Make Claire’s Great Again: An Open Letter.
I don’t think your target audience is just girls aged seven to 17. I’m 25 and I enjoy playing dress-up. I love to flit through aesthetics, stepping in and out of subcultures to stand out. For a reference on how my bedroom looks after choosing that day’s outfit, try Googling “Landfill site”…
For me, everyday dressing is like that scene from the Nineties classic Get A Clue where the lead character Cher Horowitz swipes through various outfit combinations on her screen before landing on the most garish of fits. Today’s outfit, for example, is a pale pink Hello Kitty long sleeve, black dungarees, platform Dr. Martens, and a spiked black leather choker.
I want to be seen.
But it wasn’t always like that. As a closeted teenage boy I spent a lot of time afraid to stand out – my style was more “Hide The Gay” than Y2K. I didn’t even know what “me” looked like outside of a school uniform and whatever T-shirt and regular-fit jeans combo I’d paired together on a weekend, because I didn’t get the chance to experiment. I didn’t know where to find inspiration and wouldn’t have had the foggiest where to start.
When I was younger I used to go shopping with my mum on weekends. First we’d do all her shops and then to finish the day we’d visit my two stores – the Disney Store and Claire’s. My best purchase from Claire’s was a series of interlinked leather bracelets adorned with characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas film. I loved that bracelet set but it took me a while to build up the confidence to go into a store and buy it, and I didn’t dare tell anyone that it was from Claire’s – because that’s a girl’s shop, right?
I strongly believe that no one brand should be marketing to just one type of consumer, or in the case of Claire’s, just girls. Claire’s is limiting its consumer pool with a lack of inclusivity but it has the potential to be so much more.
Here are just a few ways I feel we could Make Claire’s Great Again:
Make Claire’s Inclusive
Marketing for the brand should prioritize inclusivity and make a proactive attempt to engage deeper than the surface level of culture. According to a survey by Campaign Live, 76% of Gen Z’ers said they feel diversity and inclusion is an important topic for brands to address, compared with 72% of Millennials, 63% of Gen X’ers, and 46 per cent of Baby Boomers. Gen Z is the highest spending generation today and, making up a massive 40% of the consumer market, they’ve made it clear that they want inclusivity.
I visited Claire’s Instagram page and out of 311 posts I counted only one male – a father with his daughter posted in celebration of Father’s Day. Inclusivity doesn’t begin and end with skin tone, because while there is a mix of ethnicities shown across the marketing, they are the ethnicities of young girls. What about the men, trans people and nonbinary folk who want to accessorize?
A great example of successful inclusivity is Fenty Beauty. The makeup brand pushes inclusion to the forefront of its marketing strategy on social media and in campaigns. Their social pages are a mixture of faces, skin textures, body shapes, styles, genders and sexualities, all using Fenty products in their own unique way, and this runs consistently through the brand’s TV and print ads too. The regular Makeup For Men series on their YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWyuB-Qyqu8) has accrued over 1m views, offering advice and step-by-step guidance to men who want to get into makeup or who already use it.
What Fenty does fantastically is not assuming anything about the consumer but welcoming through the door everyone who wants to dine at their table, all of which has the led brand to rack up a whopping 11m followers on Instagram and an almost cult-like following of superfans who love the brand for more than just its association with Rihanna. Inclusivity works.
Claire’s Can Create Confidence
Claire’s should be demonstrating awareness of their audience and offering them more than just products to buy. It should be attempting to engage with its audience of young adults and children through authentic and positive body representation of all types.
Among Gen Z 63% said they wanted to see “real people” instead of celebrities in advertising. The Mental Health Foundation adds that “companies should pledge new ways of using their platforms to promote positive body image…” in response to statistics revealing that 31% of teenagers feeling ashamed about their body image. But Claire’s offers up polished model shots of teenagers without acne and not a single hair out of place, all positioned around perfect product pack shots with corresponding backgrounds.
But this isn’t real life, and gone are the days of making consumers feel less to buy more. The “perfect” face and body just doesn’t win people over like it used to. When I look at Claire’s marketing imagery I can’t help but think the obvious – why are we not seeing real people? There is space here for Claire’s to offer its consumers more than just products, and with the rise of self-image issues for young adults, the brand should be exploring ways it can contribute to purpose-led organizations and charities such as MIND and BEAT which aim to support young people with eating disorders and mental health issues.
Fashion giant ASOS is another fantastic example of a brand which has adopted inclusive imagery into its advertising. Their earrings are photographed on models wearing hearing aids or experiencing hair loss, and bikinis dresses on bodies with stretch marks and birthmarks. ASOS says “we dress real people” – and not a moment too soon.
Claire’s Can Channel Authenticity
Authenticity garners higher engagement. Fenty Beauty’s feed, for example, is a mixture of professional product and campaign shoots balanced with user-generated content that offers viewers authenticity as trustworthy reviews. While product shots garner on average between 30-50 comments, user-generated content racks up between 100 and 200. The consumer no longer blindly trusts the brand for their recommendations – they want to hear from authentic sources that a product is worth their hard-earned coin.
I’m turning 26 in a couple of months and I often wonder when I’ll stop painting my nails black or wearing oversized T-shirts and spiked leather collars with an assortment of rings to match. Will I ever not act on the urge to bleach my hair and recolour it neon pink? I hope not and I hope that it’s Claire’s I visit to provide me with the products and means to do so.
While I focus on Claire’s in this letter, this is a warning to all – listen to your consumers!