a rebel, even though for a day. In fact, the principles adopted by Zara fits the AIDA model mentioned above, since Zara immediately tricks the viewer into paying attention (Attention), makes him/her curious about the product (Interest), then stirs the need to obtain the product (Desire) and calls for purchasing the item in question (Action).||When considering the social perspective of the effects of the Hollister’s advertising strategy, one must admit that it not only shapes the customers’ attitude towards the product but also makes people reconsider their idea of style in general. As has been stressed above, Hollister clearly puts the emphasis on the retro elements in its advertisements of new products. Even though the given products belong to the XXI century era, the tone and mood of the advertisements send the audience immediately into the beginning of the XX century. Thus, Hollister reinvents people’s perception of fashion on a subconscious level, changing society and its the idea of style, which shapes the customers’ behavior greatly. The strategy adopted by Hollister suits the principles of the DAGMAR Model since it is clear that Hollister has defined its goals clearly (Defining Advertising Goals) and strives for a particular result, i.e., attracting young people with a taste for vintage clothes (Measured Advertising Results).|
|Technological||Zara does not seem to show off its technological advances in its advertisement campaigns. As it has been stressed, the company prefers to promote its products with the help of good old billboards. Therefore, the role of technology in Zara’s attempts at changing the buyers’ behavior is minor.||Much like Zara, Hollister does not put much emphasis on the technological aspects of its advertising strategy. Instead, it makes sure that the social ideas are conveyed to the audience in an efficient way.|
However, while the PEST evaluation allows considering the outside factors, it is the SWOT assessment that helps define the factors that are located within the companies in question.
Table 4. Zara and Hollister Comparative SWOT Analysis of Advertisement Strategy and Its Effect on Consumers.
|Strengths||The key strength of Zara’s advertising strategy concerns the company’s choice of the target audience. It is rather impressive that a company specializing in fashion design has managed to find a common language with so many different types of audiences. Thus, it can be assumed that Zara is able to detect and use the factors that shape customers’ behavior so that the clients should be more interested in the company’s products.||Hollister’s advertising strategy is targeted at a specific portion of the population. Therefore, the given strategy allows for attracting loyal customers who prefer Loyal customers who have been devoted to the company and have been buying its products for considerable time are most likely to make the bulk of the Hollister Co.’s clientele in the future, thus, making the company’s position in the current market stable.|
|Weaknesses||When it comes to the advertising strategy, the key weakness of the Zara Company seems to concern the way in which the company promotes its goods is keeping the customers interested. |
Indeed, when it comes to the analysis of the company’s advertising strategy, it seems that Zara’s key strategy appears to be a one-trick pony. While it makes people interested at once, it has nothing to keep the audience entertained.
|Aiming at a specific portion of the population, the company locks itself within the same group of customers. Therefore, the chosen advertisement strategy does not allow for defining the factors that predetermine the customers’ buying behavior; instead, it makes the company highly dependable on the customers’ choices and the changes in the current trends.|
|Opportunities||The advertising strategy is chosen by the Zara Company clearly offers a pool of opportunities for its leaders. Since the company puts a very strong emphasis on the absence of any advertisements, it can create an entire philosophy of advertisement, therefore, becoming even more popular and, thus, attracting more people to buy its products. It is essential that Zara’s key asset concerns the company’s ability to stir the public’s curiosity. Therefore, what the company needs to learn is to make efficient use of this curiosity and try to maintain high-quality standards. With that being said, it must be admitted that Zara’s unique advertising strategy shapes the customers’ behavior greatly by tricking them into learning more about Zara.||The strategy of advertising that Hollister has picked definitely has potential. To start with, it is clear that Hollister can create a very strong and devoted customer base. As a result, even in case of a crisis, Hollister will always be able to rely on its clientele, who will buy the clothes at the Hollister Co., since no other firm has such a unique proposition to offer like the one that Hollister does. It is clear that, as long as Hollister is going to retain its retro stylistics and continue promoting to the people who find it attractive, the company is going to be successful among a specific audience. It seems, though, that the company could try harder and use not only the color cast of a retro style but also other visual elements that can be related to the beginning of the XX century, e.g., the Art Deco details or fonts.|
|Threats||When speaking about the possible threats concerning the changes in the customer’s behavior, which Zara can possibly face in the nearest future, one must address the fact that Zara’s strategy does not seem favorable for attracting the customers immediately. Indeed, the advertising strategy chosen by the company presupposes that the audience should take their time to let the atmosphere build up and, therefore, is not favorable for winning such customers as business people, who do not have enough time to pay close attention to advertisements. That being said, when enhanced, Zara’s advertising strategy can possibly lead to the loss of a considerable chunk of Zara’s clientele.||Much like in the case of Zara, most of the threats that the Holster Company’s faces at present stem largely from its signature approach towards advertising strategy design. As popular as the retro style used in Holster advertisements is nowadays, there is still a possibility that in a couple of years, it is going to start getting dated. Thus, Holster will appear at the crossroads, having to choose between retaining the traditional style and losing the chance to attract new customers, or picking a different advertising strategy, appeal to a different crowd and put its popularity among retro fans at stake. It can be suggested that the company should either follow the principles of traditional advertising, or get rid of the latter completely and try converting every advertisement into a retro image of a slightly sexualized style.|
When unconventional methods must be adopted
The given case studies offer a lot of food for thoughts, triggering a very important question. Since the major difference between the advertising strategies chosen by Hollister Co. and the Zara Company concerns not the effort that the companies put into attracting the clientele, but the subtlety with which they advertise their goods, the companies’ strategies, when compared back to back, can lead to a very peculiar commentary on the human nature. It seems that the customers’ key demand towards the company promoting a specific product concerns not the quality, not the pricing policy, and not the way the product looks, but the legend behind the product in question, as well as the way in which the given legend is represented. When considering the advertising strategies used by the Zara and Hollister Companies, one must admit that each of them has made a number of mistakes in the course of their advertising campaigns; however, with a very strong emphasis on what really mattered to their target audience, they managed to reach incredible success.
