A fascinating look at how sometimes the simplest of concepts and designs can have the most impact, the Dogeared jewelry brand has amassed a passionate following among women who wear their delicate jewelry to keep inspiration and intention top of mind. Carried nationwide at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and a slew of specialty stores (they have an exclusive collaboration collection with Asos right now) the company recently brought in an outside PR agency for the first time in history help support incredible growth, brand enthusiasm and to nurture celebrity relationships with fans like Scarlett Johansson, Amber Heard, Selena Gomez and Ali Fedotowsky.
Even more inspiring is Dogeared's charitable focus and B Corp status. To learn more about the history of Dogeared and where it's headed, I sent over a few of my favorite questions to Ashley Walkley, Customer Experience Director for Brand & Multi-Channel Marketing, for the scoop. Ashley manages global marketing, public relations, social media & corporate social responsibility for the brand.
What were Dogeared's biggest business successes in 2013?
Dogeared continues to grow! 2013 was really strong for us. We experience double-digit increases and now have 88 full time employees. We launched a new e-commerce platform in October that lets us customize our customers’ shopping experiences in really exciting ways. We also added a full service PR agency for the first time in over 22 years to support the expansion of our brand.
10 Page Spread, Sport's Illustrated
What role did PR play, if any, in those achievements?
Since its inception in 1991, Dogeared has been fortunate to have notable brand advocates that garnered tremendously valuable PR coverage. We realized that we needed a strong, reputable agency to help elevate the brand and secure additional coverage as we grow. This year, we transitioned to a more robust PR program with Samantha Slaven Publicity to help guide our marketing efforts and set realistic goals while maintaining the integrity of the Dogeared brand. This has given us incredible exposure and opportunities with leaders in lifestyle and fashion media, positioning us alongside like-minded brands in our targeted press outlets. We have been more strategic about where we are featured and what opportunities we participate in – we want what’s best for the brand!
What is the primary purpose and perceived value of PR at Dogeared?
PR is a crucial component to the marketing mix but always the toughest to sell when it comes to value, return and performance metrics.
We don’t invest in a lot of advertising and traditional media, so for us, PR plays an important role for brand exposure through all media channels.
We measure the value of PR in terms of exposure and engagement. How many people are discovering the brand, seeing it for the first time through these media channels, and ultimately engaging with us? We believe ad equivalencies are a thing of the past and often provide unrealistic and inflated numbers. Instead, we measure impressions, eyeballs and customers. Based on PR spend, we calculate CPI’s (cost per impression). Engagement can be trickier to track and never absolute, but with programs like Google Analytics and social metrics, we can gauge referrals of new customers to our brand.
What has been the most powerful piece of media coverage received recently? What made it so remarkable?
It’s really hard to narrow it down to just one! So many of them have been exciting in their own unique ways. But, The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has been really tremendous for us for the last couple of years. We’ve been so lucky to have some really great presence in a publication people look forward to every year and that, needless to say, garners a lot of public attention! It’s a great get for us, exposing our product to new audiences and showcasing it in new ways. Ellen and Oprah have been pretty amazing, too!
How are your various communication/marketing departments organized?
Our marketing team serves as the “hub” for all things Dogeared. We work closely with each department on a daily basis to keep everything timed to perfection. We’re staffed up with a rock star Marketing Manager, Social Media & Content Guru (who also has a knack for design), a Digital Operations Manager and a tremendous Visual Team who brings the brand to life through design day after day! We have a shared and open workspace where we all collaborate and brainstorm together every day, and music to keep us inspired and energized!
Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansson wearing Dogeared
What are your big communication goals for 2014?
This year, we are repositioning our brand, elevating our presence online through digital, social and PR and expanding even more internationally. It will take dedicated efforts from all of our teams to ensure that we are delivering a consistent voice and tone across every channel.
We want to hear our customers’ feedback and use it to drive the experiences we deliver as we evolve and shape our strategies. Our customers are amazing and we love listening to them!
Our goal to transition to a more lifestyle-focused brand requires thoughtful planning, most importantly through focused efforts on mainstream fashion media and building key relationships with top accessory and fashion editors in LA and NY.We’re anticipating more coverage thanks to our PR agency, who is poised to play a n essential role in Dogeared becoming further integrated into the fashion industry by keeping the brand in front of the influencers through seasonal meet-and-greets and industry events, profiles and pitches.
