Since introducing the concept of “fast fashion,” Zara has become one of the world’s most successful fashion retail brands due to many different factors. The main reason is their ability to have an effective PR and marketing strategy to reach media professionals and their target demographic. As the founder and co-founder of Zara and Inditex Group, respectively, Amancio Ortega is no stranger to PR and marketing. In fact, he understands that PR and marketing are essential for any company along with other business strategies.
While Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may be household names, Amancio Ortega has achieved their similar financial status but has shied away from the public eye while amassing a net worth of more than $77 billion. His fashion empire spans over nearly 100 countries, with Zara, Massimo Dutti, and Pull & Bear, to name a few.
The fashion industry is one that is always changing depending on new trends. Brands and companies continuously need to come up with ways to create buyer personas that help attract audiences to their brand. Other industries require companies and individuals to have proper contacts and networks with them. However, PR for the fashion industry combines creativity and an eye for the latest trends in order to create products.
Let us look at how Amancio Ortega’s brands have succeeded in becoming a powerhouse in the fashion industry.
1) Fast fashion
Many companies are trying to move away from the idea of fast fashion to become more environmentally friendly. However, Ortega’s strategy from the beginning was to take the retail world by storm quickly. He created a fast-paced schedule that meant that new clothes would be on the racks faster than any other fashion brand in the market. The speed at which Ortega was able to put out new products became the signature for many of his brands, and set him apart from the competition.
From the beginning of Zara, the secret to its success can be attributed to Ortega and his team’s ability to keep up with the rapidly changing trends. It also helps that they can offer clothing collections that are a combination of high quality and affordability. They have always been able to stay one step ahead, create new designs, and put them on the shelves within a week or two.
The fast-fashion concept that has worked for Zara can be broken down into three key points; 1) Shorter lead times and more fashionable clothes, 2) Lower quantities through scarce supply, and 3) Abundance of different styles. As mentioned previously, Zara has moved in step with its customers and target demographic. This brand has established a reputation for giving its consumers what they want quicker than other retailers. Having shorter lead times ensures that Zara has its stores stocked with clothes that customers want at all times.
Ortega understood that by reducing the quantity manufactured, he could create artificial scarcity. In other words, he realized that the lower the availability of a product, the more desirable it would be. Additionally, producing lower quantities gave them an easier way to monitor which products were bought more frequently and which ones missed the mark. Finally, rather than producing higher amounts, Zara produces more styles instead.
2) Focus on the customer
“The customer must continue to be our main center of attention, both in the creation of our fashion collections and in the design of our shops, of our logistical system and any other activity.” – Amancio Ortega
While just having good products used to be the most important requirement for a successful business, the customer’s experience has now outweighed that. This is because customers’ opinions about products and services are what make a company successful. Zara has maintained its success because of its unrelenting focus on its customer base.
The more companies know about their customers, the better they can refine their plans to create new products and stay relevant in the market. Zara has proven that they do their research when it comes to appropriate PR and marketing. Not just through their analytics but also with their storefront employees. The brand is all about customer service through every stage. In fact, they train and empower their store employees to pay attention to customer needs and wants. Store employees are supposed to be at the forefront of customer research. The company can listen and take note of customer comments and observe new styles that customers may be wearing to see whether they can convert them into clothes for the brand.
While customer insight is essential, sometimes it can be challenging to obtain by just going up to them in the store. Zara monitors their stock and customer feedback through Radio Frequency Identification Technology in their stores. RFID has helped Zara reduce inventory costs and provide flexibility to launch new designs. It’s also helped them fulfill online orders with stock from stores near the delivery location. This ultimately reduces delivery costs.
3) Use of social media marketing
While traditional PR and marketing may seem to be the best way to get the word out there about a brand, fast fashion requires faster PR and marketing. It has also created a need for the shift towards digital PR, social media marketing, and easily accessible visuals.
What Zara’s social media strategy shows companies is that there needs to be consistency when it comes to posting content. People who have come across their social media platforms can see that they use a photo-oriented synchronized layout across all their platforms. Having consistency in their visual content consistency is very important for brand recall. Maintaining uniformity helps consumers know what to expect and builds trust for the brand.
Zara’s social media team can remain in consumers’ minds because of their consistency in posting on Instagram and Facebook at least once a day. As mentioned before, customer insight is essential for Zara’s research. Using social media, Zara can regularly communicate with their customers and manage to retain brand loyalty. Finally, influencer marketing has contributed to their success through endorsements from their consumers. These customers include fashion-focused influencers and bloggers.
Understanding how to implement a social media strategy is essential for companies to stay relevant in this digital world. Companies like Inditex have implemented many ways to conduct their market research. However, others may not have the resources or capabilities to reach that point. This may be due to having a specific budget or not having the right team to put all the elements together. However, from what we have seen with Zara, it’s possible to do media outreach for little to no money with an excellent team.
4) Location and brand communication strategy
The unique thing about Inditex Group and Zara is that it has used almost a zero PR, marketing, advertising, and endorsement policy. Rather than doing that, they prefer investing a percentage of their revenue in opening new storefronts.
