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‘We have kept innovation and tech at the centre while creating Denim Labs’

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Abhay Bahugune, Chief Operating Officer, Van Heusen walks us through the inception, execution, processing and marketing of Van Heusen’s new sub-brand Denim Labs

For many working professionals, Van Heusen is the go-to brand for formal wear segment. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergence of work from home culture led to a significant shift in consumer behaviour with demand for casual wear seeing a steep growth. Seizing this opportunity, Van Heusen has launched its sub-brand Denim Labs’ with a new campaign featuring actor Jacqueline Fernandes in the ‘new blue’. Abhay Bahugune, COO, Van Heusen shares why the formal wear leader entered the casual wear segment.

Edited Excerpts:

How are you catering to the needs of consumers post Covid-19?

Covid-19 has impacted the way consumers work and there is a certain amount of indefiniteness. The needs of different work settings – be it out of the office or from home – are slightly different. We’ve kept all these work settings of our consumers in mind, and tried to build in solutions. Innovation and tech are the most important pillars of Van Heusen, and we have kept that at the centre and created this line of products. When people work at home or at the office, they sit in a posture for a long duration and the fits have evolved keeping in mind all these body contours. Multiple factors have been considered while creating this line to deliver the best possible comfort. We’ve also added a fusion of the attitude which the consumers want to wear while wearing denim or casuals. Our products are clearly rooted in how we deliver comfort, convenience, and confidence, and how we make consumers’ lives more effective and efficient. Denim Labs from Van Heusen’s focus is on technology & innovation for professionals and making them efficient and effective with our offerings.

What was the insight and inspiration behind the campaign ‘Move In The New Blue’ for the new sub-brand?  What are the metrics that you’ve set for this campaign?

When we think of denim, we think blue or indigo. We have created a new tone of blue, which is the house colour of Denim Labs. We have woven that tone of blue into our line, as key consumer-facing products as well as key signature elements, in our entire line. We have created a concept which talks about this new blue, fundamentally rooted in the tech world. This tone of blue is used to depict technological visual language.

It’s a 100% digital campaign. The key campaign objective is to drive awareness because it’s a new initiative, and then drive traffic to our websites and to our app. We are also targeting the minimum reach of 80% of our CRMs. We are leveraging Google search and smart shopping and using mediums like socials, YouTube, and OTT channels like Hotstar, Sony Liv to drive visibility and also to drive call to action. And lastly, news mediums across platforms such as Inshort & Dailyhunt to further build up this campaign. This is how we will define the campaign release of Denim Labs in the first season.

What are the synergies between actor Jacqueline Fernandes and the brand? 

Jacqueline Fernades comes on board with a bunch of energy. As a brand and as a personality Jacqueline depicts modernity. Sharpness is another key value of Jacqueline’s personality. As a brand, Van Heusen is all about modernity, sharpness, energy and heritage. The core TG who loves the brand will be able to fundamentally bind into the core values of the brand and associate them with her personality and this association brings forth what exactly we want to talk about the brand.

Tell us about the demographic that you are targeting with this offering? How will you plan your brand communication so that it talks to the TG? 

We will be talking to consumers in the age group of 20 to 35 – youngsters entering the job market, mid-level and senior-level professionals. We also want to reach college grads, slowly. With this initiative, we expect a lot of new consumers coming to Van Heusen. The existing consumers will also find a very quick association with the line.

The reason we’ve gone digital in the first campaign is to focus better on target groups whom we want to talk to, rather than getting into a lot of leakages or wastage in terms of communication. We will be looking at communication to our CRMs which takes care of existing Van Heusen TG, and then go through Google or social media in terms of targeting a specific group of consumers who will be defined purely from a recruitment perspective to different attributes. We’ll target these consumers and communicate to them from the point of view of awareness and action.

Is Influencer marketing on the cards for the larger marketing strategy for Denim Labs?

Influencer marketing is definitely something that is going up and signing up Jacqueline is one of the ways of doing it. She has a large fan base that she can influence. We believe there is a commonality between her fan base and the brand’s, and we will be able to do a lot of cross-pollination between these two families. Apart from that, there are a lot of micro-influencers who are really important in the online world, from a styling and new product development point of view. Consumers today, connect with these micro-influencers and we will look at suitable micro-influencers who can influence and work on creating an opinion about Denim Labs and Van Heusen with our TG.

How has your marketing mix and brand messaging evolved in the last year?

There is definitely a very huge change in terms of the way we are talking to the consumer, not only from the media mix point of view but also from a content point of view. In the post Covid-19 world, the way online consumption, not only in terms of products and services but also of media, has gone up and the way consumers are moving towards this consumption is phenomenal. Social has also become traditional media today. There are many other non-traditional ideas and thoughts where brands can be present and connect with the customer, not essentially to talk about products, but to become part of their life and hence create a relationship with consumers. The relationship that brands develop with consumers will be far beyond transactional.

Now with the uncertainty kicking in again, how are you assessing the situation and gearing up to deal with it?

Vis-a-vis the first wave of the pandemic, we’ve seen the impact on the business, now we have a little better ability to predict. We are looking at this second wave and the way forward is slightly more definitive, as compared to when we were locked down last year. We see a cyclicity in this wave and the way it will pan out, and hence we are preparing ourselves to manage it. If the infections are on rise, markets are going to slow down, and then again we’ll see markets opening up, and consumers coming to the market. If we are able to push our vaccination agenda, we might get into a slightly better situation in terms of stabilization. Hence, we are looking at the coming years preparing ourselves to press through these ups and downs, and trying to service consumer demand in-between. Our approach is going to be cautiously aggressive.

About the author / 

Ritika Raj

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