Malcolm Carfrae on the digital strategy of Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein Inc now devotes nearly a quarter of its marketing budget to digital, with social media influencers playing an increasingly important role. For more on Calvin Klein’s digital strategy FELLT spoke with Executive Vice President of Global Communications Malcolm Carfrae.

Malcolm Carfrae

Malcolm Carfrae was born in Sydney and educated at universities in both Australia and the United States. In 2003 he moved to New York City to work for Calvin Klein Inc, and worked there for 11 years – his last position being EVP, Chief Communications Officer. In 2009, Carfrae spearheaded the Australian Fashion Foundation, which sets up international internships for young Australian creatives.

Executive Vice President of Global Communications, Calvin Klein

New York City, U.S.

June 30, 2014

On February 17, Calvin Klein unveiled the “Show yours. #mycalvins” campaign for its Calvin Klein Underwear division – via proxy.

It was a first for the 45 year-old company, one that is known for its tightly-controlled corporate image and slick marketing campaigns that adhere to the in-house mantra of “clean, modern, sexy, classic”.

The campaign was kicked off via a single, lowres Instagram “selfie” apparently taken by Miranda Kerr, who is depicted posing in a grey T-shirt knotted under the bust and a pair of jeans with the fly open to reveal a pair of white Calvin Klein Underwear knickers.

Posted to her 4.2million Instagram fans, it came with a simple caption: “<3 my new Calvin’s”, plus the two hashtags,  “#mycalvins” and “#ad“.

An avalanche of similar auto portraits were subsequently posted to Instagram by more than 200 hand-picked “Influencers” from 25 countries.

Campaign participants included a mix of big C celebrity names such as Miley Cyrus, Nicole Richie, Fergie, Iggy Azalea, Kendall Jenner, Trey Songzs, Vanessa Hudgens and Cody Simpson.

They were joined by big name fashion models such as Lara Stone, Tilda Lindstam, Toni Garrn and a gaggle of celebrity bloggers, notably Leandra “Man Repeller” Medine, Chiara “The Blonde Salad” Ferragni, Rumi “Fashion Toast” Neely, Aimee “Song of Style” Song and Bryanboy.

…one blogger who was involved with the campaign told FELLT they were paid US$7500 for their single #mycalvins post on Instagram and said others had told them they received US$10,000 for their posts.

That’s not counting many other models and bloggers, not to mention the plethora of punters who jumped on the #mycalvins bandwagon to post their own hashtagged selfies for no fee at all. As revealed by Calvin Klein’s Executive Vice President of Global Communications Malcolm Carfrae in our brief chat, below, regular folk posting shots of themselves in their Calvins to Instagram in fact partially inspired this campaign.

The user-generated initiative was just one component of Calvin Klein Underwear’s Spring 2014 global advertising campaign, which embraces digital, mobile, print and outdoor advertising across more than 20 countries.

But the company is calling it an “unprecedented success”.

According to Calvin Klein the #mycalvins campaign reached an audience of some 200million fans worldwide via Calvin Klein’s own social media accounts and the Influencer posts and generated six million “fan interactions” – read “Likes”. The five most “Liked” posts were generated by Kendall Jenner (1million+), Vanessa Hudgens (408,000+), Miranda Kerr (187,000+), Trey Songz (175,000+) and Cody Simpson (162,000+).

The company declined to comment on Influencer remuneration, the advertising value equivalency of the social media coverage, the effectiveness of the campaign vis-à-vis its more traditional marketing campaigns or any specific analytics that may be used to measure social media influence and conversion rates.

However one blogger who was involved with the campaign told FELLT they were paid US$7500 for their single #mycalvins post on Instagram and said others had told them they received US$10,000 for their posts.

Why the variation in blogger compensation?

Some bloggers are better-known than others. And just as occurs with the traditional modelling industry, female bloggers also outearn their male counterparts.

Needless to say a big name fashion model such as Kerr would not be participating in any kind of Calvin Klein campaign for even US$10,000 per post. We hear her rate for a single IG post is most likely to be in the vicinity of US$50,000-100,000.