Therefore, it can be assumed that the customer’s behavior is shaped by the manner in which the advertising campaign is being carried out. While the customer’s choices are often predetermined by the quality of the visual elements, the way in which the advertisement represents the product, and other elements related to the visuals, the pace, and the legend behind the brand, for the most part, it is the way in which the customer is being addressed that matters. Despite the fact that the Zara Company does not take any seeming effort to talk to its audience in a straightforward buy-this-now manner, it is clear that the firm gives its clients enough credit to read between the lines of the few advertisements that it creates. Hollister, on the contrary, throws whatever comes to the advertisement manager’s mind into the crowd of loyal customers; yet, defining the circle of the latter from the very start with the help of its explicit and uncompromising advertisement campaign, the company seems to have been doing comparatively well since the very day when it was created. With that being said, it can be assumed that the only possible way to shape the customers’ behavior is to figure out what the customer wants to hear.
Advertising is, perhaps, one of the most complicated elements of the marketing process. Since the given element is closely intertwined with the study of customers’ psychology, it requires the analysis of the buyers’ motivations, as well as the search for the ultimate formula of introducing the goods so that people should be excited about the product.
However, it should be kept in mind that, when designing the strategy for advertising a new brand, a company needs to take a number of factors into consideration before choosing the unconventional means of advertising to the target audience. There is no need to stress the fact that unconventional methods of advertising have not been fully tested yet; moreover, it is rather doubtful that they ever will be, since the unconventional methods are extremely diverse and can be changed according to the specifics of the company. Choosing an untraditional method of advertising is only possible when a company has little to lose or, on the contrary, is completely sure about the success of its venture. Otherwise, untraditional methods of advertising should be used with great care. Putting an entire company at stake for the sake of promoting a new brand is hardly reasonable. Therefore, while more companies should try unconventional methods of advertising, it is still highly desirable that the company should have a backup plan to rely on in case the chosen untraditional advertising strategy backfires. As the examples of Zara and Hollister show, conventional and unconventional advertising strategies can be combined successfully in order to shape customers’ behavior the appropriate way.
It must be admitted that the non-traditional advertising strategies seem rather risky to be applied in situations when taking a wrong step means failing on all levels. There can be no doubt about the untraditional approaches towards product advertisement being half-baked and not trustworthy enough; as a rule, the key problem concerning these strategies is that they have not stood the test of time yet, and the algorithm of their application has not been polished to perfection yet. Therefore, it is obvious that using one of the non-traditional advertising strategies means taking huge risks.
However, when a company needs to make a decisive step and take actions in order to attract the customers at all costs and create a brand, shocking the viewers into paying attention can be a good strategy at least to try. As unreliable as the unconventional methods of advertising are, they surely do have one asset, i.e., making people recognize the new product. Thus, these strategies can and must be used in order to attract the potential customer’s attention.
Consequently, it can be assumed that the customers’ behavior is predetermined not only by such factors as the need in the specified product, the popularity of the product, and the flexible pricing policy as compared to the one adopted by the competitors, but also the advertising technique and the portrayal of the legend behind the product. It is important to keep in mind that people do not simply buy a product – they buy a story that stands behind it; by purchasing a specific item, they hope to plunge into the atmosphere created around the product with the help of a clever advertisement. With that in mind, it can be assumed that the customers’ behavior is largely predetermined by the company’s choice of the advertising strategy.
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