Q&A: Kyle Andrew of Kate Spade New York on Strong, Seamless Social Media

ksny spring 2012 campaign

In the constantly evolving, rapidly growing field of branded social media, kate spade new york has consistently offered standout content across a broad spectrum of platforms.  From Facebook to Pinterest to Tumblr, the brand’s voice and aesthetic are seamlessly integrated and sartorially inspiring.  To find out where that voice came from (and where it’s going next!), we sat down with Kyle Andrew, kate spade new york’s Senior Vice President of Global Brand Marketing.  She filled us in what it takes to create, maintain, and grow a terrific, consistent branded social media personality.

The High Low:  What specific inspiration did you draw on, both within the brand and from outside influences, to craft the overall kate spade new york social media voice?

Kyle Andrew:  For us, social media was such a natural way to extend the brand, because unlike most fashion brands, we already had a distinct voice.  We were lucky, because we’ve always spoken about our products, and it feels very authentic.  The voice comes from within the brand — it’s not like developing a social media voice [had to happen] all of a sudden.

Of course, it took work in the beginning, but it came so naturally.  The voice is a person, in a way, and it is the brand.  It works really well, across all our social media.

Argyle toast, among the images shared on the brand’s Tumblr page.

HL:  Can you tell us about the team behind kate spade new york’s social media?  For example, how many people does it take on a daily basis to keep the brand in its peak position on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.?

KA:  We have a web team that manages most of what we do online. We also have a copywriter who works on our voice across all media.   It is the whole creative team, honestly, that works on developing everything we do in social media.  Because the team works so closely together, what we do in social media, we like to say, is what we do in our offices and with the brand on the whole anyway.  What’s great about the team, and is very pronounced here, is that they’re all inspired and excited all the time.  And they bring that in to the office.  It goes round and round, so it’s very easy for us to find content, because we’re always sharing things that we love as a brand with our audience.

As for the the web team, we have four dedicated people and an outside agency called Starworks, which helps with postings and tracking, but the voice comes from within.  We also have a lot of people working across all the different channels, like our copywriter. The whole team works on it.

English artist Anthony Zinonos created this print in conjunction with kate spade new york’s “color of the month” year-long campaign in 2011.

HL:  When it comes to newer social media channels — Pinterest, for example — what are the deciding factors that draw kate spade new york to embrace (or not embrace!) a particular medium?

KA:  First of all, in this whole medium, you have to embrace newness and something unique quickly, more so than with other channels. You have to be more likely to take a risk.  A traditional retail mentality would be to ask, who’s in that mall?  A brand might not want to take a space if certain other brands weren’t already there.  With this, it’s a very different world.  You get so much credit for being an early adopter.  And we look at everything, though not everything is right for us.  Pinterest and Tumblr are great for us because we’re such a visual brand.

When someone in the office noticed how everyone was bringing in tear sheets, and our walls are covered in pinboards, she noticed that Pinterest was a natural extension of the brand.  When we post about what’s going on in the office, that’s a topic that gets the most energy and the most excited feedback. People love hearing about cupcakes for someone’s birthday — it’s very authentic, and it’s a natural extension of the brand.

We had a “pinning party” one night, and everyone got together and started pulling images together.  It’s very natural.  It’s just how we work.  We aren’t looking at these things from a promotional perspective, but from a brand perspective.  We want to establish our voice, though if promotions find their way in naturally, that’s all right.  A bag might just naturally fall in if we’re doing a board about, for instance, neon colors.  But it would still be among other bags and ideas.

One of the pictures to be found on the brand’s “travel colorfully” pinboard on Pinterest.

HL:  Are there are other brands or companies that you think do social media particularly well – and that you look to for inspiration or ideas?

KA:  We do look at our competitors, like Burberry, Tory Burch, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Oscar de la Renta. We also like to look beyond them, just at what other brands are doing in an authentic way.  That’s a driving force for us, to be authentic. Honestly, so much of it happens internally.

HL:  We’d love to know more about the recent kate spade new york video campaigns.  What were the inspiration for those?  How do you make sure they end up on the right channels for viewership?  Do you feel they’ve been successful?

KA:  Well, our color of the month videos came about because our theme for the year was color.  It was natural to do a video every month featuring a different color.  Our musical chairs video was tied to the spring campaign.  And our Henrietta Street piece was a brand video, because we’d done a popup in the UK, and we wanted to capture the mood and the feeling of it.

When it comes to viewership, we definitely challenge ourselves, because we have such great content, and we have great viewership on our blog.  We also send videos out to the press or buy media time on other sites, or Taxi TV, but we definitely feel there’s an opportunity to get the videos out more broadly, and we’re exploring.  We’re lucky in that we have international partners. The musical chairs video was in a TV spot in Japan, and friends in Thailand played it in their version of Times Square. The videos are so good, it’s something we’re focusing on — how can we get them out to a broader audience?

HL:  The kate spade new york website is so well-balanced between retail and editorial.  Can you tell us what led the brand to evenly divide the space between the two?  Do you feel that it’s a model that’s working?

KA:  We relaunched the site a year ago, and that was a major objective — the content site was completely separate, and you had to leave e-commerce to get to it. We wanted to create much more fluidity between the two sides.  They were originally called “Shop” and “Play,” and we wanted to simplify it.

The blog is what people come and see, but we definitely see a lot of traffic back and forth. We blog about product, as well as other ideas, and we try to make it as seamless as possible.  We see a lot of conversion on the site and we’re really happy with it.

HL:  Last, we’d love to hear any social media plans or marketing initiatives coming up in the future!  Can you give us any previews?

KA:  Normally we have our biggest campaigns in spring and fall. Holiday and summer are smaller moments for us. We have a really great campaign coming out in the summer, and there’s a very cute construct to it — you can choose which way you want the video to go, as a user.  It’s our first time doing this, and we’re excited.

We’re also in the middle of planning our fall campaign, and given the great reaction we got to our musical chairs video, our Pandora channel (it’s all our curated music), and our Battle of the Bands, we want to make fall bigger and better.  We like to challenge ourselves, and we know a lot of people are watching us.  We just want to keep people interested and excited!  We strive to keep our audience engaged, because it can be loud out there.

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