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Targeting a sophisticated retail audience - Anthropologie's new "Women of Character" c

One of my favourite retailers, women's clothing and lifestyle brand Anthropologie is experimenting with video storytelling. It's an interesting- and smart - development for a company that has always approached marketing differently (and minimally) compared to the average retail brand.

Anthropologie, or “Anthro” as it is affectionately called by its legions of loyal customers, targets a slightly higher-end, middle-aged female demographic; its sister brand, Urban Outfitters, gears towards millennials of both genders. Which is why I’m not surprised that Anthropologie is one of the few retailers that still sends out seasonal print brochures featuring their upcoming collections. To me, that in itself is a major statement; this brand puts itself on par with higher-end brand (the Coaches and the Swarovskis of the retail industry) who also use the almost 'retro' method of direct mail as part of their marketing mix.

Having said that, Anthropologie has always been very open about its 'non-marketing heavy' approach and in 2001, president Glen Senk told Fast Company Magazine that the company’s core philosophies include that they spend most marketing money on a store experience and execution of this (LaBarre, Polly. “Sophisticated Sell.” Fast Company). What’s interesting is that without advertising, Anthro has cultivated a loyal customer base and healthy sales: Anthro customers stay in the store longer than in other stores (average visit lasts 1 hour) and they spend more (average per customer spend per visit is $80) and the keep coming back. Senk says they specialize in one customer and “offer her everything from clothing to bed linens to furniture to soap.” He lists the following characteristics in the typical Anthropologie customer:


  • 30 to 45 years old

  • college or post-graduate education

  • married with kids or in a committed relationship

  • professional or ex-professional


  • well-read and well-traveled. Natural curiosity about the world

  • urban minded

  • into cooking, gardening, and wine

  • relatively fit

While, I do not entirely fit this profile, I look forward to the arrival of each new mini-catalogue. If anything, it’s aspirational. Which is perhaps why my eyes lit up upon seeing the new campaign. The mail outs are always filled with gorgeous photos snapped in exotic locales. With the arrival of fall, a new approach is ushered in for the brand. Rooted in the traditional (print), focuses on “Women of Character.” It features three inspirational women wearing a variety of new items, with snippets of quotes that summarize their ‘stories’.

The first woman is a Parisian ballerina Marie-Agnès Guillot who was born with double scoliosis and still went on to be a gifted performer. Next is model and autism advocate Jacquelyn Jablonski and finally, Kathryn Minshew, a New Yorker who runs a highly successful career blog “The Muse.” These women were selected for their inspirational value to the Anthro clientele. It’s also a great move to link real women to the brand and promoting Anthro as being aligned with women who want to live a life of appreciation, some decadence, to work hard and also look pretty.

Here's Marie-Agnès' video story:

For most, I’m certain the “Women of Character” campaign experience begins and ends with the catalogue. Anthro took it further and created beautiful short videos in a fashion-photo-shoot meets documentary style, featuring each woman modelling clothes and telling her story. I located the videos on Youtube after some searching and had no luck finding them via the main company website. It’s disappointing that these were created without a proper place to ‘live’ or be shared and experienced. While the videos are simple, and don’t quite offer a lot of content or information about each women, they definitely capture the general mood of the brand. As a customer (and perhaps this is more of my TV producer brain coming out), I’d love to have behind-the-scenes interviews with these women, see them in their daily lives, even share a shopping experience at Anthro with the audience. I found myself wanting more.

And so I ask: baby steps into a minimal number of videos: an intentional strategy (to build mystery or anticipation) or tentative experiment and therefore a missed opportunity?

I look forward to seeing if the Women of Character series evolves and if storytelling becomes an ongoing component of Anthro’s evolution as a company. This is a way brands can use story strategically- to inspire and align with their clientele and create an ‘aura’ that is representative of all the target demo’s ideals. This is digital storytelling done well… albeit done very sparingly… but well.

Side bar thought: Given the clear emphasis on the “immersive” experience, I’d be interested to see how Anthro evolves their website. Currently it is a very efficient online shopping platform without any of the charm of the store. How will this company take their site into this exceedingly immersive digital world?

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