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content marketing: J Crew takes a step in the right direction

July 26, 2010

Given that it seems to have been my wife’s personal mission to singlehandedly prop up the J Crew share price during this past 18 months of economic uncertainty, it’s hardly surprising that a rather large amount of direct mail – print and electronic – from this particular retailer makes its way to us each month.

The J Crew catalogs are fine pieces of work and I cringe at the thought of how much they must cost to produce. The design is elegant and stylish, the clothes are presented beautifully on the models and the photography is inspiring and evocative. But at the end of the day, the catalog is what it is – a soul-less piece of direct mail that, because of its lack of engagement, quickly makes its way into the trash.

Given that women (and some men) often have close emotional relationships with the stores that they tend to frequent, I have often wondered why a clothing retailer had never taken the step of creating an engaging content/lifestyle experience for its most valued customers.

Then a copy of J Crew’s The Thread landed in the mailbox at the weekend. It was a breath of fresh air and a great piece of content marketing. Instead of Special Fall Offers and Free Shipping, there was a welcome letter from the creative director, behind-the-scenes stories, designer profiles, unique insights and lots of cool snippets about what was going on at the company. Of course, there were a few product references, but by and large the company did a great job resisting the temptation to put a sales spin on the content.

All too often, when a retailer’s sole communication goal is simply to sell more product, the customer can in the long run end end up feeling resentful at the take, take, take nature of the relationship.

Congratulations to J Crew and The Thread for recognizing this and taking the the first step in restoring the balance.

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