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Monday, April 21, 2008

BlogHer Business 2008: The Diva & The Fashionista

To me, the ultimate in marketing turns convention on its head, elegantly repositioning what others consider permanently wedged and impossible to change, with limited funds.

Which is what my favorite marketer in the blogosphere - Marketing Diva Toby Bloomberg - showcased during BlogHer Business 2008 as she verbally created a runway backdrop for DC Goodwill's Fashionista blogger, Em Hall, to describe her successful social media creation case study.

Em is the Retail Marketing Manager for Goodwill of Greater Washington, D.C., as well as the genius behind the DC Goodwill Fashion Blog where, as the Fashionista, she "provides detailed knowledge and insight on vintage and contemporary clothing and accessories that are valuable to fashionable and cost-conscious shoppers."

Launched in July 2007, the DC Goodwill Fashion Blog is part of a larger strategy developed with Geoff Livingston [author of a terrific social media primer Now Is Gone: A Primer on New Media for Executives and Entrepreneurs] to help DC Goodwill broaden its customer base and create buzz. The larger strategy includes a virtual runway and a dedicated eBay store.

Em explained that the blog helps to promote the mission of DC Goodwill [you'll note on the blog the statement about Goodwill's Mission: "Goodwill provides job training and employment services to people with disadvantages and disabilities.."] The mission, though, can sometimes be hard to convey.

In examining its organization and business, DC Goodwill discovered that most people connect with Goodwill via the Goodwill stores - either by shopping there, or donating to them. The stores are the links to the mission and people. In thinking further, it determined that Fashion could be the language to draw people in and start a conversation about the mission. More specifically, fashion that transforms thrift into vintage.

The blog strategy called for treating the blog as a product of DC Goodwill, complete with persona, its own mission - providing fashion at one's fingertips - and schedule, so that the product can survive beyond one person's tenure. For example, Tuesdays is all about Goodwill [e.g., As I Was Saying...] when the Fashionista specifically describes Goodwill clothing items.

On Thursdays, she pontificates [e.g., The Missing Models] about fashion related topics. And, on Fridays, she blogs the blogger, promoting other fashion bloggers [e.g., Blog the Blogger: Polished by tu-anh ].

It's a fully integrated strategy that DC Goodwill kicked off with a virtual fashion show [see The Fashion of Goodwill: Virtual Runway Show and Online Auction]. Interestingly, 2 years ago the fashion show was live. But, last year with no budget available, DC Goodwill decided to pursue a virtual fashion show.

Amazingly, in going virtual, DC Goodwill broadened the reach of the fashion show. That's right! As a result [see eBay update and YouTube video!], 22,000 people have seen it online compared to a few hundred seeing the live show. All products were sold on eBay.

In addition, DC Goodwill holds trunk shows in the building lobbies of fashion show sponsors. All in all, the increased awareness is driving more traffic to the stores, including more clothing swaps where unswapped clothes are donated to Goodwill stores, and definitely reaching new customers.

Fashionista Em targets the DC community through the blog. She learns about events through meetups, other blogs, word-of-mouth. She wears local clothes and jewelry from local artists [or local Goodwill stores]; she is treated as press at fashion events and absolutely takes part in the local fashion blog scene.

From the audience came an interesting question: how to extend this successful Fashionista model beyond DC to other Goodwill organizations. Although Goodwill has an international website presence, if you Google Goodwill, you'll notice links to the various local Goodwill organizations. In fact, the Orange County Goodwill organization has created shopgoodwill.com with an online store presence, but no whimsical Fashionista.

The solution is not an easy one as it touches on the issues of how to remain faithfully and authentically local while bringing under one's wings a multitude of uniquely local voices, without losing any of that uniqueness...

In the meantime, how delightful to experience this exchange between the Diva and the Fashionista and witness the transformation of used or thrift into vintage, and of abstract goodwill into active, participatory involvement.

Thank you, Em and Toby!

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Robyn McMaster, PhD said...

Sounds like this was a very valuable and unforgettable experience, C.B. Great descriptions of what took place. You describe this as no one else could!

CB Whittemore said...

Thanks, Robyn. I wish you could have been there in person. I have a few more presentations to share to give you an even better flavor for the conference. And, then, maybe we can get you there next year!

Toby said...

Bravo! C.B. Robyn is right ... your post was like having a front row seat by the runway. Thank you for your over the top kind words.

Geoff_Livingston said...

Thanks, C.B. Em and Brendan have done some amazing work, and it's great to be affiliated with them!

CB Whittemore said...

Ahhh, Toby, but you set the stage so perfectly! Thanks for having made that session so fun.

CB Whittemore said...

Geoff, what an awesome project! Really fun to see what can happen when so much enthusiasm takes hold. Next time, we'll have to get Toby and Em to invite you onstage...

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