A recent article in The New York Times highlighted an innovative marketing campaign unveiled by the clothing retailer, J. Crew. In a departure from the traditional clothing marketing campaign wherein a retailer tries to convince buyers that their lives are incomplete without that company’s products, J. Crew recommends products made by third-party retailers that might be of interest to their prospective customers. Even more astounding is the fact that J. Crew is not profiting from the sale of any of these third-party retailer items. The obvious question is, what is J. Crew doing promoting other companies? The answer seems to be that J. Crew is trying to establish itself as the stylish and trusted friend a customer might turn to for an opinion on sartorial matters and, hopefully, more.
Why write about J. Crew and what does this have to do with topics normally written about on this site? The answer: what J. Crew is doing with this new marketing campaign goes to the heart of what social networking is about. While it is no secret that the for-profit sector has been slow and awkward in adapting to social networking, this New York Times article on J. Crew lays clear why. The for-profit sector has utilized social media in much the same way they have traditional marketing tactics aiming to benefit only themselves. Social networking, however, requires a fundamental paradigm shift in how we relate to our customers/clients. In our new media reality, it is no longer just about “me” and if that is an organization’s intent, it will become apparent. Individuals and organizations that succeed in attracting followers and building influence build relationships, which as many of us were told in our youth, is a two-way street. Perhaps then by examining this unique marketing campaign organizations can learn more from J. Crew than which cardigan to pair with their boyfriend jeans.