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. Still, the main one being their ability to have an effective PR and marketing strategy to reach media professionals and their target demographic. For the founder and co-founder of Zara and Inditex Group, respectively, Amancio Ortega is no stranger to understanding 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. While other fields require companies and individuals to have proper contacts and network with them, PR for the fashion industry combines creativity and having an eye for the latest trends in order to create products.
Let us look at how Amancio Ortega and his collective companies have succeeded to be a powerhouse in the fashion industry.
1) Fast fashion
While many companies are trying to move away from the idea of fast fashion to become more environmentally friendly, 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 his signature for many of his brands, and was what 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 and 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; shorter lead times and more fashionable clothes, lower quantities through scarce supply, and abundance of different styles. As mentioned previously, Zara has moved in step with its customers and target demographic and has given them 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. Secondly, Ortega also effectively incorporated the economic concept of supply and demand. He understood that by reducing the quantity manufactured, he could create the idea of artificial scarcity. It meant that the lower the availability of a product, the more desirable it will be. Also, by producing lower quantities, they had 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. This means that there are more choices for consumers to choose from, and the company has a better chance of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
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 products used to be the most important for a successful business, a customer’s experience has now outweighed that because customer’s opinions about products and services are what makes 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 solidify their plan to create new products and stay relevant in the market. Zara has shown throughout its existence that they do the proper research needed 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; they train and empower their store employees to pay attention to the customer needs and wants. Store employees are meant 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.
Because of its competitive customer research capabilities, Zara has offered products globally to reflect customer needs and wants in terms of physical, climate, or cultural differences. The company knows that the quicker it can respond, they are more likely to supply the right fashion merchandise at the perfect time across its global retail chain.
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, provide flexibility to launch new designs, and fulfill online orders with stock from stores near the delivery location, which can reduce delivery costs.
3) Use of social media marketing
While traditional PR and marketing may seem to be the way to go when trying to get the word out there about a brand, fast fashion meant having faster PR and marketing for Zara. It has also meant a need for the shift towards digital PR, social media marketing, and having 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 visual content consistency is very important for brand recall. By maintaining uniformity, it helps consumers know what to expect and build trust for the brand. Secondly, the frequency of posting is almost essential to make brand consistency. While there is no right or wrong way to posting content, having regularity and consistency is vital. Zara’s social media team can remain in consumers’ minds because of its consistency to post 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, they also incorporate influencer marketing to their success through endorsements from their consumers, which 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. For companies like Inditex, they have implemented many ways to conduct their market research. However, others may not have the resources or capabilities to reach that point. It may be due to having a specific budget or not having the right team to put all the elements together. But, from what we have seen with Zara, they can make all their media outreach efforts for little to no money and have an excellent team to back them up.
Companies that need help with that can hire PR professionals like Pressfarm to handle their brand messaging to create creative content that will help them gain visibility, whether it is focused on media professionals or their target audience.
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 instead 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 they will have a very high customer traffic. Because of the fast fashion industry’s nature, they know that window displays need to be continually changing and showcase pieces in the collections to communicate with audiences.
They also understand 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, its online store has become available in 66 countries and contributes to 14% of Zara’s total global sales, which may not seem like a high percentage. Still, the company continues to build up a successful online presence and high-quality 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 them that makes them more successful than others.
One of the main issues with fast fashion is that while it does get products out at a quicker pace, there may not be enough thought process going into the styles and messages put out.
“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.
While Zara’s intention is and has never been to stir up controversy through their products, some have caused people to do a double-take and take to the Internet to voice out their opinions.
We all remember former First Lady Melania Trump’s very insensitive jacket saying “I don’t’ care, do you,” that she wore when she went to visit immigrant children who had been forcibly separated from their parents. While the incident had more to do with her lack of empathy than the actual garment, Zara came under the hot seat for creating the product. Experts in the fashion industry, including Abigail Gloum-Lathbury, has stated that the constant pressure to get clothes on the shelves makes it very difficult to ensure proper oversight. However, Zara has been to maintain its position as a powerhouse in the fast fashion industry because of its ability to communicate with its audience in a way that they trust.
Since the controversial incident, along with others, 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. A global committee reviews each piece of clothing at its headquarters in Spain and then by local communities in each market that the product is sold in. Zara has been able to use those processes to create more sensitive products. But, that is because of their capability and reach to 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 that because of the industry’s competitive nature, and many retailers try to use text and simple images as an inexpensive way to set themselves apart from the competition. Fast fashion retailers generally take ideas from high-end runways to adapt them to mainstream shopping. The issue with that is, what may translate as all right to some audiences, may not to others.
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, but that was 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. They had since withdrawn the product, but not without stating that the design that comes from an Indian supplier and the approved design did not feature the symbols. Much like the controversy behind Melania Trump’s jacket, it had to do with context and how to public perceived the image.
6) Sustainability at its core
While many critics claim that the fast fashion industry does not hold sustainability at the level it should be, Zara has shifted to provide fast fashion and make sure that they stay sustainable because customers are focusing more on this factor. By doing so, Inditex and Zara show that they genuinely commit 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 through professional development, equality and diversity, and volunteering. Because of its shared vision, the company can also emulate that with other parts of their business, especially their suppliers. Inditex has spent over $50 million annually on social and community programs and initiatives that have helped the social integration of people with physical and mental disabilities by providing stable employment opportunities. Along with their commitment to people, they also make efforts to ensure that the environmental impact of producing products complies with the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals.
Inditex has also gone on record to pledge to only sell sustainable clothes by 2025 and that all materials used will be organic, sustainable, or recycled. They have begun Join Life, which helps consumers identify clothes made with more environmentally friendly materials. So, not only do they want to have fast fashion, but also they are taking measures to protect biodiversity to reduce its 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, and 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.
Still, Zara’s trend analysts, customer insights experts, and creative individuals are the ones that genuinely embody and enact their corporate policy. Another reason why Zara as a company has been successful and why their employee strategy has been equally as successful is that it empowers its 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. Their 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 its roots. For Amancio Ortega, he 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.
While Ortega may have a net worth of $68.3 billion, making him the second-wealthiest person in Europe and sixth in the world, he knows that his past is what made him who he is today. He is famously known for being publicity-shy, letting his business and ideas be what the public sees. Even though Zara and the other brands under Inditex are very well known, the company itself and Ortega are hardly known outside of its industry even though it has had annual sales of up to $19 billion.
While the fast fashion industry has come under fire in recent years because of its possible unethical working conditions and other elements, Amancio Ortega and his company have proven that through everything, 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 and Zara as successful as it is.