Libby Wadle on Madewell’s Fall Message and Marketing Strategy

For its fall campaign, Madewell asks the question, “What Are You Made Of?”

It’s a redux of the spring campaign, with the same theme and inspirational tone, but this time with a trio of celebrity/comics: Phoebe Robinson, Hasan Minhaj and Chloe Fineman.

“The goal of the campaign is to celebrate self-expression by showing people who have found success by being exactly who they are. It will run through our fall season,” said Libby Wadle, chief executive officer of the J. Crew Group, which operates the Madewell and J. Crew brands.

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Below, Wadle responds to questions about the campaign and marketing generally.

Libby Wadle 

WWD: What styles are emphasized in the campaign and most important for fall?

Libby Wadle: Denim will of course be heavily featured in the campaign. One hero product we’re really excited about is our new “perfect vintage straight” jean, worn by both Chloe and Phoebe. The jean just launched as our newest addition to our bestselling “perfect vintage” jean family with an on-trend wider-leg cut. This is also the first time that we’ve included men’s in a campaign of this scale, reflecting our focus on that business go forward.

WWD: In developing the campaign, did the pandemic play a role and how so?

L.W.: We have a long history of supporting up-and-coming creatives at Madewell and for this campaign we wanted to lend our support to an industry that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. That led us to work with the National Independent Venue Association and support their work in helping comedy and music venues recover after pandemic closures, where many budding creatives including the cast of the campaign, got their start.

WWD: Why these three celebrities/comedians in particular, for your campaign?

L.W.: We were drawn to them because they are all dynamic performers with a strong point of view. We also love how they each have found success by being exactly who they are.

WWD: Has the pandemic impacted your fashion offerings? 

L.W.: The pandemic impacted the fashion industry in countless ways, but from a process standpoint we operated the same way we always have: we read the market, listened to our customers and met them with what they wanted to see from us. 

WWD: Since emerging from bankruptcy in September 2020, has the marketing budget increased, by how much, and what areas are receiving the lion’s share?

L.W.: For Madewell, we continue to focus on introducing our brand to new audiences and increasing awareness. This campaign is part of those efforts and an exciting step for our men’s business as the first time we’ve done a campaign of this scale.  

Hasan Minhaj in Madewell’s “What Are You Made Of” campaign. 

WWD: Personal stylists, are they an important part of the marketing? How long has the company  had personal stylists and in what ways do they communicate best with customers? What training do they receive?

L.W.: Styling has always been an important part of the Madewell experience. Since day one we’ve had stylists in our stores and when they closed in 2020, we quickly pivoted to offer a virtual program which has become an important touch point with our customers. Our goal is to offer styling any way our customer wants, whether it’s in person or in the comfort of their home. 

WWD: What are the best three ways to gather feedback on style and service?

L.W.: We have over 10 avenues for collecting customer feedback. One that is particularly helpful is a platform we created called Group Chat where we survey our customers, asking them anything from what they plan on buying for the next season to what they are listening to or watching. 

WWD: Last year you said more than 60 percent of Madewell customers are Insider members. They drive 73 percent of brand sales. Has this changed?

L.W.: Since launching points we have seen a meaningful increase in loyalty membership as well as the impact our Insiders have on our business. We’re focused on continuing to enhance the program through special events and product.

WWD: Through marketing, are you doing anything to encourage store visits considering the pandemic has hampered traffic?

L.W.: As we’ve navigated the last year and half we have made it a priority to evolve our services and keep our customers updated on what we offer in stores so they can shop in the easiest and safest way possible with us. This has included an increased focus on buy online, pick up in store as well as offering styling appointments, virtually, for those who [would] rather shop from the comfort of their homes.

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