This is because they know that store locations and displays are crucial elements of an effective marketing strategy because of the industry they are in. By doing extensive research and then choosing prominent locations to have their stores, Zara ensures that it will have high customer traffic. Thanks to the nature of the fast fashion industry, Zara knows that window displays need to be continually changing. Moreover, these displays should showcase pieces in the collections to communicate with audiences.
The team at Zara also understands the importance of the shift towards digital PR and marketing. While they may not spend much money on their communication efforts, they emerged into the e-commerce trend by launching their online boutique in September 2010. Since then, the online store has become available in 66 countries and contributes to 14% of Zara’s total global sales. While this may not seem like a high percentage, the company continues to build a successful online presence and an excellent customer experience.
5) Crisis management
Like many well-known companies, Zara has also had to deal with quite a few controversies. However, it is how companies deal with crises that makes some more successful than others.
“Everything has to happen so quickly. It’s like an assembly line- we hear a lot about the strenuous working conditions at factories, but design teams are under similar pressure…Unfortunately, without context, without history you are bound to make epic failures.” ~ Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, assistant professor of fashion design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Since the controversial incident, Zara’s representative has said that they now have a three-part process when it comes to vetting their products. They now use an algorithm to scan each design for insensitive or offensive elements or language. Zara has been able to use those processes to create more sensitive products. Nevertheless, that is because of their capability and reach the global market.
It can be challenging for some companies to monitor how shoppers view particular text and symbols without the right time and effort to do the proper research. A big part of the problem is due to the industry’s competitive nature. In fact, many retailers use text and simple images as an inexpensive way to set themselves apart from the competition.
Another example of controversial messaging that Zara used with their products was back in 2007 with the swastika symbol on their handbags. When they launched the product, they did not intend to start any controversy. Nevertheless, that’s not how the public saw it. While the symbol has transformed into something that represents a challenging time in history, the intention was to showcase an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia, especially Hinduism.
6) Sustainability at its core
While many critics claim that the fast fashion industry does not operate sustainably. Zara has proven that fast fashion can actually be sustainable. By doing so, Inditex and Zara show that they are genuinely committed to people and the environment.
Another reason for the company’s success is that all of its employees share the same vision built on sustainability, professional development, equality and diversity, and volunteering. By building this common vision, the company can also put it into practice in other parts of their business. This is especially important when dealing with their suppliers. Inditex has spent over $50 million annually on social and community programs and initiatives. These initiatives have encouraged the social integration of people with physical and mental disabilities by providing them stable employment opportunities. Zara also makes efforts to ensure that the environmental impact of producing products complies with the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals.
Inditex has also gone on record pledging to only sell sustainable clothes by 2025. Moreover, they have stated that all materials used will be organic, sustainable, or recycled. They have launched Join Life, which helps consumers identify clothes made with more environmentally friendly materials. They not only want to have fast fashion, but they are also taking measures to protect biodiversity and reduce their consumption of water, energy, and other resources.
7) Focusing within
Another critical aspect of any company is the team that works behind it. Only when a company’s team is cohesive and understands the main goal will a company be successful in all its endeavors. In Zara’s case, they hire talents that can quickly climb through the company’s ranks. They encourage risk-taking and fast implementation, as long as it is beneficial and does not hurt the brand’s reputation.
As mentioned previously, customer insight is one of the most important sources of information.
Nevertheless, Zara’s trend analysts, customer insights experts, and creative individuals are the ones who genuinely embody and enact their corporate policy. Another reason why Zara, as a company has been successful is that they empower their staff to make decisions based on data. When it comes to designing, all of Zara’s designers work together with unparalleled independence to approve products and campaigns. Zara’s entire business model is designed so that the pattern of needs for goods dictates the terms of the production process. The whole brand culture is customer-centric, which has proven to be a significant contributor to its success.
8) Staying true to your roots
Regardless of a business’s size or success, it is crucial to stay humble and stay true to your roots. Amancio Ortega has stayed true to his humble beginnings and has never stopped innovating in the fashion industry.
“Complacency is the worst. I never allow myself to be content with what I have done. And I have always tried to instill this in everyone around me. Grow or die. If you want to innovate, don’t focus on the results.” – Amancio Ortega.
Ortega has a net worth of $58.6 billion. This makes him the second-wealthiest person in Europe and the sixth wealthiest person in the world. However, he knows that his past is what made him who he is today. He is famously known for being publicity-shy, instead of letting his business and ideas speak for themselves. Even though Zara and the other brands under Inditex are very well known, Ortega is hardly known outside the industry even despite his annual sales of up to $19 billion.
The fast fashion industry has come under fire in recent years because of its possible unethical working conditions and other elements. Nevertheless, Amancio Ortega and his company have proven that they can handle anything that is thrown in their direction. For this reason, companies looking to be successful in their industry should follow and listen to the tactics that Ortega and his team have employed to make Inditex Group as successful as it is.