Sartorial Stars: Kyle Andrew, SVP of Marketing for kate spade new york
July 7, 2011 § 1 Comment
Today, kate spade new york is considered a mega style brand and a digital power player. Having grown from a line of simple nylon handbags, the company, now under the creative direction of Deborah Lloyd and the ownership of Liz Claiborne International, is additionally known for fashion-forward accessories, jewelry, home wares, footwear, paper goods, eyewear and fragrance. kate spade new york is beloved by fashion, beauty, home and lifestyle bloggers the world over for its happy, feminine aesthetic and its equally lively and inclusive online brand persona.
With a current count of roughly 295,000 Facebook fans and over 57,000 Twitter followers, the kate spade new york brand has made an impressive online footprint. They’ve engaged consumers on and offline through partnerships with prominent style bloggers, artists, niche retailers like NYC bike shop Adeline Adeline, and most admirably, with Women for Women International, a foundation that “provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency.” Each kate spade new york marketing channel has a look, feel and voice unique to the brand, and there’s real heart and soul behind all of their communications. I don’t use the term ‘authenticity’ lightly, but kate spade new york, as a brand, has mastered it.
kate spade new york’s online and in-store success is due in no small part to the company’s SVP of Marketing, Kyle Andrew, whom I had the privilege of chatting with a few weeks ago. Andrew arrived to kate spade new york a few years after the brand’s founders left and the company had been sold to LCI. Many of those who’d been with kate spade new york in it’s former incarnation soon left for new pursuits, and a fresh new team, including Andrew, Lloyd and co-president Craig Leavitt, came on to take the company to the next level.
Andrew began her career at an advertising agency, which led her to GAP, where she spent 7 years as VP of Brand Communications. She then headed marketing for Kenneth Cole, before landing at kate spade new york.
When I asked her about how she approached the kate spade new york brand upon arrival, she recalled a very exciting time full of opportunity, saying that she and the team spent time deciding ‘what should be kept, and what should be added”. Because the brand was in need of a refreshed vision, and new marketing and retailing approaches, the new team essentially gave the brand a full revamp.
The team was able to turn the brand around in two short years. They sought to soften the brand’s historically “prissy Upper East Side” look and to find a way to appeal to a larger population of shoppers via “Deborah’s fashion-forward, feminine sensibility.” Andrew added that “there were a lot of good things about the original brand that people loved,” but the refresh gave way to a larger scale business that continues to grow today.
According to Andrew, it’s also taken a few years and the ongoing input of young members of the kate spade new york team and the digital team at Starworks, their PR agency, to bring the company’s social media model to where it stands today. They all worked to perfect the kate spade new york “voice”; it’s now remarkably balanced across social media platforms and brand communications. Facebook has become their largest social media outlet, and is a way for the brand to announce new products and to manage customer service. Twitter, Andrew said, is a “fast, dynamic capture of the kate spade new york girl’s life,” while Tumblr is “very visual, colorful and graphic.” The brand also has a strong presence on Instagram and Foursquare, and continues to explore new marketing options, including mobile, which Andrew added, “needs to be done in a brand right way.” Andrew is remarkably open to new suggestions and ideas, showing an entrepreneurial flair even though she’s at a larger company.
I asked Andrew about kate spade new york’s popularity and relationships with fashion, home and lifestyle bloggers. It’s clear that the brand’s products and communications have connected with these stylemakers on a visceral level. “We couldn’t ignore the power of the blogosphere,” said Andrew, “we dipped our toes in, but it took a little while to engage them in a meaningful way. Now we host blogger dinners, events and have great relationships with them.”
As kate spade new york’s online business continues to grow, Andrew and her team have simultaneously focused their attention on their retail store business, which is the biggest segment of the brand. Andrew stated that, “the biggest driver of traffic to stores is the desirability of the brand.” When she arrived to the company, traffic was somewhat of a challenge, but ever since the new team began tackling the retail business, “there’s been a double-digit increase in traffic.” Andrew also added that for now, kate spade new york is focusing on full-price marketing, rather than promotional marketing.
Lastly, I asked Andrew about kate spade new york’s partnership with Women for Women International, an initiative she introduced and built. A week before our conversation, I’d stopped into a kate spade new york store on Lower Fifth Avenue and was captivated by the fruit of the partnership. Beautiful beaded pieces designed by the kate spade new york team, and handcrafted by women in Rwanda, not only caught my eye, but showed the brand’s global vision and heart. While at GAP, Andrew worked on the RED campaign, which she said was a “life changer” for her. “I saw how powerful and amazing a brand could be by engaging apart from making things,” she said. kate spade new york didn’t have a designated cause before Andrew arrived and she felt strongly that one was needed. The Spades had briefly worked with Women for Women in the past, and Andrew felt the foundation was a great match for the newly envisioned brand as well. She mentioned that the Women for Women International CEO, Zainab Salbi, is “an amazing person.” The purpose of the partnership is “to put as many women to work as possible and to give them financial independence,” she said. To date, kate spade new york has worked with women in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Afghanistan. Andrew explained that at kate spade new york, a majority of employees are women, and the partnership has become really important to them.
Her brilliant marketing initiatives, entrepreneurial approach and a devotion to the greater good and company culture make Kyle Andrew the kind of retail exec we should all be looking up to.