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How Tommy Hilfiger’s authentic style conquers the world

Tommy Hilfiger brings a new dimension to preppy style as well as the concept of pop-up stores. An entire beach cottage is currently travelling the world, exhibiting and selling a limited edition Prep World collection for just one week to global cities including LA and New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo, Hamburg, Madrid, Milan and Knokke. Really eager to know how Hilfiger is keeping its brand hot, we’ve exclusively interviewed Avery Baker, EVP of global Marketing and communications.

The preppy style has always been at the heart of Tommy Hilfiger’s brand DNA, so the Prep World Tour seems to be quite an authentic way to stress the uniqueness of the brand?
Avery Baker: “We’ve detected an interesting trend with the preppy style. The way it is adapted and interpreted around the world today is quite different when you compare it to 25 years ago – when the brand was founded – and even to 5 or 10 years ago. The more personal individual approach to fashion we have seen the last decade, has also been translated into the preppy world.  Local influences and glocalization affected the way preppy is present on the streets today. Hilfiger wanted to showcase how the style has evolved and got in touch with Lisa Birnbach, author of the ‘Official Preppy Handbook’ (from the 1980s). For her new book ‘True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World’ Birnbach did specific research to tie back the global aspect of prep lifestyle. Preppy is different in every city around the world. In Italy it is very clean and colourful. For instance, in Paris, it’s dressed up and more conservative. In Madrid, everyone is wearing red pants. In Tokyo, they are all mixing up colours….

Apart from the travelling beach house, how are you connecting with your customers?
“Our customers are broadly interested in a preppy lifestyle, not just the clothes. The house is a way to engage them in a true brand experience. Of course the world tour of the cottage is supported by the digital platform that allows them not only to track the house but also to voice their own opinion about preppy style. There’s the contest through which they can upload their own personal and local interpretation of Prep style and win a trip to one of the cities. Since the launch of the promotion, there have been approximately 100,000 votes and almost 1,000 people have uploaded photos of their own prep style . The house is not only a unique outdoor billboard, it triggers pr and buzz for the brand. In LA, brand ambassador Britney Spears has visited the cottage. People are deeply engaging with the brand when visiting the beach house and apart from that, it’s also a store selling a unique collection.  The average daily traffic into the Prep World cottage is above average versus a normal Tommy Hilfiger shop.”   The multi-layer platform is highly effective because it reaches consumers through a variety of media.  By the end of the tour, the Prep World will have delivered over 300 million impressions globally.

In the latest Spring/Summer fashion season, preppy seems to be one of the main styles. But, what about next year? When fashion moves on to the next in thing. How will you keep the Tommy Hilfiger brand hot then?
“Having this momentum of a fashion trend in line with our brand offering is of course great. But, it is the fresh and new, modern way of interpreting the trend by our Tommy Hilfiger brand that makes it more successful for us than for other preppy brands. Hilfiger’s authentic DNA won’t change if trends move on. I don’t see our brand switching to a black and dark edgy underground style. But we can twist our own style to whatever is the Zeitgeist of the moment and resonate consumer trends at any particular time in our own way. Hilfiger has been around for 25 years, which means that the brand is always relevant to a certain segment of consumers that is looking for a more classic style with a twist.”

What is making Tommy Hilfiger unique when you compare it to other lifestyle brands?
“Our brand is very inclusive. I mean, both Tommy Hilfiger himself and the brand are very accessible. Anyone can take part in the brand or be a friend with a brand. Other luxury and designer brands are more exclusive. In this season’s Prep World Tour, our brand is allowing and recognizing individual and personal interpretations of the preppy style. For instance, the cottage looks exactly like it could be Tommy’s own beach house: it’s small, very intimate and has a strong personal touch.”

Talking about ‘friending’ the brand, how important are social media for Tommy Hilfiger?
“Social media are very important for fashion brands since fashion is all about very emotional connections and self-identification with a brand. Social media allow tapping into these emotions by creating a two-way dialogue with our fans.  Also, giving access to more exclusive,  behind the scenes information in this forum is very effective. Our customers are quite enthusiastic about the Hilfiger brand and hungry for more content. Social media make a fashion brand more open and transparent and offer a response to a growing need of being really involved.”

Tommy Hilfiger has almost the same amount of FB fans as Armani, but compared to other preppy brands like Ralph Lauren (6.1 million), D&G (3.1 m), Gucci (5 m), Burberry (6.8 m) and La Coste (6.1 m), there still seems to be a much higher potential for the brand through social media?
“Our Facebook page now has almost 1.5 million fans, and to be honest we were a bit late to deploy a social media strategy (it actively launched only 18 months ago), so we have seen rapid growth of online brand fans in a very short period of time. Since Hilfiger is a truly global brand, we have a diverse base of fans from around the world interacting in a very human and natural two-way conversation with the brand. We will continue to experiment and look for new ways and formats to keep the dialogue going. In the past, we have introduced the different members of the Hilfiger family sharing their stories about style, events they went to etcetera. Some things have worked better than others on social media but we keep our customer base updated on what’s new and happening with the brand and always respond to what they are posting to the walls of our FB page.”

Avery Baker is a native American but a long term resident of the Netherlands in her role as EVP Global Marketing and Communications for Tommy Hilfiger.  She has been with the Company for almost 14 years, starting first in the New York office and transferring to Holland in 2003.  Prior to Hilfiger, Baker held various Marketing positions at Swatch Corporation in New York City.  She holds a B.S. degree in Communications from Northwestern University in Chigago, IL.

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