American Marketer

Events/ Causes

Fashion brands embrace spirit of giving with holiday charity initiatives

December 2, 2013


In between focusing on holiday-gifting campaigns fashion brands are promoting their latest charity initiatives to engage consumers around Thanksgiving with nonprofit campaigns.

As retailers and fashion brands are fighting for consumers’ eyes and wallets, tying themselves to a good cause can seem like a way to stand out while making a difference. But while they may be genuine, charity campaigns do not always win consumers.

“This whole idea of luxury brands' support of charitable organizations seems to be a trend that every luxury brand endorses to a greater or lesser extent,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, Stevens, PA.

“Obviously, it is designed to make the ultimate customer feel good when making a purchase, since the perception is that a portion of the proceeds goes to support a charity.

“One wonders, however, how much is ever really donated and what the impact is on the groups that receive funds.”

Charitable causes

Kering, the French group which owns brands such as fashion house Balenciaga and jeweler Boucheron, kicked off its White Ribbon campaign on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The campaign is designed to build awareness about violence toward women by getting consumers to spread the word. Stella McCartney designed exclusive badges that consumers will receive with purchase at Kering brand flagships in Europe Nov.22-30.

Consumers not in Europe can also participate with a “Twibbon,” or digital badge they can display on Twitter or Facebook.

Individual brands under the Kering umbrella such as Stella McCartney and Pomellato are showing their support for the cause, posting the badge on their social media accounts. Gucci shared a photo of creative director Frida Giannini wearing the white ribbon badge.

Facebook post from Gucci

The White Ribbon campaign is a part of Kering’s larger initiative by the Kering Foundation, which consistently works to end violence toward women. By investing in a cause year-round, Kering is able to make more of a difference, and prove its commitment to the cause.

The Council of Fashion Designers, Shopbop and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour helped Apax Partners launch their Bornfree initiative, with the goal of ending the transmission of HIV from mother to child by the end of 2015.

Twenty-three designers who are also mothers, including Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Donatella Versace and Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, will design a collection for Shopbop, which will be available in early 2014.

The announcement of the project came Nov. 20, right in time for the holidays in prime shopping season. If consumers wish to give a charitable gift to someone, they can either make a donation or support the cause with a t-shirt.

Bornfree's Web site

Neiman Marcus is also getting into the spirit of giving, donating 10 percent of proceeds from The Ken Downing Gift Collection to benefit 41 art-based youth charities around the country from Nov. 20 to Dec. 25.

The 37 gifts selected by Neiman fashion director Ken Downing for the campaign range in price from $28 to $1,795 and include brands such as Alexander McQueen, Chanel and Moncler. As holiday shopping gains momentum, retailers will continue to differentiate themselves with escalated charity endeavors (see story).

Additionally, Barneys New York is showing its support this holiday season with its A New York Holiday collection, which was designed in collaboration with rapper Shawn "Jay Z" Carter.

Luxury brands including Balmain, Moncler and Hublot produced limited-edition items for the collection, enabling them to connect themselves both with Mr. Carter and with the greater charity campaign.

In the spirit of giving, 100 percent of the proceeds from A New York Holiday will be donated to Jay Z’s The Shawn Carter Foundation. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the charity organized by the rapper awards higher education scholarships to children facing socio-economic difficulties (see story).

Generosity and gifts

Affluent consumers are likely to engage in charitable causes themselves, so a brand aligning with a good cause can help to position it positively in consumers minds.

A census report by Wealth-X and UBS shows that over the last three years, the world’s billionaires, mainly from the United States, China, Britain, Russia and Canada, have donated an estimated $69 billion in philanthropy, a number that works out to $32 million per billionaire.

Many global luxury brands have strong relationships with various charities. By helping others and urging target consumers to do the same, a brand is able to show its core values (see story).

Brands have to be careful that they choose a cause that reflects its heritage and values, so the connection makes sense in consumers’ minds.

For instance, Swiss watchmaker Breitling is honoring World War II veterans with a limited-edition watch collection that contributes a percentage of proceeds to the Honor Flight Network.

The 56-piece wristwatch collection represents Breitling’s strong connection to aviation and the charity organization’s mission of arranging flights for veterans to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington free of charge. Forging a connection with a charity organization that reflects the values and heritage of a brand helps to display a sense of community among enthusiasts while creating new fans (see story).

As the holiday shopping season picks up, the positive images put in consumers minds with brands' charitable causes may not necessarily translate to purchases.

A statistic from Unity Marketing’s Heavy-Lifting Gifter report, which is based on a survey of 1,200 affluent high-end shoppers, showed that when deciding where to shop for the holidays, only 9 percent of those surveyed responded that what attracted them most to a specific store was its philanthropic efforts, coming in second to last in the rankings of influential factors.

“Brands hope to make a more meaningful connection with the customer through such brand associations and, in some cases, they may well do so,” Ms. Danziger said. “But as for giving people a reason to make a specific purchase, such tactics don’t work.

“While I applaud any brands that really are trying to help the less fortunate, it seems like many are making a lot of noise about such efforts, without really showing much concrete benefits to the cause supported,” she said.

Final Take
Sarah Jones, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York