Coach’s Holiday Influencer Marketing

By now, you may have heard the news. Coach, Inc. has officially changed its name to Tapestry, Inc. Or, as an almost brutal New York Times headline read, “Coach, Inc. is Dead. Long Live Tapestry, Inc.”

Should that hurt? Because surprisingly, it sort of hurts.

And that’s because Coach has endeared itself to us as the go-to brand for high-end leather handbags (we do love our handbags) that are both beautiful and affordable. That’s how Coach earned the designation of being one of the most well-known and trusted “affordable-luxury” brands in the world.

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An In-Depth Look At Coach’s Last Holiday Influencer Marketing Campaign

But since its humble Manhattan beginnings as a purse company 76 years ago, the company formerly known as Coach, Inc. has made a deliberate shift from being a fashion company to being a multi-entity holding company for other affordable-luxury brands.

In recent years, the company bought shoemaker Stuart Weitzman, then followed-up that acquisition two years later with the $2.4 billion purchase of Kate Spade in the Spring of 2017.

Coach, Inc. was quietly growing to become what CEO Victor Luis says will be the first New York Fashion Group -  the first multi-brand luxury group of fashion companies made right here in America.

Nevertheless, in this post, we’re going to take an in-depth look at Coach, Inc.’s last holiday influencer marketing campaign.
 

The Market That Set Up Last Year’s Campaign

Truth bomb: I never thought of Coach as anything less than a relatively classy high-end brand. HOWEVER, when I conducted my impromptu, non-scientific survey of a few Millennials, they quickly informed me Coach went out of style. Years ago.

Who knew? Coach knew.

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Not only was the brand grappling with the continual task of staying on top of customer trends, but it also had the same issues as just about every other brick-and-mortar retailer and luxury fashion brand - they needed to learn how to navigate a fashion market that was becoming increasingly digital.

Digital competitors with savvy founders and low overhead, coupled with the explosive growth of Amazon and the e-comm market meant Coach and other luxury brands (including Michael Kors and Fendi) were suddenly hit with decreasing in-store sales that were the direct result of people’s growing affinity for shopping online.

Add to that, the fact that the company seemed to have a hard time connecting with Millennials who may have seen the legacy brand as “Mom Fashion.”

And that’s where this post comes in.

 

Let’s Start with Their Campaign Goals

A year ago, Coach’s (@Coach) holiday influencer marketing efforts included several Instagram campaigns that ran concurrently or consecutively (with noticeable overlap) between September 2016 and January 2017.

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As far as execution, the campaigns were very similar. Interchangeable. They were seamless and unending, like one big Coach campaign. We were able to differentiate one campaign from another largely by the hashtags used in sponsored posts.

We found more than 100 sponsored posts from micro influencers in North America, Europe, and Asia. Each of the sponsored posts we cataloged used at least one of these six primary branded hashtags:

#CoachFall2016   //   #RexytheCoachDino   //   #CoachHoliday   //   #TimeForCoach   //   #CoachxPacMan   //   #Coach75

Now, there were more Coach-branded hashtags being used, but the ones listed above were the hashtags we saw most often as part of Coach’s paid posts.

There were also micro influencers using the branded hashtags in unsponsored posts. In fact, we saw as many unpaid branded posts as we saw paid posts.

While the hashtags and products being promoted differed from post to post and influencer to influencer, the end game remained universal across campaigns: Boosting brand awareness and engagement amongst Millennials and Gen Z.

After all, that’s the Holy Grail of marketing.  

 

The Competition Is Fierce

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Coach is battling more than just a handful of other luxury brands like Michael Kors (its primary competitor) to get the attention of Millennials and Gen Zers (the oldest of whom are already in college). Millennials and Gen Zers have their attention elsewhere. The are enamored with old school sports brands (like Adidas and Puma). They are partial to fashion brands like H&M, Forever21, and ASOS. And they are shopping online from mobile devices at least weekly (and most Millennials shop daily from their phones).

Add to that the fact that Millennials are less brand-loyal than previous generations (and even less for Gen Z, who has been called “brand-wary”) and you start getting an idea of why Coach has been working so hard to rebrand itself with marketing efforts that specifically court Millennials and younger.

Below is a screenshot of the front page of the Coach.com website in mid-October 2017, a day after the Tapestry, Inc. announcement.

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Coach’s Holiday Influencer Campaign Strategy Pre-Tapestry

Coach painted with a broad stroke during last year’s holiday campaign. The underlying goal in each encounter between the brand and the influencer’s audience seemed to be focused on bringing awareness. Coach made a very deliberate attempt to always be in front of you, at least within the social media ecosystem.

