Women's Wear Daily (WWD.com online) - January 10, 2012
Jeans Firms See Big Uptick in Facebook Action
By Arnold J. Karr
Despite enormous strides by denim companies in building their Facebook fan bases in 2011, the formidable task of converting "likes" into "buyers" remains largely unfinished.
Denim companies kept up with the surge in social media last year, with the total number of Facebook likes among denim companies nearly tripling to 17.6 million from 6 million in 2010. Another sign of the ubiquitous quality of the world's preeminent social media site is that 31 jeans companies, including J Brand and Joe's Jeans, registered activity last month which didn't in the final month of 2010, according to the Facebook Fashion Index compiled monthly by Stylophane, a firm which both manages companies' digital marketing activity and monitors the fashion, footwear, beauty and retail industries' online results.
"Last year certainly marked a turning point in the industry's approach to social media," said Alex Mendoza, the Stylophane partner who oversees the index, "but it's hardly a matter of ‘mission accomplished.' If anything, this should get the message across to companies that they can't ignore mobile commerce the way they did Facebook and social media at first and also Web sites, e-commerce and even e-mail before that."
Levi Strauss & Co. continued to dominate the denim world on Facebook, with its 9.6 million likes accounting for 54.4 percent of the total for jeans firms last year versus 2.7 million likes, or a 44.5 percent share of the total, in 2010. Even starting the year with a fan base that dwarfed the competition, it managed to pad its like total by 257.1 percent, the fifth highest growth percentage among denim firms.
Measuring firms that had at least 1,000 likes in 2010, the greatest percentage of growth came from Acne Jeans, with nearly a 36-fold increase to more than 195,000, followed by Not Your Daughter's Jeans, with a more than tenfold bump to nearly 22,000. Hudson Jeans, up 404.8 percent, and Lee Jeans, up 372.3 percent, joined Levi's on the top five growth list, and all of the top 10 growth brands at least tripled their number of likes from the end of 2010.
Following Levi's on the most liked list, the combination of Guess and Guess by Marciano generated 1.9 million likes, up 137.5 percent, while Diesel's 68.2 percent growth made it only the third denim brand with more than 1 million likes. Pepe Jeans, a new entry to on the Facebook listing, arrived with 642,000 likes, while True Religion more than tripled to 554,000. Taken together, Wrangler and Wrangler Western, which maintain separate Facebook domiciles, had nearly 483,000 likes, up 105.9 percent. G-Star, Mavi, Miss Me and Miss Sixty filled out the top 10 in Facebook popularity, with Mavi, up 142.9 percent, growing most quickly among them.
View Stylophane's Facebook Fashion Index: http://stylophane.com/fbi
Among all categories tracked by Stylophane, fashion brands excluding retailers totaled 207.7 million likes at yearend and retailers, led by Victoria's Secret with 16.5 million, attracted 129.2 million. Footwear brands, headed by top fashion brand Converse with 21.1 million likes, had 78.4 million likes, beauty had 34.8 million and jewelry and watches accounted for 7.9 million.
"If anything, 2011 was the year that the procrastinators gave up," Mendoza said. "There's no more contemplation about it — people are saying they need to get moving and many of them did."
Still, the Stylophane executive feels that too many apparel companies consider their work done once they list on Facebook "and assign someone to look after it. But without an integrated marketing plan to engage customers, those efforts aren't going to amount to much."
One of the reasons for that is technical as Facebook, unlike Google, doesn't allow tracking cookies which would enable companies to see if their Facebook efforts are resulting in transactions. Another is the very nature of Facebook itself — a platform in which people opt in about subjects and people that interest them, rather than the results-oriented environment of a search engine such as Google, which people turn to almost automatically at the very moment that they're interested in buying something.
"A Facebook presence may help to cultivate brand loyalty over the long term," he noted, "but, like an institutional print ad, it's not necessarily an incentive to go out and buy."
To complete that transformation, Stylophane not only recommends placing ads, and derives revenue from helping companies to do so, but also advocates constructing what might be perceived as a digital demand chain in which e-mails, Web sites, social media including but not relegated to Facebook, and m-commerce are linked together.
"Some companies, particularly in the beauty industry, fall into the trap of offering Facebook giveaways," Mendoza said. "That may help you attract a college student who's living on a small budget, but it's hardly a way to turn a browser into a regular buyer."