With 105 million Instagram followers, the singer-actor is both the medium and the message
Selena Gomez is cashing in on her 105 million Instagram followers, hoping to remake a legacy New York-based accessories company for millennials. The photo-sharing network’s most followed personality just inked a deal with Coach Inc to become the face of the brand.
At first blush, the 24-year-old UNICEF goodwill ambassador and the 75-year-old bag brand seem like odd partners. Gomez was previously a Disney child star, while Coach began life as a Midtown Manhattan leather goods manufacturer. The former once headed up campaigns for Kmart, while the latter is cutting down on heavy discounting and concentrating on its upscale 1941 product line.
But the unlikely pairing makes sense. “The two have a [similar] career trajectory,” says Luke Watson, a branding expert and director at Roker Labs, noting that Coach’s ongoing efforts to raise profit margins and reposition as an upscale lifestyle brand parallels Gomez shedding her child star image: Gomez recently fronted an ad campaign for Louis Vuitton and made public appearances in clothing from hip labels like Monse, founded by Oscar de la Renta’s current creative directors. “Somehow, she’s managed to move up and be accepted by the high-end fashion crowd,” he says.
Coach chief executive Victor Luis said in an interview that the company chose Gomez as an ambassador because she resonated the “best of American pop culture” while simultaneously being globally relevant. “Choices are limited when looking for celebrities reflective of our American values but also with a wide and global following,” he said. “She’s very authentic and has a tremendous amount of approachability. Her image is very modern and youthful.” (A publicist for Gomez did not respond to requests for comment.)
(Nineteen-year-old actress Chloë Grace Moretz, a recent Coach ambassador, remains the face of the label’s fragrance.)
Under Luis, who took over in 2014, Coach has reduced its North American retail and outlet store count in the past two years, but has about 10% more international doors than two years ago. The sharper focus has paid dividends: Coach reported net income of $460.5 million in the year to July 2, up 14.4% from the previous year.
Luis declined to comment on reports that Gomez was paid $10 million to represent the brand (she will also collaborate with executive creative director Stuart Vevers on a special design project) Still, the star’s popularity on social media is likely what sweetened the deal. An advertisement image she posted on Instagram of her sipping from a Coca-Cola bottle garnered 6 million likes, making it the most popular photo on Instagram. “She’s not only the messenger but also the medium,” says Watson. “That makes her far more valuable than just about any other celebrity.”
Gomez, who announced her partnership with Coach via, what else, an Instagram post, could help re-anchor the brand as a staple in the affordable luxury category. For instance, in the shot she posted to reveal her collaboration with Coach, she paired a $1,250 motorcycle jacket with the brand’s relatively inexpensive $295 “Dinky” bag. While Coach’s 1941 line was critically acclaimed and its new Fifth Avenue flagship has been the recipient of much hype, Luis said Gomez would work across the entire brand, not just on specific collections.
Gomez’s effect on Coach’s bottom line may not be immediate. “An older consumer may not have heard of her but that doesn’t necessarily hurt,” says Watson “Even if younger consumers don’t not have power to purchase these goods yet, Coach is planting the seed in their mind.”
This story was originally published on MarketWatch.
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