Here are the three tactics they used to do it.


#1 Coach Put Multiple Branded Hashtags in Heavy Rotation

Thousands of paid and unpaid posts showed up on Instagram in the last quarter of 2016 using the branded hashtags listed above. But three out of six of the primary branded hashtags Coach used in last year’s campaign have nothing to do with a specific Coach product.

Rather, the hashtags were used to keep Coach top-of-mind during the holiday season. Let’s take another gander at this creative(?) list:

#Coach75
(used in 5,909 posts to date)
THE most popular hashtag, it was used to promote Coach’s 75th anniversary shindig.

#CoachFall2016
(5,316 posts to date)
Used to promote Coach’s fall collection, this hashtag was put to use ahead of the holiday season, but it lingered on social through the end of the year.

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#RexytheCoachDino
(4,201 posts to date)
Coach used the #RexytheCoachDino hashtag to promote its mischievous and seemingly ever-present dinosaur mascot, Rexy.

#CoachHoliday
(2,846 posts to date)
This was the company’s official hashtag for the holiday season.

#TimeForCoach
(1,119 posts to date)
Used in ads to promote Coach timepieces. We saw the #TimeforCoach hashtag often, and almost exclusively in sponsored posts.

#CoachxPacMan
(441 posts to date)
We saw this post whenever an influencer was promoting one of the company’s stylish backpacks.

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The hashtags caught on. Not only did influencer partners use the hashtags in their posts, but people who visited Coach stores, who bought Coach products, and even those who simply wanted to be associated with the brand used Coach’s branded hashtags in droves across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
 

#2 Coach Tapped Different Influencers to Target Different Audience Segments

My original goal with this post was to focus on how Coach leveraged creative micro influencers, because that's usually what you stumble across when cruising Insty. What we found, however, is that there were far more influencers being paid for content than expected. The company used a wide range of Instagram influencers, which includes both micro influencers and major influencers. A strategy that we've seen a lot of brands deploying these days. Typically it's a two prong approach : random everyday people with an average of 50-200 likes per photo... paired with huge influencers who are hit or miss in metrics. This is somewhat flawed strategy, but we'll save that for another day... when we write about the 7 key mistakes brands make with their influencer marketing.

Perhaps the most important tactic Coach used in its mission to raise brand awareness was leveraging different types of influencers who created different types of content for audiences of drastically different sizes.

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EXAMPLE 1 : A Day in the Life of The Girl from Las Vegas
The Girl from Las Vegas (@Amandapamblanco) creates lifestyle content. Her typical posts include dozens of themes though she often displays pics of her just living life. I’ve seen photos of her visiting national landmarks, videos of her creating beauty tutorials, photos of eye-catching meals, and just the everyday candid shot of her and friends.

For Coach’s holiday campaign, The Girl from Las Vegas published a sponsored post to her Instagram page on Christmas Day that saw 10% engagement. (10% engagement is well above the average which stands around 2%, however she's on the lower end of the micro-influencer scale, which typically leads to a much higher engagement ratio just due to the smaller size of the influencer.) The post, which was day-in-the-life content, featured her wearing a burgundy cross-body Coach saddle bag while checking her phone.

Nothing fancy. No jet-setting or walking down the middle of a busy New York street between gridlocked taxis. In fact, there’s a minivan in the background of this pic just parked in a driveway.

Everyday life.

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The Girl from Las Vegas used two popular hashtags: #Coach75 and #CoachHoliday. The post has 227 Likes. 

But Coach didn’t just stick to likable influencers with modest followings and high engagement who were documenting their lives in pictures with their Coach handbags in tow. Coach partnered with influencers who had hundreds of thousands of followers for their year-end campaigns.

EXAMPLE 2 : The Glamorous Life of a West Hollywood Vixen
One of the more popular sponsored posts came from Lisa Dengler (@lisadengler). Lisa has around 138K followers.

 

Lisa’s post of her and Rexy got more than 2400 Likes (nearly 2% engagement). And you can see she used the corresponding hashtag for #RexyTheCoachDino.

In stark contrast to the posts from The Girl from Las Vegas, Lisa’s posts look like they were pulled from the pages of Vogue Magazine. Nothing looks day-in-the-life. Every shot looks planned, posed, and curated.

If you look, you can probably see the differences between the two types of content these influencers create just by looking at the two screen shots above.