New Ecommerce Website, Launched October 2013
Any other fun projects in the works?
We definitely have some exciting things in progress! International, online and social content will see new dimension, and you may just see a flagship freestanding retail store location in the near future!
What social media platforms will you be investing the majority of your resources in 2014 and why?
We know where our customers are right now and where we connect with them best. Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are top performers, and will continue to be wonderful platforms for dialogue and engagement with our customers. However, technology and the social-sphere are ever changing, and we continue exploring the new platforms our customers use to ensure Dogeared has a presence there, too.
Our revamped blog launched in October 2013 and features expanded content including style, giveaways, great eats and a renewed focus on corporate social responsibility (Dogeared is a certified B Corporation using business as a force for good.) We’re excited to offer new promotions and collaborate with top influencers as we continue to share the Dogeared story.
What are some of the challenges you face in terms of reaching your target customer and how are you addressing each?
It’s not just our customers; it’s the modern world that presents the challenge. How do you make your brand and product memorable in a cluttered marketplace where everyone is on information overload? It’s also about trust.
We’re committed to understanding our customers’ behaviors, wants and needs and using what we learn about them to deliver personal, relevant, seamless experiences.
Data plays a huge role in today’s landscape for understanding customers. We’re still a relatively small company, so while we don’t have an analyst crunching data around the clock, we do conduct research with our customers to find out how we can optimize our product, get to know our best customer segments, and deliver outstanding experiences and support. These insights are tremendous and help guide the choices we make for the brand.
We don’t do a lot of paid advertising, so we have to make good decisions about getting in front of our target market. Our PR agency plays a critical role in getting Dogeared coverage in the right places for maximum impact.
And the biggest thing we do is… LISTEN. Brands today are challenged to listen and observe, not just push content and messages to the customer. We react and adjust every day, based on what our customers are telling us. It lets us connect at a deeper level and truly understand the meaning and impact our brand has on people, and that’s how we determine our next moves.
What are 3 tips for developing a strong PR agency relationship?
1. Find the right agency with the right contacts: You may really like an agency for its personality, culture and their pitch. Reality check: If they aren’t in the business of managing brands like yours, they probably don’t have the relationships to get you the coverage you need.
2. Set clear objectives and expectations out of the gate: Your SOW is essential for benchmarking performance and keeping you on track with priorities. It’s easy to get sidetracked with events, opportunities and fluff… but knowing what is expected to foster company growth (and their contract) is crucial.
3. Take Risks & Have Fun: Think outside the box. Do something new. Don’t stay married to the “rules of engagement” traditional to most PR. Encourage your agency to be creative, and bring unexpected opportunities that aren’t just pay to play- the things that set you apart from other brands. Both you and the agency can earn your stripes with some great “WOW” moments!
And now, tell us a bit about you!
How did you get started in the industry?
I majored in Media Arts & Design with a concentration in corporate communications, then drove across the country on a whim after graduation and landed in Phoenix. I got my foot in the door as an account coordinator for a full service advertising, media and PR agency, and eventually landed a senior role working with large national retail and entertainment clients. A shopping center developer brought me to LA to handle marketing and communications for the redevelopment of Santa Monica Place in 2007 eventually served as the Director of Marketing for Downtown Santa Monica & Third Street Promenade.
In 2012, I joined Dogeared – leading their company’s marketing efforts.
What are you excited about lately?
Professionally: Video and its role in the marketing mix, new content strategies and the ever-changing and evolving social and digital landscape. Specifically, leading the Dogeared brand into a more lifestyle focused entity in 2014.
Personally: My next European adventure and a décor refresh at my beach bungalow!
Daily Reads: Mashable, The Zoe Report, WWD & Who What Wear, Refinery 29, The Cut, Racked LA, Huffington Post Style.
Daily Essentials: iPhone, my Dogeared Balance necklace, a notebook & freshly sharpened no.2 pencils, an amazing morning cup of coffee from Java Man, my NARS Palais Royal Satin Lip Pencil and Makeup Forever Extreme Camouflage Crème.
Featured Photo: Sydne Style