One interesting difference between Kerr’s #mycalvins Instagram post and those of some, if not many, of the other #mycalvins Influencers – Kerr was careful to abide by the Federal Trade Commission disclosure regulations in the US and disclosed her commercial relationship with Calvin Klein via the use of the crystal clear “ad” hashtag.

In 2012, Calvin Klein Chief Creative Officer Melisa Goldie told WWD that the company’s digital spend was increasing and would account for 23percent of the overall marketing budget that year.

With Calvin Klein Inc reporting a US$300million adspend for 2012 – roughly 4percent of the company’s US$7.6billion in gross sales that year – that would have represented a US$69million investment in digital. With sales in fiscal 2013 around the same figure, let’s assume similar for last year.

Beyond this specific campaign, Calvin Klein works on a regular basis with a number of bloggers, inviting them to its fashion shows and other events. Hanneli Mustaparta, a Norwegian model-turned-blogger, has been working with the company since February 2012, when she was asked to curate Calvin Klein’s official Twitter feed in the leadup to the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 Calvin Klein Collection show. Two months later, she began contributing to the newly-launched Calvin Klein Tumblr. Mustaparta not only attends the shows, but is given backstage access to photograph models and also celebrities attending the shows.

The #mycalvins campaign certainly generated a lot of buzz and brand awareness and at the end of the day, that may be the real value in social media investment.

In the continued absence of any universal metric for measuring social media ROI, however, the jury is still out on whether or not social media drives any actual sales.

According to a recent Gallup poll in the US, just 5percent of respondents reported that social media influenced their purchasing decisions, with 62percent reporting social media channels have no influence at all.

According to Monetate’s recent Q-4 E-Commerce report, in terms of driving traffic to e-commerce sites, social media accounts for just 1.1percent of website visits, trailing far behind search, which accounts for 32.6percent, up from 29.8percent in the previous year.

Here is more from Malcolm Carfrae on the #mycalvins campaign and Calvin Klein’s digital strategy:

Patty Huntington

How did the current #mycalvins campaign come about?

Malcolm Carfrae

The inspiration for #mycalvins stemmed from activity on social media we were already seeing from consumers and style influencers. There was a resurgence of references to 90s ‘logo-mania’ among style bloggers and celebrity sightings, which intersected with the increasingly ubiquitous phenomenon of posting selfies in Calvin Klein Underwear.

#Mycalvins not only offered a way to aggregate this activity, but it also authenticated pre-existing behaviour in a way that directly connected fans and influencers with the brand. It was our way of saying, ‘We see what you’re doing, and we like it. Let’s take it to the next level.’

To do that, we tapped some of the most influential voices on social media to kick off the conversation, turning it over to them to post selfies with the hashtag even before the brand officially announced the initiative. Supermodel Miranda Kerr exclusively launched the campaign on February 17 with a post that racked up 40,000 likes on Instagram in less than 30 minutes and drew an immediate response from fans to follow her lead.

It was essential that #mycalvins be influencer-driven from its inception. In the past, brands have created campaigns and tapped influencers to amplify the message. By contrast, #mycalvins was launched by and continues to live through the voice of influencers and their creative content. We released control of the process because we saw the most opportunity in empowering these opinion leaders to tailor the conversation to their loyal audiences that they engage with directly on a daily basis.

This structure in which the influencer is on both sides of the creative process – art director, stylist and subject – not only incentivizes fans to participate more readily, but it also provides a platform for a new tier of influencers to leverage their content.

How successful has the #mycalvins campaign been?

As the first influencer-led initiative of this scale, we’ve seen unprecedented success. Over 200 influencers engaged across all verticals of popular culture: actors, musicians, athletes, celebrities, models, bloggers and digital influencers.

Across 25 countries – throughout North America, South America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Australia, Africa. Generating over 6 million fan interactions via collectively Calvin Klein + influencer posts. Reaching 200 million fans worldwide: collectively Calvin Klein + influencer posts. It’s a pioneering example of how to cohesively leverage and amplify a digital campaign, in which a message is disseminated across all touch points – brand, influencer and consumer – and continuously reverberated throughout and beyond the shared social space.

