Digital Branding Pro Karen Robinovitz Speaks

Karen Robinovitz

We’re no strangers to the fact that brands across the spectrum are speedily adding editorial content and beefing up their online presences.  But while retailers and designers are plunging into the internet, the process for building up their content is anything but random.  A Tumblr post here, a tweet there — in a crowded market for branded content, an ad-hoc approach to content just won’t fly.

To learn more about the progression from retail to editorial, we sat down with Karen Robinovitz, the co-founder and chief creative officer of Digital Brand Architects — a social media agency that has worked with, among others, Juicy Couture, Olsenboye, and Nine West.

High Low: When you’re translating brands into editorial content, what’s your strategy? Does it have to be widely adjusted for different companies?

Karen Robinovitz: It is definitely different for every company. There is no “one size fits all” — you really have to take the brand’s DNA to heart and find a way to communicate based on what is intrinsic to the client. The main thing is to be holistic with everything – PR, marketing, e-com, advertising, SEO, PPC, html newsletters, etc. Without a consistent string, it’s too compartmentalized and it just won’t work.

THL: What was your path to becoming an expert in social media and digital branding?

KR: I don’t think I’d be capable of doing social media and digital branding – at least not the way I approach it – without having the kind of background I have: a 17-year path that began as a journalist at WWD, where I worked for three years. I went on to become a freelance writer, contributing to the New York Times, Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, and others, which really gave me a strong perspective on traditional media, what makes a story compelling, and working with PR agencies and departments. But I think I was always meant to be a marketer, which I figured out seven, eight years ago when my first book was published and I wound up doing the marketing.

MAC Cosmetics sponsored the book tour and all books were kissed with Viva Glam lipstick.  AOL partnered up for cross-promotional opportunities on television and online. And my co-author, Melissa, and I blogged our book tour. No one was really blogging back then – at least not the way they are now! – and we really saw how connecting directly with our peers online made a difference. I came back completely inspired by what was starting to happen in the digital space. The term “social media” didn’t exist, but the beginnings of it did – at least somewhat – by way of forums and message boards. As Facebook opened its API and MySpace launched, I became more enthralled and shifted my practice online. I worked with start-up tech companies, learned from developers and put my previous experience into play in a fresh way. And for the last five, six years, that is all I’ve been doing. I met Kendra, now my business partner, about a year ago and launching DBA was the next logical, yet organic, step for both of us.

A glimpse of Juicy Couture’s bright, fun Tumblr page.

HL: It’s important that a brand’s outside content lead back to their primary digital presence. What are some of the best ways to move readers from the editorial and social media side to e-commerce?

KR: I think it all boils down to being organic and authentic and not being too “on message” and pushy. The more brands are willing to engage in a two-way conversation, the more people will want to listen and share. That leads to brand awareness, then loyalty, and hence, sales. We all love things we feel connected to and that includes brands and our shopping habits.

HL: Speaking of connections, if and when you recommend clients engage in cross-promotion with, for instance, bloggers, what are some of the traits you look for in those collaborators?

KR: It all boils back to the DNA of the brand – and this goes for both sides, both the product line’s image and core values and the blogger’s. It has to be a match, a true partnership, where both parties are getting something out of it that makes sense. There is no formula, but you know it when it’s right.

HL: In terms of working with brands who exude a highly specific tone, such as Juicy Couture, can you tell us a little about the process that goes into creating that voice?

KR: Every strong brand has some kind of style guide that speaks to the key factors of what makes the brand – adjectives that define it. When done right, every aspect of the brand – from the product to 140 characters on Twitter — must communicate that message effortlessly, organically, truthfully. You can’t just create a voice – it has to come with really understanding what you want the brand to communicate.

Working with Juicy is an absolute joy because the brand is all about being bright and couture with an L.A., flirtatious, fashionable vibe. Everything we work on together ties back to that DNA, from bloggers we connect with to Tumblr posts to conversations across all social media platforms. The brand is creative and really growing up from the Juicy Couture many people think about, so to be a part of things as they go through this kind of transition is really exciting. The best part is that the approach from a social media perspective is very holistic – all agencies and hands on deck, collaborating so PR, marketing, e-com, advertising, and design are on the same page. It’s rare for a brand to work this way and it makes such a positive difference.

HL: Can you tell us one of your biggest success stories?

KR: I’m too modest! I am really happy and blessed to work with the best brands, inspiring bloggers and every day, I learn something new that I like to put into practice. I can just say that it’s only the beginning of the digital revolution and I look forward to everything to come.

Disclosure: Juicy Couture is owned by Liz Claiborne Inc., the sponsor of this site.

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