Mobilizing Dynamite

Marketing manager Ariane De Warren is using mobile and viral to blow up her brand’s profile and stay competitive against mega-players in the crowded women’s retail space.

When you’re a Canadian women’s clothing retailer with just under 100 stores across the country, how do you compete against international fast-fashion powerhouses like H&M and Zara? Or even your Canadian peers, like Jacob and Suzy Shier? For Ariane De Warren, marketing manager of Montreal-based Dynamite, the answer lies in really connecting with customers – not just in-store, but also through online and mobile.
“Most young professional women own a cellphone and I’m the first to say that I could not live without my iPhone,” says De Warren, who introduced mobile to Dynamite’s campaign toolbox earlier this year. “I still don’t think it’s widely used by Canadian retailers and I’m very interested to see where it will take us.”
“There are so many good reasons to use mobile,” she adds. “You get an instant response, it’s easy, it’s green – you don’t need to print any coupons, you can receive everything on your device.”
The retailer is part of 35-year-old Groupe Dynamite and sister store to teen-focused Garage, which recently expanded its reach to include 11 U.S. stores and one in Dubai, and has its own marketing team. Dynamite is an exclusively Canadian brand that develops its own product collection out of its Quebec headquarters and handles advertising internally, focused on magazine ads with some OOH during the holiday season. Geared toward professional women in their twenties, the chain offers price points (typically in the $25 to $40 range) that put it in direct competition with stores like Suzy Shier (190 stores), as well as the slightly pricier Jacob (150 stores) and international brands like H&M (2,000 stores, 50 in Canada) and Zara (1,000 stores worldwide, about 15 in Canada).
Although mobile is only one aspect of Dynamite’s current fall campaign, it’s an important one. POS materials invite Dynamite shoppers to text a special number to receive updates, win an outfit showcased in the store or get discounts. Once the customer has opted-in to these messages, De Warren says, the retailer is able to contact her again in the future, with a higher success rate than an email list.
“You’re not connected to your email all the time, but you always have your cellphone with you,” De Warren says. “When you receive a text, it’s discreet; you open it when you want to. The open rate is definitely bigger than any email.”
But while contact via smartphones is Dynamite’s newest marketing frontier, the web also plays a significant role in the clothing co’s fall campaign. Encouraged by the rising popularity of fashion bloggers (who’ve become influential enough to garner primo seats at fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Milan), Dynamite has launched a blog covering fashion, beauty, dating and lifestyle.
In addition to the blog, De Warren wanted to create a viral online experience. A brainstorming session held this spring, during the height of the Old Spice guy’s popularity, led to the creation of “Dynamite’s Fall Style Icon,” a personalized video that makes the viewer the star of the show.
When a customer visits Dstylevideo.ca, she’s invited to upload a photo of herself and type in her first name. This data is fed into a one-minute tabloid-style video that declares her the “style icon of the decade,” announcing that she’ll be “the new face of leading Canadian fashion retailer Dynamite” and the cover girl of Elle Canada’s upcoming issue (or Elle Quebec for francophone visitors). It’s a goofy but fun online distraction that De Warren hopes will charm Dynamite’s twentysomething demographic and get the link passed around.
“Everyone wants their 60 seconds of fame,” says De Warren. “It’s about making her feel special, making her smile. It’s a private experience, and then you replay it, you forward it to your friends.”
Users can share their video via Facebook or email, and are given the chance to download a personalized Elle cover, as featured in the video. Dynamite also regularly posts batches of the personalized Elle covers to its Facebook page, which currently has over 41,000 “likes.”
Developed by an independent production team, the video is available in French and English, and is being promoted through in-store brochures, Dynamite’s website and the Elle Canada and Elle Quebec sites, as well as the titles’ respective e-newsletters. Magazines are also being distributed in-store to reinforce the partnership between Dynamite and Elle, which De Warren says began two years ago and will continue beyond this promotion.
 “We know they’re a good fit for our consumer because we’ve done focus groups,” De Warren says. “Elle is the most read magazine by our customers.”
But De Warren is familiar with more than just the customers’ reading habits. In fact, you might say she’s on a first-name basis with her target consumer.
“We always refer to our muse, Rachel,” De Warren says. Introduced during a brand revamp five years ago, Rachel is the embodiment of Dynamite’s core consumer. “Whether you are in marketing, design or visual presentation, or you’re selecting the in-store music, you always need to refer to her. We know her as you would know your best friend.”
So what’s Rachel like? She’s a confident young professional who’s single, with three close friends, and has been in the workforce for four or five years – but, as is the case for many women, Rachel’s exact age is a closely guarded secret. 
“I don’t like saying a specific age, because obviously we’re getting a larger group,” De Warren says. “But to us she’s very clear.”
With everyone from the salespeople to the marketing team briefed on Rachel’s interests, De Warren says it becomes easier to maintain a consistent brand message. And while Rachel is a concept that’s used internally, consumers did get a whiff of her in November, when the store launched a fragrance called – what else? – Rachel. 
At the same time Rachel was born, Dynamite began introducing a new store concept that featured large windows with dark curtains, more mannequins, roomier dressing rooms and more glamour, with oversized photography and crystal chandeliers. De Warren says that the decor represents a luxe Montreal lifestyle, showcasing affordable clothing that “takes you from a morning latte to a cocktail after work.”
Before the revamp, De Warren says, the stores lacked consistency. “Our objective is to convert all the regular concept stores to the new one,” she says. “Right now we are at about 75%, maybe 80%, but every year we’re converting new stores.”
Dynamite is wise to keep its brand fresh, as competition in this category remains fierce. In August, Jacob announced a new brand positioning, bringing Jacob and its casualwear line Jacob Connexion into the same store. In conjunction with its fall campaign, Jacob also announced a new no-retouching policy for its advertising, a CSR move that helps differentiate it from the crowd. Meanwhile, Suzy Shier offers online shopping, a rarity among Canadian retailers, as well as a loyalty program that gives 10% discounts and shopping party invitations to those who pay a one-time $25 membership fee. And then there are international fashion giants like Zara or H&M, which can take a trend from runway to store in a few weeks. It’s a lot to compete with.
“People are less and less loyal, they have more choice, this is for sure,” De Warren says, of the current marketplace. But she’s confident in Dynamite’s ability to stay in vogue. “Our store concept is unique, we have great product at affordable prices. It’s really connecting with her.”

Bio  

Born: Quebec City, QC. Oct. 19, 1979.
Education: Bachelor of business, HEC Montreal.
Career: De Warren says she was “born” at Dynamite, having spent her entire adult career there. She joined Group Dynamite in 2001, shortly after moving to Montreal, working in the fit and spec department and then visuals. She then went back
to school to complete her bachelor’s degree, while still working at Dynamite. After graduation, she was transferred to the marketing department, where she worked as an event coordinator. In 2008, she became the marketing manager.
Size of marketing team: Four direct reports.

3 Questions

Why do you love fashion?
It started when I was young, cutting out pictures of Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell, putting them in my room. I like the cycle of retail, it’s so fast — it’s always keeping you alive. There are so many things to do.

What’s the best thing about your job?

There are no barriers. Everything is possible at Group Dynamite.

What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a volunteer for multiple sclerosis. Several friends were touched by this sickness, mostly women and all aged between 30 and 40.  We do an event every year in Montreal. This year we’re expecting 1,000 people.