The Girl from Las Vegas is showing me that her small saddle bag is the perfect accessory for her day of running errands and living life. Cool. I have a bag like that myself, but it’s bigger. The saddle bag could probably save my aching back on those days when I don’t have much to tote along. I can relate.

Lisa is high-fashion (note the Rexy the Dino shirt). Her photos are aspirational and intriguing. She's the girl that we all strive to be, not necessarily the one that we find ourselves relating to.
 

#3 Coach Cross-Promoted Between Social Platforms, EComm, and Physical Locations

The third tactic Coach used in their influencer marketing campaign last year was promoting the brand offline and online, across multiple platforms.

YouTube Videos Provided the Framework by Which to Understand Online Chatter
One of the fastest ways to make sense of Instagram posts and hashtags was to check Coach’s YouTube channel for news of upcoming products and events. The appearance of Rexy on Instagram coincided with the launch of the Fifth Avenue Coach store and the aforementioned 12-foot Rexy that lived inside that store.

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YouTube is also how I found out about the Coach perfume. Coach pegged Chloe Grace Moretz and James Franco to promote Coach’s fragrance. Moretz filmed multiple videos promoting Coach and the new fragrance.

The shot above is of Chloë Grace Moretz from the video Introducing #CoachTheFragrance. The 30-second video has 165K YouTube views.

#CoachTheFragrance, another pretty creative hashtag, became a popular one with 1,670 posts to date. Most of the posts were unsponsored, so we left that hashtag off our list.

Twitter
Instagram users have the option to publish their Instagram posts to Twitter and Facebook at the same time they publish them to Instagram. And a considerable number of Instagrammers have done just that.

However, Coach ran a separate campaign, specifically for Twitter. Twitter is a noisy place right now, and considered oversaturated by many marketers, but the platform caters to adults 18 to 29 years of age (older Gen Z, younger Millennials). That demo falls squarely within Coach’s target audience.

Of course, the issue with marketing on a noisy platform is reach. Coach has 673K Twitter followers and their posts average fewer than 100 Likes each. There are so many users publishing to Twitter, most people will miss more than 70% of the content goes through their feed.

The more marketers using a platform, the less reach brands have UNLESS they use influencers. Coach increases its reach exponentially by using influencers. In which case they're still not going to see much in terms of returns, but it will most likely yield more than when they post to their own feed. 

This recent tweet from Coach (below on the right) got 5 comments, 13 retweets, and 98 Likes. Notice the obvious use of Millennials and Gen Zers.

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In contrast, the tweet above and on the left from Lilly Singh while sporting a red Coach satchel got 482 comments, 2K retweets (including one from Coach), and 16K Likes.

Lilly Singh is huge. And she's not really what I would consider a dead-ringer in terms of the ideal Coach carrier... but she's hilarious. And when Selina Gomez gives you a gift... that shit deserves to get tweeted. 

Interestingly, the hashtag #CoachHoliday was almost exclusively used by Tapestry, formerly Coach, Inc. on Instagram. But on Twitter, it was a different story. That hashtag was just as likely to be on a post about traveling for the holidays using Coach bus company as it was to be about Coach, Inc., the luxury brand.  

 

Six Campaigns, One Goal

If Coach’s one definite holiday campaign goal was to appeal to Millennials and Gen Z, the only challenge it faces is reinventing itself for young adults, a theme that was present throughout every influencer campaign. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the top three campaigns, starting with Rexy the Coach Dino.
 

Campaign: #RexyTheCoachDino

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The Story of #RexyTheCoachDino
Tapestry’s adorable mascot is Rexy the Coach Dino (officially known as #RexyTheCoachDino). In addition to appearing in animated features and cropping up all over social media last year, Rexy was made into a product line last year that included embroidered sweatshirts (like the one Lisa Dengler wore), clutches, coin purses, Rexy bag charms, keychains, and even a Coach Apple Watch.

My favorite, by a longshot, is the Rexy coin case, featured above.

You may have noticed that adorable little dinosaur isn’t something you can just pick up at the local closeout store. Rexy’s affordable-luxury accessories start at $85 for the bag charms.

The Life-Sized #RexyTheCoachDino
The brand staged a 12-foot model to promote the launch of Coach House, Fifth Avenue last fall.  

The dinosaur sculpture was produced by Billie Achilleos and Setsquare Staging Ltd. then covered in leather swatches and vintage Coach handbags. Rexy stood on the showroom floor of Coach’s Fifth Avenue store.

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The above shot is from their YouTube video that documents the entire process.

