A few months ago, I discovered that Cosabella Lingerie had joined the ranks of the retailers of brands utilizing Twitter . I began a delightful dialogue with Cosabella Lingerie’s CEO and founder, Valeria Campello (who, YES, tweets herself). I started following all the women who work for Cosabella. Impressed with their clarity, candidness and humanity, I asked Valeria to interview. Cosabella, in my mind, is company clearly understands the importance of online customer engagement.
In our interview, Valeria and I discuss Cosabella’s international marketing strategy, the use of blogs & forum in marketing their Sex and the City collections, using Twitter to build industry relationships and the company’s use of social media to raise brand awareness. Enjoy:
Macala: I know it’s a common question, but I’d like to know what personally inspires you? What are three things you couldn’t live without?
Valeria: Three things…that’s tough…my family, my job (in which I have the freedom to express myself) and Miami’s sun and tropical weather.
M: Cosabella began in 1983, the brand has clearly carved out a niche for itself; how did you differentiate Cosabella from other lingerie brands such as Victoria Secret, Fantasie of England, Aubade or even Lise Charmel?
Valeria: Cosabella is a family run business which has always held tightly to its core value of: quality, fit and attention to specific consumer needs. The US market is different from Europe, Asia or South Africa. Cosabella adapts its marketing strategy and product lines to each of these markets based on their specific fashion trends. Our product development team uses the term Glocal, which means we always consider local (demographical) needs even when working on a global scale.
Because of this, our collections are vast; we design for each market (80 countries internationally) we sell to. In the US, we individually market Cosabella collections each of the 50 states. We adapt our marketing message to customers buying our lingerie while ensuring that message supports Cosabella’s brand identity. It is a challenge to explain to each person in each town that Cosabella is a brand that is for you to make what you want of it. We’ are a brand with an identity that extends cohesively through all of our product lines whether it be lingerie, shapewear, sleepwear, apparel, swim or beachwear. We release new fashion collections four times a year, in all shades of color and all textures of fabrics.
M: When did Cosabella become involved with social media? What prompted that involvement?
Valeria: On a personal level, I have always addicted to virtual communication. I have been actively feeding and commenting on forums and been an active member of groups even before web 2.0 became a common practice. It took me very little to jump on it, even if I have to admit that the phenomenon is now bigger than me and I am sometimes overwhelmed, even confused, on what and where to focus from a business standpoint.
In fact, I was quoted in last fall’s WWD article on the History of the Thong speaking about my push of the thong style through internet chat rooms and message boards. In the early nineties, the internet was the first anonymous place to meet and speak freely without being embarrassed of your questions or your answers. It is on the early chat rooms that I would spend all night speaking and interacting with women explaining the utility of the thong.
NO VPL (visible panty lines) was a statement for me over the internet, when nobody else wanted to speak out loud about loving thongs! Now it is so common to share with our girlfriends that we wear thongs that was not common before chat rooms! The internet brings women together to share, learn, inspire and teach!
M: What social tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) have you utilized? What has proven most successful or promising?
Valeria: I have utilized all of the above plus Flickr, Linkedin and lately Polyvore which I find to be an excellent tool for people in fashion.
In reference to Twitter, I am still figuring out the best way to use it. Being a native Italian speaker, I find it difficult sometimes to understand how to make a point in so few words. To communicate in 140 letters makes it a tremendous practice site from business sense, teaching you how to get the message across in a short and sweet fashion. In fact this interview was made possible by our connection through Twitter and is a living proof of the relationships that can grow from this tool.
I also love using Facebook on a constant basis in conjunction with all other tools. Facebook is a great network to connect on a personal basis with hundreds of your customers around the world at the same time with the same images, videos and messages.
M: Are there tools (Twitter or Facebook incl.) that have proven to be problematic or difficult to use? Is there anything related to social media you have questions about?
Valeria: There are too many new applications and changes that administrators make constantly making it difficult to master the different features. Some of the applications may seem annoying and silly, but they are a technological freedom of expression of programmers and enthusiasts that open new creative doors. Privacy is also an issue in some case, but as far as you are transparent and you use the network for the right reason it is not a problem.
M: In 2008, Cosabella launched the Sex and The City Collection in conjunction with the movie premiere, what sparked this idea? How did the deal come to fruition? Working with HBO, what licensing/legal issues had to be addressed?
Valeria: Cosabella was a natural tie-in Sex and the City (SATC); Patricia Fields used Cosabella for each season of the original TV series for all four characters. Because of it Kim Cantrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis are loyal Cosabella girls. The beauty of SATC is that every woman can watch the show or the movie and see a little bit of herself in each character, sometimes identifying more with one and designating qualities in the other characters to one of their girlfriends, making the show very personal and intimate to watch.
This is true also for Cosabella, each of these characters could find themselves in our collections. The sweet Charlotte, the chic Carrie, the sexy Samantha, the hard working Miranda are all part of the designs, styles, fabrics and colors of our collections. Creating the collection was great fun and even got the actresses’ approval. Each girl with their own group and own character.
HBO is a worldwide company and the reach of this collection was cosmopolitan. It had tremendous success in Japan, China and throughout Europe, so monitoring the licenses and trademarks was very important. We know black market reproductions of Sex and the City product was found in a number of countries, so we had to constantly monitor the market for infringement. However, with Cosabella selling in over 80 countries we’re experienced with the hurdles in international brand protection and worked closely with HBO to protect SATC.
M: Is Cosabella launching another collection with the second Sex and The City movie that set to be released in 2010?
Valeria: Cosabella has continuously released seasonal collections since the release of the first movie, the SATC Summer/Spring ’09 Collections released in May are available on Cosabella.com now. We are planning to continue our successful international cooperation with HBO for future releases.
M: How have you tied or are you tying the Sex and The City collection into the brands online marketing initiatives? (Online contests, product giveaways, exclusive blog content, etc?)
Valeria: Sex and the City has a tremendous online presence. Like the Cosabella brand, SATC has truly formed itself into women’s lives as a sub-culture. Like I mentioned above, women around the world appeal to the situations, conflicts and emotions of each character, and each character represents a bigger or smaller part of every woman’s psyche.
The natural tie in with Cosabella on chat rooms on social network groups or on-line promotions has been endless. We created national SATC parties at boutiques and specialty stores and used the social networks to invite enthusiasts to these events. We have partnered with several blogs to do SATC giveaways and contests. The results have been excellent.
To learn more the Sex and the City collections, please visit Cosabella.com