J. Crew is one of those brands that truly captures a particular aesthetic and loyal following. Their clothing is described as timeless, day to night, and a whimsical play on masculine and feminine silhouettes. On their site, they share a bit of insight onto their stylistic vision by saying “we don’t believe there’s just one way to wear an outfit, but we do have a few ideas on how to pull one together. For us, the magic is in the mix.”
With that sort of mission statement, there is no doubt that their content game is on point. Their blog, Hello J. Crew, is a beautifully crafted and editorially driven content hub that highlights their clothing, designers, travel guides, intriguing tastemakers, and much more. They bring their brand to life through the use of designers and “behind the scenes” features, stunning photography and design, and the perfect mix of content that maps the entire buyer journey.
Featuring Designers and “Behind the Scenes” Content
What better way to infuse brand purpose into a content hub than to showcase its designers and employees hard at work doing what they love? In their Travel Notes: Mexico piece, J. Crew gives its audience a behind the scenes look at their trip to Mexico City to shoot the March Style Guide. They include an array of outtake shots, quotes from their Art Director and Photo Director, and even a collection of Instagram shots taken on location. By also including a handy travel guide and giving tips on how to get there, places to visit, and the best restaurants to eat and drink, this piece becomes a must-read for anyone interested in the area. Their December Style Guide took place in Ireland and others include France and Majorca.
They also frequently showcase their Creative Director, Jenna Lyons, with Jenna’s Picks (Lately) which details her latest inspirations ranging from her favorite book to her latest donut obsession. This gives their audience an inside look at Jenna’s life and what interests her outside of working at J. Crew. Another featured section is The Wedding Edit: 11 Big-Day Ideas where they documented one of their stylists’ wedding. By highlighting everything from invitations, outfits, and beauty tips with personal quotes next to each, the reader gets a personal look at the stylist’s wedding with her story intertwined throughout.
Featuring Creative Directors, Stylists, and Designers in a “behind the scenes” approach is an easy way for retailers to add an extra layer of character to the blog and humanizes the brand. It’s also a great way to create compelling stories around ongoing campaigns and real life events. Are you a B2B marketer and need advice on how this can fit into your content strategy? At NewsCred, we always infuse our Instagram with employee generated content using “employee takeovers” and encourage our employees to create content for our blog, featuring team members across design, engineering, marketing, and more.
Photography, Aesthetic and Design
Many marketers creating blogs focus so much time and effort on getting the content right that they forget that visual storytelling and overall aesthetic matter just as much. According to HubSpot, content with compelling visual elements and graphics can generate up to 94% more views and 37% more engagement. That’s a huge opportunity for retailers! The photography not only increases engagement on the blog, but also is vital to your social distribution strategy for visual channels like Pinterest and Instagram.
The layout of J. Crew’s blog is very visually appealing, with beautiful photography custom to each article.
In the article, “Meet… Guillaume Guevara of Miscelanea”, they profile a shop owner in New York City and snap photos of the store and the owner in J. Crew clothing. They also show pictures of his favorite products weaved in with quotes from their interview with the tastemaker. Each of the featured J. Crew products he is wearing has links to shop the look, but it’s done in a tasteful manner that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the article. Also, each photograph has a “Pin It” call to action so readers can easily save the image to their Pinterest boards.
What can you learn from J. Crew’s impeccable design and style? Make sure you pay attention to the photography and aesthetic of your blog! It should capture the ethos of your brand, from design to typography. Want great photography but on a budget? Use rising talent or hire content marketers internally that know how to take photos. You can also use rights cleared UGC imagery to capture a more authentic look. For blog layouts, there are many templated clean designs on WordPress you can license, like these, if creating a custom design is out of the question.
Content that Maps the Customer Journey
J. Crew’s editorial team definitely understands that their consumers are interested in their products, but also a number of other topics like travel, food, and family. By adding content topics outside of clothing, J. Crew is able to capture the attention of new customers that may share the same interests. This broader and more shareable type of content is called “early-stage content” and is essential to drive visibility and engagement to content hubs. Here’s an example of an article, “In the Kitchen: The Best Blueberry Scone Recipe (Ever)” that features a bakery in London and a recipe from the bakery’s owner. They don’t force J. Crew products into the story because it would appear unnatural given they don’t specialize in cooking products. Instead, they offer their reader an educational and inspiring piece of content in the hopes that they can gain a loyal fan who will continue to engage with J. Crew’s content.
Once they have the reader’s attention, they can move them into the evaluation or “middle-stage content”. This stage speaks more specifically to the brand’s products, how they are made, and how to style them. For example, their article, “How to: Find a Suit that Fits” is designed to help their customers figure out how to buy the right suit for their body type. Once their consumer is ready to buy a suit, this piece of content will be extremely valuable and help them in their purchase decision. It clearly shows models in their suits, but also offers great tips for anyone and waits until the bottom of the page to add the call to action of visiting the J. Crew Suit Shop. Not only does this content live on the blog, but they also add it to the suit’s product description page, so if people are interested in buying this suit and reading the description, they can now learn how it fits and have a better shopping experience.
The last stage of the buyers path to purchase is the “late-stage content” which is the most overt custom content that promotes the brand or product. This type of content is intended for consumers that are ready to buy a certain product and just need that final push over the edge. J. Crew created a video and blog post about the new partnership with New Balance, “J. Crew on Film: Introducing the J. Crew X New Balance 99 Butterscotch”. The video is clearly promotional, and shows how the shoe is crafted and what it looks like on the model. In the blog post you learn when the shoe becomes available for purchase online and what stores it’s available to buy in. Again, they do a great job of adding this video and blog post to the product details of the shoe, so people that are looking to buy have access to this extra information.
I’ve highlighted the stages in the funnel that NewsCred uses to help our clients create a cohesive buyer journey. The last stage is retain or “customer stage content”, which is a combination of the above mentioned content types in a regular cadence and personalized if possible. Frequently publishing content is extremely important in order to move your consumers through each funnel and keep your loyal consumers interested in your brand even when they aren’t necessarily ready to buy.
Today’s shoppers have an ability to choose from thousands of brands and are using multiple devices and touch points on any given day to inform their purchasing decisions. In fact, 90% of consumers find custom content useful (Demand Metric, 2014) and 61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content (Custom Content Council, 2011). Retailers like J. Crew understand that in order to have this two way conversation with their consumers, they must build a content strategy that truly embodies the brand, has a clear vision for it’s design, and maps content to every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Alenna Curry is the Director of Sales – Retail + Beauty for NewsCred.
Originally published on Apr 1, 2016 10:00 AM, updated Dec 2, 2016