At our Fall 2014 fashion show, social posts generated 700,000 fan interactions. Half of those were generated by a group of five bloggers.

What role do digital communications play in the broader Calvin Klein marketing strategy?

Digital activation is an integral component of the brand’s overall communications strategy that is continuously growing and evolving. While digital share of voice shifts from complementary to primary depending on the initiative, it plays a key role in all of our outreach efforts.

How many different Calvin Klein social media accounts are there?

Calvin Klein Inc. reaches over 10 million fans worldwide via FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblrYouTubeWeibo, Youku and WeChat.

What is Hanneli Mustaparta’s role with Calvin Klein and the company’s relationship with bloggers in general?

Hanneli is a digital contributor to Calvin Klein social media. Her role is unique in that she curates content both behind and in front of the camera, adding a dynamic layer of personal style to brand fashion coverage. Fans are able to follow our fashion shows and events through her exclusive and individual point of view, which covers everything from the runway to the attendees.

More than anything, the power of influencers lies in their engagement. For example, at our Fall 2014 fashion show this past February, social posts from 100 attending editors, magazines, editorial outlets and bloggers reached approximately 50 million fans and generated 700,000 fan interactions. Half of those 700,000 fan interactions were generated by a group of five bloggers whose audiences made up 10 percent of the total (The Blonde SaladBryanBoyThe Man RepellerStyle Bubbleand Hanneli).

This is a testament to how much fans want to hear from and engage with the influencers they love. As a longtime friend of the house and an influencer whose style aligns with the Calvin Klein aesthetic, Hanneli’s point of view seamlessly integrates with the voice of the brand.

UPDATED 03/07/14: FELLT Industry asked IMG Australia why Miranda Kerr – who is repped by the IMG Talent and Model divisions – would have included a transparent “#ad” hashtag on her Instagram post that broke the #mycalvins  campaign on February 17, while at least 53 other Influencers who participated in the campaign did not, including three of IMG’s other Australian clients, Jordan and Zac Stenmark and Margaret Zhang. The Stenmarks and Zhang were on a list of 54 #mycalvins Influencers that was supplied by Calvin Klein, together with their individual Instagram posts that promoted the campaign.

According to an IMG Australia spokeswoman, “I can confirm that the Stenmarks and Margaret were not paid for this campaign”.

We find it curious that the world’s largest sports and lifestyle marketing agency would avail its top talent for an advertising campaign for a major fashion brand for no payment, when other Influencers have confirmed they were paid for their involvement.

UPDATED 01/07/14: FELLT has viewed a Calvin Klein-supplied list of 54 Influencers who participated in the #mycalvins campaign and links to the Instagram posts they published. Beyond Miranda Kerr, who disclosed she was paid for her post by the use of the “#ad” hashtag, no-one else used the term “ad” or “sponsored” in their posts, as per FTC disclosure requirements.

UPDATED 01/07/14: Calvin Klein asked to amend the paragraph of the story where we mentioned the company declined to answer a number of questions about talent remuneration, advertising value equivalency of social media coverage, metrics etc. Since nothing was factually incorrect in that paragraph – we did put these questions to Calvin Klein a week before the story went to press and the company declined to respond – we are not going to amend it, but are more than happy to run the addition that a spokesperson sent over today. So here it is:

“‘…the company declined to comment on influencer renumeration, the advertising value equivalency of the social media coverage…’ The writer acknowledges later in the article that there is a “continued absence for any universal metric for measuring social media ROI” — thus, we aren’t withholding information, there simply is not a source on this data to allow us to do so in any authoritative way”. 

There remains no universal metric for measuring social media ROI in terms of sales generated by social media mentions. However there is an entire media monitoring industry dedicated to measuring the advertising equivalent value of media mentions. Calvin Klein knows this very well. In December, Calvin Klein Collection women’s creative director Francisco Costa told The Wall Street Journal that the premium womenswear line is vital to the company’s bottom line because of its image, which he claimed generates US$400million a year in “the [advertising] cost equivalent of editorial coverage” – which in turn helps sells the cheaper lines like underwear, perfume and jeans, he said.