A Holiday Film Starring #RexyTheCoachDino
#RexyTheCoachDino was also the star of a one-minute holiday film published just two days before Coach’s 75th Anniversary celebration.

In the short video, one mischievous Rexy, standing in a line with the other leather toy models of the Coach dinosaur, comes to life then proceeds to knock over his inanimate compadres before setting out on an after-hours adventure in the streets of New York. The video currently has more than 2.9 million views.

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#RexyTheCoachDino, Instagram Star
Leather models of #RexyTheCoachDino also found their way into numerous social media posts. By far, some of the most engaging pieces of branded content produced by Coach partners last year included cameos by #RexyTheCoachDino, like this post (not marked sponsored, although I have my doubts that that's the case) from @Aniab.

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In this sponsored post from @ncwong for #CoachSingapore, #RexyTheCoachDino just sort of hangs out with the influencer. She looks unimpressed and it works.

With approximately 63,000 followers, Ncwong is one influencer who has a knack for making the mundane gorgeous. This post got 2,788 Likes.

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Campaign: #CoachHoliday

The ubiquitous #CoachHoliday hashtag represented all things Coach during last year’s campaign. Most influencers appended it to their sponsored (and unsponsored) posts and used the #CoachHoliday hashtag in conjunction with other branded hashtags.

This post above from fashion blogger Ky Jade (@Kysochic) performed exceptionally well… and we don’t even know what’s in the package! During the holidays, sometimes the thrill is just in getting the a gift in the first place.  

And below, while a creative departure from the typical fashion-focused promotional posts created by influencers, this eye-catching post from Floral Watercolor Workshop (@Nataliestudio) didn’t perform particularly well. But it’s cute. #RexyTheCoachDino is shown in front of a miniature Christmas tree being decorated with DIY ornaments painted with watercolors.  

 

The influencer who created this particular post usually averages well over 600 Likes per post. Best guess: Her audience wasn’t impressed by the at-mention of Coach. The good news is this isn’t a sponsored post, according to her disclosure-less caption, although, again, I sort of have my doubts. We encourage brands to think outside of the box when targeting influencers. I don't think this particular influencer was a stretch, I think her post just didn't have the proper guidance (and this claim is assuming that it was in fact sponsored). Influencers must stay true to their own voice and audience otherwise you'll get posts like this that perform less than average by a factor of 3X.
 

Campaign: #Coach75

Ahead of its 75th anniversary celebration, Coach recruited several micro influencers to help spread the word about the brand’s achievements. The #Coach75 hashtag was used alongside #CoachHoliday as a secondary tag in sponsored posts. That is, until the day before and day of their big anniversary celebration on December 9th of last year.

In fact, Coach arranged several major events to occur within a few days of each other in the weeks leading up to the 75th anniversary fashion show.

Coach released its fragrance in September.  

After that, the 20,000-foot Fifth Avenue store opened the week before Thanksgiving to much press and fanfare.

In the days following the launch of the store, Coach released the Rexy product line (which is one reason the #RexyTheCoachDino tag often appeared with #Coach75.

Then on December 9th, Coach held its75th anniversary fashion show and Instagram was aflutter with pics from the show.

One post that performed particularly well came from Alexis🇵🇷 Aka DIVA (@aalexisjae) who post a picture of herself at the fashion show on the night of the event captioned with just the hashtag #Coach75.

 

The post received more than 5K Likes from her audience of 79.3K - fantastic engagement on that post. While Alexis didn’t identify her picture as a sponsored post, she has an amazing ability to get high engagement numbers on her post. To give you some perspective, get 2% of your followers to Like a post is about average.

Alexis averages 8.5% engagement on everything she creates. The above post topped 6.7% engagement.

Farewell, Coach

As we bid farewell to the Coach we knew and welcome Victor Luis’ vision for Tapestry, I can’t help but think how my perception of the brand has shifted a bit since I first started researching this post. Tapestry, Inc. has some cool ideas about how to revolutionize high-end fashion, which includes the customization workshop that’s now onsite at the company’s Fifth Avenue location.

The once over-distributed brand that ended up with leather handbags hanging on racks in the purse section of the local closeout department store is fighting hard to once again position itself as the foremost American-made affordable-luxury brand.

And the first order of business is using social to get and keep the attention of Millennials and Gen Zers.

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Anywho... just to wrap up. We love digging into the inner workings of marketing campaigns. The best campaigns are layered and complex, with the ability to touch people in ways that other brands strive for. We specialize in the complex. And we're all a bit OCD. We'd love to help you with your next campaign. And I can promise that your socks will be knocked off.