Sir Paul Smith is a designer who’s always done things his own way, and when it comes to content marketing, he’s no different. In fact, last year The Scotsman reported that the designer doesn’t even use the Internet. While that may not sound conductive to doing business in today’s digital marketplace, Paul Smith manages to find other ways to tell his brand’s unique story in authentic and relevant ways.
Despite his aversion to the web, he is familiar with some of it’s shinier tools. Paul Smith does have an Instagram account where he shares photos #takenbyPaul. That, however, may be the extent of his online-savvy. Yet somehow the self-made designer, not unlike fellow Brit Ted Baker, has managed to make it big, and stay big. The brand’s social media numbers could stand to be higher, but with an annual turnover of £200m, the bottom line is that the clothing sells – a lot.
Smith prefers life in the real world as opposed to the virtual one. And that’s okay. Let’s take a look at how he stays relevant – and social – in his everyday life.
Brick & Mortar
One of Paul Smith’s secrets to success is his insistence on having his hand in every aspect of his brand’s production. This means everything from collaborating and signing off on each piece in his 28 product lines, to doing all his own photography on fashion shoots and styling the look of every new store.
One of his newest shops opened in Hamburg earlier this year, joining over 300 hundred freestanding stores around the world. Japan alone has over 200, making up 40 percent of the brand’s sales. Hamburg’s new spot is of course gorgeously designed, like everything the man touches, and continues his long tradition of unique flair. Each store has its own story and look, driving new business and fans by design.
Naturally, it’s Smith himself who narrates the beautiful teaser video, which has almost 65,000 views since its March 31 publication. His voice is open and genuine, inviting fans and newcomers alike to explore his domain. “As you know, many shops around the world all look the same,” he says. “That’s not the case with Paul Smith.”
What can you do to make your brand stand out from the rest? Think of ways to inject some authenticity into your messaging – the best way to make would-be fans feel welcome.
Out & About
Since Smith seems to avoid the Internet as much as possible, he’s got lots of time left over for real-life adventures – and he enjoys showing his face and popping up all over. Extending your reach in person can be just as important as it is online. Earlier this month, for example, Smith spoke at the fourth annual edition of the What Design Can Do (WDCD) conference.
His appearance led to numerous articles, tweets and social media coverage, driving even more conversations about his brand. Sometimes just showing up can mean good marketing in and of itself. It’s important to have people talking about you, especially if you’d rather be doing something else. And Smith’s always doing something.
A London local, the designer’s pretty much a household name within the city, perhaps even more so now thanks to the London Design Museum’s exhibition “Hello, my name is Paul Smith.” The seven-month-long show, which was extended due to popular demand, wraps up on June 22 and has been the museum’s most highly attended exhibit to date.
The show’s biggest focus is the brand itself and the man behind it, rather than the actual clothes. Focal points include replicas of Smith’s office, studio, and very first shop as well as an amazing collection of objects and curiosities that have inspired Smith’s life, work, and worldview. The museum has also reported record sales of exhibition merchandise, with the show’s catalogue being the most popular item.
While you might still be far from having a museum feature your life’s work, it’s not too early to start brainstorming ways to highlight yourself and your brand. How can you start telling stories that are relevant and inspiring, even if they don’t seem to be directly related to your product?
It’s worth mentioning that Smith himself was present at the exhibition’s opening day last November and has come back to visit throughout the show’s run, wandering throughout the displays and asking visitors first-hand what they think. Real-life interactions? That might just be more effective than live-tweeting!
But still, online engagement meets the masses where they are. There’s definitely room for the brand to have a more sophisticated content marketing strategy, something that ties all of its platforms together and ensures varied, engaging content created with each specific network and audience in mind.
With such an amazing presence and following, boosting digital outreach wouldn’t even be too difficult, and it would definitely be fun. Coming up with competitions to get fans involved, creating brand ambassadors, heightening communication with followers, and beefing up the brand’s blog, along with other efforts, could all contribute to a greater online life in no time. As long as Smith signs off on it.
The designer has received some criticism due to his lack of online engagement, and true to form, it’s not something he shies away from. At the WDCD conference, he bluntly revealed: “I am always in trouble with my staff for uploading random photos on Instagram. Like isn’t this a lovely day or look at that blue cloud, and they say ‘mention some shoes sometime,’ and I say no way! They know that I make shoes.”
And that’s part of what keeps people coming back and falling in love with his collections. No one wants to be marketed to. No one wants to feel like you’re shoving your product down his or her throat. Paul Smith has been careful to never come off this way; in fact, it’s not about being careful, it’s just not in his nature.
Irreverent originality and big picture thinking are his trademarks; ones that have been seamlessly passed into every project that bears his name. Smith has a steadfast devotion to his vision, which revolves around spontaneity and trusting your instincts to create good design. At 67, one of those instincts is an aversion to the digital age.
Perhaps it’s this very disconnect that fuels Smith’s creativity all the more, but when it comes to online engagement, ideals alone are often not enough. A few select brands may believe they have the luxury of skirting social and online strategy development, but the proof is in the numbers. Increased engagement leads to heightened brand awareness, and that won’t be going out of fashion anytime soon.
By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor